SANTA FE, N.M. — Across this country, it is the best of times for some and the worst of times for others.
We are seeing cities split by a widening gap in income and a corresponding gap in access to opportunities. I believe Santa Fe must be a city of opportunity; a place that has strong values to support working families and a place that provides tools for building a better life.
The median income in the southwest part of town is $13,687. That’s 54 percent less than the average in Santa Fe as a whole, which is still only $25,454. Our community cannot become two separate cities, so we must reverse some of the trends, pull together and become one Santa Fe. As it turns out, our situation is not unique.
Dozens of other mayors around the U.S. are facing the same tough social issues and are working passionately to find solutions. We agree that we must deliver meaningful policy that will help rebuild our middle class.
Together, we have formed the Cities of Opportunity Task Force through the U.S. Conference of Mayors and we will work to effect change in each of our communities. We will share best practices, brainstorm how to overcome obstacles and provide a support network for doing this difficult, but incredibly important, work.
This week, I will be joining Mayor de Blasio and 30 additional mayors from around the U.S. to discuss and propose solutions for three key areas of concern to the middle class: income inequality, early childhood education and broadband infrastructure.
Each of these relate to Santa Fe in a unique and meaningful way, and it is my hope that, from these conversations, we can provide the foundation of success Santa Fe is looking for. When we provide pathways up and into the middle class, we close off pathways out of the classroom.
We must provide a high-quality early childhood education for every child in this community. The math is clear: Early investment into the well-being of our kids is the best, most impactful, use of funding. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the cost-effective thing to do.
We must also close the digital divide. Language drafted for the summit puts it like this: “Inclusive and strong economies, effective modern education and democratic vibrancy all run through broadband access … it is the common currency of the modern world.” We need to unlock the opportunities that broadband offers in the modern world, the possibilities for jobs in digital media and other technology, and we need the infrastructure to support that development.
We have the greatest quality of life in the world. We have the strongest values around human rights, including protection from any kind of persecution or bullying, and the commitment to maintaining a clean, healthy environment. We can strengthen these values by increasing economic opportunity and raising wages to close the income gap. Santa Fe can truly be a city of opportunity. I will work towards this goal. I ask that you join me.
Javier Gonzales is the mayor of Santa Fe.