Morning Word

Court Sides with City in Agua Fría Village Case

City of Santa Fe files 2023 audit, says it’s on track for FY2024

Court sides with city in Agua Fría annex case

First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid issued a ruling earlier this week that reverses the Board of Santa Fe County Commissioners ordinance passed last year that carved out a portion of land slated for city annexation to remain in the traditional village of Agua Fría. Commissioners voted unanimously in June of 2023 to approve a reworked map that would allow a couple hundred county residents to stay in that jurisdiction, while also giving the option for a handful of large landowners to fall within the city limits in the future. That compromise followed a failed attempt by the city to stop the vote from taking place. In its appeal, filed in October of 2023, the city asked the court to reverse the BCC decision, which it described as “arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, outside its scope of authority, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” In his ruling, Biedscheid concurs that the county’s ordinance is not in accordance with the law, nor is the county’s contention that that the land in dispute off of West Alameda, known as Area1B, an “identifiable village, community, neighborhood or district that has existed for more than one hundred years.” Rather, the ruling reads, “the record supports the finding that Area 1B is primarily composed of vacant lots and a supermajority of homes built within the last fifty years.” County Communications Coordinator Olivia Romo says the board has until June 13 to decide if it will appeal the decision and offered no other comment on the ruling. City of Santa Fe attorney Erin K McSherry, via email, tells SFR, “This was a complex case with a record of almost 2,500 pages. The court clearly evaluated the record and statutory elements carefully to determine that that there was not substantial evidence to support either the originally petitioned for area nor the ‘carve out’ plan version that was ultimately approved.”

City files FY 2023 audit

The City of Santa Fe submitted its Fiscal Year 2023 audit yesterday—one day late of its own self-imposed deadline, and five months short of the state one. However, Finance Director Emily Oster tells SFR the trend of late submissions is coming to an end. The city is in what she describes as “an on-cycle timeframe” for the FY24 audit, which begins with submitting a draft contract to the State Auditor’s Office—something city officials did this week. Next, she says, the city will execute the contract in July. “We’ll begin the audit right away after that,” Oster says. “I believe that puts us on track for an on-time submission of the FY24 audit by Dec. 15.” Oster, who joined the city team in August 2022, has led a team tasked with catching up on years’ worth of late audits from City Hall. Prior to the FY23 audit, officials turned in the city’s FY22 audit more than eight months behind schedule, and before that the city’s audits for 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 were also late. The FY23 audit review, completed by the Office of the State Auditor, will be expedited, Oster says, pointing to a four- to six-week timeline for the report to come back. “I hope it will be closer to four, but that’s what we’ve seen on prior audits,” she explains. Per a city news release, the audit will not be released publicly until it has been reviewed by the state auditor.

AG Torrez lays out crime priorities for session

A rapid DNA analysis tool for law enforcement; a crime-victims advocate office and greater transparency regarding pretrial release records are among the priorities New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez outlined yesterday during a news conference. The wishlist—directed at Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham—comes in advance of a special public safety legislative session the governor has called to start in July; Torrez presented his priorities alongside pretrial detention reform advocate Angel Alire, Farmington Police Department Chief Steve Hebbe and New Mexico Victim’s Rights Project Executive Director Linda Atkinson. “We cannot afford to miss the opportunity presented by the upcoming special session to improve public safety in New Mexico. The stakes are too high,” Torrez says in a statement. “These requests are vital steps towards improving our criminal justice system. I am confident that they will garner bipartisan support and can be swiftly enacted to enhance the safety and security of all New Mexicans.” Regarding the DNA analysis tool, Torrez’s office cites federal data that approximately 75% of violent crimes in New Mexico remain unsolved and says “rapid DNA analysis can deliver preliminary results in as little as 90 minutes, providing law enforcement with timely and actionable intelligence” to help “expedite investigations, reduce backlog, and increase the clearance rate for violent crimes.” Torrez says his office will be establishing the Office of the Crime Victim Advocate to ensure “victims’ rights are respected and enforced. It will receive and investigate complaints, provide training for compliance, and use legal authority to protect victims’ rights.” The AG also says the Legislature should clarify state law regarding public records of GPS data for defendants under court monitoring—an issue over which he recently filed suit against the Second Judicial District Court.

Lawmakers call for RECA vote as deadline approaches

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation joined a news conference yesterday in Washington, DC, calling upon US House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act for a vote in order to extend it before it expires on June 7 and expand it to cover the state’s downwinders and former uranium miners, who have been historically excluded from federal compensation for the damage they experienced from the Trinity test and nuclear industry. “Last month, the Senate sent a resounding bipartisan message that RECA must be extended and strengthened to compensate victims who suffered in the name of national security,” US Sen. Ben Ray Luján said. “Every member of Congress owes a debt for the sacrifices made by those impacted by nuclear fallout, including Speaker Mike Johnson, and should act now so RECA does not expire. Victims of radiation exposure have suffered for too long without compensation. The House must act now to ensure these victims receive the compensation they are owed, and I’ll never stop fighting to right this wrong.” US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-NM, told attendees she had spoken to Johnson the day before. “I need to tell you, he listened. Let us pray that Speaker Johnson and any of those who are wondering about this bill that they open their hearts. Let us pray that they open their hearts and they hear the voices of those who have suffered. They hear the voices of pain but they also hear the voices of hope.”

Listen up

CNN recognizes Santa Fe-based 4KINSHIP founder Amy Denet Deal (Diné) in its Champion for Change series, highlighting the work Deal has done both as a designer of a sustainable art/fashion line, but also as a supporter of other artists and youth through projects such as the Diné Skate Garden project. “Everything we do here at the shop is based on working with vintage things that have already been here on the planet,” she tells CNN. Growing up in Indiana and being adopted by a white family, she explains, she had make an effort to learn about her Native identity and her family. “It’s just been this continual journey of learning more about all those sides of my families and their stories,” she says, and that became “not just saying, ‘I’m part of my community,’ but actually putting that into motion, taking action. It’s wonderful to find ways to be part of a positive change in our community.”

We got the look

No, we can’t quite get enough of the documentation of Southwestern Association for Indian Arts first Native Fashion Week, hosted in Santa Fe May 2-5. The New York Times offers a spread of looks from the event, which it notes “reflected the diversity of its participants—a group with a growing presence in the American fashion industry.” The photo essay by photographer and visual columnist Simbarashe Cha notes, “The outfits in the crowds incorporated all sorts of eye-catching garments. Some, like patchwork coats and patterned skirts, stood out for their bold motifs in vibrant colors.” The story also includes video of Edwin Felter (Nambé Pueblo) performing a chant during one runway show, and notes: “Though people at Native Fashion Week were dressed to impress, there seemed to be fewer peacocks—those types who obviously dress for attention—than there are at other fashion weeks.” 4KINSHIP founder Amy Denet Deal, mentioned above, hosted a hybrid fashion show and performance, the story recounts, and tells the Times she hoped her event would help break down barriers between different Indigenous groups. “I don’t want to create a vertical platform for our brand,” she tells the paper, “but rather a horizontal platform for the emerging creatives that will carry our ancestors’ wildest dreams into the future.”

Turn some pages

Readers and writers unite this weekend for the Santa Fe International Literary Festival, kicking off at 6 pm tonight with Jesmyn Ward, two-time National Book Award winner and bestselling author of Sing, Unburied, Sing and Let Us Descend, and running through Sunday, May 19. The weekend’s star-studded list of authors includes Julia Alvarez, Anne Lamott, Anthony Doerr, Patrick Radden Keefe, Hua Hsu, Tommy Orange, Jenn Shapland, Luci Tapahonso—and the list goes on. Approximately 40 percent of the writers are local, festival co-founder and Executive Director Clare Hertel tells SFR, noting: “We’ve always wanted to feature the best of New Mexico.” Tommy Orange (Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma) isn’t local per se, but he is a graduate of and now mentor for the Institute of American Indian Arts MFA in Creative Writing Program. He’s also the author of the award-winning novel There There and its recently published sequel Wandering Stars. In her interview with Orange for this week’s SFR, Emily Withnall writes that his new novel picks up the story of the fictional Bear Shield family from his debut. And, like his first novel, it alternates perspectives and points of view from chapter to chapter. “I’m asking the reader to go from these different POVs and these different characters, I want to make them feel as distinct as possible,” Orange says. He will be on stage in the Sweeney Ballroom at the Santa Fe Convention Center in conversation with Ramona Emerson (Diné), author of Shutter, at 2:30 pm tomorow, Saturday, May 18.

Here comes the sun

The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies today with a high temperature near 75 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph become west in the afternoon. Look for more sun this weekend, when temps will rise into the high 70s—maybe even the low 80s.

Thanks for reading! The Word returns Wednesday, May 22. She recommends “Breathing with the Forest” from Emergence Magazine.

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