"New" City Council inaugurated this week.
Santa Fe's newly elected city councilors and municipal judge were sworn in March 10, making the new Council official.
But with only one new face-Rosemary Romero in District 2-the "new" Council looks a lot like the old one.
The quiet election-only 19 percent of the city's registered voters cast ballots-may not foster huge Council shake-ups. But there are a few loose ends and future developments worth noting:
Bags o' Carpet ***image1***
Quite a number of District 3 voters with eagle eyes spotted wee bags made of carpet attached to some of challenger Martin Lujan's ubiquitous red, white and blue signs. An anonymous tipster to SFR chalked up the mini-carpetbags to "political theater or performance art." Lujan's critics repeatedly charged, during the election, that he had moved into the district just to run for Council (a charge he denied).
A victorious Miguel Chavez, who captured approximately 54 percent of the vote, says he saw both the carpetbags and the humor behind them, but has no idea who put them there.
"The first thought I had was they were trying to cover up something," Chavez says.
Looking for Lujan
Speaking of Lujan, The Santa Fe New Mexican's March 5 story on the election results noted that Lujan was unavailable for comment on election night. Nor was he present at his own campaign headquarters on Parkway Drive when SFR stopped by around 7:30 pm.
So was Lujan hiding out in an undisclosed location Dick Cheney-like?
He says no. Rather, after a hard day of wrestling up last-minute votes, ***image2***Lujan says he went home briefly.
"I went home to shower and came back to our headquarters," Lujan explains. He says he did talk with a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal; the New Mexican's call probably just got lost in his voice mail due to "the sheer volume of calls I was getting." Lujan says he hung out with family and friends at his campaign headquarters until almost midnight.
"I'm gonna keep my options open," Lujan adds about his political future, noting that since the election he's been elected president of the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education. It's not a bad consolation prize, he says. "I've had little old ladies come up to me and say the kids are more important than anything else."***image3***
Lujan adds that Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 "Man in the Arena" speech, venerating "those who are willing to step up, get dirty, get marred," as Lujan puts it, remains his guiding light.
"That's why I'm involved," he says.
Ortiz vs. Yalman?
If District 3 was the most competitive race, District 4 and the municipal judge races were the least. Neither Matt Ortiz nor Ann Yalman, respectively, drew opponents.
SFR briefly toyed with the idea of forcing Ortiz and Yalman to compete against each other in a faux endorsement interview. In retrospect, it may have been good idea: If the two had competed for the District 4 seat, it seems Yalman would have bested Ortiz by 150 votes. According to the city clerk's unofficial results for the district, Ortiz racked up 1,368 votes and Yalman collected 1,518 votes.
When asked on election night whether the count indicates that Santa Fe likes her better than Ortiz, Yalman, who lives in District 2, said only, "No."
Ortiz, however, says the results were expected. "I knew turnout was going to be pretty slim and it was," Ortiz says. "But I was happy in looking at my precincts that the parks bond did pass by a substantial margin."***image5***
As it happens, approximately 1,400 voters weighed in on the parks bond in District 4, but declined to vote for either Ortiz or Yalman. And the bond's total yes vote of nearly 2,180 blew away both the uncontested candidates' results.
Two-term District 2 City Councilor Karen Heldmeyer declined to seek re-election. But in a post-election interview with SFR, Heldmeyer waxes both serous and silly.
***image6***On the silly front, she tells SFR that the first few days of her post-City Council career will be defined by watching the BBC mystery series
Lord Peter Wimsy and Harriet Vane
"I'm going to sit down and watch the whole thing end-to-end while writing thank-you notes," she says.
On the serious front, Heldmeyer criticizes the campaign run by her successor, Councilor Rosemary Romero. "Rosemary ran a campaign where she did not talk about specifics very much," she says. Heldmeyer also criticizes Councilor Patti Bushee-the Council's longest-serving member, who won re-election with more than 72 percent of the vote-for being an obstructionist in her capacity as chairwoman of the Public Works Committee.
"Lots of things are supposed to come through her committee that sometimes don't get there," she says.
Looking ahead, the outgoing councilor says she plans on helping foster grassroots neighborhood activism, but isn't considering a run for mayor in 2010.
"I just finished clearing out my office an hour ago, so it's not something I'm thinking about," she says.
As for the current Council, on March 12, Mayor David Coss is expected to name both the chairs and members of the city's Finance Committee,***image7*** Public Works Committee and the Public Utilities Committee. Each is comprised of five city councilors. And a source close to City Hall tells SFR "all hell is breaking loose" regarding those committee spots.
Councilor Matt Ortiz has already put in his wish list.
"I've talked with the mayor and told him that I'm willing to serve as chair of finance," he says. "And I expect to be chair of finance."
Laura Banish, the city's public information officer, notes that Mayor Coss will eventually appoint councilors to approximately 15 separate***image8*** committees, boards or agencies, even though not all those decisions are expected by March 12. The mayor also is charged with appointing the governing body's parliamentarian as well as the mayor pro tem. The latter, she tells SFR, has already been decided.
"Miguel [Chavez] will be pro tem again," Banish says.