David Coss was elected mayor of the City of Santa Fe in March 2006.
SFR: Do you wish you had more power as mayor?
Yes. I think Santa Fe has evolved to the size of a city where I think it would be good for the city for the chief executive to have a stronger role.
What powers would you give yourself?
I think it would be really important to have the power to dismiss the city attorney. I think the charter amendment allowing voting, if you need a fifth vote, is a good one, but I think it would maybe be good to look at veto instead. I think there needs to be more of a balance between whatâ€™s an executive function and whatâ€™s a legislative function in the city right now.
Word on the street is City Hall is pretty micromanaged by the City Council.
I donâ€™t think itâ€™s as micromanaged as maybe the public perception of it is, but I do think there are some councilors that are very, very active and adamant in their pursuit of their agendas or their constituentsâ€™ issues. And the other thing you see is some councilors are very interested in economic development or historic preservation or specific planning and land use issues, so you do have a lot of meetings with councilors.
Your two-year anniversary [is in the middle of March]. Whatâ€™s the worst thing thatâ€™s happened since youâ€™ve been mayor?
Iâ€™d have to think about that for a minute. Having to change city managers so soon was up there. We have a city employee whose wife and son were killed a few days after I was mayor. I just learned today his granddaughter died, she was just a couple months old, thatâ€™s a hard experience as a mayor. Three feet of snow with nine snow plows is very difficult. Eight hundred frozen water services. I hope I get to say whatâ€™s good too. Because thereâ€™s quite a litany of whatâ€™s been hard. The sexual assaults last spring: I guess I would say that was really the worst and the scariest.
Obviously the city doesnâ€™t control the weather, but what can the city do in the future?
I think thereâ€™s not much you can do when itâ€™s below zero 10 nights in a row or when it snows three feet. That doesnâ€™t happen frequently enough to warrant scaling up for that event. But what we do need to do in Santa Fe is recognize when itâ€™s become an emergency. Even though the crews never stopped workingâ€¦it took too long and it took too long last year during the snow to say, â€˜Wait this is different, this is out of the ordinary.â€™ Councilors have expressed this in committee, and Iâ€™ve expressed this to the city manager, that we know weâ€™re going into an emergency and donâ€™t treat it as an emergency. We did that last year in the snowstorm and this year again and for some reason the big weather events coincide with three-day weekends and at the end of a three-day weekendâ€"figure out the right word to clean this upâ€"weâ€™re screwed.
That seems like the right word.
One of the things you learn in emergency management is that when you think youâ€™re coming out of the emergency might be when youâ€™re going into it. Iâ€™ve asked for an independent review [of the meter situation] by someone thatâ€™s not a contractor for usâ€¦And the second piece is: Weâ€™re ready for the meters to freeze and weâ€™re ready for it to snow, but next time it will be 100 mph winds or a wildfire or 10 days over 100 degrees. Weâ€™re in an age of extreme weather. [We need to have in place] our emergency response for communication to the public to ensure that weâ€™re in communication with someone whose roof is blown off or whose water has frozen or whose street is impassable, so we can directly help them.
Do you worry these issues will shadow you in 2010 when you run for re-election?
Oh I think so. But I put it in the context of, â€˜I just want the city to work for all.â€™ That was the campaign theme and weâ€™ve had some tests that no one had experienced since 1970 or 1950 and people really worked hard and we didnâ€™t quite measure up. I think the crime problem has been very difficult in Santa Fe, but last year at this time we had 24 [police] vacancies and now we have six. We got a lot of compliments this year on the snow removal efforts, so I think weâ€™re working through and making it a modern city that can really provide those services.
I hear youâ€™ll be running for re-election against most of your city councilors in 2010.
I hear that a lot. I would wager everyone on the City Council would like to be mayor and thatâ€™s just fine. Itâ€™s probably as it should be.
Whatâ€™s your favorite city program?
Man, thereâ€™s so many. Favoriteâ€¦sheesh. I like the youth programs. I like the Art in Public Places program. Transit is one of my all-time favorites. One thing I like about the city is we have a lot of partnerships with human services groups. We work well, our police department works well, with the Rape Crisis Center, with Esperanza center, with St. Elizabeth Shelter. We are an important source of funding related to domestic violence, related to food security, related to after-school programs, related to the arts in Santa Fe and I like that about the city. I love the Youth Works program. I heard the national anthem at the School for the Deaf sung in Navajo and signed at the same time. Thereâ€™s probably other communities where you could do that, but it was a special time for me.