Truth or Consequences City Commission passes back-to-work resolution

by Kathleen Sloan | May 4, 2020
4 min read
Truth or Consequences City Manager Morris Madrid convinced the City Commission it should pass a back-to-work resolution at the May 4 special meeting—before the Governor’s superior and ruling order on coronavirus emergency measures expires May 15.

The City Commission passed the resolution unanimously, although it does not take effect until May 16 and includes the proviso that if the Governor institutes a differing executive order or extends the May 15 order, the City resolution is moot.

Before passing the resolution the board amended all “shoulds” to “shalls” to make the wording stronger.

The City Commission seemed to be considering public input, which asked that the board wait to get more feedback from the public and improve the resolution before passing it.

One of the repeated criticisms by the public was the wishy-washy switching back and forth between “shalls” and “shoulds” in the restrictions, “rendering the resolution useless,” resident Ariel Dougherty pointed out.

After public comment and board discussion, Mayor Pro-Tem Brendan Tolley asked if the resolution should not be tabled. The board’s next regular meeting is May 13, Tolley pointed out, which precedes the expiration date of the Governor’s order, giving them time to hear from the public and improve the resolution.

Tolley noted the “weakness” of the language and agreed with several public comments requesting that testing be addressed, which the resolution ignores.

Defining the local existing testing capability and possibly expanding testing for COVID-19 is an integral part of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening businesses. To safeguard public health, those infected need to be isolated, and since people without symptoms can be carriers as well as those with symptoms, testing is necessary to identify them to contain the spread.

Testing in sufficiently large numbers can also gauge if opening businesses is causing increased or decreased infection. The CDC states no increase in infection rate is to attend businesses reopening.

Mayor Sandra Whitehead asked City Manager Morris Madrid to address Tolley’s question about putting off passage of the resolution.

Madrid informed the board that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked for such back-to-work resolutions now, not later, in order to get “feedback from the governing body.”

Grisham has been holding electronic conferences with emergency managers and emergency executive directors. The former are mostly city and county managers and the latter are mayors and chairpersons on local governing boards. Therefore her feedback has been limited.

Resolutions passed by whole governing bodies will give the Governor differing insights by elected officials consulting their constituents and how they feel communities are best protected while getting back to work.

Madrid also said the Governor may or may not extend the May 15 executive order, handing control over to local governing bodies, recognizing the differences among communities and how each has been affected by the virus. In case the Governor does not extend the statewide order, “We want to be ready,” Madrid said.

Madrid said he is slated to be tested for the virus tomorrow, and will discuss the issue of expanding testing with the Public Health office. “If it’s a matter of money, we can help with that.”

Madrid and Whitehead both emphasized that the resolution is a working document and can be revised much more easily than an ordinance, which requires public hearings.

The back-to-work resolution will be brought up at all subsequent meetings, Whitehead said, including the next regular meeting May 13.

The City Commission passed the resolution unanimously.

Restrictions in the resolution are below.

The following safe practices shall be followed as appropriate:

  1. Continue social distancing of six feet while working, shopping and all other times possible.
  2. Employees of business establishments shall wear masks. Businesses have the right to require customers to wear masks.
  3. Gatherings of 10 persons or more are prohibited.
  4. Sanitation supplies and/or facilities shall be available at all times.
  5. Vulnerable individuals shall continue to stay at home.
  6. Non-essential travel shall be prohibited.


     a.  Previously closed bars, restaurants and bowling center may operate at               50-percent capacity as defined by the New Mexico State Fire Marshal.                Distances between table/barstools less than six feet are prohibited.
     b.  Previously closed retail stores may operate at 20-percent capacity as                defined by the New Mexico State Fire Marshal.
     c.  Medical facilities may operate at 100-percent capacity while maintaining            safe distancing and sanitizing requirements.
     d.  Personal-service businesses, such as cosmetologists, barbers,                            manicurists,   etc., may service customers on a one-on-one basis. No                  waiting areas will be permitted.
     e.  Recreational facilities may open if they are able to follow safe-distancing            requirements. This includes outdoor courts, swimming pools
         (swimming-pool capacity at 50 percent). This also includes indoor-                      recreation activities such as movie theaters and senior-activity centers.

     f.  The Civic Center shall remain closed to public events and gatherings of             10  persons or more.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

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