Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber painted a resilient portrait of the city and its residents Thursday during his annual State of the City address.
The address, delivered virtually over YouTube, stood in stark contrast to the festive atmosphere the State of the City typically has when held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
“This year, I’d like to dispense with pomp and circumstance,” Webber said. “This year, we should all acknowledge, has been a year like no other.”
Webber highlighted how various entities within Santa Fe have come together to help those in need as the coronavirus has sickened many, and left even more struggling to pay bills and provide food for their families.
He also commended the city’s response to the pandemic, such as distributing more than 100,000 masks and establishing an emergency homeless shelter for residents. The city also passed ordinances requiring people to wear face masks and a moratorium on evictions, both of which have also been implemented on the state level.
Webber also mentioned accomplishments made prior to the pandemic, including new restrictions placed on short-term rentals and similar properties.
However, despite the successes, Santa Fe – a city heavily reliant on tourism and retail for its local economy – has had a brutal year financially, with dozens of businesses forced to close their doors in recent months.
The city faced a projected $100 million deficit for the current fiscal year due to crumbling gross receipts tax revenue. That projection was eventually changed to $82 million, but the city was still forced to shrink spending and at one point issued temporary furloughs to city workers.
Webber faced swift backlash over the furloughs, with some saying they unfairly impacted low-wage workers, some of whom saw their pay decreased by 40%. The furloughs ended last month.
The city also endured controversy for removing a statue of a controversial conquistador near the Santa Fe Plaza, a decision Webber said was made to prevent any violent protests. Plans for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee, announced after the statue’s removal, have since stalled.
“Each and every decision has always been about serving the best interests of our whole community,” Webber said. “These are the kind of decisions leaders are called upon to make.”
He also set three goals for himself to improve as a mayor, each revolving around better communication and transparency with constituents, employees and city organizations.
Some people have criticized the mayor’s office in the past for a lack of transparency, most recently during the budget-making process, and a decision to reorganize much of the city’s divisions and departments.
Webber referenced the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Fe County, which are up by 18% to 1,144 in two weeks, and the need to socially distance. He expressed optimism that, within a year, Santa Fe would be in a better position.
“There is no place I’d rather be and there is no work I’d rather be doing,” he said.