As City Councilor Lonnie Clayton made his way to City Hall on Wednesday, three pink signs caught his attention.
They read: “You can fix stupid! Vote no on charter amendments.”
“They were probably the most insulting, most low-brow and childish signs I’ve ever seen,” Clayton said.
The signs opposing the proposed charter amendments drew the ire of city councilors and the mayor during Wednesday’s governing body meeting.
Voters will decide the fate of 11 proposed amendments in the March 1 municipal election. They include propositions to allow the mayor to have outside employment with council approval, increase salaries for elected officials who take office in 2018 and to have charter reviews every six, instead of five, years.
The amendments were recommended by a charter review committee last year.
Clayton said the signs outside City Hall are disrespectful to committee members.
“I think it’s disgusting that someone has to take the freedom-of-speech attitude to say, ‘I can be as snotty and nasty as I can be’ out on the public right of way, especially in front of City Hall,” Clayton said.
Councilor Shelby Smith said that, although he understands why some might disagree with the proposed charter changes, there are better ways to make their point.
“At least grow up and do as others do, and write articles that indicate in an intellectual manner with a sound premise on why you wouldn’t want something voted the way it is,” Smith said.
Mayor Gregg Hull read a statement at the meeting calling the signs “classless” and “disrespectful.”
“I urge this vote no on the charter amendments campaign committee to take down their reprehensible signs, and replace them with signs that do not rely on name-calling and third-grade antics to convey a point of view,” he said.
Later, Renee Wilkins, president of the Rio Rancho TEA Party and wife of Councilor Chuck Wilkins, said she helped create the signs with TEA Party members and the Get Real Rio Rancho group. She defended the message and said more signs are expected to be posted.
She said she wasn’t surprised by Hull’s and the councilors’ remarks.
“I have thick enough skin where that sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all,” Wilkins said. “That’s all part of being in politics … but the most important thing is that we’re looking after citizens and the politicians are looking after each other.”
Wilkins said she hopes the signs remind residents there is more at stake in the election than voting for council members.
“A lot of people feel like they have no power, no control over anything they do – their vote does matter and that’s our point,” she said.
In other business Wednesday, the council unanimously approved:
- A site plan presented by the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority for a dam on the CNM Rio Rancho campus to reduce peak flows in La Barranca Arroyo. The project will be available as a living classroom for students to observe the arroyo system.
- A loan request of $260,000 of the New Mexico Finance Authority to finance six police vehicles. It would be repaid over five years by the city’s law enforcement protection fund revenue. The six vehicles would be in addition to 12 other vehicles obtained through other funding sources.