We may never know what Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian was smoking when, at an April 13 Board of County Com-missioners meeting, she suddenly proposed a moratorium on development. It was probably a potent blend of do-gooder liberalism and the mistaken belief that one’s close advisors make up a populist bloc. Certainly her drug of choice was laced with a helping of economic blindness.
There is some basis to Holian’s do-gooderism: As a former member of the County Development Review Committee and a self-professed “New Urbanist,” she must have a special place in her heart for the county’s still-unfinished “sustainable land use plan.” It has pained many of us to watch the county harass a progressive development like the Galisteo Basin Preserve (though it appears to be on track now) while simultaneously giving a thumbs up to the nearby Saddleback Ranch development—a project about as antithetical to sensitive, smart, water-wise growth as one can find.
The Galisteo Basin Preserve fits the model of development the county ostensibly intends to steer toward, and Saddleback Ranch defines the kind of development the county should try to avoid. But we’re trapped in a wormhole where commissioners feel the need to enforce the current letter of the law without consideration for established intent. Holian’s rationale appears to have been that, if everything stops, we can fire it back up whenever the new plan is in place: Wormhole problem solved.
But the new plan, like world peace, rests in a distant, gauzy future. And retired computational physicists like Holian don’t necessarily feel the impact of a shattered economy with the same gravitas as builders and construction workers. One would think Holian’s background would at least have let her know that stopping time isn’t a viable solution to, well, anything.
The harm from stasis in the construction industry has been tabulated well enough in the last two years. To propose cementing that stasis through law doesn’t necessarily indicate drug use, but it certainly implies a lofty disconnect from one’s constituency—excepting, of course, the constituency that is already happy and secure in their homes and work.
Fortunately, a month later, Holian returned with a much more focused moratorium that hones in on preventing lot splits and subdivision of large tracts. The new proposal, in fact, is a very intelligent and targeted ordinance that will protect us from Saddleback Ranch-type debacles while still allowing the construction industry to regain its footing.
On the one hand, the political process worked. An idea was proposed, but it wasn’t the best idea. After some dialogue, a sensible solution was found, probably through close consultation with county land-use staff. But there’s a problem in this equation that is endemic to both city and county politics: We go through great pains to hire efficient, expert staff and then our politicians routinely undercut their efforts, circumvent their recommendations or hire expensive consultants to come to town and second-guess them.
If Holian and other commissioners had simply asked staff to help solve the wormhole problem to begin with, we could have avoided the drama of the past month and had something that resembled efficient government.
Speaking of efficient government, after the
Transportation Commission last March sensibly and swiftly put the kibosh on red-light cameras and unmanned speeding cameras on state and federal roads, the City of
is still trying to wiggle its way around the state’s smackdown. The state, in making its decision, cited the reams of
that demonstrate the failure of these devices to do anything other than pinch the populace for additional revenue. But here in Santa Fe, we’re still listening to the wild conjecture of the Police Department and a couple of city councilors who think cameras will increase public safety if we all just close our eyes and click our heels together three times.
Police Capt. Anthony Robbin was quoted May 21 in The Santa Fe New Mexican as saying, “The money part of it is not even important. The primary concern is safety.”
The article went on to say that the city is searching for locations that don’t fall under state or federal jurisdiction but that would likely produce the maximum number of violations. The city identified locations with up to 700 violations in a 12-hour period. That’s a revenue stream sizeable enough to make it hard to believe nobody cares about it in this penny-pinched period. Add to that the report that the unmanned speed unit—frequently parked on West Alameda and Agua Fria streets—has issued $170,000 worth of fines since Dec. 1, 2009, and it becomes even harder to buy the safety-versus-cold-hard-cash argument.
Mysteriously absent from reports, thus far, is any tangible increase in public safety. Meanwhile, real money is rolling into city coffers and into the accounts of the private,
-based company that handles the cameras. That company, Redflex Traffic Systems, has units in several
cities and can make at least one do-gooder argument: Citations issued by mail as a result of camera enforcement won’t ask to see your papers.
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