“Unclear” is the fittingly misunderstood word most often used in regard to managing car traffic at Rail Runner crossings in Santa Fe.

After City of

Santa Fe

Public Works Department staff and

New Mexico

Department of Transportation honchos decided that yellow X marks and “no parking” signs were failing to stop drivers from stopping in advance of the train tracks, new white X marks were placed instead, to the tune of $20,000.

DOT spokeswoman Karen Lujan told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the department had received a lot of feedback about the previous signage and markings being “unclear.” Public Works Director Chris Ortega helpfully added that “it wasn’t clear” what was being asked of drivers.

But it is clear what’s being asked of drivers. Drivers are being asked to please not be hit by trains. Drivers are being asked to follow a basic, universal traffic law that applies in every US state: Stop at the big, thick white line when the light is red—every time and everywhere—even if it doesn’t appear to make sense.

It’s also clear that drivers are routinely breaking this basic law not because the markings at intersections are confusing, but because, as usual, drivers are not paying any attention at all to what the hell they are doing and where they are pointing their giant vehicles. Driver’s education in the US is such an appalling joke that even reality television can’t quite figure out how to capitalize on it: It’s gruesomely funny, grossly repetitive and terribly tragic, but the plot is hard to structure.

What’s unclear in this situation is why DOT and Public Works believe that white X marks will do what yellow X marks failed to do. Here’s what stymies the synapses of distracted, pea-brained drivers: The stoplights are too far forward from where cars are expected to stop.

Move the stop lights backward and the problem will go away—even the most negligent fools understand that they can’t stop out in the middle of the intersection. People will not pay attention to increasingly complex warnings—they will pay attention to something that behaves as they expect it to.

“Unclear” is a word that DOT and Public Works should be careful about throwing around because, in this case, it applies mostly to the problem-solving abilities of those organizations.

“Progressive” is the dangerously misunderstood term tossed about by the All Indian Pueblo Council in its affirmation of intent to demolish the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater at the Santa Fe Indian School. Pueblo Council Chairman Joe Garcia says the amphitheater threatens the school’s “progressive educational agenda.”

Considering that the amphitheater was built in collaboration with Native American students and faculty to provide a home for contemporary Native performance and theater, as well as additional functions for the school and the student community, the facility is actually key infrastructure for progressive education. Given that arts and performance are critical components of progressive education, Garcia comes off sounding like he wouldn’t recognize progressive education—or communication or administration or development or budgeting or leadership—if it held a loud concert in the middle of Santa Fe.

SFIS claims it only uses the facility for graduation events and doesn’t make any money off of it. Well, one follows the other. A progressive, educational idea would be to use and operate the theater as an educational and entertainment venue that has the capacity to earn income. But the Pueblo Council seems to have decided that conventional development on its Cerrillos Road frontage will be the way to support its progressive educational agenda. “Thanks,” say developers, “That’s mighty white of you.”

If anyone else is wondering why Harlan McKosato has yet to feature the Paolo Soleri controversy on his

Native America Calling

radio show, email him at


The “economic downturn” was recently lamented by the

Santa Fe

City Council as it agreed to release Artyard developer Don Wiviott from his obligation to provide affordable housing units on the Railyard. In this case “economic downturn” is a handy scapegoat so that all players can move forward feeling like victims of an unforeseen force.

The inconvenient reality is that the city bowed to pressure from NIMBY complainers who were concerned about too much housing density in the Railyard. One of the primary arguments was that too many cars would be driving past Alvord Elementary School and endangering the children—never mind that Alvord is now being closed, a victim of the “economic downturn.”

Offsetting the cost of affordable housing requires a significant density of premium- and market-rate units, an equation that the city had already destroyed well before any downturn. Not so tangentially, a decent density of housing also provides a living park, a vibrant neighborhood, increased economic development, a volunteer base to maintain shared open space and children to keep the doors of small schools open.

We can all lament the struggle to provide affordable live/work space in our Railyard “arts district” and say, “Gosh darn that economic downturn,” but maybe next time the city has to decide between a vision that benefits the whole city and the temporary complaints of a few squeaky wheels, someone will remember that “we screwed up” has many euphemisms.

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