Morning Word

Tourism Director: “Santa Fe back on track.”

Christus St. Vincent announces Las Vegas clinic expansion

Tourism director: “Santa Fe back on track”

The average cost for a Santa Fe hotel room last year, $253.78, represented a slight dip from 2022 when it was $266.04, but officials point to inflation and say the tourism industry is rebounding nicely from the pandemic days. In total, those rooms contributed to more than $13 million in lodgers taxes, while Santa Fe’s 2,200 short-term rentals brought in close to $3.8 million. These are just a sampling of the tourism-related data available through a new tourism dashboard announced yesterday by the City of Santa Fe, developed by TOURISM Santa Fe and the Santa Fe Data Platform. The tourism dashboard also quantifies takeaways from the city’s major events, with an interactive map showing where visitors came from to visit Indian Market, the Santa Fe Opera and the International Folk Art Market. In a news release, Santa Fe Data Platform project lead Cyndi Conn says the initiative had grown exponentially in 2023, with its public-private partnerships including “17 community partners and three data providers who deliver more than 4 billion data sets along with location data, which is real-time within 72 hours. We are also exploring going statewide in order to address some of our state’s most pressing issues.” Other existing dashboards include ones for: health, economic development and housing, to name a few. TOURISM Santa Fe Executive Director Randy Randall said in a statement the new dashboard data “proves tourism in Santa Fe is back on track, and we are ready for even more tourists in 2024. We know the power of data, and having this resource for our team, hospitality partners and community means everyone can make better decisions based on facts. We have found data’s return on our investment is four-fold, and we look forward to expanding the dashboard as new data sets become available.”

Gun bills head to House floor

The clock is ticking at the Legislature—scheduled to end at noon, Feb. 15—on several gun reform bills that are part of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public safety agenda. The House of Representatives on Feb. 2 passed a seven-day waiting period for firearm purchases and the measure now awaits a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today’s House floor calendar includes two other bills—to raise the legal age to 21 to own certain firearms (House Bill 127) and to ban gas-powered semiautomatic firearms (HB 137). Among local law enforcement, Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza tells SFR he favors raising the purchasing age. “I feel like there’s a glamorization of firearms sometimes by our youth, especially with social media and in groups. People feel that they need them; they think it’s cool, I guess,” Mendoza says. “Until you end up in a situation where crime occurs. At that point, it’s a little too late.” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber says he supports all three gun reform bills, but also wants a constitutional amendment allowing local governments to enact gun reforms more stringent than state laws. Webber pushed back on state law prohibiting such autonomy previously with a resolution that led to signs prohibiting weapons at city facilities. “I would very much like to see the matter taken to the voters,” Webber says.

In other Roundhouse news, the House yesterday passed House Bill 195, which would expand the 2022 Opportunity Enterprise Act to also support residential development by creating a dedicated Housing Development Fund within the New Mexico Finance Authority. “We know that New Mexico needs more than affordable housing to support our families and grow our workforce, we need housing that is affordable for all,” lead sponsor Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement. “House Bill 195 would provide developers with the early capital they need to build up our housing inventory for everyday New Mexicans.” The bill now heads to the Senate. A bill that would have barred local governments from entering into contracts with federal facilities that detain immigrants, known as the Dignity Not Detention Bill, failed in the Senate as it did last year. “This is not over,” bill sponsor Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, tells the Albuquerque Journal. “We will continue to seek justice and just treatment for migrants seeking refuge.”

NM federal House, Senate races kick off

Potential federal major party candidates in the US House and Senate filed paperwork yesterday as required at the Secretary of State’s Office—another step toward New Mexico’s 2024 primary election. “Candidate filing day is one of many crucial steps election administrators and candidates take in the fair and open process by which we elect our leaders,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. “I applaud all the candidates who officially threw their hats into the ring of our democracy today and filed for a spot in the June 4th primary election.” Two Republicans filed paperwork yesterday to challenge incumbent US Sen. Martin Heinrich: Nella Domenici, daughter of the late US Sen. Pete Domenici; and former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a former Democrat. In the House, two Republicans hope to challenge incumbent Dem Melanie Ann Stansbury: Steve Jones and Louis Sanchez. Incumbent Gabriel Vasquez faces a repeat election against former US Rep. Yvette Herrell in District 2, a flashpoint in a recent legal battle over redistricting. Lastly, Republican Sharon Clahchischilliage, a former state representative and member of the Navajo Nation, filed paperwork to take on incumbent Democrat US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández. Prospective candidates were required to file nominating petitions yesterday, and were able to gather them electronically for the first time this year via an online portal. The Secretary of State’s Office will certify those petitions on Feb. 12. Candidates for all other offices file their paperwork on March 12. A presidential primary nominating committee last December nominated the candidates for each of the state’s major political parties (Dems, Republicans and Libertarian).

Christus plans Las Vegas expansion

Christus St. Vincent says it intends to use the $1.1 million grant it received last year through the state’s $80 million Rural Health Care Delivery Fund to enhance the services at its Las Vegas laboratory with primary care, obstetrics and behavioral health services. According to a news release, Christus will begin with a soft launch in the first quarter of this year 2024, starting with primary care services with the intent to expand services in Las Vegas throughout 2024, including virtual care capabilities. “This presents Christus St. Vincent with a wonderful opportunity to expand much needed services in San Miguel County,” Christus St. Vincent President and CEO Lillian Montoya said in a statement. “This clinic will serve some of the most vulnerable populations in the area.” In an op-ed last summer, Montoya noted the increasing challenges in rural health care, writing: “If you find difficulty getting a timely clinic appointment or wonder why waiting rooms are a bit fuller than they used to be, it’s largely because more of our regional neighbors are having to travel farther to receive care here.” In a statement regarding the recent award to Christus, state Human Services Secretary Kari Armijo said the allocation “is a concrete example of our commitment to expanding access to quality health care in rural New Mexico. Ensuring that rural communities such as San Miguel, Mora, Guadalupe and Harding counties have access to essential health services like primary care, obstetrics, and behavioral health is a top priority. We are excited to see the positive changes this funding will bring.”

Listen up

Today’s playlist comes from Van Hayes, who writes: “I spend a lot of car time wandering between Dallas, Santa Fe and Wyoming. I like landscapes that are dry, dusty and cinematic. These songs all hit that note for me.”

1. “Morning” by William Wild: “Cliche to start with ‘Morning’ but I love this song.”

2. “Their Pie” by Mark Orton: “From the Nebraska soundtrack, great movie and great music.”

3. “Big Black Car” by Gregory Alan Isakov: “I hope you were lucky enough to catch GAI at the Bridge last summer, he never disappoints live.”

4. “Windfall” by Son Volt: “This came on at dusk one night between Amarillo and Tucumcari, takes me back every time I hear it.”

5. “Early Blue” by F. J. McMahon: “Heard this on an episode of Reservation Dogs and was immediately searching for it while it was playing. Google it, great backstory.”

Pandemic novel 14 Days now available

Shepherded by editors Margaret Atwood and Santa Fe-based author Douglas Preston, Fourteen Days: A Collaborative Novel (Harpers) published yesterday and is receiving overall positive reviews, with The Guardian describing the book as an “immensely enjoyable product of an immensely unenjoyable time,” and the San Francisco Chronicle calling it “poignant and emotionally resonant,” if “slightly repetitive and uneven.” The novel, set in a Lower East Side tenement in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns, describes the coming together of the building’s tenants who, each night, begin to assemble and tell stories. The twist: Each character was written by a different author, including the aforementioned editors, fellow Santa Fe writer Hampton Sides, Emma Donoghue, Dave Eggers, Diana Gabaldon, Erica Jong, CJ Lyons, Celeste Ng, Tommy Orange—well, the list goes on and on and attribution only comes in the book’s end notes. Speaking late last year to SFR about the project, Preston, who was living in New York when the pandemic hit and was the president of the Authors Guild of America at the time, said he had already been trying to devise an anthology that could incorporate all the genres and demographics represented in the Guild’s membership. “We weren’t just looking for literary authors,” he says. “We weren’t just looking for famous authors, and we certainly weren’t looking for a bunch of authors like me—old white men.” From there, he conceived a Decameron-esque storytelling conceit, and lured Atwood to help with the project, the proceeds of which benefit the Guild.

Come for the hot water, stay for the portmanteau

The US Sun (the American version of the British tabloid) showcases “America’s cheapest spa town,” also known as Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, which “with its unique name and location…is sure to make a big impact on travelers in 2024.” The story details the history behind T or C’s name (used to be called Hot Springs; changed its name for a game show), as well as its major draw: the hot springs, with special mentioned made of Indian Springs’ affordable $5 half-hour soaks. The story also astutely links to Molly Boyle’s 2022 T or C guide in New Mexico Magazine, which is a great read to get a feel for the town. What makes Truth or Consequences “world class,” the Sun proclaims: its “unique charm…The town and its establishments are seemingly frozen throughout time all while hosting futuristic advancements” (by which they mean the healing benefits of the hot springs). Sunset magazine, meanwhile, includes Taos as a suitable destination for a new travel trend called the “buddymoon,” which, yes, consists of taking friends on one’s honeymoon. Other locales include Palm Springs, California and Moab, Utah to name a few: “The common thread of these destinations is the varied experiences that are suitable for a wide range of ages and accessibility,” Sunset explains. As national and international media continue to weigh in on New Mexico’s best (or cheapest in some cases) draws, SFR wants to hear the locals’ picks. That’s right: Best of Santa Fe has begun, with the nominating process underway. It’s easy to participate: Just register and weigh in on who/what/where should be on the ballot in categories ranging from arts to cannabis to local living to food and more.

Rough winds

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly cloudy, windy day, with a 70% chance for precipitation via numerous rain showers with isolated snow showers this morning, followed by scattered snow showers with isolated rain showers this afternoon. Look for little if any snow accumulation; a high temperature in the upper 40s; and southwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word looks forward to having a conversation in which she can use the word flüsterasphalt” (“whispering asphalt”)—a German term she learned from this fascinating Noēma magazine essay about noise pollution.

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