Simon Says

Simon Brackley has a plan for helping Santa Fe step up its game

The person: Simon Brackley knows Santa Fe. A resident for almost 30 years, he has worked in the Chamber of Commerce for 13 years, the last six as its President and CEO. The chamber seeks to give voice to its 1,200 member businesses, and Brackley is the embodiment of that voice. In addition to his regular responsibilities, Brackley is a cornerstone of the chamber’s weekly radio show, “Business Matters,” on KTRC 1260 AM. The show hosts local chamber member businesses to discuss local business ideas.

The plan: Brackley offers two ideas on how to pump life back into Santa Fe’s stagnant economy: simplifying the land use code and investing more money in marketing.

How it works:

First, simplify the land use code.

"The current land use code is complex, hundreds of pages long, sometimes contradictory and very difficult to understand," Brackley tells SFR. "It's hard for a businessperson to navigate through hundreds of pages of regulation."

Brackley wants to simplify the entire document. Working with city staff, he would create a code that would encourage people and businesses to build and expand, not shrink away from an overwhelming bureaucratic affair. Brackley cites Rio Rancho as an example: Despite having more than twice the land area as Santa Fe, as well as a larger population, Rio Rancho has managed to craft a planning and zoning document that's a mere 90 pages long. The length of Santa Fe's Land Development Code? A whopping 330 pages, not counting the 57-page glossary.

“Someone can get a permit approved very quickly in Rio Rancho,” Brackley says.

Second, invest a larger percentage of revenue from the city’s lodger’s tax into marketing and advertising.

The lodger's tax is a 7 percent tax levied on "gross taxable rent for lodging within the city of Santa Fe paid to vendors"—essentially, an additional tax on one's hotel bill. Brackley says the tax "generates millions of dollars, but currently only a few hundred thousand goes directly to market Santa Fe."

Right now, 3 percent of the tax goes to the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau; another 1 percent is used to support nonprofit art activities; and only 2 percent is specifically allocated for marketing and advertising. (The rest of the revenue is used for tasks such as collecting and administering the tax; audits; the operation and establishment of tourist-related facilities; and principal or interest of revenue bonds.) Brackley wants to persuade city staff to rewrite the code and have "as much as possible" of the tax revenue leveled directly at marketing and advertising Santa Fe—specifically, at attracting a younger visitor base.

“Young people enjoy activities, experiential things. I think it’s important to target our next generation and let them know what there is to do here,” Brackley explains.

Bottom line: Brackley is passionate about Santa Fe and its potential. He says the city “has a huge array of things to do. Go river rafting, hiking, biking, art events, and listen to music. There’s a lot of variety.” Without advertising, however, people aren’t going to show up. And without a friendly land use code, people aren’t going to stay and build.

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