It's that time of year again—no, not Thanksgiving, not winter, not bear-hunting season—when Travel Leisure magazine's survey results of America's Favorite Cities set people all atwitter with passion and dismay.

Santa Fe ranks No. 1 as a "cultural getaway," which, we're told, is a type of vacation. It also ranks No. 1 for "peace and quiet," which, we're told, is a measure of quality of life and visitor experience. Maybe, with top rankings in such categories, it's understandable that Santa Fe came in dead last as a destination for "wild weekends" and also dead last for "singles/bar scene," which, we're told, is a kind of nightlife. When it comes to live music, Santa Fe is apparently beating the pants off of Anchorage and Dallas/Fort Worth, but otherwise trailing America's 32 other "favorite cities."

All of which makes one ask: "Who the hell fills out these surveys?"

Despite a partnership with CNN to encourage participation, most of the 60,000 to 100,000 participants in the annual no-doubt-scientifically-rigorous-endeavor come from Travel Leisure readers (alleged to be approximately 950,000 people per issue, including subscribers and "newsstand buyers").

Without pretending to be seriously interested in advertising with the magazine, it's hard to track down specific demographics, but Travel Leisure readily states that "our readers are sophisticated, active travelers who look to us for planning both pleasure and business trips." I think we can all translate that one with our third-grade media literacy goggles: Travel Leisure readers have assloads of money, which they will readily spend on whatever-the-hell-you're-selling.

Or, in other words, the people who ranked Santa Fe 33rd out of 35 cities for live music were not at Corazón for the recent The Process-produced Legendary Pink Dots show. In other words, the people who ranked Santa Fe as a dismal last-place for singles/bar scene haven't gotten laid in this town since Debbie Jaramillo was mayor. In other words, the people who ranked Santa Fe No. 1 for peace and quiet are the same people showing up at City Council meetings to ponder the exact decibel level emanating from the neighbor kids' band practice and wondering if they have been the victims of subtle violations of what are actually very clear and practical—if somewhat liberal—ordinances.

It’s a shame that Travel Leisure doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of some of the tough issues that our city is actively tackling, like panhandling. I’m not sure if panhandling would fall, technically, under vacation types, quality of life, nightlife or some other established category such as “culture,” “shopping” or “best times to visit,” but a magazine with such a sophisticated readership should realize that Santa Fe has its finger on the pulse of this increasingly unwieldy social dynamic. 

It’s true that the new panhandling ordinance the City Council is slated to consider in early December has dropped its call for panhandlers to acquire licenses—an unfortunate break with historical precedence noted succinctly by alert reader (and former SFR staff writer) Corey Pein, who recently forwarded Karl Marx’s panhandling law history from Das Kapital:

Henry VIII. 1530: Beggars old and unable to work receive a beggar’s licence. On the other hand, whipping and imprisonment for sturdy vagabonds. They are to be tied to the cart-tail and whipped until the blood streams from their bodies, then to swear an oath to go back to their birthplace or to where they have lived the last three years and to “put themselves to labour.” What grim irony! In 27 Henry VIII. the former statute is repeated, but strengthened with new clauses. For the second arrest for vagabondage the whipping is to be repeated and half the ear sliced off; but for the third relapse the offender is to be executed as a hardened criminal and enemy of the common weal.

The situation is similarly grim through several other imperialist rulers’ reigns, but the message is clear: “Hey, unemployed and homeless people—you’re going to be punished to the full extent of the law for mildly annoying people who are busily trying to go about their days!”

Sure, in the case of Santa Fe, the full extent of the law turns out to be potential prosecution for creating public nuisance under Article 1-3 SFCC 1987. It is a far cry from Queen Elizabeth’s 1572 decree that beggars should be “severely flogged and branded on the left ear unless some one will take them into service for two years” but, you know, still a deterrent to panhandlers intent on, as the proposed ordinance states, violating “the convenience of the city’s citizens.”

Because, you know, as inconvenient as it might be for you to die of exposure or hunger tonight, it’s more inconvenient for me to be asked for spare change at a bus stop, or a street median or by a “group of two (2) or more persons.” Fortunately, Santa Fe is on the verge of codifying that particular hiccup.

I ask you, Travel Leisure magazine, can you say the same about Austin, Texas, or Portland, Ore.?