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Bushee, Gonzales talk ‘creative economy’ at mayoral forum

SANTA FE, N.M. — Two of the three candidates for mayor of Santa Fe spoke about their ideas for creating a creative economy and other issues during a candidate forum Monday night at the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Forum moderator Mary-Charlotte Domandi started the “Create the Vote” forum by asking Patti Bushee, who has served on the city council for 20 years, and Javier Gonzales, a former county commissioner and chairman of the state Democratic Party, what the term “creative economy” means to them.
Gonzales said it’s about how we use art to identify our culture. He said the resources are here, but Santa Fe needs to invest in the arts in order for the industry to flourish.
“We have an opportunity to develop an industry and reclaim Santa Fe on the global stage as an iconic destination,” he said.
Bushee said much of the city’s arts economy relies on visual arts, and that there needs to be more emphasis placed on performing and digital arts. She said the city needs to concern itself with developing an infrastructure for high-speed internet to support digital arts, and later said having cutting-edge technology in place throughout the city would attract and help retain a younger population.
Attracting and keeping younger people in the community was a theme throughout the night.
Bushee said Santa Fe’s success in becoming an outdoor recreation mecca will help. Creating career pathways in the schools and city hall supporting small business were other things that would benefit young people, she said. She added that expanding and improving the public transportation system would also serve young people.
“We need routes that make sense and reliable buses, and we need to increase frequencies,” she said.
Gonzales said Santa Fe needs to “grow young,” and align education with economic goals. He said the city needs to create a “sense of place” for youth and, agreeing with Bushee, the city needs to focus on environmental stewardship.
Both candidates also said affordable housing was another important element, not only for youth but the artist community as well.
In closing, Gonzales noted the endorsements he’s received from various groups and Mayor David Coss. He said he’s learned from his experiences on the county commission and as Democratic Party chairman what it takes to govern effectively.
“I believe in the promise of the future and that we all have a stake in it, but it will take leadership,” he said, promising to be a collaborator and a champion for the arts. “This is about we, not me.”
Bushee said she is the candidate with the relevant experience to step in as mayor. She said she has a proven record as a collaborator, having helped push through measures to develop affordable housing and in preserving water resources and other issues that impact the environment. She said she’s also been an advocate for youth, senior citizens and issues affecting the south side of town.
Bushee, who has owned a landscape design business for 25 years, said that supporting small business was a key to improving the local economy.
“I know what it takes to help them stay open for business,” she said. “We’ll grow our economy one business at a time.”
The other mayor candidate, city councilor Bill Dimas, is not participating in any of the candidate forums before the March 4 municipal election.