NM chief justice urges caution in criminal justice reforms
The COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for a more technologically driven approach for the state judiciary, state Supreme Court Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon said yesterday during her State of the Judiciary address at the Legislature. “Remote and hybrid hearings, depositions, mediations, and even bench trials not only kept participants safe, but saved time and costs, and improved access for those New Mexicans who have a difficult time traveling to court,” she said, noting that the judiciary is now looking to expand its use of technology. For instance, a pilot program starting this month will select remote jurors for trial to study whether it is a viable option and explore creating “justice stations” in communities “so that litigants can appear remotely even if they do not have broadband.” In addition to discussing the judiciary’s accomplishments over the last four years and its fiscal and legislative requests, Bacon also waded in to the legislative hot topics of crime and crime reform in her speech. Specifically, rising crime has led to controversial proposals to revamp the state’s pre-trial detention rules. Bacon asked the lawmakers to make any policy decisions “based on what the Constitution mandates, and on verified data and facts”; to consider fiscal impact of criminal justice reform and the need for it to be adequately funded; and to remember the human impact of such decisions: “We all feel deep sorrow and fear when we read about a senseless death and other tragedies from crimes,” Bacon said. “Yet, we must remember why our Constitution protects the rights of every person, including those accused of crime. They are just that—accused, and presumed innocent in the eyes of the law.”
Here are some of the topics currently slated for public comment at tonight’s Santa Fe City Council meeting: a proposal to update the city’s code with gender-neutral language; a bill that would add paid staff to help city councilors; a previously postponed bill that would increase fines for drivers whose vehicles violate the city’s noise ordinances. To name a few. The meeting starts at 5 pm, but who knows how many people will comment and how late the meeting might stretch? SFR staff writer Andrew Oxford unpacks the increasingly late hours for City Council meetings, creating fatigued decision-making; curtailed public participation; and repeated delays on action items. City Councilor Sig Lindell, sponsor of the proposed muffler-noise bill, tells SFR postponing review of some issues to accommodate hours of discussion on others can dissuade residents from participating. “The more times you put things off, the harder it is to get people to come and give public comments,” she says. Last weekend, the council held a special Saturday meeting on a proposed—and ultimately approved—controversial rezoning request for Old Pecos Trail. Special meetings for controversial issues; changing the time the council meets; and even meeting more often are some of the ideas on the table for addressing meetings that drift into the early hours of the next day. “We’ve got to do something different,” Mayor Alan Webber told SFR last weekend before Saturday’s meeting began.
NM Voting Rights Act forthcoming
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, legislative leaders and advocacy groups yesterday previewed a forthcoming Voting Rights Act that will make its second appearance this year after state Republicans filibustered it in 2022. According to a news release, the bill is expected to be formally introduced on the House Floor later this week and includes: protections for Native American voters; enhancements to voter registration systems and voter data privacy; the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated individuals; creation of a permanent absentee list so voters can choose to vote by mail; and a proposed state holiday on Election Day. “While other states across the country are rolling back voter rights and restricting access to the ballot, New Mexico is working hard to remove unnecessary barriers so that all eligible voters can make their voices heard,” House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, said in a statement. Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who will be a sponsor of the bill, noted in a statement that “voting restrictions disproportionately affect people of color, tribal communities, the elderly, and working parents—those that are often most deeply impacted by the policies established by elected leaders.” Toulouse Oliver, who has been on the frontline of battling election misinformation, said “it’s more important than ever that we step up to protect New Mexicans’ right to vote. The message we are sending with this bill is that your voice matters, your rights and fundamental freedoms are protected, and your elected leaders have your back.”
And speaking of elections, if you thought having a Republican election-denier arrested for allegedly masterminding shootings at Democrats’ homes might cause some local GOP repudiation of former President Donald Trump, think again. So reports the national media on the ongoing fallout following the arrest of failed Republican candidate and election-denier Solomon Pena for allegedly orchestrating shootings at elected Democrats’ homes. The Washington Post caught up with former Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti, who said of Pena’s accused crimes: “It’s important that we say we can’t stand for crap like this. But blaming Trump—that’s not fair to do.” Prominent state Republican Michael Candelaria sums up the GOP’s conundrum succinctly for the New York Times, saying: “You don’t take a group of people whose support you want and tell them, ‘You’re a bunch of crazies.’ You’re going to have some extremists that you have to figure out how to keep their support.”
Senate douses bill to limit prescribed burns
The state Senate Conservation Committee yesterday basically quashed Senate Bill 21, which would have prohibited controlled burns during New Mexico’s windy season (watch the discourse here, right around the 10:18 mark). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, follows last spring’s Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon conflagration, both of which began because of types of prescribed burns. “Fire and catastrophic fire have become an all-too common occurrence in New Mexico,” Griggs said yesterday. “Citizens have lost their lives and millions of dollars of property, both public and private, have been reduced to ashes. Too many of these fires started because a prescribed burn got out of control.” As the Albuquerque Journal reports, the committee ended up voting 4-3 to table the bill; state Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, the committee’s chairwoman, cast the tie-breaking vote to table. The hearing included testimony in favor of the bill from Gallinas Canyon volunteer firefighter Mary Kay Root, who lost her home to the fire last year; others, such as State Forrester Laura McCarthy, testified against the bill and said prescribed burns are a necessary tool at times. “There are circumstances where prescribed burns are necessary,” she said. Check out today’s legislative schedule here.
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Jan. 24: New cases: 206; 663,868 total cases. Deaths: three; Santa Fe County has had 385 total deaths; 8,927 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 80. Patients on ventilators: three
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Jan. 19 “community levels” map shows one county categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: Roosevelt County. 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.
Earlier this week on KKOB radio, host Bob Clark spoke to Antiques Roadshow Executive Producer Marsha Bemko about the show’s first trip to Santa Fe on a hot day last June at Museum Hill. Thousands attended and three episodes emerged; the first one premiered on New Mexico PBS on Monday, with two more forthcoming on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6. SFR also spoke with one of the show’s newest appraisers, New Mexico artist Tony Abeyta, for a printed interview in this week’s paper.
Alissa Jubelirer had worked for years in the cannabis industry as general counsel for a multi-state business in Illinois and had gained experience raising capital as well. Still, she writes for Rolling Stone magazine, “I did not expect it to be this hard when I opened my own cannabis company, Dynamic Jack, in New Mexico in 2021.” Jubelirer, Dynamic Jack’s CEO, talks about the challenges she faced raising capital over the course of six months to launch her company (which has multiple locations across the state), and offers five tips for other cannabis entrepreneurs, including telling a story. In Jubelirer’s case, that story is: “Ambitious, high-powered Chicago attorney at the height of her career in the city trades it all in for a ‘simple’ life of cannabis farming in Estancia, New Mexico, with a population of 1,500 people.” Posting assiduously on social media also helped generate interest and funds, she says: “I posted pictures of New Mexico’s many landscapes; the farm; me working on the farm; me and the team at conferences in Chicago, Vegas and Albuquerque; and anything funny, quirky or interesting I could come up with relating to Dynamic Jack.” Looking for even more cannabis-related stories? You’re in luck: A fresh, green copy of this month’s Leaf Brief dispatch has just published, courtesy SFR staff writer and cannabis reporter Andy Lyman (sign up here to make sure you don’t miss any).
Choose your adventure
If you haven’t stopped by a Walgreens lately, heads up: Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. As such, the female-centric online magazine The Zoe Report has travel recommendations for a Valentine’s Getaway and Santa Fe is among them. Specifically, El Rey Court makes the list if you’re in the market for a Southwest getaway. Its 5 acres, the story notes, allows guest to “explore its varied corners, whether it’s sipping mezcal at the outdoor bar, La Reina, or catching up on your book by a kiva fireplace. If you get hungry, head a few steps out front to the Turquoise Trailer food truck that serves up breakfast tacos, gourmet grilled cheese, and other savory bites.” If you’re more of the mind for a soulful vacation versus a romantic one, InsideHook recommends a trip to Santa Fe and a stay at Bishops Lodge, Auberge Resorts Collection in its roundup of “10 Desert Escapes That Will Restore Your Soul.” In addition to providing proximity to the great outdoors and an indoor spa, the resort also offers a variety of soul-enriching activity options, including classes in ancient lettering, al-fresco painting and incense-making. If you’d prefer to just wallow in the way things used to be on your vacation, look no further than Albuquerque, which Drift Travel includes on its list of “four destinations for nostalgia,” thanks in main to the city’s proximity to Route 66 and its myriad options for Route 66 retro accommodations.
Tip of the iceberg
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for snow showers today with patchy freezing fog before 9 am. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 30 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph. Tonight, look for a 20% chance for snow showers before midnight with a low temperature around 9 degrees and wind chill values as low as -2 degrees. The weather should dry up tomorrow, with a chance of warming up into the low 40s come weekend.
Thanks for reading! The Word doesn’t think there is anything amusing about the debt ceiling…except maybe this cartoon because of the cat.