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Water protection, neighborhoods endorsed for SF charter

SANTA FE, N.M. — An advisory committee convened to make recommendations on Santa Fe’s charter wrapped up its work Monday by suggesting the city add language to its governing document emphasizing the protection of water resources and the importance of neighborhoods.

The Charter Review Commission shot down more controversial proposals that would have required the city to pass gun violence prevention legislation and declare marijuana intended for “adult, personal use” the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.

Commissioner Steve Farber introduced the latter proposals. The gun violence proposal came in the wake of last week’s decisive vote by the Santa Fe City Council not to adopt an ordinance that would have banned high-capacity gun magazines within city limits.

Farber said his proposal would force city government to continue a conversation on preventing gun violence that Santa Feans have indicated they want to have. Follow-up legislation could involve, for example, suicide prevention, a gun buyback program or money for mental health programs.

“There’s a wide breadth of things that could be done. This would just say, ‘You have to do it. You cannot drop the conversation,’ ” Farber said.

On making possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority for law enforcement, Farber pointed to similar movements taking place around the country and world. He said Santa Fe would be better off with police focusing on other things and that it’s time to “stop kids from being labeled criminals for the rest of their lives when they have a substance that is basically benign.”

Neither of Farber’s proposals garnered enough support for even a full vote by the commission.

Several commissioners said they agreed with him in principle on the marijuana issue.

“I don’t feel it belongs in the charter, but I do feel it is a big issue in the community,” Commissioner Daniel Werwath said.

The commission also voted down policy proposals on immigration, children and cell tower radiation.

Generally, commissioners said they were uneasy about what they perceived as unnecessarily broad language, or argued that the City Council could better address the issues by enacting ordinances or resolutions.

It’s difficult to remove or change language once it’s been inserted into the charter, Commissioner Carol Romero-Wirth said, adding, “I think we need to err with a lot of caution (on) what kind of language we put into this document.”

Water statement

The commission voted 3-3 to add a statement on water to the charter, with chair Patricio Serna breaking the tie in favor of inclusion.

The statement declares that “because water quality and availability are extremely important to the citizens of Santa Fe, the governing body shall protect, preserve, and enhance the city’s water resources through regulation, conservation, and tying development to water availability.”

The League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County initially submitted the proposal, with members noting that the charter makes reference to Santa Fe’s “physical attributes” but not specifically water.

League member Neva Van Peski said city government plays a huge role in managing Santa Fe’s water resources. “This is one of the most essential issues facing Santa Fe, and it is essential that it be included in the charter,” she said.

The path was smoother for a suggestion to amend the charter to add the word “neighborhood ” to a section outlining the importance of cultural preservation to the city. Among other things, the amendment declares neighborhoods “essential to the people of this community” and states that public officials should act with respect and sensitivity toward them.

The commission has already made recommendations that include expanding the powers of Santa Fe’s mayor.

A full report from the group is due later this month. The City Council will review the recommendations and decide if any should be put to a public vote.