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MON: Gov wants more prison time for people convicted of felonies who face new gun charges, + More

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announces a public health order imposing temporary restrictions on firearms in the fall of 2023. Her senior public safety advisor, Benjamin Baker, sits to her right.
Austin Fisher
Source NM
A charred car and the remains of the Swiss Chalet Hotel are pictured after being destroyed by the South Fork Fire in the mountain village of Ruidoso, N.M., Saturday, June 22, 2024. The fires are now mostly contained as residents move back in and businesses prepare to open.

NM governor wants more prison time for people convicted of felonies who face new gun charges - By Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is proposing to once again extend how long someone can be put in prison for possessing a gun when they have already been convicted of a felony.

New Mexico law prohibits someone from having a gun if they’ve been convicted of a felony, battery or property damage against a loved one, stalking, or federal gun charges; or if they’re under a protection order for rape or domestic violence.

If someone has a felony conviction or has served any part of their probation for a felony in the last decade, it is a third-degree felony to be found in possession of a firearm under the current state law.

Other third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a three-year sentence; being convicted under this part of the law can land someone in prison for up to six years.

A five-page draft bill presented to the Courts, Corrections & Justice Committee on June 26 would make the crime a second-degree felony. That would bring a nine-year sentence on a person’s first conviction, and a 12-year sentence for a second one.

“Creating a statute in New Mexico that can be effective at safely incarcerating dangerous previously convicted offenders, we believe, is a part of the overall solution that cannot wait,” said Benjamin Baker, the governor’s senior public safety advisor.

If lawmakers pass Lujan Grisham’s proposal during a special session on July 18, it would be the fifth time in six years that they’ve amended the felon in possession statute.

State legislators increased the penalty for violating the law in 2018, and expanded the category of who can be charged with the crime in 2019. They lengthened the possible prison sentence in 2020, and then did so again in 2022.

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena (D-Las Cruces) asked Baker to explain why the governor proposes to increase the maximum sentences compared to the proposal considered in the last regular session that ended in February.

“This problem continues to increase despite actions made by this Legislature to increase penalties and expand the scope,” Baker said.


The draft proposal from Lujan Grisham would also make any sentence ineligible for “good time,” meaning no matter how that person behaves in prison, no matter what programs they take part in, they could not get out early.

Cadena asked Baker about the intent behind the proposed change, and whether it is meant to function as a mandatory minimum sentence. Baker said yes.

Criminal justice advocates have long argued making people serve longer prison sentences does not reduce crime, citing studies showing sentence enhancements and the creation of new crimes, as the governor is proposing here, have little or no deterrent effect on crime.

“While I accept that those studies exist, and I’m aware of their existence, I also believe that there’s multiple facets to the criminal justice system, and deterrence is not the only one,” Baker said. “The community’s safety due to incarceration and separation from the community, so that one can’t reoffend, are an important point that I’d like to raise to the committee.”

Sen. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said the mandatory minimums as a policy disincentivizes “any good behavior” by incarcerated people.

“Being cognizant of the plight of our corrections officers, our Department of Corrections is thin with regard to workers,” Maestas said. “Our workers are working overtime, and that tiny bit of incentive for the inmate to behave is in the interest of public safety.”

The proposed sentence could result in someone convicted of felon in possession being in prison for longer than someone convicted of vehicular homicide, Maestas said.

“It’s just completely inconsistent with good public policy,” Maestas said.


Baker said “we are failing to both prevent and provide the community safety necessary that exists when a person is incarcerated, instead of being free in the community, to choose to reoffend.”

Baker walked lawmakers through data he cited from the Administrative Office of the Courts showing all felon in possession charges in New Mexico between 2017 and May 31, 2024.

In 2017 and 2018, there were about 1,400 cases per year across the state, Baker said.

In 2019, there were significantly fewer cases, and there were nearly no cases in 2020 and 2021, which Baker attributed to “COVID and the situation that existed there.”

There were 202 cases in 2022, he said.

The most recent annual data from 2023 shows 1,378 cases, “a return statewide in New Mexico to pre-pandemic numbers,” Baker said.

As of May 31, there were 864 cases filed so far in 2024. Baker said he projects by the end of the year there will be a rate “higher than any of the previous seven years.”

“Statewide charging events have increased,” Baker said. “It is a statewide concern.”

Between 2017 and May 31, 2024, 52% of the charges were dismissed in two ways, Baker said.

State prosecutors dismissed 36% of those cases.

In the remaining 14% of the cases, people pleaded guilty to another crime associated with the same incident, in exchange for getting the gun charge dismissed, he said.

South Fork and Salt Fires containment increases Daniel Montaño, KUNM News

Progress continues to be made on the fires outside Ruidoso, as businesses start to reopen in the village and residents assess damage to their properties.

Both the South Fork fire and the Salt fire are 84% contained, with the blazes burning nearly 40 square miles combined.

Village authorities announced the indefinite closure of Alto Lake , just north of Ruidoso, which has suffered,” extreme” damage from the South Fork fire, which has left significant impacts on the natural environment and the infrastructure surrounding the lake.

The village, in collaboration with local and state authorities, plan to eventually clear debris, repair trails and rehabilitate the natural habitat around the lake. Restoration teams are currently assessing damage and formulating a comprehensive recovery plan.

While weather has been helpful in battling the two fires, monsoon rains have also led to severe flash flooding in the area.

Following Sackett, questions remain about what waters are protected - By Hannah Grover, New Mexico Political Report

As the impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Sackett decision of 2023 unfold, New Mexico water advocates are pushing for increased protections of waterways that are no longer protected under the Clean Water Act.

Advocates from groups like Trout Unlimited and Amigos Bravo partnered with EcoFlight to help a group of legislators get a better picture of the landscape and how many waterways lost their protections due to the Sackett decision.

The plane flew over areas like the Caja del Rio, Valles Caldera National Preserve and parts of the Jemez River watershed.

Dan Roper with Trout Unlimited said that the Jemez River watershed is a “great place to think about the risks to our water resources right now.”

He said, since the Sackett decision, there are a lot of questions about what level of protections are in place for streams, rivers and wetlands in that watershed. Those waterways include rivers like the San Antonio Creek and the Rio Guadalupe that run year long and are popular places for anglers to fish. Some of the rivers and streams even originate in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

“We don’t know if they’re protected,” Roper said.

One reason that New Mexico’s waters are at risk due to the court ruling is because the state is one of three that do not have their own surface water permitting program.

Another reason is the arid nature of New Mexico. The Sackett decision ruled that the Clean Water Act does not apply to waterways and wetlands that aren’t adjacent to a navigable water or are not perennial.

That places areas like New Mexico that have a lot of ephemeral and intermittent streams and wetlands at risk, despite the fact that those waterways are critical to ensuring clean drinking water and irrigation water.

Some of the threats to waters in New Mexico include road building, development, mining, oil and gas extraction and even forest management, Roper said.

He said that some of the modeling that has been done following the Sackett decision has led to concerns that many of the streams no longer have the level of protections that they once did.

“If they aren’t protected by the feds, they don’t have protections right now,” Roper said.

The streams around Los Alamos National Laboratory, for example, may not be protected by the Clean Water Act, according to a map provided by Trout Unlimited. These waterways have documented pollution including mercury, cyanide, selenium and other metals, according to a state report.

Since Sackett, there have been questions about who, if anyone, has the authority to regulate discharges of pollutants from Los Alamos National Laboratory into the ephemeral streams that are often dry.

Tannis Fox with the Western Environmental Law Center said one thing that New Mexico can do in light of the Sackett decision is to get statutory and regulatory authority over discharges that are currently regulated by the federal government. That includes discharges from industrial sources and wastewater treatment plants. Currently, those are permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and certified by the New Mexico Environment Department to satisfy the state’s water quality standards.

New Mexico has taken steps to begin a surface water permitting program and the initial program rollout could occur in 2027.

The state also joined the America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge, which aims to reconnect wetlands and waterways.

Some of the streams that lost their protections, like the San Antonio Creek do flow year round, but go dry before reaching a larger waterway that is within the EPA’s jurisdiction. Because of that, the Sackett decision may have left them unprotected.

Fox said it is uncertain if protections could be restored through efforts to keep water in a waterway that currently goes dry before its confluence with a larger river.

“A little bit of this still is up to interpretation of the courts of the Supreme Court’s decision,” she said.

Fox said the Supreme Court ruled that, in order to be protected, rivers like the Rio Grande and San Juan have to flow “relatively permanently;” however, the justices did not define what that means and did not provide any guidance in determining what streams remain under the EPA’s jurisdiction.

“When we’re talking about streams at risk, we are looking at these waters that potentially do not run permanently, that are potentially at risk, which is a wide swath of waters in New Mexico,” she said.

While the U.S. Congress could change the Clean Water Act to ensure all waterways are protected, Fox said there is not the political will to do so at this time.

That leaves a patchwork of protections that change from state to state despite the fact that waterways cross state lines.

While Fox hopes that New Mexico will take robust measures to ensure its waters are protected, she said not all the states in the arid west will make those efforts. One reason that the Clean Water Act was needed in the first place was that state efforts were not adequate to protect the waterways, she said.

“It’s important from a national perspective, that you not have a patchwork of protection of rivers and streams, but that you have protection throughout the nation,” Fox said. “And so, the Supreme Court, in my view, has really taken us back 50 years.”

Fortunately for New Mexico, many of the waters crossing into the state are coming from Colorado, which, Fox said, is also looking at “beefing up” surface water and wetland programs.

Roper said that, when it comes to water, everything’s connected.

“When we talk about the health of our watersheds, it’s our perennial streams…it’s our ephemeral drainage, a lot of those are arroyos,” he said. “But everything’s connected. Everyone lives downstream. So we really need to take a watershed approach to those issues.”

Alec Baldwin's case on track for trial in July as judge denies request to dismiss Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A court ruling on Friday put an involuntary manslaughter case against Alec Baldwin on track for trial in early July as a judge denied a request to dismiss the case on complaints that key evidence was damaged by the FBI during forensic testing.

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer sided with prosecutors in rejecting a motion to dismiss the case.

Defense attorneys had argued that the gun in the fatal shooting was heavily damaged during FBI forensic testing before it could be examined for possible modifications or problems that might exonerate the actor-producer.

The ruling removes one of the last hurdles before prosecutors can bring the case to trial with jury selection scheduled for July 9 in Santa Fe.

At trial, attorneys plan to call on witnesses from a court-approved list of more than 60 people. They include film director Joel Souza, who was wounded in the shooting as well as assistant director Dave Halls, who earlier pleaded no contest to negligent use of a deadly weapon, and an array of first responders, investigators, firearms experts and close-range witnesses to the shooting.

Baldwin isn't listed but has the right to testify at his own trial.

During a rehearsal on the set of the Western film "Rust" in 2021, Baldwin pointed a gun at cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when the revolver went off, killing her and injuring director Souza as the bullet became lodged in his shoulder. Baldwin has maintained that he pulled back the gun's hammer but not the trigger and has pleaded not guilty.

The FBI conducted an accidental discharge test on the gun by striking it from several angles with a rawhide mallet, eventually breaking the gun. Prosecutors plan to present evidence at trial that they say shows the firearm "could not have fired absent a pull of the trigger" and was working properly before the shooting.

Baldwin has twice been charged in Hutchins' death. Prosecutors dismissed an earlier charge, then refiled it after receiving a new analysis of the revolver that Baldwin pointed at Hutchins.

"Rust" armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed is serving an 18 month sentence on a conviction for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting, as she appeals the jury verdict. It's likely the prosecutors will call her to testify at Baldwin's trial, despite her refusal to answer questions at a pretrial interview and instead invoke her constitutional rights against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. A judge refused a request to compel her testimony by providing immunity.

Marlowe Sommer said that destruction of internal components of the firearm "is not highly prejudicial" to a fair trial and that Baldwin's legal team failed to demonstrate bad faith by investigators.

While Baldwin "contends that an unaltered firearm is critical to his case, other evidence concerning the functionality of the firearm on Oct. 21, 2021, weighs against the defendant's assertions," the judge wrote.

Sheriff's investigators initially sent the revolver to the FBI for routine testing, but when an FBI analyst heard Baldwin say in an ABC TV interview that he never pulled the trigger, the agency told local authorities they could conduct an accidental discharge test, though it might damage the gun.

The FBI was told by a team of investigators to go ahead, and tested the revolver by striking it from several angles with a rawhide mallet. One of those strikes fractured the gun's firing and safety mechanisms.

Defense attorneys say that the "outrageous" decision to move forward with testing may have destroyed exculpatory evidence.

Prosecutors said it was "unfortunate" the gun broke, but it wasn't destroyed and the parts are still available. They say Baldwin's attorneys still have the ability to defend their client and question the evidence against him.

In Friday's ruling, the judge said prosecutors will have to fully disclose at trial the destructive nature of the FBI forensic testing on the gun, including what was lost in the process and its relevance in reaching a verdict.

Several hours of testimony about the gun and forensic testing during online hearings in recent days provided a dress rehearsal for the possible trial against Baldwin. Attorneys for Baldwin gave long and probing cross-examinations of the lead detective, an FBI forensic firearm investigator and the prosecution's independent gun expert, Lucien Haag.

Prosecutors plan to present evidence that they say shows the firearm "could not have fired absent a pull of the trigger" and was working properly before the shooting.

Since the 2021 shooting, the filming of "Rust" resumed but moved to Montana under an agreement with Hutchins' husband, Matthew Hutchins, which made him an executive producer. The completed movie has not yet been released for public viewing.

Severe storm floods basements of Albuquerque City Hall and Police Department Associated Press

The Albuquerque Police Department headquarters and City Hall have both been damaged from flooding, Mayor Tim Keller said Sunday.

According to the National Weather Service, quarter-sized hail and 60 mph wind hit the Albuquerque area late Saturday night.

Heavy rain from a severe thunderstorm brought flash flooding to many parts of the city and downed power poles, leaving up to 20,000 residents without electricity for hours.

Keller said basements of City Hall and the Albuquerque police flooded, but there was no immediate damage estimate.

Part of Central Avenue was closed after the underpass filled with several feet of water, according to the mayor.

The Albuquerque Fire Department performed 10 water rescues after heavy rain flooded multiple streets and storm drains and downed some power lines.

Arizona wildfire advances after forcing evacuations near Phoenix — Associated Press

More than 250 firefighters were battling a wildfire northeast of Phoenix on yesterday that threatened scores of homes and has forced dozens of residents to evacuate.

60 Homes were evacuated, though no structures have been damaged as the wildfire traversed nearly 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) on the cusp of the Boulder Heights subdivision, said Matthew Wilcox, spokesman for a multi-agency wildfire response team.

There were 268 people combatting the fire Saturday as temperatures surpassed 109 degrees Fahrenheit before midday, with wind gusts expected in the afternoon.

"We still have unseasonably high humidity, hot weather," Wilcox said. "We have no wind right now, but gusts were predicted."

Air tankers and helicopters have helped douse flames from the sky above the Boulder View Fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation. It began about 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Carefree, just outside northern Scottsdale on the edge of the Tonto National Forest.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation center at a high school in Scottsdale, and shelters for horses and other large animals were established at several locations, including the rodeo grounds at nearby Cave Creek.

In central California, increasing temperatures and low relative humidity this weekend could result in worsening wildfire conditions for the Fresno June Lightning Complex. The complex — made up of three large fires in eastern Fresno County as well as several smaller fires — was nearly 17 square miles (44 square kilometers) and 42% contained by Saturday morning. One structure was confirmed destroyed, and evacuation orders remained in place.

To the north, the Apache Fire in Butte County has destroyed 14 structures and damaged two others since Monday. The blaze was one square mile (2.8 square kilometers ) and 95% contained by Saturday morning.

Crews were making good progress Saturday on the Darlene 3 fire in central Oregon. It was holding at 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) and was 50 percent contained Saturday morning.

The weather has helped firefighting efforts. Low winds, cooler temperatures and high humidity at night all contributed to the firefighters' progress. It also allowed the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office to lower the evacuation level for Newberry Estates from Level 3 to Level 2. All other evacuation notices have been lifted for the area west of Highway 97.

NM governor’s office continues forced treatment pitch to lawmakers, could return in full in 2025 — Source New Mexico

While New Mexico’s governor has made her forced mental health treatment proposal more palatable for lawmakers, it could still change before the special session in July, and it could come back in its original form next year.

The Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee invited Ellen Pinnes, an advocate with The Disability Coalition, and attorney Denali Wilson to talk about potential impacts on New Mexicans’ civil rights that could result from proposed changes in the law around mental health.

Pinnes said parts of her presentation had been made out of date by Wednesday morning’s news that the governor was paring down her proposal that originally sought to rewrite a 2016 law governing court-ordered mental health treatment.

“Some of what is in here is still good information, but some of it is no longer immediately on the table,” Pinnes said. “They may very well be on the table at a not so far future date.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the governor will continue to have discussions with lawmakers about the “assisted outpatient treatment” bill between now and the special session.

Jodi McGinnis said there could be more changes to the proposal before then, and that the governor is still interested in her full proposal for the regular session in January.

The upcoming special session was formed to focus on public safety issues. Pinnes quoted from the governor’s announcement, which states the goal is to “reduce the danger and risk New Mexico communities face every day.”

And yet, the centerpiece of Lujan Grisham’s special session agenda was changes to “assisted outpatient treatment” law, Pinnes said.

“Although she’s narrowed down what she wants to do with the (assisted outpatient treatment) statute, she’s still focusing on people with mental illness for a large part of what’s going on here, which simply perpetuates the myth that people with mental illness are dangerous and that’s who committing crimes,” Pinnes said.

People with mental illness do commit crime, but they are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of it, she said.

New Mexico law already allows judges to exert extensive control over a person’s life using an “assisted outpatient treatment” order, Pinnes said, including supervising someone’s living arrangements, and ordering them to take medication even if it’s not right for them, for example.

‘Treatment outcomes are the most effective when engagement is voluntary’Denali Wilson, a staff attorney with the Las Cruces office of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said people will have good health outcomes when they get support in the communities where they live.

“The most effective interventions are those that return people to the community as early as possible, or prevent their removal at all,” Wilson said.

It is more difficult for people to engage or experience any positive outcomes if intervention happens later in the criminal process, she said.

“We know treatment outcomes are the most effective when engagement is voluntary,” Wilson said.

Involuntary mental health treatment may constitute discrimination under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Pinnes told lawmakers. “Be aware, you have this potential legal threat hanging over (assisted outpatient treatment).

Proponents also say “assisted outpatient treatment” is effective because a court orders it, what’s called the “black robe effect.” But Pinnes said there’s no existing research that empirically examines the phenomenon.

While a judge’s order might have some coercive effect, Pinnes said, “that’s not what makes the difference.” Connecting people to services, and making them feel supported and cared for, does make a difference, she said.

Proponents of “assisted outpatient treatment” also say it is needed because people with mental illness don’t recognize they’re sick, and must be forced into treatment because they won’t do it voluntarily, Pinnes said. “That is really fraught,” she said.

“Forced treatment is traumatizing,” she said. “People should get the services they’re eligible for without a court order.”

Potential for constitutional challengeDepriving someone of their liberty by confining them or putting them into treatment against their will implicates their constitutional rights, Wilson said. Institutionalization or commitment to a hospital is a pretty significant deprivation of liberty, she said, and the government must justify that with a good reason.

“Whether its speech or bodily autonomy and the right to refuse treatment, a deprivation of rights by the government has to be justified by a compelling, nondiscriminatory, legitimate government interest,” Wilson said.

The day before, Lujan Grisham’s general counsel Holly Agajanian told the committee “states and legislators in particular have extreme latitude” in determining whether someone is dangerous to themselves or others.

On Thursday, Wilson said that’s not true.

In the area of constitutional law, the question of whether someone’s dangerous involves possibly taking away their freedom, and therefore must be subject to “strict constitutional scrutiny,” which is the highest standard of review courts use to evaluate the constitutionality of government discrimination.

“Strict constitutional scrutiny is the least amount of latitude you can have,” Wilson said. “And whatever latitude there is in crafting a definition, the constitutional standard is dangerousness. If your definition creeps outside that, and includes things not related to dangerousness, it’s not one that is going to pass muster.”

The pared down proposal the governor’s office released on Wednesday, Wilson said, would still “dramatically” expand the definition of dangerousness “in pretty much every way that you could create a parameter around that definition.”

“This creates the possibility of overbreadth or overreach, which is really where we’re concerned, and where something like this could invite significant litigation,” Wilson said.

Retailers say Albuquerque shoplifting crackdown pushing thieves to Santa Fe- Santa Fe New Mexican

As retailers in Albuquerque report a recent drop in shoplifting amid a crackdown in the state’s most populous city, businesses in Santa Fe say they have seen an uptick in theft from their stores.

An increase in felony shoplifting charges this month in Santa Fe — including a few for the newly legislated offense of “organized retail crime” — suggests police and prosecutors in the capital city have been cracking down on shoplifting offenses at big-box retailers as well.

At a Thursday morning meeting of the New Mexico Organized Retail Crime Association — a group organized by the state Chamber of Commerce — Santa Fe retailers said losses from their stores have increased recently.

Bridget Dixson, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said she hears about theft from businesses weekly, and retailers are “frustrated” with the uptick in shoplifting.

“The Santa Fe Target is the number one Target in the state for retail crime right now,” Dixson said, adding many believe organized shoplifting rings have “been pushed in our direction” as a result of the crackdown in Albuquerque in recent months.

“I’m very confident we can solve that problem in our community as well,” Dixson said. “It’s not out of control — we do still have opportunities to get ahold of this.”

So far in June, felony shoplifting charges have been filed against 22 people in Santa Fe County.

That includes four charges of organized retail crime, a charge that was added to the state’s legal system in July 2023 to crack down on people suspected of running rings to resell stolen goods, often online.

Earlier this month, agents from the state Department of Justice filed organized retail crime charges against four people in Santa Fe, alleging they were running such a “fencing” ring out of a house on Calle la Resolana.

A statement of probable cause filed against one of the accused shows the shoplifting ring was discovered in an investigation by two security guards from the Santa Fe T.J. Maxx store, with contributions from guards at J.C. Penney, Home Depot and Target.

The house appeared to be an “intake point” for many “indigent or transient” people to bring merchandise stolen from retailers around Santa Fe, DOJ agents said in the statement.

Over a seven-hour period on a day in May, they wrote, 10 or more people were seen bringing newly packaged items to the residence.

Dixson said her goal is to encourage Santa Fe retailers to join the chamber’s organized retail crime group and participate in an online platform members use called Auror to track and report theft.

Users can post security footage, license plates or other information from shoplifting incidents to the platform, where police and other retailers can interact with those posts.

New Mexico Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Black said the platform allows for “unprecedented” collaboration between retailers and law enforcement, crediting the platform — as well as the change in state law last year — for a “significant improvement in shoplifting prosecution.”

Black said retailers in Albuquerque have reported a decrease in loss over the last several months, while those in Santa Fe and Los Lunas have reported an uptick.

“It’s sort of pushed out that activity to other places,” he said, “So now we need to focus on those other areas where we’re still seeing those impacts.”

City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County submit bid to host Sundance Film Festival- Santa Fe New Mexican

The City Different could be adding one more festival to its calendar, as the city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County have submitted a joint bid to be the next location of the Sundance Film Festival.

Visit Santa Fe Executive Director Randy Randall said the city responded to a request for information after the Sundance Institute announced in April it was exploring a new location for its annual festival once its contract with Park City, Utah, expires after 2026.

“It would be a significant benefit to the city,” he said of the festival.

The proposal was submitted on behalf of the city and county by the Santa Fe Film Office, he said. Film Commissioner Jennifer LaBar-Tapia, who leads the office, said Thursday she was not at liberty to discuss the bid.

“We are under a really strict [nondisclosure agreement] at this point,” she said. “We’re going through the process, and that’s all I can really say.”

Several city councilors said they did not know anything about the proposal, which came up during a presentation from the Santa Fe Film and Digital Media Council at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“Why don’t we take this offline, and we’ll talk about it,” Mayor Alan Webber said Wednesday in response to a question from Councilor Michael Garcia about whether the city had submitted a bid.

Garcia said at the meeting he was surprised the council had not been notified.

“If the city were to enter into any kind of an official contract, it would go before the City Council, and we’re not near that,” LaBar-Tapia said Thursday as to why councilors had not been involved.

County Commissioner Justin Greene said the proposal came up at a meeting earlier this year but that he was not privy to specifics.

“It was briefly announced at a County Commission meeting about two months ago acknowledging we were a party to this collaborative effort,” he said.

The city is host to a number of festivals in the spring and fall, including the Santa Fe International Film Festival and the Santa Fe International Literary Festival. Sundance takes place in January, which Randall said is one of the city’s slowest tourism months.

“We really don’t have an offseason any more, but it’s a slower time,” he said.

Hosting Sundance would show the city is “not just a seasonal destination,” Randall said.

While the festival could be a prestige and economic boon for the city — some estimates have put its economic impact to Utah at more than $100 million — Randall also acknowledged it would be a big lift.

“What’s required to put on a festival like that is pretty extensive,” he said.

If Sundance did express a desire to relocate to Santa Fe, there would be several years to prepare. The festival’s current contract with Park City expires in 2026, meaning the first festival in a new city would be in January 2027.

Should Sundance want to move to Santa Fe, Garcia said any decision should involve more than just elected officials.

“The impact that a festival such as Sundance would have on our city warrants a community discussion,” he said.

Several cities have gone public with their bids, including Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta, both of which are offering significant financial incentives.

The Utah Film Commission also put in a bid to keep the festival in state, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

The city of Atlanta and its partners have pledged $2 million to support the festival and created a website touting the reasons the city would be a good fit for Sundance.

A coalition of partners submitted a proposal on behalf of Boulder last week which included a $1.5 million grant from the Colorado Economic Development Commission and $250,000 from the Colorado Office of Film, TV and Media. Like New Mexico, Colorado has been jockeying to expand its film industry.

“Colorado and the Boulder community are thrilled to be throwing our hat in the ring to become the next host of the Sundance Film Festival,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a news release last week. “This opportunity would create new jobs and drive economic development in Colorado.”

An April news release announcing the search process said the Sundance Institute is making sure that “inclusivity and sustainability are always at the forefront of the festival experience.” Institute spokeswoman Tammie Rosen declined Thursday to answer specific questions about the process.

“Throughout the [request for proposals] process, as the Institute is focused on completing a fair and comprehensive review of all possible partners, we will not be commenting at all on interest expressed or communities that approach us or those that bid,” she wrote in an email.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, LaBar-Tapia noted Sundance already has a connection to Santa Fe through its Native Lab program, which works with Indigenous filmmakers.

“We do have a Sundance presence that’s been in Santa Fe for 10 years,” she said.