Santa Feans are choosing their first “strong mayor,” under a city charter change, in voting that is already underway at early-voting polling places and will conclude on the March 6 election day. The new powers that come with the position include what appears to be firm control of the city work force – the mayor gets to choose the city manager, city clerk and city attorney, and pretty much every other city worker comes under those top executives.
So there’s more at stake than before. On top of that, Santa Feans are going through their initial experience with ranked-choice voting.
The 2018 field includes five candidates from a variety of backgrounds that pleasantly reflects the city’s diversity. There are reasons to commend all of them.
The Journal endorses Joseph Maestas, a retired civil engineer who’s completing his first four-year term on the City Council and who formerly served as mayor of Española.
Maestas has proven, both on the council and during the mayoral campaign, to be a smart and thoughtful progressive on a number of issues, including the city’s supportive policy toward immigrants.
He’s pushed for creation of an inspector general in city government in the wake of an audit that found a general and sometimes laughable lack of financial controls. He grew up in northern New Mexico and honors his roots, but has never promoted the negative nativism that sometimes becomes part of Santa Fe’s political frays.
Maestas has been called headstrong and that trait apparently led to some back-and-forth with the leader of Santa Fe’s current success story, Meow Wolf. But the fact that the relationship has been repaired shows there’s no sin in not jumping on the bandwagon without raising a few issues.
There are other good choices in this race. And this time you can rank them from one to five or just pick your favorite. Among those good choices, Maestas is the best one.
THE CHOICES FOR CITY COUNCIL
This year’s Santa Fe City Council races have generated a healthy amount of competition. There are contests for three of the four seats on the ballot, with only former Santa Fe County Manager Roman “Tiger” Abeyta running unopposed, for the south side District 3 seat being vacated by Carmichael Dominguez.
The Journal North’s endorsements for the other races are:
District 1: Incumbent Signe Lindell has earned another four years serving her district, which is mostly on the north side, but also includes neighborhoods west and north of Cerrillos, and along Agua Fria and Alameda south to Siler Road. Lindell is an intelligent and independent voice on the council, has staked out a position as a financial watchdog and appears to be taking a leading role in finding new uses for the SFUAD campus. She’s also an active and accessible councilor who seems to never miss (and enjoy) a community event.
District 2: This mostly east side seat that also includes areas north and south of St. Mike’s, Siringo and Zia west to Yucca, opened up when incumbent Joseph Maestas decided to run for mayor, and the race has attracted three good candidates from varied backgrounds. All of them have good ideas and energy. The Journal North endorses Carol Romero-Wirth, a public policy lawyer with experience in the nonprofit world, as well as state and local government, who has shown she knows how to work on and understand big issues, including water and the environment.
District 4: Joanne Vigil Coppler is the choice in mid- to-south city District 4, where incumbent Ron Trujillo also opted to run for mayor. She has long experience in the public sector, both in the court system and local government, and in the private sector, with leadership roles in the local Realtors association. Vigil Coppler appropriately emphasizes taking on the financial problems revealed in a recent city audit and the need to create more affordable housing options in Santa Fe.