Morning Word

NM Oil and Gas Revenue Continues to Rise

Santa Fe County won’t appeal Area 1B annexation decision

Morning Word

NM oil & gas revenue continues to rise

The Albuquerque Journal reports a new presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee shows $15.2 billion for New Mexico via oil and gas revenue (we were unable to access the source documents, as the Legislature’s website was off line as of press time, probably knocked out by last night’s power outage, discussed below in the weather brief). The oil and gas industry’s revenue to the state over the last five years has reportedly more than quadrupled, with the LFC predicting its peak could still be 10 years off. Legislative economist Jennifer Faubion told lawmakers on the LFC the ever-increasing payday from the industry also is increasing the state’s dependance on oil and gas, with this year marking the most dependance of all thus far. The state’s relationship with the extractive industry has been a point of increasing contention for environmental, Indigenous and youth groups, given the impact on air quality, climate change and people living within proximity of the industry. A lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, state officials and the Legislature by such groups contends allowing such industry violates residents’ constitutional rights to clear air; a district court judge earlier this week denied officials’ motion to dismiss the case.

SFCC undertakes compensation study

More than three months after nearly a dozen faculty members at the Santa Fe Community College voiced concerns about their wages during a SFCC Governing Board meeting, the college has begun a compensation study. “This is something we’ve known we needed to do,” SFCC President Becky Rowley tells SFR. “It’s a lengthy process, but we want to do it right, be as thorough as we possibly can and get the best data that we can. My pledge is to be as aggressive as we can be in meeting what the salary study reflects.” In the upcoming school year, the starting salary for full-time faculty with a bachelor’s degree will be $50,879 per year—about a 3% increase from last year’s starting salary, along with one-time retention awards. Donna Castro, the school’s chief human resources officer, says SFCC’s study—to be conducted by Bolton Partners—will look at “the total package” when it comes to employee pay. Throughout June, Bolton Partners will meet with non-teaching staff, and the non-teaching staff study should take about 17 weeks to complete, according to Castro. Faculty will be interviewed when they return for the fall semester in August, and after those results are complete, Bolton partners will make recommendations for changing compensation.

NM AG supports bill to prevent AI-driven child exploitation

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez has joined a coalition of more than 40 AGs to endorse the Child Exploitation and Artificial Intelligence Expert Commission Act of 2024, sponsored by US Rep. Nick Langley, R-NY. The bill would create a commission focused on helping law enforcement “prevent, detect and prosecute child exploitation crimes committed using artificial intelligence.” More than 50 AGs, including from New Mexico, last year called upon Congress to study the impact AI could have on child welfare. “The creation of this commission is a vital step toward ensuring that the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence do not come at the expense of our children’s safety,” Torrez says in a statement. “By working together, we can establish robust measures to prevent and prosecute child exploitation crimes committed through AI, safeguarding our communities and holding offenders accountable.” In their letter this week, the AGs note that while AI can be “an incredible tool in changing our world for the better…a knife or hammer is a useful tool in the right hands. But in the wrong hands, it’s a dangerous weapon.”

County won’t appeal Area 1B decision

Following a discussion in executive session, the Santa Fe County Commission last night voted (right around the 4:05 mark in the linked video) not to appeal a recent judicial decision regarding annexation litigation between the county and the City of Santa Fe. First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid issued a ruling last month that reversed an ordinance the BCCC passed last year that carved out a portion of land slated for city annexation—known as Area 1B—to remain in the county. 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. Following last night’s executive session, Commissioner Anna Hansen, in making a motion to not appeal Biedscheid’s decision, said, “While we strongly disagree with the judge’s decision, we will not go forward on appeal in this case because we really believe that we need to work and create more stable community. We want to see resolution to all of these issues. We know that the residents of Area 1B really do not care to be in the city, but that is something that will be decided as we move forward. But in the meantime, we need to have resolution so that the constituents can continue to get permits and continue to have answers to their situation for their land use.”

Listen up

Ever wish someone would come in your yard and help you make it ecologically sound and welcoming to bees, birds and the myriad insects needed for the cycle of life? Enter the new Yard Habitat Certification program from the Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners. According to SFEMG, David Tallamy’s book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard, and the Xerces Society’s Santa Fe Pollinator Trail pilot program inspired the new hands-on program, in which experts will visit yards to assess what’s needed (and, no, a tidy yard is not the goal). Hear more about this new program on the latest edition of SFEMG’s Garden Journal radio program.

In harmony

Hyperallergic writes that the “art world might finally be catching up” with Galisteo-based painter Harmony Hammond, one of several New Mexico artists included in this year’s Whitney Biennial (through Aug. 11). Writer Nancy Zastudil starts her story, part of the magazine’s 2024 Pride Month series, by noting that everything she knows “about feminist work” came from Hammond, whose studio she visits weekly for what she characterizes as “light” administrative work. “I say ‘light’ because she is a powerhouse of organization, productivity, and focus; she’d do just fine without me hanging around but welcomes my help regardless. That same spirit—a balance of rigor and openness—infuses Hammond’s work as a groundbreaking artist, writer, and curator who has pioneered progressive, expansive thinking about feminist and queer art since the early 1970s,” Zastudil writes. The story details Hammond’s six decades of groundbreaking work, including a spurt of recent exhibitions including the Whitney; Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction, currently at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; and Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art, which opened at the Barbican in London. In an interview about her work and life, Zastudil asks Hammond what Pride Month means to her. She responds, in part: “June Pride is an occasion for community gathering and visibility—for queers to gather together.”

The under/over

Vogue magazine includes White Sands in its compendium of the “best national parks in the US,” describing the site as “mysterious and meditative,” and its “undulating white sands” as “a sight to behold.” Outside, on the other hand, barely mentions New Mexico in its round up of “the best Northern America adventures for each weekend of summer,” even though Texas-based author Ryan Krogh plans to be here this summer visiting friends. Carlsbad Caverns receives brief message in the Aug. 4-5 recommendation to visit any national park, as admission will be free to celebrate the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act. “Even cool Carlsbad Caverns, 750 feet below the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico, is a smart way to beat the heat,” Krogh writes (it will probably be about 100 degrees when you leave). Outside’s running site, however, does mention Taos in its “12 road-trip worthy mountain running races” list, specifically the Taos Up & Over 10K, which the story describes as “an enchanting trail race that should be on your summer bucket list if you’re road-tripping through the West. This grueling but rewarding race plays out on a 6.2-mile loop on slopes of the state’s most popular ski resort, starting at a lofty elevation of 9,200 feet at the base of the ski resort village and topping out amid the dizzying air of 11,819 feet.” Author Brian Metzler, editor in chief of RUN and founding editor of Trail Runner, didn’t just compile the list. He ran the Taos race, and writes of the challenging yet exhilarating race: “On the way up, we were treated to stunning views of 12,481-foot Kachina Peak and 13,167-foot Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in the state. The scenery didn’t help me run faster, but it was inspiring and memorable. I was huffing and puffing up the climb, sometimes running, sometimes hiking with my hands on my knees, and sometimes getting passed by an 11-year-old who didn’t seem to be breathing hard at all.”

The heat is on

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 89 degrees and east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

No word as of press time regarding the cause of last night’s PNM power outage, which reportedly impacted approximately more than 10,000 customers in Santa Fe and Cochiti starting around 8 pm, knocking out traffic and streetlights in the downtown area, and along Agua Fria up to the Osage Avenue intersection. The company posted updates on Twitter last night, with all customers’ power restored by about 3:43 am, according to a text message we received.

Thanks for reading! The Word needed this Chaka Khan Tiny Desk concert.

S

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