Morning Word

AG Warns of Fire-Related Price-Gouging

City of Santa Fe governing body approves SFPD pay increases

Morning Word

AG, officials warn of wildfire price-gouging

Attorney General Raúl Torrez, alongside local Ruidoso and Lincoln County officials, held a news conference yesterday following reports of price-gouging in response to the South Fork/Salt fires in the area. “Anyone who takes advantage of our people during a crisis like this should expect to face the full force of the New Mexico Department of Justice,” Torrez said in a statement, noting his office has heard reports of price gouging at hotels as far away as Albuquerque. “Price gouging by hotels, contractors and retailers will be met with swift legal action and anyone engaged in fraud will be criminally prosecuted. We encourage anyone who witnesses or experiences price gouging or fraudulent behavior to contact us immediately.” People can report suspicious behavior online or by calling the AG’s office at (505)490-4060, option 3. “Our neighbors in Roswell really stepped up in our time of need and welcomed Ruidosoans with open arms as we were forced to flee from the path of the South Fork and Salt Fires. We will never forget the kindness that was shown to us,” Ruidoso Mayor Lynn Crawford said in a statement. “It is so upsetting to hear that some people took advantage of our citizens when they were vulnerable and in need of shelter.” Torrez acknowledged that while the announcement of unfair practices “may be concerning to folks and should cause everyone to be vigilant, I don’t want it to overshadow the really good examples of people reaching out and helping one another, and do think the vast majority of people in this community and surrounding communities are doing what they can to come together and help folks in their moment of need.” Containment continues to grow on the South Fork/Salt fires, which as of press time had reached 64% and 55%, respectively.

Council approves SFPD pay increases

At its meeting last night, the Santa Fe City Council and mayor approved the FY25 collective bargaining agreement with the Santa Fe Police Officers Association. The agreement constitutes a more than $904,000 budgeting increase, and includes an increase the base hourly wage for bargaining unit professional staff, police officer, police detective and police sergeant classifications. According to an SFPD news release, SFPD is continuing to offer bonuses as it works to fully staff the department. Experienced lateral officers will receive a $15,000 hiring incentive ($7,500 upon hire and $7,500 upon completion of a one-year probation), along with 160 hours of leave upon hire. The governing body removed two high-profile items from last night’s meeting: Mayor Alan Webber’s proposal to ban people from sitting and standing on city medians; the mayor tells SFR he is taking more feedback on the impact of the proposal on the city’s disabled community. Webber previously told SFR the proposal is intended to address pedestrian safety issues, but the ACLU of New Mexico says the proposed ordinance—at least in its previous form—isn’t constitutional. The governing body also postponed a vote on an ordinance that would prohibit housing discrimination based on income.

DWS releases plan for future of work in NM

Climate change, the energy transition away from fossil fuels and technological advances constitute three major challenges New Mexico will face in the coming years as it relates to workforce development, according to a four-year plan released yesterday by the Department of Workforce Solutions. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plan for 2024-2027 involved multiple agencies and workforce boards, with a planning process that kicked off last year. The report’s executive summary characterizes the state has having an “inverted” job market (more job vacancies than people to fill them), and participants identified some components of New Mexico’s workforce system as fragmented and reactive. The report identifies several priority areas for workforce development, including: advanced manufacturing; aerospace; biosciences; energy transition and climate resilience; and sustainable and value-added agriculture. “We heard the voices and businesses and communities across the state and worked to balance the state’s forward-looking economic development goals with the pressing needs of New Mexicans to take care of each other and the state we love,” NMDWS Secretary Sarita Nair says in a statement. “We also saw the need to recognize the rapidly changing nature of work—both with advancements in technology and emerging new industries. We’re preparing our workforce for a future we cannot fully envision yet.”

State receives nearly $50 mil in PILT payments

The US Interior Department announced yesterday a slight boost for New Mexico’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes for 2024: $49.8 million, up from $46.6 million last year and $43.6 million the year prior. This year’s PILT funds are spread across 32 local governments, including Santa Fe. Because states can’t tax federal lands, the Interior, along with other agencies such as the Forest Service, calculate payments based on acreage and population, and share the revenue generated from fees paid for commercial activities on public lands. In total, the Interior announced more than 1,900 state and local governments around the country will receive a total of $621.2 million, with New Mexico having the second highest payment following California at more than $64 million. Within New Mexico, Eddy, Chavez and Otero counties garnered the largest payments—each in the $4 million range. Santa Fe’s portion amounts to approximately $305,000, with its largest share coming from Santa Fe National Forest lands, of which it has more than 234,000 acres. Overall, Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service lands make up the largest acreage in the state: close to 13 million and 9 million acres, respectively. “PILT payments help local governments carry out vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations,” Interior Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Joan Mooney says in a statement. “We are grateful for our ongoing partnerships with local jurisdictions across the country who help the Interior Department fulfill our mission on behalf of the American public.”

Listen Up

Another day, another terrible report about driving and New Mexico. In this case, the annual Dangerous by Design report finds New Mexico to be the most deadly state in the US for pedestrians. Santa Feans are well aware of the increasingly dangerous roadways and have plenty to say on the topic, judging by our recent letters to the editor in response to staff writer Evan Chandler’s story, “The Fast and the Furious.” Chandler will be a guest on today’s 8 am edition of KUNM’s Let’s Talk New Mexico call-in show (89.9 FM) devoted to dangerous driving, along with New Mexico Department of Transportation Traffic Safety Director Jeff Barela and City of Albuquerque Public Information Officer Dan Mayfield. Have thoughts to share on the topic? (We think you do.) Email, call in at (505) 277-5866 or record a voice message on the show page.

Home sweet O’Keeffe

Charleston, South Carolina newspaper The Post and Courier’s travel section takes a jaunt to Abiquiú, where Editor in Chief Autumn Phillips ponders how Georgia O’Keeffe’s domestic design choices reflect upon the artist’s life. Phillips writes that she had wanted to visit O’Keeffe’s home for as long as she could remember. Once there, she writes, “I expected many things because I had imagined it for so long. I expected to find some answers. Why does a woman choose to live across the country from her husband? How does a landscape shape art, even if the landscape rarely appears in the art? Who was she really— Georgia O’Keeffe—a woman who had come to represent to me creative freedom born of bold, smart choices.” O’Keeffe’s home, however, possesses scant evidence of the artist’s work and, instead, reflects her domestic life: think baking sheets; cookbooks; rocks and bones (we are talking about O’Keeffe, after all). The house, in other words, reflected some of what writer Tom Wolfe characterized as “unedited spaces,” the small markers that make up character. In the case of O’Keeffe’s house: “phone numbers scribbled on a piece of paper, the names of tea written on pieces of tape and stuck to the side of a tin, the cookie sheet hung on a nail.” As for Phillips, she “drank it all in, the simplicity of it.” She then returns to Santa Fe for breakfast at Horseman’s Haven to order its hottest green chile off-menu (a truly mad choice but apparently she survived to tell the tale) and ponder “the house in Abiquiú and the woman who lived there.”

Alec Baldwin’s trials

First Judicial District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer is expected to deliver a decision tomorrow about whether the trial for Rust actor/producer Alec Baldwin on involuntary manslaughter charges will proceed (if so, it’s slated to begin July 9 with jury selection). In anticipation, the New York Times Magazine breaks down Baldwin’s “long journey” to trial, for which Jonathan Mahler interviewed more than 30 people in Santa Fe and New York, he writes, while also reviewing the pile of public records the case has generated since the Oct. 21, 2021 fatal on-set shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. We did not learn much from this chronicle, since we’ve also been covering the story since it began, but did find this portion, under the section titled, “The prosecution took place in a tense political context” worth noting: “District attorneys are elected officials, and charging decisions don’t take place in a vacuum. They are specific to a time and place. And New Mexico is a place with a fraught relationship with outsiders. The state’s official nickname is the Land of Enchantment, but among some Santa Fe locals, it’s known as the Land of Resentment, an allusion to its long history of occupation and exploitation.” Truth be told, we’ve lived here 35 years and that’s the first time we’ve heard that one. Land of Entrapment, sure. At any rate, Mahler concludes,”In many ways, the story of Baldwin’s prosecution has come to resemble a western movie itself, testing the line between justice and vengeance.” Time (checks watch) will tell.

In the flow

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch starting at noon today, and forecasts a 50% to 60% chance for rain today and tonight, with scattered showers and thunderstorms after 9 am, and likely storms into the night. Remember: Turn around; don’t drown (and other useful tips). Otherwise, today will be partly sunny, with a high temperature of 86 degrees.

Thanks for reading! The Word is soothing her psyche in advance of tonight’s presidential debate by communing with the brown bears returning to Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.

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