TUES: Efforts To Remove Santa Fe Colonialism Monuments Stall, + More

Sep 15, 2020

Plan To Remove Colonialism Monuments In Santa Fe Stalls – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The fate of monuments linked to Spanish colonialism and violence against Native Americans in Santa Fe remains unclear months after the city's mayor called for their removal. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission has yet to form and two monuments still stand but are surrounded by plywood. 

Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement the City Attorney's Office is reviewing unspecified "legal issues" involved with the statues and monuments. 

Earlier this year, a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas was taken down on the eve of a planned protest over fears it would spark violence.

On Sept. 3, the Northern New Mexico chapter of the advocacy group Showing Up for Racial Justice wrote a letter to Webber asking for an update on his efforts. 

"You have already stated unequivocally that you know this is the right thing to do," the group wrote to the mayor, referring to his calls to remove the two obelisks and the statue of de Vargas.

The discussion over the monuments in Santa Fe comes amid a national conversation about monuments and names of institutions honoring historical figures linked to racism, slavery, and genocide.

New Mexico Education Officials Report 5 Coronavirus Cases - By Cedar Attanasio, AP/Report For America

The Public Education Department has begun reporting cases of COVID-19 linked to schools.

Five cases were reported Tuesday, including at least one student in Colfax County and one in Chavez County.

Two staff members tested positive, including one in Bernalillo County, and one in Santa Fe County where public schools are only holding classes online.

The department did not specify if the fifth case, also in Santa Fe County, involved a staff member or a student.

In-person learning began in some school districts for kindergarten through fifth grade one week ago, after their counties were deemed to have sufficiently small virus numbers.

State officials started with younger children because they are at lower risk for the virus and have a harder time learning from home.

Around 50 New Mexico districts and charter schools are starting in a hybrid in-person and online structure, in which students come to school two days per week.


State Reports 82 New COVID-19 Cases And 7 More DeathsKUNM, Associated Press

New Mexico health officials announced 82 additional COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 26,923.

That includes another four cases in the Lea County Correctional Facility.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

There were also 7 more deaths, including a man in his 40s in Bernalillo County. The total number of deaths in New Mexico related to COVID-19 is 830.

People in their 20s account for the largest share of cases, followed by those in their 30s according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Hispanics and Latinos make up the largest share of cases at 45%, followed by Native Americans at 31% and whites at about 14%.

Ex-Los Alamos Employee Sentenced To Probation In China CaseAssociated Press

Federal officials say a former Los Alamos National Laboratory worker has been sentenced to five years of probation and fined $75,000 for making false statements about involvement with China.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico said 68-year-old Turab Lookman of Santa Fe was sentenced Friday by a federal judge after pleading guilty in January.

The office said Lookman in 2018 denied to a counterintelligence officer that he had been recruited or applied for a job with a Chinese recruitment program involving foreign technology and intellectual property.

Lookman cannot leave New Mexico while on probation.

Financial Exec Serving 30 Years Gets Compassionate Release - By Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

A financial executive responsible for one of the largest frauds prosecuted out of the nation's financial crisis a decade ago is being released from prison on compassionate grounds after serving just nine years of his 30-year sentence.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday ordered the release of 67-year-old Lee Farkas, chairman of the now-defunct Florida-based mortgage company Taylor, Bean and Whitaker, which engaged in a $3 billion fraud scheme.

After Farkas completes a 14-day quarantine, he will be released to live with his sister in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Farkas sought release from prison because of concerns he was susceptible to the coronavirus. The judge cited Farkas' age, health problems and an outbreak of coronavirus cases where he's being held in ordering the release. Prosecutors opposed his release.


New Mexico Taps Federal Funds To Install Ballot Drop Boxes - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico is prepared to spend millions of dollars in federal recovery funds to install drop boxes for absentee ballots as election regulators encourage voters to participate in the general election in ways that minimize human contact and reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission. 

The secretary of state's office spokesman Alex Curtas on Monday said the agency is encouraging the state's 33 counties to install ballot drop boxes while offering reimbursements from a $6 million reserve of federal funds that also pay for personal protective equipment and publicity about voting. 

Many counties — though not all — have shown interest in drop boxes.

The administration of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has urged voters through an emergency public health order to cast absentee ballots by mail while limiting the number of voters inside each polling location to four people or 25% of the building's capacity, whichever is greater.

As in previous elections, voters can deliver absentee ballots by hand at polling places and clerks' offices. 

In New Mexico, ballots must reach their destination by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 to be counted. 

States Face Pressure To Ban Race-based Hairstyle Prejudice - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A growing number of states are facing pressure to ban race-based discrimination against hair texture and hairstyles in schools and in the workplace.

Advocates this week presented a proposal to New Mexico state lawmakers that would outlaw employers and schools from discriminating against Black and Native American women's hairstyles — the latest state targeted by a national campaign.

Activist Devont'e Kurt Watson told New Mexico lawmakers on Monday that the state needed to amend its Human Rights law to protect people with Afros, cornrows, dreadlocks, and headwraps.

New Mexico Black Lawyers Association President Aja Brooks said job offers have been rescinded to Black women in other states because of hairstyles and students have been told their hair was a distraction. 

Earlier this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure that made Washington the latest state to pass a version of the CROWN Act.

The act stands for "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair" and is part of a national campaign by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty.

According to the Crown Act campaign, California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia have already passed similar laws.

New Mexico Reports  81 New Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Associated Press

New Mexico health officials have announced 81 new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

That includes 11 new cases among state inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility.

State officials said Monday that the new cases bring New Mexico's total to 26,842.

Officials also reported no new deaths related to the novel coronavirus. The number of deaths of New Mexico residents related to COVID-19 remains at 823.

There are 60 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico for the virus. This number may include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are currently hospitalized in New Mexico.

There are 14,470 cases designated as having recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health.


Wildfires Put Republican Meteorologist Candidate In Hot Seat - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Political clashes about the role of climate change in catastrophic West Coast infernos are spilling into a U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, where a Republican meteorologist is campaigning for an open seat. 

U.S. Congressman and Democratic Senate nominee Ben Ray Luján accused rival Mark Ronchetti on Monday of engaging in dangerous climate denialism. 

Luján highlighted a video clip from a Republican online forum in March in which Ronchetti says that "fires aren't caused by anything other than a spark or a lightning strike. ... Climate change doesn't cause fires, come on."

Ronchetti responded Monday with an acknowledgement that climate change needs to be addressed and that both "human activity" and drought are responsible for the vicious wildfires.

Ronchetti also partially endorsed President Donald Trump's unfounded claim that poor forest management is to blame.

In a visit to California, Trump ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast wildfires.

Lordsburg Firefighters Resign En Masse Amid Pay Dispute Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

Firefighters in a southwestern New Mexico city have resigned en masse following a pay dispute with the officials.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the entire volunteer department of Lordsburg resigned last week amid a fight over how the city was paying the department.

The city said Wednesday that the firefighters were required to fill out W-4 forms to report stipends paid to them by the city.

That's a change from previous practice in which the chief would pay them and seek reimbursement from the city.

Lordsburg Finance Officer Martha Salas has said that previous practice did not conform with the law.  

American Airlines Holding Off Decision To Cut Some FlightsAssociated Press

American Airlines is holding off on its decision to cut flights to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Roswell, New Mexico.

But the airline is warning that slumping demand and profitability in some markets are forcing the company to consider "difficult decisions to right-size our airline."

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline announced last month it was planning to drop flights to 15 smaller U.S. cities when a federal requirement to serve those communities ends.

But the company said in a statement Monday they are deferring its decision on Roswell and Stillwater while conversations are ongoing with local officials.

The airline blamed low demand during the coronavirus pandemic and the failure of Congress to extend the federal Payroll Support Program.