The two men running for county commissioner in District 3 have deep roots in Santa Fe. They'll not only represent the 50,000 people who live in Edgewood, Stanley, Galisteo, Cerrillos, Madrid and La Cienega, but will have a hand in broader county issues, including the $22 million corrections operating budget that includes the adult jail and juvenile detention facility.
Had it not been for Mike Anaya choosing to run as an independent in the general election, this race could have already been over after the June primary, when Rudy Garcia beat out three other men to secure the Democratic nomination. Anaya sat on the five-member commission from 2003 to 2010 as a Democrat, and his brother Robert currently holds the seat as a Democrat.
Anaya, 54, frames his choice to run as an independent not as a shrewd political calculation, but a noble act of public service in our polarized times.
"I know there's a lot of finger-pointing and bickering among Democrats and Republicans, and in a way I get tired of hearing it and seeing it," Anaya says. Enough people were receptive to his independent candidacy that he successfully gathered 220 nominating signatures in order to be on the ballot.
Born, raised, and still living in Galisteo, Anaya says his parents taught him and his brother the significance of community involvement. His father, Joe Anaya, installed the village's first water system and was president of the community's water association for over 20 years. Campaign finance records indicate that Anaya has spent a little over $650 on signage for his candidacy, and that he paid for them himself.
During Anaya's time as a commissioner, he served on the board that oversaw the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, which treats water from the Rio Grande River and wholesales it to the county and city. The water that fell in the form of a damaging thunderstorm month ago is on his mind: The debris and abandoned cars still strewn around La Cienega are a reminder, he says, that the county needs to consider the reality of climate change going forward.
"A lot of those houses were built in the flood plain," Anaya says. "I don't how they got approved, but they're in a 100-year flood plain and that's not good." He goes on to say that "the county is going do everything they can to try to help those people," but doesn't expand on why he believes this.
Rudy Garcia, who is 47 and lives in La Cienega, is palpably more pissed off that parts of the village remain a mess long after the storm's passage. He blames inefficiencies at the county, which he says he became familiar with during his 25 years working there (most recently as the legislative liaison project manager.) In general, he thinks things get done too slowly at the county.
Garcia's pitch boils down to "making government friendlier." He adds, "Why should it take four weeks to get a simple shed permit or garage permit? I want to make it more efficient to help the general public."
One idea Garcia has is to more aggressively utilize oblique imagery, or aerial imagery captured at an angle of 40 to 45 degrees, across the huge expanse of District 3 to identify dilapidated roads radiating out from Highways 41 and 14. Garcia says the county already has this technology.
Like Anaya, Garcia traces his lineage deep in the region's history—his grandparents still live in the same home off Airport Road they've occupied his entire life. Before his triumph in the primary, Garcia had raised $2,700, including a grand each from the Realtors Association of New Mexico and Sommer Karnes & Associates LLP, a law firm specializing in real estate law. He has taken in $800 since the primary from other private contributors.
Garcia sees splits in land jurisdiction among the county and city as a place where the public bodies could coordinate more effectively.
"One of the things I would like to see happen is a lot more dialogue between the city, county, and governments, and see how we can all work together for planning and zoning in certain areas," he says. "The county commission district, [Santa Fe Public Schools], the city … let's come together, all three, and figure out how we could actually collaborate a lot more."
As a board member at SFPS, Garcia has special insight into some of the rapid growth happening north of La Cienega, particularly in the Las Soleras neighborhood where growing youth populations have helped swell enrollment at Southside schools.
The winner of November's race will also have a say in broader issues on the county budget. Garcia says the county's juvenile jail on Airport Road needs a "serious look" in light of its consistently high cost and low population of incarcerated youth, and he thinks it's time for the adult jail to have a "time out" due in part to a lack of adequate medical staff and overdose deaths in recent years.
For his part, Anaya admits he "hasn't given much thought" to the juvenile detention facility on Airport Road, and back in 2003 he was a booster of the adult jail retaining state inmates even after the US Department of Justice discovered serious neglect in how jail staff handled inmates' health. But now, Anaya says he's he's open to looking at both facilities with fresh eyes.
"Every time you incarcerate someone, it's dramatically expensive, it's a lot of money," Anaya says. "That would be something I can ask, if I'm elected, to review all of the options we have."