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Home / Articles / News / Local News /  SFR's 2010 Municipal Endorsements
David-Coss-l

SFR's 2010 Municipal Endorsements

Our selections for the city's elections

February 24, 2010, 12:00 am

Audio files of Julia Goldberg and Honey Harris interviewing candidates for mayor on KBAC are below SFR's endorsement for mayor. Video footage of SFR's endorsement interviews in all contested races is located at the bottom of the page.

THE MAYOR'S RACE
SFR Pick: David Coss

In its endorsements for the March 2 city election, The Santa Fe New Mexican noted the small field of candidates in this year’s races coupled with the gloomy economy, and concluded this year’s winners likely face several miserable years of governing.

That’s one way of looking at things.

Here’s a better one: This year’s election has included more forums and debates than any in recent history. It’s clear citizens care about and recognize the importance of who they choose to lead the city for the next four years.

As they should. The city, like the state and like the country at large, faces tough economic challenges. But while Santa Fe’s increased unemployment rate and budget shortfalls are not unique, its civic opportunities are. If the past year hasn’t made it completely obvious, the federal government isn’t going to solve all our problems. Nor, for that matter, will city government. But local government, if lead by thoughtful and ambitious people, can help Santa Fe reshape and refine its priorities and future. For elected officials, the next four years will provide opportunities to be contemplative, driven and creative.

The three-person race between incumbent Mayor David Coss, former City Manager Asenath Kepler and District 3 City Councilor Miguel Chavez has focused, to some degree, on creative solutions for the future. But there has also been a fair amount of finger-pointing and history lessons along the way.
 

SFR’s Endorsement Process
In order to decide which candidates to endorse in contested races, SFR reads campaign materials, listens to debates and, of course, follows the news. We call and email sources and gadflies to get their take on things. We conduct our Pop Quiz series to see who knows what.

Before reaching our conclusion, we ask all the candidates in a given race to come in as a group. Members of the editorial department then interview them, basically conducting our own miniature forum.

This year, you can watch the bulk of those endorsement interviews on our website, SFReporter.com.

After the candidates leave, we make fun of them for a while, and then debate not just who to endorse, but why. We try to reach something resembling consensus.

If consensus can’t be reached, the editor, who is responsible for writing these and all endorsements, makes the final decision.

City Councilor Chavez references Coss and Kepler’s failed tenures as city managers as part of the problem at City Hall. Of course, city managers often fail by getting on the wrong side of city councilors, who can fire them. Maybe it’s time to revise Santa Fe’s weak-mayor form of government to de-emphasize the appointed city manager’s importance. We think Chavez is a good and responsive city councilor, with the best interests of his constituents at heart—but we didn’t hear a lot from him that convinces us he has a broad vision right now for the city as a whole.

Former City Manager Kepler is backed publicly by dissatisfied city employees, past and present, as well as former officials, such as Mayor Debbie Jaramillo. Kepler also has support from certain sectors dissatisfied with government in general, such as local members of the Tea Party. It seems clear Kepler, if elected, is ready to shake things up. Big time.

While such vigor makes for an interesting campaign, in practice it reads as reductive and potentially destructive. City Hall has its problems, most def, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Right now Santa Fe has a mayor whose values and track record in certain areas reflect care for the greater good of the city. Coss didn’t just voice support when the College of Santa Fe was in real jeopardy of closing, taking with it jobs, gifted teachers and a fair portion of the city’s college-age residents. He rallied with students at the Roundhouse and helped guide them through the political process.

And when state lawmakers failed to respond, Coss drove the city’s effort to broker the deal that kept CSF’s doors open.

The mayor isn’t just paying lip service to the green economy. When he’s not riding the bus, he’s an avid supporter of programs like YouthWorks and, unlike many, he sees and articulates the connection between gainful, meaningful work and the fight against youth crime.

When faced with irking factions of city police, he made his lack of tolerance for police brutality clear, even if it cost him some police support at the polls.

His public support for immigrant rights, for worker rights and for domestic violence solutions has never wavered.

And when you call him on the phone, you get a call back.

Again, make no mistake: The city has plenty of problems, and the mayor would do well to acknowledge those more readily, if not on the campaign trail, then at least after election day.

How about putting the city checkbook online and soliciting ideas from the public on how to move forward? Why not institute a hotline for anonymous concerns about city waste and corruption? Maybe hold a town hall with emergency responders that’s open to all to discuss the ongoing concerns about annexation. Create better mechanisms for dissatisfied city workers to have their gripes addressed.

Or if these aren’t the right ideas, make it easy for citizens to come up with their own suggestions for city government.

Let’s face it: It’s going to take time for the economy to improve, and it will likely never reset to where it once was. In the coming years, Santa Fe needs strong and steady leadership.

We wouldn’t mind seeing a slightly more aggressive version of David Coss in his second term—but in substance, he’s the right person for the job.

JULIA GOLDBERG AND HONEY HARRIS INTERVIEWS WITH MAYORAL CANDIDATES:

Miguel Chavez:

Asenath Kepler:

  

 David Coss:

DISTRICT 1
SFR Picks: Russell Simon

There was a funny moment during SFR’s endorsement interview with the three candidates in this year’s race for District 1 in which candidate Doug Nava suggested that if we took pieces of each candidate and combined them, we’d have a “mega councilman.”

Although Nava was joking…we think…there is some truth to what he says. Nava’s openness and enthusiasm, combined with incumbent Chris Calvert’s steady calm and Russell Simon’s ambitious ideas would indeed make for one mega city councilor.

But voters can only pick one of these three and, so, we must consider them individually.

Nava, a 34-year-old tax examiner for the state, brought to this race considerable passion. We appreciate his willingness to answer every question with candor, even when that means admitting he doesn’t know much about the topic at hand.

Unfortunately, Nava’s lack of knowledge about certain civic projects and problems is a bit too ubiquitous at this point. While no challengers will have the depth of knowledge possessed by an incumbent, it is important that they be as well-versed as possible. We hope Nava takes the enthusiasm that led him into this race and gets more involved with civic affairs. Doing so would help him expand his knowledge base of city government, and make him a stronger, more experienced candidate next time around.

This leaves Calvert and Simon, and deciding between the two was certainly the toughest choice of this particular election. We don’t see massive differences, in terms of politics or positions, between the two.

In fact, even they admit they are pretty close when it comes to shared progressive values. The difference is more one of style and temperament.

Calvert, during his first term, has shown he’s no cage-rattler. He has held true to his sustainability agenda and helped spread support for it. But we are not left with the sense that he has the drive to push forward ambitious programs over the next four years. We agree with him that patience can be an important quality for a city councilor but, given the challenges ahead, the council could do with a little less patience and a little more gumption.

Enter Simon. A former Journal Santa Fe reporter turned political operative, Simon, 28, brings a perspective too often lacking on the governing body, that of a young and educated Santa Fean who wants to make this city work for the next generation. Simon’s proposal to develop citywide entrepreneurial mentorships speaks to that demographic.

We were furthermore persuaded by Simon’s rallying cry that the council needs policymakers willing to stand up to the loud few in order to better serve the city as a whole. Former City Councilor Cris Moore, who at the time was a young councilor with little governing experience, brought that same sensibility when he served, and it’s been missed since.

Finally, it’s easy enough for city councilors to become more reactive to problems than proactive with new ideas. Just on the campaign trail, Simon’s proposals for at-large city councilors and for a community-owned energy utility had enough traction to become talking points in this election. We’d like to see more push from policymakers to set the agenda.

But with all that said, Simon’s endorsement was not a no-brainer. As noted by Calvert and others, on the campaign trail Simon has seemed, at times, arrogant. Simon even notes himself that having patience would be his greatest challenge if elected.

A little humility and patience can go a long way. We assume, if elected, Simon will learn both, quickly, if he intends to be an effective member of the governing body.



DISTRICT 2
SFR Pick: Rebecca Wurzburger

Incumbent City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger is clearly the best choice in this somewhat odd two-woman race for District 2.

Challenger Stefanie Beninato, a mediator, lawyer and tour guide, is no shrinking violet. She had points to make on the campaign trail, and alleges waste and corruption at City Hall.

We would agree, given the year New Mexico had with public corruption at the state level and given the general concern people have right now about government waste, city government should be as transparent as possible with its spending and have equally clear processes for dealing with allegations of misdeeds.

But, overall, we did not find Beninato made a compelling case for her abilities as a policymaker.

Wurzburger, on the other hand, has been an active participant in city government, and is one of the leading voices on the council for issues such as the purchase of CSF, affordable housing, long-range water planning and diversifying the city’s revenue stream past reliance on gross receipts taxes. She is, in the main, informed and engaged. Her efforts to expand the city’s international profile for its artists is admirable, although we think some of the costs of those efforts could be streamlined and the impacts broadened.

Wurzburger has taken heat on the campaign trail for a training contract she holds with the county, as well as for a creative tourism reception she held at her home. It’s important to remember that even when an elected official acts inside the law, just the perception of a conflict can be problematic when it comes to public trust. Wurzburger would do well to be more cognizant and receptive to such concerns.

District 3 City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez and District 4 City Councilor Ronald Trujillo face no competition on the ballot; therefore SFR did not conduct endorsement interviews in these races.

Polls will be open 7 am to 7 pm on Tuesday, March 2. For more information, call the City Clerk’s office at 505-955-6521

League of Women Voters website may be viewed HERE

The League of Women Voters guide to the 2010 Santa Fe municipal election is available HERE (786k .pdf)

And its district map is available HERE 
(2331k.pdf)

 MAYORAL ENDORSEMENT INTERVIEW:

CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 1 ENDORSEMENT INTERVIEW:

CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 ENDORSEMENT INTERVIEW: 

 

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