You know when you think of that perfect comeback a few minutes after you should have used it?
There's no real term for it in English, other than feeling sorry for yourself. But the French, of course, have a term that sums it up: Esprit d'escalier—courage in the stairwell.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda—it all falls under the bravery we suddenly develop when the heat is off. Not that I think this column pulls many punches as a matter of course but, in the spirit of setting things straight with the start of a new year, it makes sense to go over the past one and see where the clarity of hindsight might fine-tune judgment and hone presumption.
At the beginning of the year, I complimented City Councilor Patti Bushee for perceived fairness toward the Northwest Quadrant during the Neighborhood Law and Policy Conference. I qualified that by saying, "Of course, when it comes down to a vote on the NWQ, we'll see what Bushee is made of. Maybe we'll even talk about term limits."
Now we've seen that Bushee is made of sugar and spice and everything nice so long as you live next door to her, but is the voice of irrational opposition to everything else and especially to progressive development in her district. I should have said: "Isn't it time to step aside and let someone else pander to the whiny flag of the pinche gringo, NIMBY sweatpants brigade? Remember when you were a progressive force for good on the council? Doesn't that itch sometimes like a phantom limb?"
In early February, as the City Council readied for a vote on whether or not to enter into a contract for red-light and speed cameras with the company Redflex Traffic Systems, I asked: "Are we going to line the pockets of a Phoenix-based company that already has knowingly used illegal technology in the pursuit of fining the members of communities to which it was invited under the guise of 'safety'?"
Now that we know the answer is "yes"—Santa Fe has multiple red-light cameras and a mobile speed unit, even as Albuquerque has put the brakes on its program with the same company—I suppose I could have been more blunt. Our deal with Redflex is a desperate attempt to generate revenue for police services that the city can't currently afford due to its reckless penchant for unjustified annexation. We're penalizing our citizens for poor government and paying through the nose for pure snake oil. That's not real community or genuine traffic safety—it's blatant crime perpetrated by our elected officials.
On the eve of Santa Fe's vote to deny a real estate transfer tax on homes sold for more than $750,000, I wrote: "There are no panaceas on offer. No one is going to play dress up and announce 'mission accomplished' on affordable housing."
That rings like a tepid endorsement of something that was handily defeated by uppity Realtors riled up by their national organization. What I should have said is: "Finding continuous revenue streams for affordable housing isn't an option. It's OK to demand that this tax be borne by everyone, but to vote against it is to be complicit in the death of the city's soul and to prefer the benefits of petty greed at the cost of the ruinous societal decay of continued disenfranchisement. I hope I don't have to watch when Evo Morales Jr. pillages Santa Fe with his proletarian shock troops and picks through the charred bones of the ricos."
In April, I lamented the interior remodel of the Hotel St. Francis and in May I harped on our lack of creativity and historic consideration when engaging roadwork projects like the new Siler Road bridge. "The plan at Siler is for a wide, fast road," I wrote. "I'm sure it's efficient to do it that way, rather than in a narrow, meandering fashion, but it makes me question how we plan and build for the future, especially in relation to cars and traffic."
What I should have been more forceful in stating is that our historic districts and endless platitudes about the town's character are worse than obviously tepid hypocrisy: Until we start considering all planning and land-use issues from the perspective of generating real value, utility and quality of life for the city as a whole, we're just pissing into the wind with our mouths open. If we continue to fetishize a lopsided vision of the past while serving up generic solutions at the perimeter of the city, we're actively creating an unmanageable monster with a pretty necklace.
When I recently complained about the issues that won't be addressed in the upcoming legislative session, I might have been more blunt with our legi-sauruses: We progressives may not throw "tea parties" but a surprising amount of us have actual pitch forks. Quit blocking progressive legislation or face the pick…at the polls if not in the complacency-fattened ass.
Ah. That feels better. Happy holidays everyone!