State stalls workers’ return to office
The state’s Personnel Office has delayed the end of telework and return to the office by a month. While managers were required to resume in-person work yesterday, rank-and-file employees now have until Feb. 2. State Personnel Director Teresa Padilla told the Albuquerque Journal yesterday her agency received a form email opposing the return to the office from fewer than 5% of the approximate 16,600 classified state workers. “In general, we believe most state government employees understand the benefits of being present in the office to serve our customers and constituents,” she told the Journal. Communications Workers of America union local President Dan Secrist, however, says concerns remain about the inhabitability of some office spaces; child care; and commutes for employees hired during the pandemic, among other issues. CWA Local 7076 has filed a complaint with the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board regarding the state’s unilateral decision to cancel its telework policy.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will be temporarily out of the office as well. The governor’s office announced she traveled to Washington, DC yesterday, where she is scheduled to undergo a total knee replacement of her right knee. “The total knee replacement will be performed by an orthopedic surgeon from whom the governor has previously received treatment and with whom she had a consultation in September following the re-aggravation of an injury,” a news release announced. Lujan Grisham is scheduled to return to New Mexico next week. The governor’s surgery follows a full day of inauguration activities that took place here on Jan. 1. SFR writer Andrew Oxford has the story on the oil and pharmaceutical companies that helped sponsor some of those events.
SFPD IDs shooting victim
A man shot and killed in Santa Fe late last week was visiting from Texas, Santa Fe Police said yesterday. SFPD identified James Towle, 55, as the person killed Dec. 30 while he was walking on Rufina Street. According to an SFPD news announcement, police were dispatched to the Rufina/Siler Road area at approximately 12:30 am regarding a shooting. Upon arrival, police located Towle, who had at least one gunshot wound and was pronounced deceased at the scene. Detectives at that point initiated a homicide investigation, which remains ongoing: No suspects have been identified. SFPD is asking anyone with information related to the incident to contact Detective Javier Vigil at (505) 955-5412. Additionally, SFPD requests anyone with video surveillance, photographs or other sources of evidence regarding this incident to submit them at this link.
New Mexico Democrats think the rest of the Southwest should follow their lead. US Sen. Ben Ray Luján talks to the Washington Post about their track record in elections and how it might serve as a model for how the Democratic Party “can strengthen its hand in other Southwestern states by continuing to make deep investments in Hispanic voters, running Hispanic candidates and putting up a fight in traditionally more conservative districts.” Luján tells the Post he’s “very proud of the work that was done a few decades back where there was organizing from Hispanic Democratic candidates.” Despite myriad shifts in the political landscape across the country and the Southwest, New Mexico, the story notes, “has changed the least and remained, mostly, reliably blue,” with one Democratic pollster describing the state as a “harbinger” for the rest of the Southwest. Luján describes New Mexico’s Democratic strength as the result in part of “years of work by Democrats to peel off rural voters.” State Republicans, however, claim the state remains competitive (at present, Democrats hold all the congressional seats, the governor’s office and have an advantage in both houses of the state Legislature). “I absolutely believe that New Mexico is on the path to turning red, the same as Louisiana, Arkansas,” New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce tells the Post.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Jan. 3: New cases: 831, includes three-day holiday weekend; 659,887 total cases. Deaths: one; Santa Fe County has had 378 total deaths; 8,815; total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 87. Patients on ventilators: seven
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Dec. 29 “community levels” map shows three counties categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: McKinley, De Baca, Hidalgo counties. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via COVIDTests.gov; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
State lawmakers will soon convene for the 60-day legislative session commencing Jan. 17. On the most recent episode of PBS’ New Mexico In Focus, panelists discuss the potential impact of the state’s revenue surplus might impact the session, along with looming proposals for gun control and prison reform. In addition, New Mexico in Focus Correspondent Russell Contreras talks with House Speaker Nominee Javier Martínez about his goals for the next year and the Democratic Party’s top priorities.
An open book
How is everyone doing on their Winter Reading Bingo cards? These are due by Jan. 13 to any local library branch. Rules: Connect five book-related accomplishments in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally by writing your completed titles in each block (you can read in any format: book, ebook, audiobook, etc.). If anyone made a playlist for a fiction book, feel free to share with us too! If you fill in the whole board, you double your chances to win one of the prizes, which include: Amazon Fire Tablets, passes for historic sites, Meow Wolf, ice skating at Genoveva Chavez Community Center and more. There’s a Youth Bingo Card as well. Speaking of libraries, the state library yesterday announced two new programs that expand reading access for New Mexicans. A new subscription program provides access to The New York Times newspaper, cooking and games sections. This requires a daily code, easily obtained via QR codes provided by Santa Fe Library (you will need to sign up for a free NYT account). The state also unveiled free statewide entree to The Palace Project eBook library, an app-based eBook and audiobook lending service. To use: Download The Project Palace app on the App Store or Google Play, search for New Mexico State Library in the app, and then read any of the thousands of available titles. “New Mexico State Library has been working with libraries and the Connect New Mexico Council to bring better connectivity throughout the state,” Eli Guinnee, executive director of NMSL, said in a statement. “We wouldn’t be able to offer The Palace Project and the New York Times without that work. It’s crucial to our mission, and the health of our society, that we deliver resources like these into the hands of New Mexicans with as few barriers as possible.”
Down to earth
Yale Climate Connections profiles eight artists “who are grappling with climate change and imagining a better world.” They include Santa Fe resident and artist Rebecca Lee Kunz (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), whose series, “Story Paintings: A Mythological Narrative Told by the Creatures of the Anthropocene,” grew out of a run she took here in spring, 2022: “It was the golden hour and as she ran, the landscape began to melt away,” the story says. “The series draws inspiration from the Cherokee creation myth and seeks lessons about survival and the future and include printmaking, watercolor paintings and graphite drawings. In text accompanying her self-portrait “Coyote skin :: Dusty Paws,” Kunz writes: “Coyotes began to call out as the sun started to set. Through their calls, I listened to their messages—messages that sounded like ancient code being spoken in Coyote. Messages about how to move forward in balance, how to guide my children through this strange time, and how to simply survive. I was reminded that we have been through this before, but that we must listen and learn from our past. Not only did our human survival depend on it, but the Earth did as well.”
Baby, it’s cold outside
The Santa Fe Public Schools are on a two-hour delay this morning “out of an abundance of caution due to possible icy conditions in some parts of the district.” This means buses are on a two-hour delay; full day Pre-K programs are also on a two hour delay; and morning Pre-K programs have been canceled. As for today, a chilly dry day awaits, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts sunny skies and a high temperature near 38 degrees, accompanied by northwest wind 5 to 15 mph. The rest of the week should be a bit warmer, with a tiny chance for precipitation at the end of the week in Northern New Mexico.