Morning Word

City Asks Court to Reverse County’s Agua Fría Annexation

Texas company announces acquisition of Violet Crown Cinema

City asks court to reverse Agua Fría decision

The City of Santa Fe wants First Judicial District Judge Bryan Biedscheid to overturn Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners’ expansion of the village of Agua Fría last summer. The city indicated it would appeal in July, having failed in a previous legal filing last April to stop the commission from voting on the matter in the first place. In its decision, the BCC approved a reworked map that allows a few hundred county residents to stay in a portion of the area designated as Area 1B, and avoid annexation into the city, but provides a handful of large landowners the option to fall within the city limits in the future. In its appeal filed last Friday, the city asks the court to reverse the BCC decision, which it describes as “arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, outside its scope of authority, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” Specifically, the city argues the county commissioners’ decision wasn’t supported “by substantial evidence when it defined the newly-designated expansion to the traditional historic community based on landowner preference rather than the mandatory statutory criteria.” The appeal also says Commissioner Anna Hansen should have recused herself from voting on the matter because her partiality “compromised the due process of the proceeding from beginning to end.” Prior to the hearing, she “actively advocated for Area 1B’s inclusion…[and] stated that designating the entire area was the outcome that was her preference during the hearing…she even stated that the outcome fulfilled a campaign promise,” the appeal says.

Evo Entertainment acquires Violet Crown Cinema

Don’t spill your popcorn, but come December, Violet Crown Cinema will have new ownership under an acquisition announced this week. Austin, Texas-based Evo Entertainment says it expects the deal to finalize in December, under which the company—which also announced rebranding as Elevate Entertainment Group—will add Violet Crown’s Santa Fe, Austin, Dallas and Charlottesville, Virginia venues to its portfolio. Violet Crown, however, will retain its name and founder and CEO Bill Banowsky will remain an equity partner. Banowsky, who founded Violet Crown in Austin in 2010 and opened its Santa Fe location in 2015, tells SFR he now considers Santa Fe his home base. “[My wife] Susan and I live here full time, and I’ve got all of my focus right now on projects I’ve gotten involved with in Santa Fe,” he says. Banowsky also owns and/or co-owns Nuckolls Brewing, Sky Coffee and Sky Railway in Santa Fe. “So I made a decision that I just want to be here pretty much all the time and focus on the opportunities right in front of us. I basically wanted to have a job where I can come to the office and my office is the Santa Fe Railyard—and I never have to get on a plane again.” That being said, Violet Crown’s Texas-based soon-to-be new owners also see the brand as one of their own. “Today’s news marks a significant milestone in the pursuit of our long-term vision for the future of cinema and entertainment,” EEG CEO and founder Mitch Roberts says in a statement. “As an Austin local, Violet Crown is a brand close to my heart and I am honored to be trusted with the task of preserving and expanding their legacy.”

State touts higher ed gains

College enrollment in New Mexico continues to rise, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced yesterday, crediting the state’s Opportunity Scholarship for the growth. “As the tuition-free-college capital of the United States, New Mexico is setting the bar for what it looks like when states support working families, build up the workforce and grow the economy,” the governor said in a statement. According to a news release, more than 110,000 New Mexicans are pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at state and tribal colleges and universities, as well as career training certificates—an increase of 2.3% from last year. Of those, 11,000 residents are pursuing higher education for the first time and as full-time students. The new figures build on previous gains, the state says: a nearly 7% enrollment increase over the last two years. Navajo Technical University and Northern New Mexico College experienced the highest year-over-year increases at 14.8% and 12% respectively out of all individual institutions, with New Mexico’s comprehensive universities experiencing the most significant year-over-year enrollment growth this year at 5.6%. And the University of New Mexico had its largest freshman class in history for the second consecutive year. The growth follows declines in college enrollment prior to the Opportunity Scholarship’s enactment, officials note. “While the rest of the country grapples with questions about college affordability and access, particularly in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions, New Mexico stands apart as a state dedicated to opportunity,” Acting Higher Education Secretary Patricia Trujillo says in a statement.

Basin talk

Resources magazine examines what the country’s changing energy landscape will mean for New Mexico’s “energy communities,” aka the communities dependent on the oil and gas industries in the San Juan and Permian basin communities. Researchers at the nonprofit environmental organization Resources for the Future, which publishes the magazine, spoke to an array of stakeholders—from workers to advocates—regarding their views on how the federal government can “contribute to economic resilience” for such communities. The story accompanies RFF’s August report analyzing both the state’s history of reliance on the oil and gas industry, as well as its ongoing efforts to diversify that reliance as part of its transition plans to more sustainable forms of energy. While “San Juan and Permian Basins are at different stages of energy development and likely will need to pursue different strategies for economic resilience,” the authors of the reports say, “in both basins, local stakeholders were skeptical but willing to work directly with the federal government on economic development.” They also identified “barriers,” such as a lack of resources for seeking federal support and doubt that solar and wind energy development could adequately replace jobs and tax revenue from fossil fuels. “Some stakeholders strongly supported emerging energy-sector solutions, such as attracting a federal ‘hydrogen hub,’ building new nuclear facilities, or expanding natural gas development,” the report notes, “while others strongly opposed such strategies.” The need for increased infrastructure and more flexibility in using federal lands was a common view. Overall, the authors conclude, residents in these areas “have borne the environmental and health burdens from the energy extraction that continues to power the US and global economies” and more work needs to occur to determine and support their needs in the future.

Listen up

The New Mexico adventures of Marty the Moose have not yet become a children’s story or a musical, but it’s probably only a matter of time given the massive interest the massive moose has sparked in the hearts and minds of wildife-loving New Mexicans. On the most recent episode of KRQE’s news podcast, hosts Gabrielle Burkhart and Chris McKee talk with state Department of Game & Fish Communications Director Darren Vaughan about Marty’s adventures since the department relocated him out of downtown Santa Fe last month, and how people can interact safely with the 4-to-5-year-old 900-pound celebrity: They can’t. Don’t feed him or get too close, Vaughan says. “Moose are truly dangerous,” he notes. “And if he gets spooked, if you get too close to him, he could come charging” and injure humans and/or himself. You can, however, buy a hoodie adorned with Marty’s likeness.

NM springs eternal

Forbes magazine highlights New Mexico’s “coolest hot springs,” the OG Ojo Caliente spa, where contributor Leslie Kelly and her husband like to visit as part of their five-year-long “nomadic RV lifestyle.” RV hookups at high-end spas are rare, Kelly writes, but Ojo’s electric and water are less than $50 a night and include a daily discount to enter the hot springs. As for those springs, Kelly has plenty of advice about how to approach them, which order to use them and which ones stand out. She even has recommendations for Ojo’s Artesian Restaurant and Wine Bar. Forbes also spends time at Jemez Springs and the Pueblo of Jemez, and has advice for visiting both locales. As for the pueblo, it has a closed village policy, but visitors can learn and have experiences at its Walatowa Visitor Center, which includes the Walatowa History Museum, Red Rocks Trails and gift shop. Contributor Chadd Scott describes all of these and notes that “Walatowa’s little café is worth a trip itself. Coffee, teas and 30 different kinds of lemonade are offered. Warm up with a cup of Jemez red mocha with chilies, baked biscochito, or piñon harvest coffee on chilly winter days.” Scott also has tips for sightseeing and eating in Jemez Springs—and for visiting the hot springs themselves—but suggests that “a full day could easily be spent traveling Highway 4 from Jemez Springs with stops at the Jemez Historic Site, Soda Dam, Battleship Rock, Jemez Falls, Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument.” Indeed!

Weighing in on history

The state history museum is soliciting feedback from New Mexicans across a spectrum of topics related to their interests and museum-going predilections. “We are committed to creating a museum that is relevant and engaging for all New Mexicans,” New Mexico History Museum Executive Director Billy G. Garrett says in a statement. “This feedback is an important part of that process, and we encourage everyone to participate.” The 10-minute survey, available through Nov. 19, asks respondents to score their own needs as it relates to visiting museums, and also delves into interest in specific historical eras in New Mexico, from the First People’s Period straight through to the 21st century. Participants also are asked to choose from nearly 30 topics about which they would like to learn more (architecture, social justice, climate change, for instance) as well as which cultures and regions in the state would be of interest. Fill-in-the-blank questions include the chance for folks to describe sights or activities they would “hope to see or do” if visiting the museum. And one question asks participants to rate the Palace of the Governors’ importance to the experience, with options ranging from “not at all” to “very.” According to the survey’s introduction, the museum “is in the process of developing an Interpretive Framework that will help guide exhibitions, programs, and activities at the museum’s campus in Santa Fe, as well as online and off-site. As envisioned, interpretation will become a more dynamic collaboration that builds on the Museum’s staff and resources while actively incorporating the interests and perspectives of the state’s many communities.”

A little rain must fall

The National Weather Service forecasts isolated showers and thunderstorms between noon and 3 pm, then isolated showers again after 3 pm, with a 20% chance for precipitation. Otherwise, today will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 67 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word is considering how to mix things up after looking at Scientific American’s info-chart of the average global human day.

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