Mayor Javier Gonzales loves La Plazuela.
He dined at the restaurant housed at La Fonda Hotel 19 times in 2016. And he almost always ordered a table for two: Coffee with Alan Webber, the former gubernatorial candidate and founder of the magazine Fast Company. Breakfast with former district attorney Jennifer Padgett in the midst of her election bid. Lunch with Lee David Zlotoff, the producer behind MacGyver.
“They have this great spinach salad with grilled chicken,” Gonzales tells SFR of La Plazuela, adding that the city doesn’t foot the bill for his lunch meetings. “It’s usually a guest check whenever I go.”
The City Council last year established an independent salary commission to decide how much the mayor will make when the position officially becomes full-time with the arrival of “strong mayor” power changes in 2018. An ordinance approved by voters three years ago bumped the mayor’s salary from $29,600 to $74,000 until the commission completes its work. With the upcoming salary discussions, we felt it appropriate to inspect how our current mayor spends his time.
SFR reviewed about 1,200 scheduled blocks from Gonzales’ 2016 calendar, obtained through a public records request. Notably, it only took one day for his office turn over an hour-by-hour breakdown of his working hours. (We’re still waiting for Gov. Susana Martinez’ daily calendar, which we asked for five years ago.)
Also to Gonzales’ credit, the results of our request mostly bored us.
He already treats the mayorship like a full-time job, often working 40-hour weeks, including weekends. About 25 percent of his appointments were meetings with city employees. He sat down for bi-weekly meetings with heads of his tourism, arts and youth services departments. He also checked in regularly with the police and fire chiefs, parking director and asset development manager. The mayor spent roughly another quarter of his working hours making appearances at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, art shows, trade fairs, benefit dinners, weddings and funerals.
When he wasn’t taking care of city business or showing his face for the public, Gonzales chatted with business owners, journalists, political operatives, foreign consuls, consultants, union leaders, nonprofit directors, artists, and officials from the state and federal government.
Some of his most frequent visitors reflect his policy priorities. Of non-city employees, Gonzales met the most (14 times) with Beth Beloff, chair of the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission, which worked with the city to establish the Verde Fund to take aim at climate change and poverty.
He met five times with Jeannie Oakes, a senior fellow at the Learning Policy Institute who helped devise a soda tax plan to fund early childhood education. (Gonzales later also consulted with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the nonprofit project of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who championed a beverage tax during his tenure.)
Mayor Gonzales, a former state Democratic Party head, also met with prominent locals who happen to contribute large sums to political campaigns. Charmay Allred, a prominent art collector and big-time donor, met with Gonzales at least five times this year. “She is a big patron of the arts and regularly introduces me to artists or people who have contributed to the city,” he says.
He met with either Earl or Deborah Potter, the proprietors of Five & Dime General Stores, five times. (Deborah Potter sits on the city’s film commission.) Combined, the couple has given more than $300,000 to state and federal political campaigns since 1997.
Given that Santa Fe has a public campaign finance system, he’s not likely fundraising for the next mayor’s race. Asked whether meetings with Democratic donors could have any relation to a potential run for governor, Gonzales says, “Absolutely not. These are individuals that significantly invest in the city of Santa Fe and nonprofits. Santa Fe is a big Democratic town. There are people who participate in civic organizations that also participate in politics.”
"There are people who participate in civic organizations that also participate in politics."
Gonzales took 15 trips during the year, spending 73 days out-of-state or racking up airline miles. The city paid for travel on six of the mayor’s out-of-state forays. Grants, fellowships and federal funds covered the rest. His longest trip was to Harvard University, where he spent 23 days (including travel) participating in a fellowship for LGBT leaders, which he called “an incredible opportunity.” He also journeyed to the Middle Eastern country of Qatar on a junket with the US Conference of Mayors and to Paris for a meeting about “inclusive growth.”
“There’s a list of questions we go over before I’ll agree to a trip. Is it going to help me build upon some of the initiatives I’ve said are priorities? Is it a place I can advocate on the needs of Santa Fe at a federal level?”
Applications for the independent salary commission must be submitted to the city by Monday, Jan. 9. The mayor will nominate seven members for approval by City Council.