Morning Word

“Rust” Armorer Trial Begins This Week

SFPD reports slight uptick in robberies/thefts as year begins

Rust armorer trial begins tomorrow

As of press time, a status hearing for the state’s case against Rust producer and actor Alec Baldwin was slated for noon today, and viewable on the New Mexico Court’s YouTube channel. The trial for former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed starts tomorrow, with a packed courthouse expected, including local and national media, who were required to register in advance for in-person coverage in order to secure a seat. With the exception of jury selection, Court TV will be live-streaming Gutierrez-Reed’s trial on its YouTube channel. Like Baldwin, Gutierrez-Reed, 26, faces involuntary manslaughter charges in the Oct. 21 fatal on-set shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, as well as a felony charge for alleged evidence tampering. First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer last week declined to dismiss Gutierrez-Reed’s case, and also consented to allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of Gutierrez-Reed’s off-duty alleged drug use. With the trial about to commence,The Hollywood Reporter examines whether Gutierrez-Reed is “getting a fair shot.” The shooting, THR notes, “a rare and horrifying accident in a film industry that was built on gunslinging imagery,” illuminated “the use of real weapons on sets, the ramifications of low-budget filmmakers’ penny-pinching and the dysfunction of a Santa Fe prosecutor’s office charged with figuring out who exactly is to blame.” The story describes Gutierrez-Reed, 24 at the time of the shooting, as “one of the youngest and least powerful people working on the movie,” and “the likeliest person to go to prison” for the mistakes made on the Rust production.

Lay down the law

State legislators closed out the 30-day 56th legislative session last Thursday, leaving the fate of approximately 70 bills up to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who made it clear post-sine die she might call lawmakers back for a special session focused on public safety. “Both houses are well aware that I’m frustrated that not enough…public safety measures got up,” the governor said during a news conference following the session, noting only nine of 25 proposals for which she had advocated survived the legislative process. The governor says she will be closely evaluating the bills that made it to her desk in advance of a March 6 deadline to sign them into law (as of press time, she has already signed a few, including updated graduation requirements). The finance-focused session produced a $10.22 billion budget in its final days, along with a bill containing $1.4 billion in capital outlay for 1,400 projects, along with $200 million for housing spread across legislation. Guns control, another hot topic during the session, led to a mixed bag of results: lawmakers passed House Bill 129, requiring a seven-day waiting period for firearm purchases and Senate Bill 5, prohibiting guns at polling places, but neither a bill to raise the legal age for firearm purchases to 21 nor a ban on gas-powered, semi-automatic firearms received hearings on the House floor. The governor’s criticized “Strategic Water Supply” plan did not win over lawmakers, but HB41, creating clean fuel standards, along with electric vehicle tax credits, both passed during the session.

New year/new crime

The new year began with an increase in robberies and larcenies in the city of Santa Fe, according to crime data prepared by the Santa Fe Police Department that will be presented at today’s 4 pm Public Safety Committee meeting. SFPD logged 10 robberies and 218 instances of larceny and/or theft offenses last month, representing increases of 100% and 13.5%, respectively (note the small numbers in the first category accounting for the large percentage increase). January saw decreases in five other categories of crime in Santa Fe, including motor vehicle theft, which declined by approximately 21%. View locations for crimes via maps prepared by SFPD. State Police also had a presence in Santa Fe last month, and reports: 15 DWI arrests; five stolen vehicles recovered; 19 felony arrests; 10 misdemeanor arrests; 13 crashes investigated; 742 traffic stops; 426 citations issued; and 332 calls for service. State police also operated a statewide traffic operation last week, on Feb. 15, resulting in 700 traffic citations—among other actions—over the course of five hours. Today’s Public Safety Committee will also include a report from newly elected Municipal Judge Chad Chittum, with court statistics from January and the last six months. The court logged 358 traffic violations in court last month, down from November 2023′s high of 455, but a slight increase from 341 in December. As SFR noted last month, SFPD logged a slight increase in crime overall in 2023 compared to the year prior. Lastly on the crime beat, state Attorney General Raúl Torrez recently announced the formation of a new cold case unit as part of the newly named New Mexico Department of Justice. The department already has six cases—including one dating from the 1990s in Santa Fe (highlighted in a recent news conference)—and is encouraging people with tips on those cases to call the department’s tip-line at (505) 570-5244 or email “Not knowing what happened, not having answers, that’s the hardest thing for a victim’s family and I want them to know that we will do everything in our power to deliver justice, no matter how long it takes,” Torrez said in a statement. “This unit is already working with law enforcement agencies across the state, and I encourage every member of the public and every agency, big or small, to reach out and partner with us to try and solve any outstanding homicide and sexual assault cases that have gone cold.”

State awards science-business grants

The state’s Economic Development Department’s Office of Strategy, Science and Technology recently awarded seven businesses—including two based in Santa Fe—matching federal grants intended to spur research and development, along with commercialization, for science and technology organizations. According to a news release, for the 2024 fiscal year, the state awarded a total of $300,000 in Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants to such outfits. “By investing in our technology startups, the Economic Development Department is nurturing the next generation of innovation—these companies are diversifying the economy and helping to build the highly paid, skilled economy of tomorrow,” Acting EDD Cabinet Secretary Mark Roper said in a statement. Molten Salt Solutions in Santa Fe received the highest award, a $100,000 phase 2 matching grant, for its work “developing technology for producing large quantities of isotopically enriched material that will be needed for advanced fission and fusion nuclear power.” The company “has extensive collaborations with Los Alamos National Laboratory and has licensed some of the core technology from the lab,” the news release notes. Southwest Sciences in Santa Fe, described as being “at the forefront of research and applications in trace gas detection using tunable diode lasers,” received a phase 2 matching grant of $50,000 to “help accelerate the commercialization of technology for measuring greenhouse gas emissions from a wide variety of agricultural, industrial and natural sources.”

Listen up

For those of you who missed the Feb. 9 note about this newsletter’s weekish-long hiatus, thanks for your emails checking on our well-being. We’re fine: Just took a vacation. And while stuck in hell the Phoenix airport for four and a half hours, compiled the complete 2024 Morning Word Playlist Project as promised (and threw in our own picks for good measure). And the six songs we couldn’t find on Spotify appear on an accompanying list on YouTube Music. Thanks again to all for contributing!

As we segue back to local podcasts and other audio, be sure to check out NPR Music’s weekend report on Farmington-based jazz musician and composer Delbert Anderson’s piece “The Long Walk,” about the forcible removal by the federal government in the 1860s of Native Americans from New Mexico and Arizona—a musical piece he says will take four and a half years to perform. Anderson (Diné) spoke with SFR last year during his residency at the Institute of American Indian Arts about his research into Indigenous music.

Artist Simpson receives $100,000 award

Speaking of Phoenix, the New York Times serves up an itinerary for visitors spending 36 hours in the city, which includes viewing work by ceramicist Maria Martinez (1887-1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo) on display Feb. 23 to July 28 at the Heard Museum. The exhibition Maria & Modernism, the Times writes,aims to give” Martinez, “who is known for sleek, black-on-black pottery…her rightful place among American Modernists” and also showcases her “influence on contemporary artists,” as depicted by the photograph of a low rider named “Maria” by fellow New Mexico artist Rose Simpson (Pueblo of Santa Clara), with “meticulously detailed in black-on-black motifs.” Simpson, as it happens, also is one of four contemporary artists to receive a new award from the Ruth Foundation for the Arts. The Ruth Awards bestow contemporary artists working across North America $100,000 of unrestricted funds, and “acknowledge extraordinary, critically engaged artists who approach their practices with continuous inquiry, imagination and rigor and who are deserving of greater recognition for the fullness of their practice,” a news release says. Twelve curators from across the country nominated the recipients, who also include Candice Lin, Joe Minter and Kite. About Simpson, Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family curator and director of Curatorial Affairs at the Whitney Museum of American Art writes that for Simpson “…sculpture in her practice is as much in ceramics as it is in vintage cars as it is in being a driving force that fosters creative possibility for her generation on her Pueblo in New Mexico where women gather to a make all sorts of things, including art and clothing and music, riffing off of and inspiring one another, constellating a beholding across expressive means.”

Don’t worry, live in White Rock

The Travel’s list of the “10 happiest small towns in America” using metrics such as poverty rates, population median household income, property values, education and crime/safety. White Rock is first on the list, described by The Travel as “one of the crowning jewels in the US.” The town offers a “rural feel and a close-knit community,” an “abundance of picturesque landscapes” and is “surrounded by rolling hills and amazing rock formations,” and quick access to the Jemez Mountains and Jemez Mountain Trail National Scenic Byway. All fine and good, “but what beckons many people to consider White Rock as their permanent home is its low unemployment rate, which also means a low poverty rate.” The Travel also includes New Mexico in its roundup of “10 train routes showing off the scenic American backcountry,” specifically the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad from Chama to Antonito, a seven-hour, 64-mile journey that “allows visitors to travel back in time. It takes them through remote places in New Mexico and Colorado in landscapes that cars cannot reach.” The train’s season starts on May 25, and runs Tuesday through Sunday through Oct. 19. SFR delved into some of the train’s history and lore a few years back.

Feels like spring

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 61 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. The spring-like weather continue tomorrow, along with a fire weather watch.

Thanks for reading! The Word is halfway through the first book on the Washington Post’s list of recommended new books in February and loving every word so far.

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