In March, Santa Fe voters overwhelmingly elected Rosemary Romero to replace Karen Heldmeyer as city councilor for District 2. Romero is a professional mediator.
SFR: Let me ask you first: Have you watched our hip-hop videos of you yet [sfreporter.tv]?
RR: Yeah, I really do like them. They’re pretty fun. I have to admit that there was that moment of thinking, ‘Oh no, what have they done? I wonder if I’m going to look like an old-timey, grumpy lady on this.’ But I liked them.
So, we're about three months into your first term now. Are you regretting it yet?
There’s not been a regret yet, but there’s been these moments where I thought, ‘How am I going to be able to balance my life now, when I don’t think I’m ever really home.’ Yesterday was one of those examples where I was gone all day, meeting with the parks staff, going to parks, looking at the master plan, talking about what the issues are. Then I got home, changed my clothes and ran to a committee meeting. Even late at night, I’m finding that my eyes are really sore because the materials that are given to city councilors are like…Well, you get your packet and it’s yay thick [gestures four inches], then you get your committee packet and it’s yay thick [gestures three inches], then you get a ton of resolutions [gestures two inches]. The reading material is never-ending. So far, there’s no regrets, until there’s the night that I don’t eat dinner, my house is a mess and my dog’s looking at me like, ‘Who are you?’ But I chose this path and the learning part of it has been really exciting.
What issues are taking up most of your time as a councilor?
Right now, at this moment, affordable housing and the issues that are moving forward with affordable housing…That’s shifted up to the top because we’ve got this deadline coming up in July to get this onto the ballot. So, this pressure is on us to be really clear about what are we going to do with the money [from the proposed real estate transfer tax], how much money is possible, what options are possible. I think you heard me say this when I was running, affordable housing really is a huge issue in this town.
How do you see the dynamics among the City Council members playing out?
I’m in a really unique position because I’m the only new person on this Council. So, good, bad or indifferent, they’ve all had this history with each other and they’ve done things that have had negative impacts on their relationships. I don’t have that yet. And as a new person, I don’t know what the history is and so I’m sometimes thrown. ‘Where did that come from?’ Or ‘Why are they going down that path?’ The ‘however’ for me is I don’t have an opportunity to check in with everybody. You really solve a problem by bringing people together and dealing with the messiness of it and trying to separate the personalities. That’s missing. They’ve kind of let me try to figure it out on my own, which I’d rather not. I’d rather we be forthright. Some councilors don’t return calls. I’m finding that intriguing. [Eyebrow raises] I thought we were all on the same team. I try not to judge it.
Let me throw some issues at you. Driving while talking on a cell phone. Go!
I use my headset now, which is still distracting, and it could probably be covered under driver inattention. In fact, I got a ticket one time for driver inattention because I didn’t know where I was and I was fiddling around with my map and I wrecked my car down in Ruidoso. In the last month, I have almost been wrecked into many times by people going really slow, talking on a cell phone, holding up traffic behind them. [Eyebrow raises] I guess they’re listening to directions. They’re like, ‘There’s no signal, no nothing.’ It’s like, ‘AAAAH! I gotta turn here.’ [Makes noise imitating a car turning] It’s irritating and I’m thinking, ‘We’re looking to change behavior.’ We all eat in our car, we all shuffle around for the map when we’re lost, but I find now that my behavior is changed. I say raise the rate, raise the fine. Raise the fine! We’re trying to change behaviors and I think it could work. It bugs me to no end. I just think the police haven’t enforced it. It’s been this ‘whatever’ attitude.
That's the issue. Should police be focusing on that when there are other crimes?
Here’s my sense: If for one month they just blitzed everybody, the behavior would change.
And you could afford to give police officers enormous raises?
Hey, increase the fines, you guys will get more police.
Wi-Fi electrosensitivity sufferers: Hypochondriacs or deserving of consideration?
I don’t think that they are hypochondriacs. I think people do have environmental illness. Some people are probably genetically more prone to particular illnesses. Our decision [to approve a wireless network] was based on it’s already out there. To limit it in any way really wasn’t going to help. Somebody said, ‘Well, we can put in a hard wire,’ but that doesn’t make any sense to me when I can, in that very chamber, whether we eliminate it or not, still get Wi-Fi. But I think the policies that we put in place may help, where if we put up signs like we have for pregnant women, ‘Microwave In Use,’ so if I think there’s signage for people who have environmental illness, the signage is there. They have a choice whether to enter a building or not enter a building.
Last question: Are you going to run for mayor?
I don’t know. I am working as hard as I can to just do a good job as a councilor. It’s one of those ‘who knows what tomorrow brings.’ But right now my focus has been not more than what I’m doing right now, because it’s hard enough to just figure out all the different issues and getting as much perspective. I’ve just learned to do the best I can. I don’t know. I have no clue.