James Holloway, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of New Mexico, confirmed in an interview with the Daily Lobo on Feb. 21 that spring break is still on schedule.

“We hope that spring break can happen as planned and that students can take advantage of the break to recharge safely,” Holloway said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously in favor of creating a racial equity criterion for the Capital Implementation Program (CIP).

CIP's mission is to “enhance the physical and cultural development of the city ... Through a multi-year schedule of public physical improvements, CIP administers approved capital expenditures for systematically acquiring, constructing, replacing, upgrading and rehabilitating Albuquerque's built environment,” according to the City of Albuquerque.

The ordinance, if signed by the mayor, will give the CIP access to a series of maps that show the location of underserved communities in Albuquerque. The geographical information will help determine the location of new projects, such as community centers, parks and public spaces.

Ten months ago, Joleen Nez was accused of the crime of improper trash disposal in a southeast Albuquerque neighborhood. The petty charge ultimately cost Nez her life.

Nez, an unhoused Native American woman, was cited, released and issued a criminal summons for the petty misdemeanor of littering on public property by officer Preston Panana of the Albuquerque Police Department on April 16, 2020. The original complaint filed by Panana said that Nez was issued a civil citation for kicking over a cup and bowl at the intersection of Texas Street and Zuni Road and refusing to pick up and throw away the cup "after (Nez) was given several opportunities to pick up her litter."

On Jan. 30, 2021, Nez died in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center custody.

On Feb. 12, Senate Minority Leader Gregory A. Baca, R-Belen, posed racially targeted questions towards Sonya L. Smith, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s nominee for the head of Department of Veterans Services, during her confirmation hearing in the Senate Rules Committee.

Baca, a member of the Senate Rules Committee, asked if Smith, in her seven years in New Mexico, had immersed herself enough in the culture of a state that is “2.6% African American and 48% Hispanic” to be able to adequately represent the interests of its veterans.

Smith, who served in the Gulf War, replied, “Are you asking if I feel comfortable representing the Department of Veterans Services as a Black woman?”

NM’s ‘Student Athlete Endorsement Act’ passes first hurdle

On Feb. 3, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 94 — known as the “Student Athlete Endorsement Act” — clearing a hurdle for the bill to become law and allow student-athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness (NIL).

Similar laws passed or proposed in sundry states across the country would allow student-athletes to profit from their NIL, with several due to take effect on July 1.

Thus, if a student were to appear in a commercial and earn money off the appearance, for example, a “post-secondary educational institution” — i.e. the University of New Mexico — couldn’t prevent that athlete from doing the commercial or receiving compensation from the appearance.

ABQ teachers union ‘surprised, alarmed’ by plans to resume in-person K-12 classes

One week after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that K-12 schools across the state can return to in-person learning regardless of their red to green risk designation, most elementary and secondary students remain at home.

While the announcement came as welcome news to a number of students around the state, many teachers were skeptical, suspicious or downright bewildered about the abrupt about-face regarding convening groups of five or more people while the coronavirus vaccine is still slow to roll out.

“All of the members of the union were surprised at the early date,” Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, said.

New female pastor at Grant Chapel AME adapts to pandemic

Margaret McFaddin has continuously made a point to tie social justice into her preaching, and her work in Albuquerque is no different.

“(The church) empowers you to be able to love people without restriction. That's really who we are and what we do,” McFaddin said.

McFaddin was appointed on Sept. 11 of last year to Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Albuquerque, and she currently serves as the second female pastor in the church’s history.

Abortion decriminalization bill making way through Legislature

The New Mexico Legislature has introduced two identical or "mirror" bills aimed at repealing the 1969 law that criminalized abortion — which currently cannot be enforced due to the Supreme Court passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, wherein the court declared it unconstitutional to restrict a woman's right to choose.

On Jan. 25, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Repeal Abortion Ban (Senate Bill 10), which would repeal New Mexico’s 1969 anti-choice statute if approved by the full Legislature. Six Democrats voted in favor and three Republicans opposed the bill during the committee hearing. The Senate bill has 28 sponsors and was previously passed by the Health and Public Affairs Committee.

New Mexico aims to provide protections for natural hairstyles statewide

The No School Discrimination For Hair Act passed through the House Education Committee on Jan. 28, moving New Mexico one step closer to outlawing discrimination against natural hairstyles and cultural headwear in schools and workplaces.

Filed as HB 29 and passed unanimously through its first committee, the bill would “prohibit schools to allow discipline or discrimination or different treatment, based on a student’s race or culture, or a student’s use of protective hairstyles or cultural headdresses,” according to the legislation.

The statewide push comes after the Albuquerque City Council passed a similar ordinance earlier in January, as reported by the Daily Lobo. Both of these efforts stemmed from a national movement, created by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, which includes the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center of Law and Poverty. The project stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” or CROWN.

State paid sick leave bill yet to clock in

After years of grassroots organizing for paid sick leave, a state bill that would recognize those efforts and provide relief for working New Mexicans has yet to be heard in the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee.

House Bill 37 is a paid sick leave bill, co-sponsored by Democratic state representatives Angelica Rubio, G. Andrés Romero, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Linda Serrato. The bill would — upon passage — immediately require New Mexico businesses to provide their employees with paid time off due to illness.

“This is a very familiar piece of policy for me and for people across the state who have been working to find some equity in a lot of the worker’s justice legislation that we have been trying to push for over the last few years,” Rubio said.

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