The mood got tense toward the end of Monday night's mayoral debate at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design as both candidates lobbed unveiled jabs at each other.
When given the chance to ask her opponent a question, city Councilor and mayoral contender Patti Bushee criticized Javier Gonzales for supporting a "corporate tax cut" and asked him how many "green jobs" he created in his two terms on the Santa Fe County Commission and in his private work at Rosemont Realty.
Bushee was referring to a tax bill supported and passed by Democratic leadership during the last state legislative session that lowered the state's corporate tax rate by cutting funding to the cities.
"[Eighty] million [dollars] over 14 years is just devastating to Santa Fe," Bushee said of the projected funding loss.
Gonzales, who wrote an op-ed in favor of the tax deal after it went through, characterized the criticism as unfair, stating that the deal had the support from prominent liberal Santa Fe legislators like state Sen. Peter Wirth and state Rep. Brian Egolf.
"I wasn't anymore a part of that vote than you were a part of that vote," Gonzales retorted.
He stressed the need of having a mayor who can work collaboratively with diverse constituencies and interests.
"If we have an individual in the mayor's office whose focus is 'Me, Me, Me,' that's not going to help the community," Gonzales said.
Both candidates gave lukewarm responses to the idea of a citywide electric cooperative. Bushee said she would consider the idea and possibly put it to the voters.
"The biggest disadvantage is that we would likely be sued by [utility company] PNM, which would be costly," she said.
Gonzales said he favors the city setting its own low emission standards and lobbying the Public Regulation Commission to enforce higher renewable energy standards on PNM before municipalizing the grid.
"We need to set a course for being a leader in the green economy," he said.
On the issue of whether marijuana should be legalized, Bushee said she strongly favors decriminalization but is weary of "unintended consequences," citing current problems like drunk driving. Gonzales, on the other hand, gave a simple "yes."
The forum, sponsored by SFR and ProgressNow New Mexico, was the second mayoral debate in two weeks. A third candidate for the office, city Councilor Bill Dimas, did not attend. The city election will be held on March 4.