Why are we doing this now? Isn't the city election on March 6?
You are so right, dear reader. But as you are cracking open this edition, some voters have already cast their ballots. Early voting in the election begins today and runs through March 2 and, in recent elections, up to a third of voters chose this option. (Plus, people start calling us if we don't truck these things out well in advance of The Big Day.)
It's worth pointing out that if the nationwide results of the 2016 presidential race are any prediction, we're not really great at making predictions anymore. The inaugural run of ranked-choice voting in this election adds another element of unpredictability to our local races.
Candidates tell us some city voters seem excited about the new ballot format and the way results will be tabulated; others are following curmudgeonly plans to resist the change by voting for just one person in each race anyway. Voters who do, we argue, are only disenfranchising themselves.
Let's be clear: We're not guessing who the winners will be with this round of SFR endorsements. We've spent hours at candidate forums, eyeing websites and social media, and meeting with most candidates for in-person talks.
Some newspapers have stopped offering endorsements, and one candidate posted a comment online likening us to Hitler for creating propaganda. We're endorsing anyway. And we totally respect your right to defy these recommendations for your own reasons.
Santa Fe's challenges are many. The city has a shortage of housing that's within reach of young people and working families. The community is suffering from increased polarization by race, class and creed. The state and feds can't be relied on for service growth or even for real support, yet we're often crippled by the choices made at higher levels of government. Tourism is our bread and butter, but local quality of life should be our jam. Don't we all deserve to eat fancy toast?
See you at the polls,
Julie Ann Grimm
Editor and Publisher
The race got off to a weird start when summer had come and gone and incumbent Mayor Javier Gonzales was still not talking about re-election. Meanwhile, challenger and 12-year council veteran Ronald Trujillo was off and running on a promise he started making years ago to seek the city's executive post. Then, Gonzales announced during Fiestas that he wouldn't run after all, prompting four others to quickly throw in their hats.
Little-known fact: Our top pick in the five-way race also previously talked about wanting to be mayor. In August 2016, Kate Noble left City Hall during Gonzales' tenure after eight years at work in economic development programs. As we sat on the patio of a downtown business a few weeks after that, we talked about leadership and what was going on with local government, and about how few women had filled its top tier. She said she had half a mind to run.
She does not recall this conversation. A few months later, she offered herself as a school board candidate—the only person to do so in her district. And so she attained her first elected office.
It might sound odd, then, that when she first said that she would run for mayor before her term on the school board is over, we were a little miffed. Why abandon that post?
Today, though, we're over it. our first choice for Santa Fe's next mayor is Kate Noble.
Noble is both an insider and an outsider. Born and raised in Santa Fe, she left for college and her first career as a business journalist, then came home to start her second career in local government. She knows the names of the city departments and their functions, she's got a firm grasp on the financial structure as can only be seen from years on the inside, and she's studied models of entrepreneurial support and proven they can work.
Yet, she didn't cause or have influence to fix some of the critical problems uncovered last year in the city's financial controls. She's an outside thinker—engaged by the intersections of ideas and problems, and oriented to help the community solve them together.
Second on our list is Joseph Maestas. In four years on the City Council here, Maestas has shown a willingness to push for new, if unpopular, initiatives. His leadership on the city's refinancing of its water debt is a wonky, unheralded act that frees future councils to spend money on improvements rather than paying off investors. We also love the idea of making public transportation free for riders.
He understands the ways in which the city is limited by state laws and wants to carve out more autonomy for our home rule charter form of government. He performed exceptionally well on our unscientific Pop Quiz, and he's got a whole Barack Obama fitness thing going with running and cycling habits that model health beyond just telling the rest of us what kind of beverage to order.
That bring us to Alan Webber as our third choice. He wowed Santa Fe with a powerful play for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2014 and he's parlayed many of his supporters in that race to this one. (Disclosure: We also know the candidate from his friendship with Richard Meeker, co-owner of SFR and Webber's former college classmate. Meeker has no editorial influence at SFR.)
Webber has a sharp mind and has demonstrated a willingness to learn about parts of the city with which he'd not previously been familiar. His credentials on the national stage and in the business world are unparalleled. We only wish he already knew more about city governance, or that it didn't feel like this was a second-best option for offering leadership.
Ronald Trujillo is certainly passionate about Santa Fe. The city's residents—whether they know it or not—owe him a debt of gratitude for keeping the idea of regional equity alive and well. He's a reliable defender of acknowledging that the city is so much more than downtown, and that those on its developing edges deserve advocacy. Trujillo ascended to the council in a historic race where he won by just two votes; he's never had an opponent since, and he's got a ton of support on the Southside from the wave of resistance to Gonzales' failed soda tax plan. On the down side, when we asked him what legislation he was proud to have introduced or sponsored on during his service, he drew a blank.
Someone has to be last, and in this case, it's Peter Ives. He's well-versed about the issues and can put them in the context of current city policies. He's been a steady hand on the council and challenged all of us to stretch our vocabularies. Yet, we'd rather see him stay in his District 2 seat as part of an alliance of leadership.
Signe Lindell's presence on the Santa Fe City Council doesn't stick out as much as, say, her favorite orange pants amid a sea of dark trousers. But Sig is steady as she goes.
The incumbent councilor served for seven years on the city Planning Commission before her election in 2014 to a seat vacated by Chris Calvert.
For the most part, we like the way Lindell thinks and the way she conducts herself. She does her homework. She's not afraid to shoot from the hip, to say something is a bad idea when she's worried that it is, or to be proud and celebrate good things happening in our community along with criticizing the unhappy ones.
She was behind the city's ultimately failed effort to ban the sale of mini bottles of alcohol, and we think of her when we step over the piles of litter they are still creating all over town due to the district court's refusal to enable local governance on that front.
This race marks the fourth time for Marie Campos to make a run at City Council. Voters so far have not seen fit to put her in the job, and we don't see a compelling argument for her to oust Lindell.
Campos still lives in her same La Cieneguita home, but the city redrew her neighborhood out of western/southern District 3 and into District 1. She ran for the District 3 seat in 2012, earning 30 percent of the votes when Chris Rivera was elected with 58 percent. In 2014, she also came in second in a three-way race, getting 37 percent of votes when Carmichael Dominguez was elected with 45 percent.
But in last year's District 1 contest, split four ways, she took just 9 percent of votes, showing she has a long way to go with what matters to voters in the district that covers the city's north side.
Candidates from the east and southeast District 2 are getting more attention than others this election season, but it's not the three-way race for district representative that is generating all the interest. Both of the current councilors from the district, Joseph Maestas and Peter Ives, are trying to move up to the job of mayor. Under the city's rule, one seat from each district is up every two years. That means one of them has to give up his council seat in order to make that leap. This time, it's Maestas. If Ives loses the mayoral race, he gets to stay on the council, whereas when Maestas decided to run for mayor, he was also choosing to forfeit his seat on the council.
The field to replace him was a domino effect from the mayor's late announcement that he would not seek re-election. All three candidates would make good additions to the City Council, so this is a tough one.
Carol Romero-Wirth is our first-place pick to fill the seat. She can seem nervous when speaking in front of a crowd, but she also seems bright and thoughtful. That kind of humility is endearing. A lawyer by training, she has worked in policymaking for most of her career and we trust her understanding of how to move the ball within the confines of the government's jurisdiction.
Ranking a close second for us in this race is Nate Downey, who has undeniably worked really hard in this campaign—from showing up to forums and interviews on a bicycle to trying to keep water in the conversation. Permaculturist Downey would also make a fine councilor.
We gave Joe Arellano our endorsement when he ran for the seat back in 2014. Arellano has on-the-ground experience in the construction industry and an overt frankness that we still love.
Roman "Tiger" Abeyta is not facing an opponent, and he's been knocking on doors with Alan Webber to help garner support on the Southside for the mayoral candidate. That natural alliance will be good for the district, should Webber end up on top.
Abeyta was a longtime Santa Fe County employee who left the county's top job in the middle of the lowest thing to happen there in a while. Abeyta was not implicated during the scandal that involved one of his top department directors taking bribes, however, and more recently, he's been doing good deeds as head of the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Fe.
Greg Scargall is an impressive dude, and we're not just saying that because of his mustache grooming choices and winning smile. He's hands-down the best choice in this field to forge new ground for District 4 as its 12-year representative Ronald Trujillo takes a run at the citywide mayor's office and gives up his seat on the council.
A Navy vet himself, Scargall runs the Santa Fe Community College Veterans Resources Center and is the only person on the ballot this year younger than 40 (just barely!). He's also the only candidate on the whole slate who is not registered with a major political party. City elections are nonpartisan, but that's notable in a field of mostly party-line Dems.
Scargall likes to describe himself as a tank rolling into the room and says he represents a generation of born-and-raised Santa Feans who want movement and results. He's studied up on development rules and has some ideas we like, such as mandatory solar power on new buildings.
Next, we'd rank JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who has a long record of government jobs and is now running her own real estate business. She has her sights on helping the council keep an eye on finances and has a detail-oriented background.
Last, Eric J Holmes might provide lots of charitable donations to recreational sports programs and other ventures in the city, but we're pretty uncomfortable with his choice to spend most of his public campaign finance money at his own business.
Through Friday March 2
- CITY HALL: 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday at the City Clerk’s Office, 200 Lincoln Ave., second floor
- GENOVEVA CHAVEZ COMMUNITY CENTER: 9 am to 6 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays except on March 2, when it closes at 5 pm, 3221 Rodeo Road, community room
ELECTION DAY, MARCH 6
Rather than opening dozens of schools and churches on election day, the city has switched to using voting convenience centers. Any qualified voter within the city limits may vote at any of the 12 locations between 7 am and 7 pm.
- Montezuma Lodge, 431 Paseo de Peralta
- Gonzales Community School, 851 W Alameda St.
- Salazar Elementary School, 1231 Apache Ave.
- Atalaya Elementary School, 721 Camino Cabra
- St. John’s United Methodist Church, 1200 Old Pecos Trail
- Christian Life Church, 121 Siringo Road
- Nina Otero Community School, 5901 Herrera Drive
- Sweeney Elementary School, 4100 S. Meadows Road
- Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Drive
- Nava Elementary School, 2655 Siringo Road
- Kearny Elementary School, 901 Avenida de las Campanas
- Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road