Gov. Lujan Grisham Stands By Controversial Cabinet Picks

Gov sticks by IAD, DAC cabinet picks

James R. Mountain, a former San Ildefonso Pueblo governor and judge whom Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed in early February as the next cabinet secretary for the Indian Affairs Department, is unlikely to receive a confirmation hearing during the current session. Late last month, opposition to Mountain’s confirmation emerged alongside revelations of a dismissed rape charge against him 15 years ago. The Albuquerque Journal reports the governor has not yet formally submitted Mountain’s name for confirmation and is prioritizing her regent confirmations at present. Nonetheless, she intends to stick by Mountain, despite the objections, and might even have the Senate Rules Committee hold hearings after the session ends March 18. That approach would allow Mountain to continue acting as head of IAD, without a “public vetting” of the concerns, the paper reports. The governor also is sticking by embattled Cultural Affairs Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego, whose reappointment has drawn hundreds of critics in opposition; Garcia y Griego’s reappointment hearing, as of press time, was scheduled for this morning before the Senate Rules Committee.

Presbyterian announces potential merger

Presbyterian Healthcare Services announced yesterday it is considering a merger with Iowa-based UnityPoint Health. According to a Presbyterian news release, no timeline has been set and the partnership is still in the exploratory stage. “As a not-for-profit health system, we must pave a sustainable path forward to continue serving our communities with care and coverage. While we’ve done that successfully independently, we know that partnering with like-minded health systems will allow us to accelerate our efforts,” Presbyterian Healthcare Services President and CEO Dale Maxwell said in a statement. “UnityPoint Health shares in our commitment to keeping healthcare delivery local and creating a culture where the workforce thrives which will serve as foundational elements as we embark on this journey.” According to a UnityPoint news release, the two organizations combined have 4 million patients and members; more than 40 hospital facilities; hundreds of clinics; 40,000 employees; and nearly 3,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians. The merger would create a new health care organization that would “function as a parent company for not-for-profit health systems,” and allow for “greater investments in clinical excellence, digital innovation, workforce development and value-based care while lowering overall administrative costs,” the news releases says. In so doing, Clay Holderman, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health said in a statement, “our intent is to help improve affordability and accessibility of care. We’re excited about the unique possibilities ahead.” According to Presbyterian, there will be no changes for patients or members: “Your doctor, clinic and coverage remain the same,” the news release says.

Leave those clocks alone

With daylight saving time just nine days away, US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, has reintroduced the Sunshine Protection Act of 2023, led by US Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, which would put an end to twice-a-year clock changing. “More time for sunshine. Less time changing your clocks,” Heinrich said in a succinct statement. Background, as supplied by Heinrich’s office: The US enacted DST following Germany’s 1916 effort to conserve fuel during World War I. Originally, DST happened for for six months; then, in 2005, Congress extended DST to begin the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November. As a result, we now have eight months of DST, and only four months of standard time, November through March (here’s the John Oliver video we play every year for DST, which makes this topic more entertaining). The federal bill wouldn’t alter or change time zones; change the amount of hours of sunlight; or mandate places that don’t observe DST do so. State lawmakers also have two possible bills in the queue to alter DST. Senate Bill 287 would keep New Mexico on DST year round and call it Mountain Daylight Saving Time (which would require federal approval and somehow also sounds like the plot to Groundhog Day). SB191 would New Mexico from DST and keep the state on standard time. Neither appear to have good prospects in the final two weeks of this year’s session.

Love & basketball

New Mexico State University’s troubles extend beyond the courts. The Associated Press takes a deep dive into the swirl of scandals involving the college’s basketball team and its chancellor. A 42-minute video log captured on police body cam chronicles the police interview with both Chancellor Dan Arvizu and his wife, Sheryl Arvizu, prior to her arrest for battery. As the Las Cruces Sun-News reported last May, Sheryl Arvizu was arrested for punching her husband several times while accusing him of cheating on her, allegations he continues to deny. “The Arvizu police video is a reminder of who is ultimately responsible at a university that has, in many eyes, become unhinged in areas well beyond basketball,” writes the Associated Press, which spoke with more than a dozen people connected to the university who have “deep concerns” with its leadership. “People are embarrassed,” Jamie Bronstein, a history professor who also serves as vice chair of NMSU’s faculty senate, tells the AP. “People feel terrible for the students.” The school canceled its current basketball season after allegations of hazing—including ones involving sexual assault—surfaced. Before the hazing incident, the school made national headlines after a fatal shooting involving one of its players and students from the University of New Mexico. In a letter released to the NMSU community following the AP story, Arvizu reportedly says an independent investigation of the shooting death should be completed in two weeks. He also reiterates he did not have an affair: “There is no truth to the allegations made that evening. It was a low point for me, and since that time, my wife and I have worked to rebuild our relationship. I am confident this matter has not impacted my ability to lead our university.” Arvizu’s contract expires in June; the regents didn’t renew it last year.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported March 2: New cases: 190; 669,666 total cases. Deaths: eight; Santa Fe County has had 398 total deaths; 9,047total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 75. Patients on ventilators: six

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Feb. 23 “community levels” map shows one county, McKinely, has turned yellow, indicating medium levels; the rest of the state has green—low levels. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via; 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.

Listen up

Santa Fe Public Schools Executive Director for Curriculum & Instruction Peter McWain joins the Inside SFPS podcast for its brand-new episode, “Keep Moving Forward.” McWain talks with host and SFPS Public Information Officer Cody Dynarksi about his own struggles in high school (he had to take Algebra 1 three times) and his discovery during college—as a peer educator—that “being an educator, you can really help elevate the people around you.” After he received his teaching license in Michigan, he started working as a substitute math teacher at a middle school where all the students were failing their classes. At the end of the year, most of his students were passing math. As always, the podcast provides an engaging and inspiring discussion.

Fast Company names Taos Ski Valley to top 10 list

Taos Ski Valley made Fast Company’s 2023 “most innovative companies” list in the travel and hospital sector, coming in at number seven. Taos Ski’s B-Corp status, along with its environmental mission—$300 million invested in the last few years for solar power, electric vehicles and other projects; carbon neutral certification, a partnership with the local electric utility—”has helped push the mega-resorts, major suppliers, and manufacturers in and around the ski industry to reimagine their businesses to be more sustainable,” the magazine says. In a news release, Taos Ski Valley CEO David Norden calls the recognition “gratifying,” and says: “For many years we’ve said we will grow better, not bigger and, while we’re fiercely independent in every way, we are heartened to see many of the industry’s larger corporations starting to follow our lead…I’m proud of our team who shows up every day with our mission in mind, and our visitors who vote with their wallets for a business that is doing right in the world. We love skiing, riding, mountain biking, and experiencing the respite of the outdoors, and we offer an incredible experience for our guests. But our mission is to do the right thing for the people, planet, and place we call home.”

The sounds of New Mexico

With the Grammy Awards introducing a new category for game music this year, Rolling Stone magazine interviews three composers, Austin Wintory, Sarah Schachner and Gustavo Santaolalla, who make “some of the most incredibly moving music in the game field, crafting emotional soundscapes that win over listeners.” They also work on film and television scores, and Schachner, in particular, worked on the Prey soundtrack for the film, which is set on the Comanche Nation 300 years ago and features lots of New Mexico Indigenous talent. “I’m thrilled I was able to collaborate with Robert Mirabal, a Pueblo musician from Taos, New Mexico,” Schachner tells Rolling Stone. “He invents his own unique wind instruments that perfectly meshed with the tapestry of the score.” Also on the music/New Mexico connection, The Big Takeover interviews Rose’s Pawn Shop, a Los Angeles band that has spent its fair share of time playing gigs in one New Mexico town. In fact, one of the new songs on its new album Punch-Drunk Life, “Ghost Town” pays tribute to that very town: “In the second verse there’s a lyric that goes, ‘could disappear to a place I know that’s deep in the hills of New Mexico,’” band founder Paul Givant says. “That’s referencing a little town called Madrid. It’s a little town that’s hidden up in the hills. It’s like an abandoned mining town that’s now turned into an almost-hippie artist community. If you’re from New Mexico, you might know about it but it’s not a place most people know. It’s a really cool place and, for years, we played up there at a place called the Mineshaft Tavern. It’s this cool destination place to play.”

March of time

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high temperature near 48 degrees today. Look for an even warmer sunny day tomorrow with a high temp near 53 degrees. Sunday could reach 56 degrees, but will also be windy with gusts as high as 35 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word always likes it when the poem of the day is by a local poet (Tommy Archuleta, who will read from his debut full-length collection next month at Collected Works Bookstore).

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