Santa Fe braces for evictions
A statewide prohibition on evictions—enacted by New Mexico’s Supreme Court two years ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—will end soon and, alongside it, the City of Santa Fe’s moratorium also will cease. Local housing advocates foresee a coming wave of evictions as a result, although exact figures remain elusive. “It certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a low number, given national trends, but also knowing that there’s a lot of market pressure,” Alexandra Ladd, director of the city’s Office of Affordable Housing, tells SFR. “I think I would be comfortable saying that it’s in the thousands.” While the state Administrative Office of the Courts doesn’t have data on how many evictions landlords have filed for in Santa Fe over the past two years, Santa Fe Magistrate Court held approximately three dozen restitution trials between landlords and renters last month, seven of which resulted in judges ruling in favor of landlords but issuing a stay on the eviction order because of the moratorium. City councilors last week unanimously approved $1 million for residents at risk of eviction in an effort to head off an anticipated flood with distribution starting in April and May. The city and nonprofit partners such as Chainbreaker Collective—which has released several policy briefs on Santa Fe’s “eviction crisis”—recently hosted a weekend legal clinic on eviction prevention, and the state also is piloting an eviction diversion program it plans to roll out statewide.
Nearly $160 million for NM projects signed into law
New Mexico stands to receive approximately $160 million for 75 local projects that are part of a $1.5 trillion funding bill signed yesterday by President Joe Biden. According to US Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, both Democrats of New Mexico, the local projects range from $1 million for a new fire station for the Village of Questa, to nearly $1 million for New Mexico State University’s Initiative on Carbon Management and Soil Health in Arid and Semi-Arid Environments, to $1 million for Off the Grid Solar Projects at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and $1 million for the Victim Intervention Project at the Albuquerque Police Department (see a breakdown of Heinrich’s funded projects here and Luján’s funded projects here). The funding follows restoration in May 2021 of Congress’ constitutional power to approve what are known as Congressionally Directed Spending requests. In turn, Heinrich’s office says, the Democratic members of New Mexico’s federal delegation submitted requests. Learn more about those requests here. In addition to the Congressionally Directed Spending projects, the spending bill also includes more than $74 million for projects in the 3rd Congressional District, according to US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM (view those here). “These funds will help communities across my district expand broadband access, build healthcare facilities, and bring clean water to the Navajo and Gallup areas,” Leger Fernández said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing them propel New Mexicans from Farmington to Santa Fe to Clovis toward a more prosperous future.” As for the $50 million in local funding vetoed recently by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, lawmakers continue to discuss a potential special session—possibly at the start of April—to try to restore their spending plan.
Secretary: Economic recovery strong in NM, Santa Fe
New Mexico is experiencing robust recovery in economic activity in most counties, New Mexico Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said yesterday. The department released the latest economic summaries for each county, covering the second quarter of fiscal year 2022: October, November and December. Those summaries, a news release notes, aggregate tax data from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department; unemployment data from the Department of Workforce Solutions; and Gross Domestic Product estimates from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, using New Mexico Economic Development Department calculations. “New Mexico had momentum going into COVID, and this data shows that momentum is growing, supporting stronger economic growth across nearly all parts of the state,” Keyes said in a statement. “We are working with many businesses across New Mexico that are growing and expanding, and we are also competing for significant projects that can bring thousands of high-paying jobs to our state.” Some highlights include the largest amount of matched taxable gross receipts on record during December 2021: $7.68 billion, with 30 counties reporting a year-over-year increase in MTGR from October to December, compared with the same period in 2020. Santa Fe County’s MTGR increased by 45% and “spiked” to an all-time high, the report says, with $1.4 billion, 37% of which was in December. The top three sectors in Santa Fe County were retail trade at 30%; construction at 14%; and accommodations and food service at 12%.
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 127; 515,625 total cases
The health department this week began only reporting statewide totals on a daily basis, available at approximately 2 pm Monday through Friday. DOH will not be holding a weekly COVID-19 news briefing this week. According to a news release yesterday, “future press conferences will be announced as needed to keep New Mexicans safe. The department maintains its commitment to provide New Mexicans with up-to-date information as we coexist with COVID-19.”
DOH also continues to publish more detailed reports on Tuesday afternoons, including yesterday’s most recent assessment of geographic pandemic trends across the state. That report shows Santa Fe County with an average case rate per 100,000 population of 17.4 for the seven-day period ending March 13, one of four counties colored “red”—or high—on the statewide map (although the state does not have any public health measures that respond to higher case rates).
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—all of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels, except for Harding, Hidalgo and McKinley counties, which have medium levels. The CDC updates its community levels on Thursdays. Under the CDC guidelines, people living in counties with higher community level rates (again, none in New Mexico at present) are encouraged to wear face coverings indoors.
Breakthrough cases: According to the weekly vaccine report, published yesterday, between Feb. 14-March 14, 42.2% of COVID-19 cases were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 27.1% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 30.7% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 61.6%, 17.4% and 21.1%. The percentages shift to 66.6%, 20% and 13.6% for fatalities.
Deaths: 25; Santa Fe County has had 258 deaths thus far; there have been 7,103 fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 121; Patients on ventilators: 16
Vaccinations: 91.9% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 78.3% have completed their primary series; 45.2% of adults 18 years and older have had a booster shot; 12-17-year-old age group: 71.2% of people have had at least one dose and 61.5% have completed their primary series; Children ages 5-11: 39% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 30.6% have completed their primary; Santa Fe County: 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 87.2% have completed their primary series.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Wallpaper magazine recently previewed its April 2022 cover, featuring Southern California artist Helen Pashgian, one of the pioneers in the 1960s Light and Space movement, who has been receiving long overdue recognition of late. SITE Santa Fe’s exhibition of her work, “Presences,” surveying the artist’s five-decade career, remains on display through March 27. The museum hosts a virtual lunch talk at noon today, during which art historian and New Mexico Museum of Art Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art Merry Scully will discuss key concepts relating to Pashgian’s work, “including the sense of newness and innovation on the West Coast, as well as the ideas of perception, physical sensation and phenomena.”
Heinrich: Electrify for peace
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, jointly penned with Rewriting America CEO Ari Matusiak an op-ed for The Hill this week discussing their Electrify for Peace plan. “As Americans watch the inspiring heroism of Ukrainians fighting for their land and survival, we see plainly before us the fallout from a world dependent on fossil fuels,” the essay begins. “Oil and gas have propped up Putin’s regime. Fossil fuels have enabled an autocrat to fantasize that he can reset the terms of the global order.” Breaking free of dependence of fossil fuels will require electrifying quickly, they write. To help European countries reliant on Russian oil will require electrifying 76 million homes: “This will not happen overnight, but we must move swiftly. By next winter, America must help our allies electrify millions of homes. This will break families free from the web of pipes that bind them to Russian hydrocarbons.” The Electrify for Peace plan thus calls for scaling the US productive capacity to manufacture heat pumps and other critical components to support European supply chains; expanding and internationalizing President Joe Biden’s proposed Civilian Climate Corps to send Americans to Europe to train and support the installation of heat pumps; and, of course, ending US dependence on fossil fuels as well. “It seems almost glib to say a heat pump is a direct line to peace, but this crisis has shown us one more time that the path forward must be electric,” the op-ed concludes. “It is time we take that path, emptying Putin’s tank and other oil and gas autocrats like him, locking in another generation of American prosperity, and saving the planet along the way.”