LAS CRUCES – Highlighting the value of Las Cruces’ community schools program, the revitalization of downtown, the recruitment of two technology companies, and the city’s efforts to combat climate change, Mayor Ken Miyagishima said on Thursday “these are great days for the city of Las Cruces” in his annual “State of the City” address.
Miyagishima, 55, delivered the speech before a standing-room only crowd in City Council Chambers at City Hall. It was his twelfth “State of the City” speech. It could be his last, as he is in the final year of his third term. He hasn’t announced whether he will seek re-election in November.
After the crowd listened to two songs sung by the Lynn Middle School choir, featuring a ukulele solo by 7th grader Abbey Charity, Miyagishima told the audience, using similar words to presidents, governors, and mayors delivering like addresses nationwide, “The state of our city is strong.”
A focus on climate change
Somewhat surprisingly, Miyagishima devoted more words in his speech to the city’s efforts to address climate change than any other topic. He criticized the “absence of leadership from the federal government” on the issue, which he said has forced cities and states to take the lead.
“We will not, in this desert region, escape being deeply impacted by the many wide-ranging effects of a warming climate,” Miyagishima said. “Scarcity of water and extreme summer heat will be especially challenging for us here in the Mesilla Valley.”
The mayor noted that he had joined the Climate Mayor initiative — he is one of only three mayors in New Mexico who have done so — and that the city had joined Albuquerque and Santa Fe as founding members of the Coalition of Sustainable Communities.
Miyagishima also applauded the Las Cruces City Council for approving a resolution in June 2018 pledging that the city would generate 25 percent of its own electricity by 2022; 50 percent by 2030; and 100 percent by 2050.
He also urged Las Cruces to become a leader in renewable energy development, noting that the city is ideally situated for producing both solar and wind power. He said the city is supporting legislation that would encourage renewal energy production in the state.
“Schools, hospitals, and city buildings would be immediate targets for solarization,” he said, “with apartment buildings, residential neighborhoods and industrial sites close behind. These are local, paradigm-changing opportunities for us both as a city and a state.”
Applauding community schools
The mayor also saluted a joint effort by the city and Las Cruces Public Schools to create an innovative community schools program. The program seeks to make local schools into resource centers for the communities that surround them, serving all residents, adults as well as children.
The community schools idea was pioneered in the state in Albuquerque. The first such program in Las Cruces was established two years ago at Lynn Middle School.
The Lynn community school provides access to a monthly food bank operated by Roadrunner Food Bank. It offers snacks and warm clothes to kids who need them. It provides adults access to computers and office supplies to help them research and apply for jobs. It provides classes for new parents.
The Boys and Girls Club operate a mobile facility in the school’s cafeteria. A program called STARS connects young students with mentors from local high schools. Social service organization provides information on programs for families.
The Ben Archer Health Centers is establishing a health center at the Lynn community school, the first of its kind in Las Cruces.
“Lynn serves not just as a school for area children,” Miyagishima said, “but as a center for interaction, opportunity and activity for the entire neighborhood.”
Miyagishima also applauded the city’s economic development efforts. He introduced owners of two technology businesses, Tony Dohrmann of Electronic Caregiver, and Jerry Prochazka, one of the founders of Ganymede Games.
Electronic Caregiver, which produces remote health monitoring devices, has expanded to employ 70 people on three floors of Las Cruces’ tallest building. Ganymede Games is a video game startup that recently committed to locating its headquarters in the Bank of the West Building downtown.
“It would have been hard to imagine, a few years ago, the products these companies create,” the mayor said, “let alone that they would be bringing their workers into our downtown area.”
Miyagishima also praised the city’s downtown revitalization efforts, though his comments may have been a little premature, since two businesses closed there recently and a much-ballyhooed Amador entertainment complex, a public-private partnership, has yet to open.
“Nowhere is change more visible than in our downtown area,” he said.
A long list of area celebrities attended the “State of the City” address. They included El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and two former mayors of the Texas City, all Doña Ana County commissioners and County Manager Fernando Macias, District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Greg Ewing, three representatives of the Mexican consulate, and three local religious leaders, Catholic bishops Ricardo Ramirez and Gerald Frederick Kicanas, and Rabbi Bery Schmukler of Chabad of Las Cruces.
Bestowing a key to the city
After his speech, Miyagishima presented a key to the city to former New Mexico State University basketball player Shawn Harrington, who was shot and paralyzed from the waist down while protecting his daughter in an attack in his hometown of Chicago.
Miyagishima has served as mayor since 2007. Although he has not announced whether he will seek a record fourth term in November, he did make what seemed like a subtle swipe at Councilman Greg Smith, who has declared that he is running for mayor.
Smith said in announcing his candidacy in January that “we need leadership and we need vision that currently aren’t in abundance.”
The mayor said on Thursday, “Some like to talk about vision. My own vision has its roots back when I was first elected to public office. I want all of us to live in health and safety. I want us to have the tools we need to support ourselves and enjoy our lives. I want us to share all the joys and sorrows of being part of a community. It’s not my vision, but our vision.”
Blake Gumprecht may be reached at 575-541-5453 or email@example.com.
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