Morning Word

City, Tribal Leaders Announce Plan for Controversial Statues

Santa Fe Mayor: City will spend $56 million on civic projects

City, tribal leaders announce plan for contested statues

In a press briefing yesterday afternoon, Mayor Alan Webber said he and City Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth, Michael Garcia and Pilar Faulkner will introduce at the governing body’s May 29 meeting a resolution for two controversial statues. If passed, the city would install for the first time a statue depicting two Tesuque Pueblo Revolt runners inside the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, and move the Don Diego de Vargas statue to the New Mexico History Museum through a temporary loan agreement. Webber tells SFR the plan represents “a successful outcome where [the statues] can be restored in a public place that would be safe and shouldn’t be threatened,” adding he felt if they sat in a green or open space, they could run the risk of more vandalism. Several city, community and tribal leaders—including Tesuque Pueblo Gov. Milton Herrera—spoke of unity during the press conference, and Garcia, often a critic of the mayor, followed suit, telling SFR he decided to cosponsor the resolution because it’s “a critical first step” in restoring the sculptures and “getting the conversation around our history and the trauma our community has faced over centuries and really unifying our community.” (Not everyone is happy with the plan, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports.) City workers in June 2020 removed the De Vargas statue from Cathedral Park the day after Webber changed his position on the structure, saying he supported the removal of several contested city monuments—the De Vargas statue, the obelisk and the Soldier’s Monument on the Plaza, which protesters subsequently toppled in October of 2020. The resolution states that a permanent location for the De Vargas statue will be decided in consultation with the Caballeros de Vargas.

SF mayor: City poised to spend millions on civic projects

In his annual State of the City address yesterday, delivered at the new Southside Teen Center, Mayor Alan Webber said the city will spend $56 million on civic infrastructure projects, such as improved roads; pallet shelters for unhoused people; and The Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which suffered a blow earlier this week when a district court judge decreed a 3% excise tax approved by voters to benefit the fund isn’t lawful. “These are all investments that city councilors, city workers and the people of Santa Fe are eager to see move ahead,” Webber said. “They are one-time investments in a better future for our city.” The mayor said the investments will be specifically outlined during a special May 28 meeting with the governing body. “It’s an opportunity to—for the first time, really—showcase to the public and the governing body what priorities are that have been expressed,” Webber tells SFR, who noted he and the Council won’t vote on the investments during next week’s meeting. “Some of them came from conversations with Council members during the budget process. Some of them came from many of our department heads, some from residents.” The ability to fund the projects, he said in his speech, comes from “years of consistent conservative budgeting” that helped the city grow its cash reserves, capital projects funds and more. City officials will use $20 million from the cash reserves; $16 million from capital projects funds and $17.8 million from the city’s Utility Department for “system upgrades and improvements to our critical infrastructure,” said the mayor, who also touted the city’s submission of three fiscal year audits in 11 months and the launch of the Safe Outdoor Spaces pallet home project at Christ Lutheran Church.

Feds announce $18.9 mil for PFAS detection in NM

The state Environmental Department will receive $18.9 million to help gauge the extent of contaminants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—known as “forever chemicals”—in public water systems, and to help protect communities from the dangers PFAS pose to public health. The EPA, NMED and representatives from the state’s congressional delegation announced the awards yesterday. The EPA last month announced new tougher standards for PFAS in drinking water, a regulatory change expected to impact thousands of water systems across the country, according to reporting SFR published earlier this year. While recent testing showed no detectable PFAS in Santa Fe’s municipal water system, testing has revealed contaminants in wells in La Cienega and La Cieneguilla, causing ongoing confusion and concern for residents. In addition, two recent studies from the US Geological Survey show higher levels of PFAS in New Mexico ground water and surface water in urban areas. “Clean, safe drinking water is something every person in New Mexico deserves,” EPA Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance says in a statement announcing the award. “With this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the New Mexico Environment Department will be able to take crucial steps to safeguard New Mexico’s drinking water from PFAS and other emerging contaminants.” According to the news release, over the next two years, NMED will sample public water systems to determine the extent of PFAS contamination throughout the state; assess which areas need critical assistance; and coordinate outreach efforts. Remediation and mitigation work will follow, with “small and disadvantaged communities” prioritized within a five-year framework that can be extended. “Contamination and pollution from forever chemicals like PFAS threaten clean drinking water supplies that New Mexico communities depend upon,” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, says in a statement. “I am proud to welcome $18.9 million that we secured through the Infrastructure Law to ramp up New Mexico’s urgent efforts to detect pollution and protect our precious water resources from PFAS and other emerging contaminants.”

Red River prepares for rebranded holiday weekend

Following last year’s Memorial Day Weekend’s deadly shooting, Red River this weekend will host a rebranded “Mayfest in the Mountains” event starting today through May 27 that will feature family-centric activities—bounce houses, corn hole, food—and eschew its motorcycle-centric roots. The weekend also will include an emphasis on veterans, with a tribute wall. “It’s a completely new event that has a slightly different purpose,” Red River Director of Economic Development and Tourism Max Khudiakov tells the Albuquerque Journal. “We are trying to shift the focus of the event, and this whole weekend in general, from biker-related activities to veteran focused activities, as well as family-friendly events.” State and local police, the paper notes, will have a strong presence in Red River following last year’s shooting, which killed two people and injured six. Law enforcement subsequently identified motorcycle gangs, specifically the Bandidos and Water Dogs, as responsible for the incident at the event, formerly known as the Red River Motorcycle Rally. The new event grew out of town meetings in the wake of last year’s tragedy, and is still expected to draw motorcyclists to the area. “It’s all speculation right now,” Red River Mayor Linda Calhoun tells the Journal. “We’re just planning for the event as it’s always happened. But we have no idea what to expect.” Following last year’s shootings, the FBI and state police targeted Bandido activity in the state, announcing last August two arrests and the seizure of 151 firearms across the state, along with a variety of illegal contraband.

Listen up

New Mexico’s history of Genízaro identity isn’t well known, even within the state, but listen to the most recent episode of the Encounter Culture podcast for a deep introduction to this fascinating topic. Host and El Palacio Editor Emily Withnall talks to Dr. Gregorio Gonzales (Comanche, Genízaro), the tribal liaison for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, about the term Genízaro and its nuanced complex lineage. “It was Fray Angélico Chávez who was one of the first people to really put forth this notion of de-tribalized, Hispanicized Indians being the organizing principle of Genízaros,” Gonzales says, noting, “…It really kind of dismisses community-based histories, cultural memory that exists within these communities. And why, for example, why it’s so important that those voices are leading the narrative.”

Life on her terms

The New York Times’ style section includes Santa Fe resident actress Ali MacGraw in its The Untouchables series spotlighting “people whose ambition is undimmed by time.” In her own words, MacGraw, 85, talks about life in a short essay accompanied by several awesome photos. Here’s a taste: “You know, I’m a strange old bird at this point. I live north of Santa Fe, kind of in nature, and I’m very involved with the community. I’m blessed to be in good health. and I know so many people who don’t have that choice. I have a life that makes me happy.” Becoming a movie star in her 30s was a surprise, she notes, given that no one expected Love Story to be a hit. “I’m relieved I got out of that often exciting, often terrifying decade alive,” she says. She notes she also had her share of “deservedly horrific reviews in conspicuous vehicles,” adding, “And, believe me, I didn’t feel like I was being misjudged.” Though grateful for those experiences, MacGraw writes, her life today is very different: “I don’t care at all about being seen in the latest piece of clothing or knowing the latest song. I don’t feel diminished by not knowing those things. I did it all and was looked at, and that was for another time.” Have we mentioned how much we love Ali MacGraw?

Step outside

Heading into the wilderness for Memorial weekend? The Travel includes Cibola National Forest on its holiday list of seven cheap places to camp, noting Cibola spans three states (Texas and Oklahoma, in addition to New Mexico), and “is full of great hiking opportunities, caves to explore, and mountain peaks to climb.” Cibola may span three states, but the three recommended trails from the story, Tree Spring Trail to Pino Canyon Overlook; Kiwanis Cabin Via Crest Trail; and Fourth of July and Cerro Blanco Loop are all here. Looking for a bigger outdoor challenge? Be sure to read Grayson Haver Currin’s tips for hiking the Continental Divide Trail for a story in Backpacker magazine (we previously noted Currin’s rankings for the CDT in Outside magazine in February). Currin’s latest supplies four things he wishes he’d known before setting off, including: “You will get lost, separated, or at least disoriented.” For those in the mood for a less ambitious sojourn, Time Out puts White Rock on its roundup of the 10 best small towns in the US, noting White Rocks’ placement on The Travel’s recent list of the happiest small towns in the country, not to mention its close proximity to Bandelier National Monument, which “not only serves as a breathtaking park with countless hiking trails but also gives history buffs something to remember—it’s filled with petroglyphs and remnants from Ancient Puebloan times.” Speaking of which, New Mexico Magazine offers an excerpt from the recent book Blurred Boundaries: Perspectives on Rock Art of the Greater Southwest, which provides an introduction to the petroglyphs and art “written on the landscape.”

Long, hot windy weekend

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch starting this afternoon and through Sunday due to strong winds and low humidity. Specifically, NWS forecasts sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s, with particularly high wind gusts on Saturday reaching 35 mph. Memorial Day will also be sunny, with a high temperature near 82 degrees.

Thanks for reading! The Word chuckled over this New Yorker cartoon. Have a great holiday weekend! This newsletter returns Tuesday, May 28.

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