We come back to life's essentials like housing and education in episode 80, and the systemic problems that can easily slip past us if we're not vigilant. As we continue to endure, it's easy to drop the ball on issues New Mexico has been battling for years. Today we hear from journalists from around the state on how the pandemic is affecting schools and teachers, the affordability of housing, and whether the corrections system is fulfilling its human rights obligations.
Longtime education reporter and KUNM News Director Hannah Colton tells us what public school days might look like when kids come back in the fall. Split in-school learning and at-home learning creates a reliance on internet that's going to be a problem for students on tribal lands, where internet infrastructure has never been good. And this is all set against a backdrop of the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit and Black Lives Matter calls for funds to be diverted from law enforcement to public education.
Deanna Creighton Cook with ABC Community School Partnership worked with UNM's School of Law to lobby for an extended moratorium on evictions. The hope was for a 12-month reprieve to get people through the turmoil caused by COVID-19 and a process for sorting out rent owed. They're still fighting for an extension and looking for other ways to help people with housing. We asked the Governor's Office about the lack of rent relief or an extended eviction moratorium in the emergency legislative session that concluded this week. Spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett responded:
"The governor is clear that New Mexicans are facing a variety of potential obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she is absolutely aware of and concerned about potential rent and eviction issues. I know that the state is exploring what additional avenues might be available with federal CARES Act funds to address a variety of pandemic-related issues. The reality of the logistics are difficult, as there is no state 'housing' authority and the area is typically managed by local municipalities. One thing I do just want to be sure you're clear on is that New Mexico state statute unfortunately does not allow the executive, the governor, to enact eviction moratoriums or 'rent relief.' The current temporary eviction moratorium was put in place by the [state] Supreme Court, as evictions are a legal procedure and fall under the purview of the judicial branch. I would hope that the Court would continue that moratorium as we are clearly still in the midst of the pandemic but you would have to ask them for the details of that."
Algernon D'Ammassa from the Las Cruces Sun-News tells us about the New Mexico Department of Corrections' efforts to curb COVID-19 in prisons. Only 71 prisoners have been released to prevent the spread. And the state's public and private prisons have failed to contain the coronavirus among prisoners, especially in the Otero County Detention Center.
And some local news:
The India Palace restaurant in downtown Santa Fe saw around $100,000 in damages after a racist attack Monday. Reporting and photos from the Santa Fe Reporter show the restaurant's walls spray-painted with white supremacist declarations and racist statements directed at the restaurant's owners. The Santa Fe Police Department—which has been criticized for taking several hours to arrive after the incident was reported—has labeled it a hate crime.
The Las Cruces Sun News reports that public school officials in the southern New Mexico city will discuss changing the name of Oñate High School at tomorrow's school board meeting.
The Public Education Department yesterday released its plan for reopening schools in the fall. The AP reports schools will open at 50% capacity with students alternating between in-person and online classes. All students and staff will be required to wear masks while in school.
The Navajo Department of Health reported 43 new coronavirus cases yesterday and one additional death. New Mexico health officials reported 156 new cases today. According to a news release from Bernalillo County, two officers and one inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center have tested positive. The statewide total now stands at just under 11,000 cases.
We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub. And here's what we got from today. Read Susan Dunlap's story about eviction and COVID-19; learn all about the ABC Community Partnership; take a look at the Las Cruces Sun-News, including stories from Algernon D'Ammassa
We want to hear your story. What's shaping you during this time of change? Share your thoughts by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We may include them in a future episode.