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Early voting polls are open; here are our choices

These are Journal North’s endorsements in the Nov. 5 elections:

SANTA FE CITY COUNCIL

DISTRICT 2: Between the two good candidates in this race to replace outgoing incumbent Peter Ives in the mostly-East Side District 2, the Journal North endorses Michael J. Garcia. A Santa Fe native who’s come home after a period in Washington, D.C., he’s a project manager for the AmericCorps Vista program, the national service program aimed at fighting poverty.

Garcia, age 40, with a master’s in public administration and making his first run for elective office, is a thoughtful candidate who appears more than sharp enough to grow into the role of councilor. He’s emphasizing that he feels there is a lack of community voice on the council these days, and that he will seek community input and support.

Those ideas may sound like shout out to NIMBYism. But there’s an influential wing in city discourse these days suggesting that it’s a bad idea to even hold Early Neighborhood Notification meetings on development projects – much less listen to anything that might be said at such meetings – so having someone around to respect community views provides some balance.

DISTRICT 4: The Journal North endorses Xavier Anderson in this race, where there are three candidates, meaning Santa Fe’s ranked choice voting system will come into play.

Anderson is the son of a Mexican American mother and a Native Santa Fean father, and might be the first candidate for City Council with dual Mexican and American citizenship. He has had a long career in public safety, starting as a police dispatcher in Santa Fe, and is now finance and budget manager for the Los Alamos County Fire Department.

Anderson appears to be a real, nuts-and-bolts, get-things-done kind of guy. His website spells out specific ways to meet goals, like better customer service at City Hall. Poor park conditions – particularly those in his Mid-City to South Side district versus those downtown – helped inspire him to run.

As a numbers person, he says he’s surprised how little information the city has on usage and costs at parks. He said that when he worked in forest management, “we lived and died by cost per acre, and we don’t have that.” His website says he will advocate for “data-driven performance measures to ask for equal city services on the south side.”

SANTA FE SCHOOL BOARD

DISTRICT 2: The Journal North endorses John Triolo, a retired educator who serves on the board of directors of the Rotary Club, is a member of the governing council for The Masters Program, the early college charter high school housed on the campus of Santa Fe Community College, and recently resigned as board president of Santa Fe’s Solace Crisis Treatment Center to make his run for the school board. He’s been a superintendent at three school districts after coming up as a teacher and football coach.

Triolo suggests that the district use incentives, such as hiring bonuses, relocation allowances and housing subsidies, to attract and keep teachers, especially in science, math and special education. In a statement to the League of Women Voters, Triolo said one change that would lead to major improvement in the school board’s effectiveness would be to focus on its “primary function: That is to oversee the education of students and be responsible for overall school district operation.”

DISTRICT 1: This may be the most watched local race in Santa Fe this fall: Incumbent Steven J. Carrillo, outspoken during his two terms on the school board, including his recent year as president, is being challenged by Carmen L. Gonzales, Mayor Alan Webber’s unpaid education advisor who is a former vice president at New Mexico State University. She came back to her native Santa Fe in 2011, worked as a grant writer at the community college, and serves on the boards of Communities in School, Kitchen Angels and the community college’s foundation.

Carrillo may be the most enthusiastic school board member ever. He’s a regular at school events around town, be they sporting events or elementary school graduations that he says he pencils into his schedule weeks in advance. And he can blast through dozens of advancements at Santa Fe schools during his time on the board, while acknowledging student graduation and proficiency scores still aren’t nearly good enough.

Carrillo may make other board members squirm (or get upset) sometimes, as when he ripped into the state Legislature (whose power of the purse is important to any school district) for celebrating this year’s unusually large 16% increase in education funding “as if they had recreated the wheel” and told lawmakers, “You did not do your jobs.” He was the only board member to vote against renewing the contract of Superintendent Veronica Garcia, while speaking well of her at other times. Like all that or not, Carrillo is definitely active and engaged, and cares.

Gonzales, meanwhile, is exactly the kind of candidate Santa Fe needs to see more often in our often lightly contested local elections. She has an impressive record as a public servant in the field of education, volunteers her time and is a bilingual local who recovered her Spanish after being punished for using it in class as a child and whose roots in the community are so deep that one of our elementary schools is named after her father. Gonzales promotes the things most Santa Feans want in the schools, like expanding pre-K and early childhood education, as well as equity, civility and collaboration.

So an endorsement here is a tough call, and the choice for many voters actually might boil down more to style and personality than substantive differences about how to improve the schools. All that said, the Journal North’s call is to thank Carrillo for his service of about eight years and endorse Gonzales as a new voice on the board going forward.

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