State allows city to access capital outlay for select projects
Following last Friday’s release of the City of Santa Fe’s Fiscal Year 2022 audit (a year late but with fewer findings than the prior year) and with the release of the FY23 audit still pending (anticipated to be finished in May, six months behind schedule), city and state officials say they have devised a plan to allow the city to access at least $3.1 million of its capital outlay funds as it catches up on its financial accounting. A 2013 executive order requires recipients of capital outlay appropriations have “timely audits.” The state Department of Finance Administration made moves in October to take over $1 million in an allocation for city parks, but ultimately reversed course following a meeting between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe and House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe. The city announced yesterday another meeting between the governor and Wirth, Mayor Alan Webber and other city officials to “strategize” a plan to expedite funding for the city to move forward with several projects, including the second phase of expansion for the delayed renovations at the Santa Fe Airport; improvements to SWAN Park; extension of the Tierra Contenta Trail; median improvements; and sidewalk and lighting improvements along Harrison Road, the street adjacent to Pete’s Place. Lujan Grisham said in statement distributed by the city that by expediting the release of state funds, leaders were “signaling our commitment to making Santa Fe the clean, vibrant and accessible city our residents expect and deserve.” The governor agreed to the plan on the condition that the city use a fiscal agent, however, Lujan Grisham’s Communications Director Maddy Hayden tells SFR in an email.
City budget could include more jobs
The City of Santa Fe will soon begin calculating its budget for the next fiscal year, with officials considering ways to address increased workloads for city workers in the face of hundreds of vacant jobs. A classification and compensation study from Evergreen Solutions late last year said city employees need higher wages. Currently, Human Resources Director Bernadette Salazar tells SFR the latest headcount of city employees, both union and non-union, shows a 22% vacancy rate, or 373 open spots. The city’s most recent audit report, which covered Fiscal Year 2022, noted staff shortages in financial management positions were the among the reasons for failure to comply with financial controls, grant requirements and other functions. At present, the Transit Division tops the list of the most in need, accounting for about 50 vacancies. Meanwhile, some city councilors say it’s time for the city to create support positions specifically to help elected officials respond to city residents. “We’re technically part time, but it’s anything but a part-time job,” District 2 Councilor and Finance Chair Carol Romero Wirth tells SFR. “It would be helpful to have somebody who could help me gather the necessary information to provide a thoughtful and detailed response to people’s concerns.” Speaking of jobs and money, the city is also seeking members for its Independent Salary Commission, which will set the salary for the city’s next full-time mayor. Learn more here.
NM delegates: Expedite Hermits Peak claims
In a new letter, US Sen. Ben Ray Luján and state Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, have weighed in to Federal Emergency Administration Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell with concerns about the agency’s failure to provide responses to Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire victims within the congressionally required timeline. According to the letter, more than 100 claimants are still waiting for responses more than 180 days after filing their claims. The Hermit’s Peak Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act, the lawmakers write, required settling each claim within 180 days “and called for the expeditious consideration and settlement of claims…It is clear that the claims office is incredibly understaffed and needs a substantial increase in the number of claims reviewers to help with the backlog immediately.” The letter also notes the office intends to bring in employees on temporary assignment to help process the claims. “It is paramount that new claims reviewers brought on during this process are trained to understand that they are not insurance adjusters trying to save money,” the letter says. “Rather, their job is to use the resources Congress provided them to fully satisfy claims and provide justice for those who have lost so much.” The Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Claims Office is currently hiring for several full-time positions, including: claims navigators, staff assistants, advocates and attorney advisor, and will have a hiring event in Santa Fe on Feb. 15.
EV tax credits pass first committee
The House, Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday (right around the 11:42 am timestamp) gave House Bill 140, which would create new tax credits for electric vehicles, its first committee passage on a 6-3 vote. The bill would create new temporary income tax credits for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and other zero-emission vehicles, and also proposes tax credits for home and commercial electric vehicle chargers. “Every New Mexican deserves to benefit from the lower lifetime cost of ownership, freedom from pain at the gas pump, and improved air quality in their communities that comes with more alternate-fueled vehicles on our streets,” co-sponsor state Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, said in a statement following the vote in a news release from the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is backing the bill. “We know there’s consumer demand for these vehicles, and our complementary Clean Car Rules and these tax credits ensure these vehicles are more affordable and accessible to every New Mexican,” the governor said in a statement. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in November approved new clean rules requiring automakers to increase the percentage of zero-emission vehicles delivered to New Mexico dealers. Tax credits for the vehicles, advocates say, will make purchasing the vehicles more feasible for more residents as more vehicles become available here. The clean car rules, officials say, will also save up to $62 million in health care costs due to reduced air pollution. “With this state tax credit, New Mexicans will soon have greater consumer choice as new and used clean vehicles will become even more affordable,” Environment Secretary James Kenney says in a statement. “Owning or leasing an electric vehicle improves air quality while reducing water pollution and saves the driver money as compared to gas and diesel vehicles.”
Amber Train provides today’s 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project entry and writes: “My music taste is all over the place. I’m usually making a new playlist every 3-4 months, a little snapshot of my mood in time to look back on. Looking at my current big playlist, my current state of mind has some cognitive dissonance, as it seems to be both nostalgic and leaning into transformation; and obsessed with Bad Bunny. This is a snippet from that larger playlist.” Speaking of larger playlists, we’re sharing these micro-lists at least through January, at which point we may try to assemble them into one long list, time permitting. Until then, find them in the Morning Word archive.
1. “Not Strong Enough by Boy Genius: “‘Always an angel, never a god’—this lyric is so good. And speaks to my transformation mood.”2. “Creep” by Talk: “The first time I heard this cover I immediately listened to it over and over. A beautiful song for weirdos.”
3. “Glorious” by Ella Henderson: “This song goes with ‘Creep’ in my mind. It is a prescription for the feeling described in ‘Creep’: ‘I don’t belong here.’”4. “I Remember Everything” by Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves: “Goes to my nostalgic mood and the songwriting is fantastic. A gorgeous short story in a song.”
5. “Monaco” by Bad Bunny: “Even though I don’t speak Spanish, which I don’t, Bad Bunny makes me feel all the feels.”
Five New Mexico artists—four who live in Santa Fe County—are among the more than 50 recipients of $2.5 million in funding from the prestigious Creative Capital Foundation’s 2024 “Wild Futures: Art, Culture, Impact” awards in visual arts and film/moving image. Each artist receives “unrestricted project funding up to $50,000, which can be drawn down over a multi-year period, bespoke professional development services, and community-building opportunities,” according to a foundation news release announcing the awards this week. “A Creative Capital grant is a game changer and career maker,” City of Santa Fe Arts and Culture Director Chelsey Johnson tells SFR via an emailed statement. “For a city as small as Santa Fe to yield four of this year’s brilliant awardees (almost 10% of the selected projects!), all of whom are Indigenous, is evidence of how special our arts ecosystem is here, and how vital it is that we support and invest in artists so they can continue to live and work and build their careers here.”
The Santa Fe recipients include: filmmaker Chris Eyre (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) for The Land Acknowledgement Streaming Experience (L.A.S.E.), “a 100 hour continuous video stream of a journey around the outermost roads of the lower 48″ that “seeks to bring a Native American perspective through these roadways”; Jordan Ann Craig (Northern Cheyenne), for a project with her mother Brigit Johnson (Northern Cheyenne), called Books Not Returned Library, “a collection of handmade books in which each book tells a story of a missing or murdered Indigenous woman, girl or two-spirit.”; Chaz John, (Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska / Mississippi Band Choctaw, European) for a new body of work he plans for a solo show in Santa Fe, Melting of Columbia, “a series of large-scale performative actions beginning with a sculpture of the Venus De Milo dressed as the goddess Columbia, a hollow slip-cast mold made of white chocolate. Inside her is a mold of a human baby made of 14K gold, held by a small cradle board, representing the native infant torn apart for the American spectacle, now whole again in precious metal”; Erica Lord for The Codes We Carry: Beads as DNA Data, “a series of large-scale beaded sculptures that incorporate computer-produced genetic data patterns, or DNA/RNA microarrays, from diseases disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities, and transforms them into loom-woven glass bead burden straps as an act of data sovereignty.” Albuquerque-based artist Nani Chacon, Diné and Chicana, received an award for her project titled Our Gods Walk Among Us, “a site-specific public art sculpture on The Navajo Nation, broadcasting community voices as inaudible wavelength transmissions via with an embedded FM radio transmitter.”
Scientist calls on Oppenheimer stars, crew to help downwinders
Director Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer lead the pack during yesterday’s Oscar Awards nomination announcement, with 13 nominations, including ones for best picture, director, adapted screenplay, and nominations for Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Robert Downey Jr., for best actor, actress in a supporting role and supporting actor, respectively. “We never imagined this level of success,” Nolan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But we did have faith that it was a great story. You know, certainly audiences going to it in the summer, I think it was the strength of the story itself, this great piece of American history that was driving things for us.” Now, Tara Drozdenko, a physicist and director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has written an open letter to Oppenheimer’s cast and crew asking them to “remember the human cost of nuclear weapons” and asks them “to use your voice and your influence to bring further attention to this issue.” The letter specifically delves into the victims of Oppenheimer’s Trinity test, aka New Mexico’s downwinders, who have never received compensation for what has now been decades of illness and death. Their stories, untold in Oppenheimer, are the basis for Lois Lipman’s documentary, First We Bombed New Mexico, which premiered at the Santa Fe International Film Festival in October, winning best new documentary feature, and has been screening at film festivals around the country since. Funding for New Mexico’s downwinders and uranium miners was taken out of the final defense bill at the end of 2023. “People from these communities often tell us that it feels like the government is just waiting for them to die, and this feels like confirmation,” Drozdenko writes in her letter. “Now that Congress is back in session, we are starting again. To pass this bill, we will need much more public awareness and political will than we have had so far. Unfortunately, this history has been forgotten by so many. But you could change that by using your platform and your voice to shine a light on this fight.”
In measure rain thy joy
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for precipitation today, via isolated showers after 11 am. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 46 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. According to NWS’ recently released weather highlights from 2023, New Mexico last year had its 31st consecutive year of above-normal temperatures.
Thanks for reading! The Word missed (or equally plausibly can’t remember) Kyle Chayka’s 2016 essay “Welcome to AirSpace,” in The Verge but is now catching up via T. M. Brown’s LA Review of Books review of Chayka’s new book: Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture.