Santa Fe’s vigorously contested municipal election reaches its conclusion (absent delays in counting ranked-choice ballots) on Tuesday.
So get out to vote if you haven’t already. Thanks again to all the candidates for putting themselves out for public scrutiny and as targets for the slings and arrows of critics, including those who go the coward’s route and hide behind internet-enabled anonymity.
(By the way: We’ve never understood how that Guy Fawkes mask, used by everyone from anti-police protesters in Albuquerque to current opponents of Mayor Alan Webber, is seen as a proud badge of honor. The most effective, brave and legitimate protest is to show your face and put yourself on the line, in public, against power.)
As readers can see elsewhere in today’s paper, this is the last edition of the Journal North, with the Albuquerque Journal changing to a new model for covering Santa Fe and northern New Mexico. In the final use of this editorial space, we’ll try to look forward, offering an admittedly haphazard wish list for what we hope the winners from Tuesday’s voting can accomplish.
It would be great to see:
• A good start on redevelopment of the city-owned Midtown Campus. This is a legacy project, and a difficult one, that today’s officeholders can get started but will take many years to complete. Success in the long term would be creation of a new, vital neighborhood for Santa Fe on the 60-acre-plus site, with a mix of housing options and a priority on (really) affordable units; parks and other community facilities (an amphitheater, a redone Greer Garson Theatre); and neighborhood-scale shops and makers’ spaces, a library, medical facilities and public service offices. A bonus would be a serious higher education institution.
Moving City Hall to the campus is worth considering as part of a grander plan, but making municipal offices the singular focus of the site would be a bland and disappointing letdown.
• The start of serious discussion of a comprehensive plan to help, shelter and otherwise deal with Santa Fe’s homeless population. The idea of a multi-service campus or center for the homeless has been floating around for years but has never made it onto any agency’s public agenda, while the homeless themselves continue to stake out their own claims on parts of the city.
• An end to Santa Fe’s endemic problem with weeds and trash. This is a community thing, a Pogo the Possum “we have met the enemy and he is us” issue. Santa Feans can, and do, always complain about the condition of city-maintained street medians. But private street-side right-of-ways are often even worse, albeit apparently without incurring enforcement or the gentle nudge of an official warning from City Hall.
One big public roadside un-attraction that should be fixed is the messy entrance into Santa Fe via the southern portion of St. Francis Drive. The city and the state Department of Transportation should get together on some simple but good-looking xeriscaping to replace the mess of uncontrolled Siberian elm bushes between the northbound and southbound lanes that is the first thing many visitors see on their way into town.
• More kindness, probably just pie in the sky. We see the proverbial random acts of kindness in Santa Fe every day, from works of official charity to people just helping others as a regular thing. Our city has always been welcoming to outsiders and to alternative views, even the weird and the strange. But the harsh partisan divide of national politics in our Trump-dominated era seems to have now infected Santa Fe’s local issue debates.
These days it can be difficult to have a reasonable conversation on difficult issues within our multi-cultural population, with probably more income inequality than most towns and cultural/historical factors that exacerbate the native-versus-newcomer factor.
What’s an editorial writer to say about this? Well, no, “Why can’t we all just get along?” and ” C’mon people now, smile on your brother” don’t constitute legitimate commentary. And in the face of wrong, it can be important to be angry.
Maybe a start would be to stop assuming the worst about people on the other side of an issue. Stamp out stereotypes.
With that, we’ll just say, “Adios.” And be careful out there.