SF County holds third public hearing on short-term rentals
The Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners will once again take up a proposed short-term rental rules at its 5 pm meeting today. Tonight’s assembly will mark the third public airing on the topic, following two public hearings last month that led to a revised ordinance. A memo from County Growth Management Director Peggy Ellis-Green lays out one significant change made in response to public feedback: distinguishing between owner-occupied short-term rentals and non-owner-occupied STRs. In short, owner-occupied STRs would require a $35 business registration; non owner-occupied STRs would require a $375 business license, which also has a $300 renewal fee. As SFR recently reported, the county’s proposal comes on the heels of the City of Santa Fe’s evolving rules on short-term rentals. A cap of 350 permits was hiked to 1,000 in 2016 and rules were amended again in 2021 in an attempt to address a lack of affordable housing for locals and prevent illegal rentals. “The city has its own short-term rental ordinance, and I think we wanted to make sure we are likewise taking care of the county,” District 5 Commissioner Hank Hughes tells SFR. “And I think there is a need to know how many short-term rentals we have and what impact they may be having.” The meeting will take place in-person and virtually, with instructions for online viewing at the bottom of the agenda.
Fire victims highlight NM insurance woes
Victims in last summer’s Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire continue to deal with the fall-out from the blaze—including lack of insurance for destroyed property. The Associated Press reports such insurance is often prohibitively expensive for New Mexicans. California Insurance Company’s potential relocation to the state—which officials had hoped would provide additional insurance coverage—has “been clouded by pay-to-play allegations and remains stalled in court.” Lack of insurance options concerns state Attorney General Hector Balderas, who tells the AP he’s worried that “moving forward these natural disasters are either going to raise premiums or we’re going to be in a deeper crisis like Florida, where insurance providers don’t want to come to New Mexico because it’s a very challenging market to insure.” While New Mexico is poised to receive $2.5 billion in wildfire aid through a continuing resolution passed and signed last month by Congress and the president—the devastating fire began as a result of US Forest Service prescribed burns—residents in impacted counties still face bureaucratic hurdles receiving compensation. That has been the case for Manuel and Marcy Silva, who tell the AP they had one payment left on their uninsured mobile home before it burned in the fire. “The best way that I can explain it is that it’s been like a never-ending nightmare that just seems to be getting worse and worse,” Manuel Silva says.
State Supreme Court clarifies rules for serious youthful offenders
The state Supreme Court yesterday unanimously ruled juveniles sentenced to less than life imprisonment for first-degree murder can only earn good time credit if specifically authorized by the sentencing court. As detailed in a news release from the courts, the opinion reverses a district court opinion in State v. Cates, involving Norman Cates, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 2004 first-degree murder of Lena Barrett, 65, his neighbor, whom he repeatedly stabbed, beat and choked. Cates was 17 at the time of the murder. Fourteen years after the 2006 sentencing, Cates filed a petition seeking clarification regarding his eligibility for good-time credits to reduce his sentence, citing his participation in various educational and therapeutic activities.The district court subsequently ruled Cates was eligible to earn up to four days of good time against his sentence for every month he served in prison under the state’s Earned Meritorious Deduction Act. The reversal of that decision sends the case back to district court to reinstate Cates’ original sentence. “In this opinion, we clarify that a serious youthful offender serving less than a term of life imprisonment only becomes eligible to earn meritorious deductions if expressly made eligible to do so by the sentencing court,” the state Supreme Court opinion reads. “We conclude that Defendant’s original judgment and sentence is silent as to his good time eligibility, and he is not eligible to earn meritorious deductions.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Oct 24: New cases: 827 (includes weekend); 625,238 total cases; Deaths: one; Santa Fe County has had 357 total deaths; there have been 8,621 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 104. Patients on ventilators: two. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Oct. 20 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, downgraded seven New Mexico counties to “yellow,” or medium risk levels, mostly in the northeast region of the state (Union, Harding, Mora, San Miguel, Guadalupe and De Baca counties), as well as McKinley County in the northwest. The rest of New Mexico’s counties continue to have green, aka low, levels. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment information; 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.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Among the slew of praises for Robin McLean’s new fiction collection, Kirkus Review describes his 10 stories as “sharp, noirish, thought-provoking stories of lives out of joint” and the New York Times says McLean “unsentimentally renders” her characters’ “various treasures with incredible energy and humor.” McLean will read from and discuss Get ‘Em Young, Treat ‘Em Tough, Tell ‘Em Nothing at 6 pm tonight with University of New Mexico Creative Writing Professor Greg Martin at Collected Works Bookstore (202 Galisteo St.), but you can also attend via Zoom by registering here.
For the birds
Undark magazine takes a deep dive into the plight of the imperiled pinyon jay, whose New Mexico habitat has been threatened by climate change and wildfire prevention. The bird, Sara Van Note writes, is a keystone species for piñon and juniper desert forests, with the pinyon jay and piñon pines “wholly interdependent—the piñon nuts provide essential sustenance for the bird, and the jay offers critical seed dispersal for the tree .” While present across 11 Western states, New Mexico has the largest number of the birds, the story reports, but its overall population has declined by 80% over the last 50 years, prompting conservationists to petition to grant it endangered species status. Climate change has impacted its habitat, but so has the removal of piñon pine for wildfire prevention. Bryan Bird, Southwest program director at the Defenders of Wildlife, who filed the petition for protection for the pinyon jay last spring, says listing the jay as endangered will require federal agencies thinning its habitat “to take a really hard look” at the impact of do like that
Capturing the West
Austrian-born photographer Ernst Haas’ seminal photograph, “Route 66, Albuquerque, New Mexico 1969″ reflected the photographer’s critique of the “overwhelming onslaught” of commercial advertising—”billboards, signs, and other ugliness” into the Western landscape he loved so much. So writes Paul Lowe in the introduction to the forthcoming book: Ernst Haas: The American West (Nov. 8, Prestel Publishing). Esquire magazine includes the tome in its roundup of the best photo books of the fall, referencing Haas’ hitchhiking trip across New Mexico in 1952, which resulted in a six-page spread in Life magazine titled: “Land of Enchantment: A Hitchiker with a Camera Records New Mexico’s Many Moods.” Haas “made at least 10 more trips to the Western states over the years,” Esquire writes, “and The American West presents all the glorious highlights, from dramatically cut canyons to the throbbing neon come-on of cheap motels to painfully beautiful western skies . He also captured the cultural landscape, offering an incisive look at how Western iconography was being crassly appropriated.”
The National Weather Service forecasts a return to more moderate conditions today with sunny skies, a high temperature near 58 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph. We may see some more stormy weather on Thursday.
Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed listening to The Crossing via NPR’s Tiny Desk concert yesterday and agrees they are an “astonishing” chorus, (although she remains partial to Choir! Choir! Choir! for obvious David Bowie-related reasons.)