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2019 Cowchip Awards

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “The One Albuquerque idea is a nod to our cultural history, but it is also a call to action, and this installation will be a powerful reminder of that spirit.”

So declared Mayor Tim Keller as he introduced the “One Albuquerque” sculpture in the summer, though he just as easily could have been describing the Albuquerque Journal’s Cowchip awards — which have returned!

There is cultural history captured in the 2019 edition, such as when “simulated doobies” sparked a fire at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. There are calls to action, as when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham defended our state in the Great Chile War with Colorado. And there’s spirit, the can-do kind displayed by drivers in The Q as they tightly grip their steering wheels, pray and learn to peacefully coexist alongside Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

So let us quote from the 11th floor of City Hall: “Whether you are from here or have come here from afar; whether you call the city ABQ, Albuquerque, or Burque, you have an important role to play in making this city the best place to live and thrive.”

And you — some of you — play the all-important role in providing the content that is the Cowchips.

‘ONE ALBUQUERQUE’: ADA, SCHMAYDA

Advocates for people with disabilities dinged the Duke City for its placement of the 17,800-pound “One Albuquerque” sculpture between Civic Plaza and the Convention Center on Third Street, calling the stacked-word logo and its “protrusions” problematic for seeing-impaired pedestrians, in particular, and a liability. To prevent clotheslined people from piling up and other potential mishaps, the city put movie theater-style roping next to it as a barrier and posted “Danger Do Not Climb” signs, before moving it to another spot and putting potted plants around it.

HE DIDN’T GO TO JARED

A Bernalillo County deputy — after pulling over motorcyclist Eusebio Padilla for driving without a plate in the North Valley in April — cuffed the 23-year-old, who then plucked a plastic bag filled with 44 diamonds from his “butt crack.” Something didn’t smell right to the lawman, who observed: “Based on the uncommon behavior of concealing diamonds in packaging commonly used to store narcotics, and concealing it in his butt cavity, and the attempt to get rid of the item, it was apparent to me that Padilla must have known the baggy of diamonds was stolen.”

SEND IN THE LEGISLATORS

State Sen. Nancy Rodriguez introduced a bill to appropriate $100,000 for circus arts education in the state — juggling, clowning, stilt-walking, etc. The state GOP and others were quick to pick at the proposal, generating such social media snark as “Sounds like we’re already producing clowns just fine.” But the Santa Fe Democrat was undeterred, saying, “Circus arts are very effective with kids — and they serve all students.” After floating through the Senate Education Committee, the bill died.

MAYBE FORGET I EVER INTRODUCED THIS BILL

Criticized that it was an attack on the First Amendment, first-term state Rep. Andrea Romero quickly did an about-face on the “Right to be Forgotten Act,” a bill she introduced — then quickly asked be tabled — that would have required “certain persons that provide public information to remove damaging information upon request” from the internet. The Santa Fe Democrat and former executive director of the taxpayer-supported Regional Coalition of LANL Communities had been the subject of months of news coverage and commentary as two audits raised questions about spending by the coalition.

BAGGING ON THE PLASTIC BAG BAN

As the Albuquerque City Council debated a citywide ban on single-use plastic bags, Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation pooh-poohed the idea, asking, in part, what it meant for cleaning up after the Duke City’s four-legged dwellers. “Good luck trying to pick up steaming hot dog poop with a paper bag,” he said. The ban goes into effect Jan. 1.

 

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WON’T COME

A 45-page “Main Campus Perimeter Security Access Study” commissioned by the University of New Mexico included the idea of protecting the center-of-the-city institution by building a 10-foot-tall wrought-iron fence with sharp pointed tops, stucco portals and a metallic wolf staring down at people around the campus.

NEITHER SCORPIONS NOR RATS NOR BATS STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS

Local 380 of the American Postal Workers Union delivered this priority message in May: U.S. Postal Service employees were coming across rodents and more at Albuquerque stations. Among them, a rat in March jumped on an employee at the Richard Pino Station on the West Side while he was putting mail in P.O. boxes. A supervisor investigated, “and as she opened a drawer in the area, another rat jumped out, causing the supervisor to scream.” And two months before, a rat was seen scampering across the Academy Station. The alleged incidents occurred after a 10-inch vinegaroon scorpion was spied at the Foothills Station, fruit bats made a home at the Main Post Office, and two rats fell from the ceiling of the Five Points Post Office the year before.

SERVAL CURSES HIS ADDICTION TO ALBERTSONS ROTISSERIE CHICKEN

An African serval seen in the Santa Fe area around Hyde Memorial State Park became a social media star in September before being captured by a crafty conservation officer. The Department of Game and Fish, announcing the end of the hunt for the 30-pound male sub-Saharan cat, said it “wishes to thank Albertsons Market at North Guadalupe Street for providing the rotisserie chicken used to successfully bait the serval.”

‘ONE ALBUQUERQUE’: WAS IT NEXT TO THE PORTLAND LOO?

City officials say the “One Albuquerque” sculpture was always meant to be on the move, so it was no surprise when it left Civic Plaza, was at the Balloon Fiesta and, most recently, graced the River of Lights holiday display. But in November, City Councilor Trudy Jones was “appalled” to learn that the piece — likened by the city to the LOVE sculpture in Philly or Cloud Gate in Chicago — was sitting on a trailer parked in an outdoor construction and maintenance yard at the zoo.

AND ANOTHER THING, COLORADO’S GREEN CHILE IS LIKE GRAY GRAVY

Things got spicy in the summer between the leaders of Colorado and New Mexico after Centennial State Gov. Jared Polis took to Twitter and called New Mexico chile “inferior” while boasting about Whole Foods selling Pueblo, Colorado, chile. That had Land of Enchantment Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham seeing red — and green. She thumbed out a tweet of her own, proclaiming, “If Pueblo chile were any good, it would have been on national shelves before now. If Colorado wants to go chile to chile, no question that New Mexico can bring the heat — Hatch chile is, has always been and will always be the greatest in the world.”

TRY TIGHTENING YOUR THINKING CAP

A libertarian-leaning “think tank” published in May a policy brief on the financial state of athletics at the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, which contained an idea for saving money: combining sports teams. “Even if, magically, somebody said ‘yes,’ (the NCAA) would not do that,” UNM Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez said. “I don’t think it’s ever been posed that one school should combine with another school for any sport. I mean, holy smokes.”

MORE LIKE BLOWING SMOKE

The New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe tooted its own horn by issuing a news release saying its jazz combo earned “First Place-Most Outstanding Group,” and that a saxophonist, drummer and guitarist were also honored as outstanding soloists at the New York City Jazz Festival in April. But it was soon discovered the festival is not competitive and that the “honors” for combo members were created by the public charter high school’s own jazz studies instructor.

IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE’S LOINS GET LIT UP WITH A TASER

Rio Arriba County Deputy Leon Gallegos was put on paid leave after shocking a county jail guard in the groin with a Taser in June. The shockee said he was joking when he told the deputy to stop “honking his horn at his jail. When he said this isn’t your jail, we then both laughed and he pulled his issued Taser out and tased me in the groin area.”

FLAGGED FOR OFFENSIVE HOLDING

University of New Mexico QB Sheriron Jones was yanked from the team after being arrested for indecent exposure in October, when he was allegedly seen masturbating in a car in a school parking structure. The case was dismissed, though charges can be refiled.

FLAGGED FOR ILLEGAL PROCEDURE

Gallup Miyamura High School football coach John Roanhaus was fired and arrested in October after being accused of going into the locker room, then taking $40 from the wallet of one of his players and putting it into his sock.

DON’T BLAME US; WE DIDN’T INVITE HIM

The Pueblo of Santa Ana was bombarded with telephone calls from mostly PO’d people after it was announced President Donald Trump would be holding a campaign rally at the Santa Ana Star Center in September. Pueblo officials had to explain that the pueblo only holds the naming rights to the arena, which is, in fact, owned by Rio Rancho and managed by a firm with no connection to the pueblo.

THEN AGAIN, WE DO NEED ALL THE COPS WE CAN GET

Police said that as Brenden Wysynski conducted a traffic stop, he waved to a passing Albuquerque police officer, who became suspicious and promptly turned around. And what real law enforcement officers said they discovered was: an 18-year-old wearing civilian clothing and a star-shaped badge that Wysynski eventually told them he bought online. “I’m going to be straight-up honest with you, I’m not a cop,” he says at one point in lapel camera video. He was charged with impersonating an officer.

THERE’S A BIG HOLE IN THAT AUTOPSY REPORT

Federal narcotics agents long searching for Johnny Lee Padilla, who was linked to the Juarez cartel and ID’d as a Los Padillas gang leader, found him in Albuquerque after an online funeral home obituary announced his death and funeral services in November. Investigating agents subsequently found paperwork showing he had been transported by a Mexican funeral home through Mexican customs — paperwork that indicated his passing came by way of heart attack and diabetes. But when the body was examined here, a bullet hole in the back of his head and “signs of torture” were among the conditions found.

THE REPORTS OF MY LIFE ARE GREATLY EXAGGERATED

The University of New Mexico had some tweaking to undertake in September after it came to light that — contrary to claims on its website and in other promotional material — the Nobel laureate and two MacArthur fellows it boasted of having on its faculty are, in fact, dead; the two fellows for more than 20 years.

‘ONE ALBUQUERQUE’: ‘MONSTROSITY IS NOT A SCULPTURE’

The “One Albuquerque” — uh, thingy — is, in the city’s words, “a visual representation of the One Albuquerque spirit that calls our community to come together to solve some of our biggest challenges and unleash our city’s potential.” Just don’t call it a “sculpture,” one Journal reader demanded. “I realize my gripe may be trivial to most, but the ‘One Albuquerque’ monstrosity is not a sculpture,” the reader said. “It is a large sign. Sculpture requires it to be an art form. It was created as an act of branding, not artistic vision. There is no artist. It has no meaning deeper than the slogan. It was not paid for by public arts. It is no different than the bucket of chicken above KFC.”

SMOKE? WHAT SMOKE?

Officials said it was a cascade of events that resulted in some $500,000 in damage to the National Hispanic Cultural Center in March. Follow the flowchart: A center security guard supervisor and his pals smoked “simulated cigars or simulated doobies” formed out of weeds and receipts from a night of bar hopping —> which brought on a coughing fit —> causing the cigarettes to fall from their hands —> igniting paper —> setting a room on fire —> prompting the sprinkler system to go off —> but the alarm company was told by the supervisor not to call the fire department —> so the sprinklers stayed on for hours. (The supervisor didn’t show up for work again and was fired.)

GETTIN’ CLIPPED ON OL’ ROUTE 66

Albuquerque Rapid Transit, after much frustration and to much fanfare, finally launched Nov. 30 and, much like Godzilla marching through Tokyo, has already left its indelible mark. At last count, the fleet of robin egg-blue battering rams otherwise known as ART buses has been involved in at least 11 scrapes or smashes with uninitiated — or maybe just plain bad — drivers on Central, where the speedy new service runs primarily on dedicated lanes in the middle of the street.

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