Morning Word

City Will Move to Dismiss Mansion-Tax Lawsuit

Santa Fe Regional Airport renovations delayed again

City will move to dismiss housing-tax lawsuit

While a proposal taxing high-end real estate sales passed overwhelmingly in the Nov. 7 local election—by 73%—the measure still faces a legal challenge. The measure places a 3% excise tax paid by buyers on the portion of home sales over $1 million. Prior to the election, however, the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, along with two individuals who say their properties are worth more than $1 million—filed a lawsuit arguing city officials lack the authority to impose the “mansion tax” under state law. City Attorney Erin McSherry refuted that argument in an Oct. 6 memo and now tells SFR the city will be filing a motion to dismiss the case due to a lack of “strong arguments” from realtors. “The main thing here is that home-rule cities are supposed to have the authority to govern themselves, and laws are supposed to be able to be applied liberally to allow for that self governance,” McSherry says. “So everything in the state Constitution and in state statutes should be considered through that lens of governance by the city. So that’s the starting point, but then we do go through each of the arguments that are being made by the plaintiffs.” The tax is set to go into effect six months from the day election results are certified, McSherry says. The state Canvassing Board plans to meet for that process on Nov. 28, which would put the effective date as May 28, 2024.

Santa Fe Airport renovations pushed back again

At its meeting today, the City of Santa Fe Finance Committee will once again be asked to approve additional funds and time for renovations at the Santa Fe Regional Airport. The city broke ground on phase 1 of construction in March 2022 and was theoretically supposed to complete Phase 1 of the project—more parking, along with a terminal expansion and remodel—last January. That did not occur. As SFR reported in March, Project Manager James Garduño at that time said he anticipated the project would not be completed until late November or December, largely due to unforeseen underground utility lines crews encountered during the construction. According to a memo from Garduño included in tonight’s Finance Committee meeting packet, the contract with Bradbury Stamm Construction requires a third amendment that allocates an additional $1.7 million and another 150 days for its completion. The terminal expansion, the memo says is 70% finished, including baggage claim and parking lots two, three and four. “During the renovation it was discovered the 1959 terminal is more outdated than anticipated. At this point we will need a variety of repairs to ensure the building’s infrastructure is safe and operational for day-to-day use for our public,” the memo reads. The additional funding, according to the memo, will come from a state Transportation Aviation Division grant, bringing the total amount of the project to just over $25 million (it was originally presented as a $21.5 million project) and push its completion date—according to the change order document—to July 2024. If approved, the amendment heads to the city’s Public Utilities Committee Nov. 27 and the City Council on Nov. 29.

SFPD arrests stabbing suspect

Santa Fe Police arrested and charged a suspect Saturday afternoon in the Friday stabbing of three people at the De Vargas Skate Park. Prior to the arrest, SFPD announced it had identified Tomas Fragua, 22, of Santa Fe and had issued an arrest warrant charging him with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. SFPD, with help from the Albuquerque Police Department, subsequently located Fragua at Presbyterian Hospital near downtown Albuquerque where he gone seeking treatment for cuts to his hands. He was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. Police responded at De Vargas Park at approximately 4:25 am Friday where they located three victims who had sustained injuries from being stabbed. All victims were transported to a local hospitals and, according to the last report from SFPD, one was in stable condition and two were in critical condition; one of the victims in critical condition had undergone emergency surgery and the other was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital for a higher level of care. An Axon Community Request link has been established for members of the community to submit any photo, audio or video evidence related to this incident or contact Detective Francisco Alvarado at (505) 955-5251.

Also on the policing front, SFPD is slated to open a new downtown office today at City Hall, which will be accessible to the public on the southwest corner near the Council Chambers, between the Convention Center and City Hall. The office will be open 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday and provide the majority of services typically available at police headquarters (2515 Camino Entrada): People will be able to use a self-help kiosk to complete an online police report; file public records requests; and meet with administrative staff, among other resources. To collect property, people will still need to visit headquarters. SFPD says it plans to have a grand opening ceremony in the future.

EMNRD Secretary leaving post

One of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s earliest cabinet appointments, Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst, will be leaving state government, the governor announced late last week. In a statement, the governor described Cottrell Propst as “an exceptional leader who has played a pivotal role in advancing our state’s clean energy initiatives and environmental stewardship.” Cottrell Propst, who will work through the end of the year before leaving for an undisclosed job in the private sector, released a statement describing her time as secretary as a “privilege” and said she is “proud of our state’s expanding clean energy economy and stewardship of natural resources. Our state parks are gems, our forest conservation and firefighters are second-to-none, and our industry oversight is responsible and transparent.” A news release announcing Cottrell Propst’s departure noted her leading role in the state’s 2019 Energy Transition Act; the reported efficacy of the state’s new rules regarding methane gas emissions (although environmental watchdogs have been critical of the state’s actual enforcement of those rules); and the creation of the state’s Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund, which establishes a source for permanent conservation funding.

Listen up

While last summer’s Oppenheimer-mania has diminished, Christopher Nolan’s film on J. Robert Oppenheimer continues to fuel discussions, as well as the recent episode of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Down to a Science podcast. Host Joey Montoya talks to LANL’s historian Alan Carr about the film’s historical accuracy and how Oppenheimer’s own complexity as a human combined with the complexity of the time in which he lived makes “compiling a narrative…a feat in itself,” Carr says.

Strike a pose

Vogue magazine returns to Santa Fe to peruse its “seductive charms,” via its “haunted inns” and “phantasmagoric skies.” Santa Fe, Alexandra Malmed writes, has four seasons (so far so good). The next one, winter, is quiet, except for the holiday season. “This makes Santa Fe a meditative retreat from everyday, errand-filled reality. And if you are looking for some action, there’s still plenty: Though the town closes early (really, it can be difficult to get a drink after 9 p.m.) Santa Fe offers much to do, eat, and see.” The story includes recommendations for lodging (La Posada is one of the aforementioned “haunted inns”), along with activities and dining. These include the hour-plus drive to Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch, which “feels like a trip back in time,” along with a tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and studio there. Drive to Abiquiú Lake afterward, Malmed advises, “in the winter it may be too cold to swim, of course, but the water gleams.” The new Vladem Contemporary, the Lensic Performing Arts Center and Santa Fe Opera also receive notice, among others. On the dining front, Vogue recommends a variety of favorites, including The Shed, Tune-Up Cafe, Izanami, Geronimo, and for day-trips, a “stop at Bread Shop for picnic essentials: straight-from-the-oven sourdough, organic crudites from Ground Stone Farm, a tin of Fishwife rainbow trout, and imported cured meats.”

Chow down

Condé Nast magazine also continues its love affair with Santa Fe (regular Word readers may recall the magazine’s story last month on the 12 “best things to do” here), with a new roundup of Santa Fe’s “12 best restaurants.” (We are assuming the “12″ conceit has something to do with how many months in a year, but are not entirely certain). The story notes while Santa Fe certainly has art and outdoors coming out the yin yang (we’re paraphrasing), it’s “also home to a vibrant culinary scene, and not just because of its signature red and green chiles that smother everything from enchiladas, burritos, and burgers to more inventive, modern fare. Down the city’s over four-hundred-year-old streets you’ll find decadent food trucks, sophisticated bistros, eclectic international cuisine, and eateries to match the town’s colorful art scene.” This list also includes Geronimo and The Shed, as well as The Compound, Tia Sophia’s, Jambo Cafe, Sazón, La Boca, El Chile Toreado, Dolina Bakery & Cafe, Horno, Paloma and Kakawa Chocolate House.

Warmed over

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day, with a high temperature near 55 degrees and east wind around 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon. The week ahead looks warmer overall, with a tiny chance for some precipitation later in the week.

Thanks for reading! Over the weekend, The Word immersed herself in Cat Power’s new Bob Dylan cover album, Dylan’s original 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert and shelled out $3.99 to rent Dylan’s 1994 MTV “unplugged” performance (worth every penny).

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