Morning Word

Primary Election Polls Open Until 7 pm

City of Santa Fe FY23 audit shows fewer findings

Polls remain open until 7 pm

That’s right: Election day has finally arrived. Polls remain open until 7 pm across Santa Fe County. You can find a list of election-day polling sites here; locations of drop-box sites for absentee ballots here; and check your voter registration and review a sample ballot before heading to the polls here. You can review all of SFR’s coverage, including our local endorsements, Pop Quiz series and election FAQs online here. Common Cause New Mexico will have folks in the field answering questions for voters, as well as a hotline for anyone who encounters problems: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or, for Spanish speakers, 888-VE-Y-VOTA. We’ll be at the polls talking to voters as well and will have election results online and in this newsletter by morning (we hope). You an also keep an eye on election results online through the Secretary of State’s website.

City’s FY23 audit shows fewer findings

The City of Santa Fe’s 2023 financial audit shows four fewer findings than its 2022 audit. The audit, which the state auditor released yesterday, is the last one the city had to file to catch up. In a news release, the city says Finance Director Emily Oster’s “goal” is to file the city’s 2024 audit by its Dec. 15, 2024 due date. Of the 2023 audit’s 13 findings, nine are repeats from FY22 and four are new. Findings included lack of controls over federal grants for the Santa Fe Regional Airport that resulted in duplicate requests for reimbursements, with “known and likely questioned costs of $86,333,” the report says. The city concurs with the finding, and says the process by which it occurred has changed and it will “work with the awarding agencies to return the funds that were reimbursed incorrectly.” In a statement, the city notes actions it has taken to “fill key positions, improve business practices, update critical software and get caught up on financial reporting.” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, in a statement, characterized the release of the audit as “three kinds of good news. First, the city is caught up on its audits. Second, as far as our financial statements are concerned, we received a clean audit, the best type of opinion you can get. And third, our number of findings continues to decrease. Each of these would be good news on its own. All three together represent a terrific accomplishment and something we can all be proud of.” The city received an “unmodified” opinion, meaning the audits believe the city’s financial statements are accurate, but notes a qualified opinion on the Airport Improvement Program. Overall, Oster says in a statement, the audit “shows substantial progress towards achieving our goal of timely and accurate financial reporting.”

Feds outline wildland firefighting plans

With New Mexico already seeing a start to its wildfire season—as of press time, the Indios wildfire seven miles north of Coyote was at 11,500 acres and 59% containment—the federal Interior and Agriculture secretaries released a statement yesterday regarding this year’s wildfire season. As delineated in a news release, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined a strategy that includes hazardous fuel treatments, as well as pay increases and other benefits for wildland firefighters. The agencies anticipate employing 17,000 wildland and fire personnel this year. “As climate change continues to drive wildfires with increased speed and intensity, we are deploying historic resources from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to better protect communities and ecosystems around the country,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “We will continue to leverage our valuable partnerships with state, Tribal and local governments, and the private sector to address and mitigate wildfire risk, while also ensuring that our wildland fire personnel have the support and resources they need to stay safe and be prepared on the landscape.”

Schools discuss cyber threats

National Cyber Director Harry Coker visited New Mexico last week to talk with educational leaders about cyber threats facing K-12 schools, and what steps can be taken to avoid problems. Congress established the Office of the National Cyber Director three years ago to address cybersecurity concerns. Today, ransomware attacks that block a user’s access to personal data unless a ransom is paid continue to be a priority for this office—and K-12 schools in the US are central among the targets of these attacks. Coker tells SFR such attacks can inflict significant damage. “They can get personal information on students, which can include their grades, medical information, their addresses—schools are a target-rich environment,” Coker says. “‘Cyber-poor’ means they are not as well-resourced as they need to be to defend themselves. Any common criminal or adversary goes after the weakest link.” To help schools fund cyber-security, the federally funded Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) has developed a Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS) it offers to K-12 schools to help limit exposure to malware, phishing, ransomware and other cyber threats. Santa Fe Public Schools uses the service, among other tools, SFPS Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez tells SFR via a written statement. “I feel this is a concern for all superintendents and districts statewide,” Chavez writes. “With remote learning accelerating the use of technology, we must be on a continual journey of staying current and upgrading our systems and knowledge. We have training available for all staff and provide simulated phishing emails in order to ensure our end users are able to help prevent these types of attacks.”

Listen up

If epistemic instability sounds like an apt description for your current mood, the intertwining of algorithmic tools and human experience may be to blame. Though hiding under the bed sounds like a reasonable response to the rapid insidious onset of AI in all facets of existence, a digital savvy populace will likely produce better results. Tina Eliassi-Rad, inaugural President Joseph E. Aoun professor at Northeastern University, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute and the Vermont Complex Systems Center, discusses this topic in a free SFI lecture on “Just Machine Learning” at 7:30 pm tonight at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, and online via SFI’s YouTube page.

Here we are

Travel & Leisure highlights semi-private airline JSX’s relaunch later this month of service to Taos. Travelers will be able to fly into Taos from both Dallas and the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in the Denver area starting June 28 for seasonal flights through Sept. 29. “JSX, at its core, is about increasing access to air travel and our return to Taos does just that,” JSX CEO Alex Wilcox tells T&L via a statement. “It’s our true pleasure to bring customers to places where large network airlines can’t go, like Taos, where the best of arts and culture become more attainable than ever before.” Condé Nast Traveler, meanwhile, includes Albuquerque on its list of 10 affordable places to travel in the US, noting that while Albuquerque may not be on the top of travelers’ “to-do” lists, it offers plenty of enticements, including the International Balloon Fiesta (Oct. 5-13); the Albuquerque MuseumNational Hispanic Cultural Center; and the various restaurants, galleries and “desert views.” Also on the travel tip, Only In Your State rounds up New Mexico’s “exceptional Airbnbs,” including El Prado’s Dome Sweet Dome, which features a hot tub, a stream room, a private deck and musical instruments. Also on the list: glamping at Goldfinger Wagon at Scaramanga Movie Ranch in Los Cerrillos, “essentially a large tent on an elevated deck,” with a futon bed; a chair and a couch; a deck; a latrine; and a gravity shower—all in walking distance to Madrid.

Summer is coming

Game of Thrones creator/Santa Fe benefactor George RR Martin gives Deadline a sneak peak at a new project that, no, is not the long-awaited Winds of Winter. Rather, Martin shared a still from the set of The Summer Machine, a short film from a new anthology series Martin is producing. The state Film Office announced last week filming for The Summer Machine recently wrapped in and around Las Cruces and Alamogordo, with Michael Cassutt (The Twilight Zone) directing from his own script. Martin’s statement on the project, Deadline reports, was concise: “Summer is coming” (get it?). According to the Film Office, the movie will star Matt Frewer (Watchmen), Charles Martin Smith, Lina Esco (S.W.A.T.), Monique Candelaria (Breaking Bad), Ryan Begay (Dark Winds) and Eric Steinig (Better Call Saul) “as they tell the story of two survivors of a brutal post-apocalyptic winter who stumble upon a hidden paradise, a community bathed in perpetual summer. But their arrival threatens to unravel the fragile utopia’s secret.” Film Las Cruces President Jeff Steinborn in a statement said, “Las Cruces is extremely honored to host George RR Martin and his film Summer Machine. We’re huge fans of his and thrilled that he discovered Las Cruces as a great filming destination.” The production will employ more than 100 New Mexicans, including 68 crew members, 41 background talent and seven principal actors. Regarding the feverishly anticipated next installment in his fantasy series (Winds of Winter), Martin did reference the novel in a blog post about a forthcoming HBO adaptation of his novella The Hedge Knight. Martin writes the show will debut next year and he hopes to finish more “Dunk and Egg” stories in the future, but adds, “yes, after I finish The Winds of Winter.”

Feel the heat

The National Weather Service forecasts mostly sunny skies today, with a high temperature near 85 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the morning. Statewide, NWS shows a hot week in store, with varying degrees of heat risk.

Thanks for reading! The Word has become a fan of Outside magazine’s Sundog’s Almanac of Ethical Answers (basically an advice column), particularly this recent one responding to the question of why #vanlifers are so “insufferable.”

As SFR celebrates its 50th anniversary, we are wondering what Santa Fe will be like 50 years from now in the year 2074. Share your vision and we’ll enter you in a drawing for a gift certificate to a local restaurant.

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