Politico44, the online “living diary of the Obama presidency” run by politico.com, calls the president-elect’s plan to invest in infrastructure a “21st Century New Deal” and says it adds “sweep and meat” to his economic agenda.
A New Deal 2.0 indeed offers hope to a nation that is economically off-kilter and spinning more so each day—so long as the meat is more FDR and less Herbert Hoover.
But Santa Fe is way ahead of Obama. It has been a banner year for public works, infrastructure and significant new buildings in the City Different and Santa Fe County.
The past year included completion of the city’s new convention center, the Railyard Park and Plaza, the county’s new Public Works facility and the groundbreaking of its downtown judicial complex. The $30 million parks bond has already resulted in unprecedented investment across the city, with much more to come next year and into the future.
“Santa Fe recognizes that public works investments employ people, support small businesses and stimulate local economies,” Mayor David Coss says. “Unlike tax breaks for the rich or budget and service cuts, these are real investments that bring a guaranteed return.”
Keith Toler, executive director of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, agrees the $65 million convention center should be viewed as a successful investment. Open less than half a year, the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Toler says, has been visited by more than 10,000 people to date. He claims the average business visitor spends almost $500 a day in Santa Fe. Thus a 1,200 person, multi-day convention, like the recent La Cosecha’s Dual Language Conference, can generate more than $1 million in expenditures and result in $89,000 in gross receipts tax.
The Farmers Market and Warehouse 21 buildings have brought local life to the Railyard district and both are the result of intense private/public partnerships. The new state History Museum, its location visible for miles all year long because tall cranes linger over the construction site, is scheduled to open at the end of May and represents another significant downtown project.
The City of Santa Fe has a freeze-prevention plan and public information available on its Web site: santafenm.gov.
It hasn’t all been rosy, however. The otherwise beneficial Rail Runner project has created traffic standstills from I-25 all the way into the heart of the city. The Santa Fe Indian School demolished several historic buildings, including those with ties to the WPA era, and has remained mum about future development. With winter upon us, many citizens recall the exploding water mains and the disastrous and interminable reconfiguration of Guadalupe Street last winter.
City of Santa Fe Public Works Director Robert Romero promises there will not be a repeat of the Guadalupe Street fiasco. “The only work planned of any significance [this winter] is replacing the brick on Burro Alley,” he says. “Cerrillos Road and the Sandoval bridge are substantially complete.”
Another bridge, the river crossing at Siler Road to Alameda Street, is fully designed and ready to go out for bid. The holdup is state funding, which is likely to be released in either January or July.
In December, the City Council approved a resolution directing community development staff to move forward on the “boulevards project.” A redevelopment and beautification initiative, the project will initially focus on St. Michael’s Drive and Airport Road, according to Director of Housing and Community Development Kathy McCormick. She says the first steps are to gussy up the Airport corridor in order to encourage positive private development and to look at how St. Mike’s can become a vital “mid-town” center.
If all that isn’t New Deal enough, there’s the $400,000 worth of contracts the city has designated during the Coss administration to the Youth Conservation Corps.