With a reelection campaign looming, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss gave his annual “state of the city” speech August 11 at the New Mexico History Museum. “While the last year was packed with difficulty and tough decisions,” Coss said according to an advanced copy of the speech given to SFR, “the community has persevered with integrity and I believe we are moving forward in a good direction.”
Which is all well and good, but SFR wanted more than one man’s opinion. So we asked around via phone, email and in in-person interviews: What’s the state of the city?
Everyone has an opinion, from the pessimistic (Zozobra) to cheery (surprisingly, enough, a guy in real estate).
“I will tell you one of my primary concerns right now, and that’s the spike in crime, the spike in gang activity and what appears to be a continually understaffed police department. I think we need to get back into schools and start doing what I would call prophylactic work with our teenagers, and talk about how to improve their lives with continuing education and staying out of the criminal justice system.” — Asenath Kepler, former city manager and presumed mayoral challenger to Coss
“In light of the economic turmoil if not collapse, which is occurring all around the world, Santa Fe is doing pretty well. It doesn’t seem like to me the price of housing has had the precipitous fall other cities have seen; I have seen a lot of commercial property for lease or sale. However, it seems with the number of people in the city this summer, it’s just as busy as ever. I’m a volunteer at the International Folk Art Market and it was as strong as it’s ever been, as far as ticket sales, which then I’m assuming translated into pretty healthy sales for the artists.”—Sally Spencer, Santa Fe Council on International Relations president
“Prices are supposed to be going down in this recession but in Santa Fe they’re going up. Retail is going down. The streets aren’t being fixed. We are in the middle of a recession and the city hasn’t done things.”— Sam Ghezzawi, business owner and patron at Alfanoose on Second Street
“He started out by saying ‘No comment.’ And then he said he’s getting gloomier because he only has 30 days to live.”—Ray Valdez, event producer for Will Shuster’s Zozobra, speaking on behalf of Zozobra
“I think it’s amazing the City Council is moving forward taking control of the College of Santa Fe campus in this extremely difficult economy. It would’ve been easy to say, ‘We can’t afford to.’ It might have a stronger long-term positive effect on the economic development of Santa Fe than any of us could imagine.”— Alan Ball, Southwestern Title and Escrow general manager
"The state of the city is getting better with the opening of the Railyard, the Farmers Market, the Rail Runner and the New Mexico History Museum, but Santa Fe will never come close to achieving its potential as a place to live until we dramatically reform the public schools."—Think New Mexico Executive Director Fred Nathan
“First the good stuff: The city is letting water flow in the river—enough to keep the upper bosque alive. Graffiti is under tighter control. Trash cans no longer sit on the curb for days because of a broken truck or a sick-out. But some things never seem to change. The burglary rate is spiking again despite the hiring of all those new police officers. ‘Lifestyle crimes’—like noise pollution from rolling boom boxes—continue to be ignored. Motorcycles and muscle cars roar mufflerless through town while the cops look the other way.”—George Johnson, Santa Fe Review editor
“To have a sustainable water supply and a sustainable ecosystem, we need to have an institution we don’t have right now, like a department of water resources. Because right now the water utility is in charge, but they’re the equivalent of a special interest group. The reason for trying to revive our river is only partly economic: It also has to be felt as a moral and ethical issue. If we don’t look at it as right and wrong, we’ll always be looking over our shoulder whether we can afford to put water in the river, and I don’t think we’ll actually get it done. Our dead river reflects dead values, and we’ve got revive our own value system in order to revive the river.”—Santa Fe Watershed Association Executive Director David Groenfeldt
“Santa Fe has some programs that open the door for residents to live more sustainably, like with green building. Those tend to be, unfortunately, catered toward the more affluent class. We as a city need to be doing a whole lot more to bridge low- and high-income communities.”— Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians grassroots campaigner
“Almost half of Santa Fe County residents could benefit from literary services. That means they’re reading at or below a fifth or sixth-grade level. You’ll note that just about mirrors our dropout rate, so there’s no mystery there. Outside my area of expertise, mental health is a problem here. We need more social services, support services; a lot of our students could benefit from having a social worker.”— Heather Heunermund, executive director, New Mexico Coalition for Literacy
“[A]lthough per capita we have one of the largest GLBT populations in America, we have little to no Queer Community. …Secondly overall I feel the city, compared to when I lived here 20 years ago, has become too exclusive. All of the focus is on The Opera, high-end galleries and shops. [T]here are only so many people that can live on a caviar and champagne budget. Santa Fe needs to become more ‘common man, woman and kid’ friendly as well as offer more support for the beginning, struggling artists in town and not just focus on the established money-makers.”—Wenda Watch, drag performer and GLBT activist
“In this line of business, we see a lot of people without a job. We’ve seen a lot of people lose their small businesses. [The mayor] should be doing something to help.”—Stephanie Martinez, assistant manager at Sun Loan Co. on Airport Road
“We need more pre-Ks. I have a little one and it’s hard. The only preschools are private and they’re expensive.”— Thalia Castro, patron at Guadalupe Credit Union on Airport Road
“People are looking for work and can’t find it. And the more you get paid the more they take [in taxes].”—Horace Valdez, employee at Toy Auto Man on Airport Road
“Transportation on this corner needs to be monitored for speed, and a lot of people run this four-way stop. This kind of thing needs attention. And benefits for city employees because I see them when they’re not treated well. And what’s happening with the stimulus? The people with construction jobs need help to get jobs in the field for which they’re trained.”— Barbara Salas, owner of Beautiful Skin on Second Street
“I’d like to hear about work, employment, how the stimulus is being spent. Stop wasting money on buildings. There are empty buildings available. Why build a new one?”—Mary Williams, owner of The Spectacle Shop on Second Street
“I guess like it is across the country, a little difficult right now. My understanding is the city has lost about 1,000 jobs or so, primarily in construction. We have a number of members who own restaurants, and they’re slower. We also have construction firms and they’re finding its slower—quite a bit.”—Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Leveo Sanchez
Additional reporting for this article was done by Caroline K Gorman.