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SF committee on monuments, history nears completion

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A committee addressing issues of controversial monuments and historical atrocities in Santa Fe’s history is finally within sight, but not without criticism from some city councilors.

The Santa Fe City Council is set to vote Wednesday on a resolution to create an official process for citizens to engage in discussion surrounding monuments and statues in Santa Fe, a topic that embroiled the City Different in controversy throughout much of 2020.

Last year, many of Santa Fe’s monuments came under fire for the events and people they depicted, primarily the Soldiers’ Monument obelisk that protesters tore down in October. The obelisk featured a racist inscription referring to “savage Indians.”

Mayor Alan Webber originally proposed a 21-member citizen committee to address the issues, but that was dropped for a model based largely on the one used by Albuquerque’s Race, History and Healing Project.

Many saw Webber’s failure to quickly form a committee as one of the reasons the obelisk was destroyed. The mayor himself admitted he had not moved quickly enough.

If approved, the new project team will hold three community discussions focused on topics surrounding issues of identity in Santa Fe. Community members can participate in those discussions, respond to a survey or take part in a one-on-one interview with the city to express their thoughts.

Those who participate in the three discussions will be eligible to join a “Community Solutions Table,” which will provide final recommendations for the City Council to approve.

If the goals of the community discussions sound vague, that’s by design. Webber and councilors told reporters Monday it will be up to community members what issues to bring forth.

“It allows the community to be heard not just by particular groups,” Councilor Chris Rivera said. “It allows all individuals… to make a comment.”

But Councilors Michael Garcia and JoAnne Vigil Coppler, two of the body’s most outspoken members, said during Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting that the resolution needed a clear set of goals. They also took issue with elected officials being removed from the discussion process.

“We need to bring some checkpoints back into what’s going on so that we can have some influence about how this should be parceled out,” Vigil Coppler said.

Other councilors worried setting defined goals could chill community input, and including councilors might lead to accusations of preconceived agendas.

The City Council will make its final vote on the resolution on Wednesday.