The mayor also introduced a few new proposals, including a 5 percent, across-the-board raise for the city’s 1,500 employees, an idea met with applause. “When the workforce is struggling we should invest in them, not ask them, after years of cuts, to tighten their belts once again,” the mayor said.
He announced an initiative focused on equipping locals with “the 21st-century skills that help us compete and grow in the global economy.” Innovate Educate, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurs, pledged $100,000 to help launch the project, called Santa Fe Advance, but Gonzales did not say whether any city funds would go to the program.
Of all his policy ideas, Gonzales devoted the most time to defending a proposed tax on sugary beverages to improve early childhood services. The mayor stressed that most of a child’s brain development happens before they turn 5.
“I’m tired of watching our kids fall short of their potential. I’m tired of watching generations of Santa Fe’s young people caught in the criminal justice system,” he said.
Gonzales invoked the names of two parents, Leah Chavez and Joanne Kind, who don’t make enough income to afford the high quality pre-kindergarten services. Driving home the point, he chose Danila Crespin Zidovsky, an early childcare advocate, to introduce his speech.
Gonzales’ plan would raise tax on certain sugar-sweetened beverages by 2 cents per fluid ounce, the revenue of which would be used to fund grants to meet a $7 million gap in pre-kindergarten programs. The Chamber of Commerce and local beverage distributors oppose the plan.
The mayor also lambasted President Donald Trump's "un-American" executive order
to pull federal funding from so-called "sanctuary cities," a term for jurisdictions
that don't commit resources to helping deportation authorities. Santa Fe implemented
sanctuary policies in 1999.
"I've been asked if I'm really willing to risk all those federal dollars just to take on a fight over one simple policy," the mayor said. "My response is simple. Every time we're faced with a choice between standing up for our values or caving in to a bully, we will stand strong."
Notably absent from Gonzales' defense of the city's immigration policies was the word "sanctuary," a term that Gonzales used freely when he defended such policies on the national media circuit late last year. In order to put Santa Fe on better legal footing, city councilors recently pulled the word "sanctuary" from a resolution that aims to reaffirm and strengthen local immigration policies.
In closing, the mayor preached to the choir, holding up Santa Fe as a bastion of inclusivity and progressiveness as the Trump presidency hurls the nation towards a dark future.
"It's hard not to feel anxious these days. Or angry. Or even afraid. I get that. I feel it too," Gonzales said. "But standing here, looking out at all of you, it's impossible not to feel something else too: inspired."
Santa Fe Reporter