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Home / Articles / News / Legacy Archives /  SFR Talk: Coss Chat

SFR Talk: Coss Chat

February 20, 2008, 12:00 am
By
David Coss was elected mayor of the City of Santa Fe in March 2006.

SFR: Do you wish you had more power as mayor?
DC: Yes. I think Santa Fe has evolved to the size of a city where I think it would be good for the city for the chief executive to have a stronger role.
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What powers would you give yourself?
I think it would be really important to have the power to dismiss the city attorney. I think the charter amendment allowing voting, if you need a fifth vote, is a good one, but I think it would maybe be good to look at veto instead. I think there needs to be more of a balance between what’s an executive function and what’s a legislative function in the city right now.

Word on the street is City Hall is pretty micromanaged by the City Council.
I don’t think it’s as micromanaged as maybe the public perception of it is, but I do think there are some councilors that are very, very active and adamant in their pursuit of their agendas or their constituents’ issues. And the other thing you see is some councilors are very interested in economic development or historic preservation or specific planning and land use issues, so you do have a lot of meetings with councilors.

Your two-year anniversary [is in the middle of March]. What’s the worst thing that’s happened since you’ve been mayor?
I’d have to think about that for a minute. Having to change city managers so soon was up there. We have a city employee whose wife and son were killed a few days after I was mayor. I just learned today his granddaughter died, she was just a couple months old, that’s a hard experience as a mayor. Three feet of snow with nine snow plows is very difficult. Eight hundred frozen water services. I hope I get to say what’s good too. Because there’s quite a litany of what’s been hard. The sexual assaults last spring: I guess I would say that was really the worst and the scariest.

Obviously the city doesn’t control the weather, but what can the city do in the future?
I think there’s not much you can do when it’s below zero 10 nights in a row or when it snows three feet. That doesn’t happen frequently enough to warrant scaling up for that event. But what we do need to do in Santa Fe is recognize when it’s become an emergency. Even though the crews never stopped working…it took too long and it took too long last year during the snow to say, ‘Wait this is different, this is out of the ordinary.’ Councilors have expressed this in committee, and I’ve expressed this to the city manager, that we know we’re going into an emergency and don’t treat it as an emergency. We did that last year in the snowstorm and this year again and for some reason the big weather events coincide with three-day weekends and at the end of a three-day weekendâ€"figure out the right word to clean this upâ€"we’re screwed.

That seems like the right word.
One of the things you learn in emergency management is that when you think you’re coming out of the emergency might be when you’re going into it. I’ve asked for an independent review [of the meter situation] by someone that’s not a contractor for us…And the second piece is: We’re ready for the meters to freeze and we’re ready for it to snow, but next time it will be 100 mph winds or a wildfire or 10 days over 100 degrees. We’re in an age of extreme weather. [We need to have in place] our emergency response for communication to the public to ensure that we’re in communication with someone whose roof is blown off or whose water has frozen or whose street is impassable, so we can directly help them.

Do you worry these issues will shadow you in 2010 when you run for re-election?
Oh I think so. But I put it in the context of, ‘I just want the city to work for all.’ That was the campaign theme and we’ve had some tests that no one had experienced since 1970 or 1950 and people really worked hard and we didn’t quite measure up. I think the crime problem has been very difficult in Santa Fe, but last year at this time we had 24 [police] vacancies and now we have six. We got a lot of compliments this year on the snow removal efforts, so I think we’re working through and making it a modern city that can really provide those services.

I hear you’ll be running for re-election against most of your city councilors in 2010.
I hear that a lot. I would wager everyone on the City Council would like to be mayor and that’s just fine. It’s probably as it should be.

What’s your favorite city program?
Man, there’s so many. Favorite…sheesh. I like the youth programs. I like the Art in Public Places program. Transit is one of my all-time favorites. One thing I like about the city is we have a lot of partnerships with human services groups. We work well, our police department works well, with the Rape Crisis Center, with Esperanza center, with St. Elizabeth Shelter. We are an important source of funding related to domestic violence, related to food security, related to after-school programs, related to the arts in Santa Fe and I like that about the city. I love the Youth Works program. I heard the national anthem at the School for the Deaf sung in Navajo and signed at the same time. There’s probably other communities where you could do that, but it was a special time for me.

 

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