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The City Different feels, well, different


On the third Monday of January, the night before Opening Tuesday of the New Mexico Legislature, the Santa Fe Plaza is bustling. Music and people are spilling out of the many restaurants and bars, vehicles are all over the place. You can hear the laughter and feel the eager anticipation.

But not this night.

Walking the Plaza the night of Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, was eerie. Almost everything was closed by 7:30 p.m., even the Five-and-Dime store, with its famed red chile Frito Pies. A few souls braved the elements and sat on the heated upstairs patio at the Thunderbird, but there was no pie and coffee at the Plaza Café, no ID checks at Evangelo’s bar and no shoppers at the many upscale stores. Closed, closed and closed.

Normally, on the eve of the session, things are rocking at the Bull Ring restaurant and bar, the steakhouse known for fostering as many legislative deals as the Roundhouse itself. It is typically teeming with lawmakers, lobbyists and political junkies of all stripes.

But not this night.

Just a handful of people were visible through the clear plastic tent and the tall gas heaters at the Bull Ring. The only music from the Plaza came from an occasional car or pickup that cruised through. The only thing close to festive was the bright color coming from the Christmas lights strung from the trees on the Plaza.

Normally, Santa Fe is full of people looking for money, be they locals from around the state, legislators, lobbyists or literal panhandlers.

But not this night.

We knew things would be different because of COVID-19. What we couldn’t have known Jan. 5 would be the high-level lockdowns for security. Like all other 49 state capitals, Santa Fe has been threatened with protest activity for the Jan. 20 Inauguration Day. Opening Day at the Roundhouse always has its protestors, almost always peaceful. The back-to-back combination, however, of Opening Day followed by Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day brought extreme caution.

For a week, the Roundhouse has been ringed with fence. No vehicle can get within a block without being stopped by State Police and/or National Guard.

 As I write this, I can’t know what might happen in Santa Fe on Inauguration Day. I only pray it is uneventful.

But I do know this: The Las Cruces Bulletin will help you follow the legislative session. With our legislative guide, our website, our eBulletin, our regular legislative reports and interviews with lawmakers and officials, we will keep you posted on the activity of this year’s 60-day session.

Our Legislative Guides are out in the community now. If you haven’t gotten one, you can come by and pick one up, or reserve one for delivery. Visit us at 1740-A Calle de Mercado, call 524-8061, or email teresa@lascrucesbulletin.com.

Richard Coltharp