Late fall tends to be a quiet time of year for Santa Fe's governing body. After Wednesday's meeting, city councilors and the mayor are scheduled to convene just three more times—including on Halloween, then once each in November and December.
It appears rookie Mayor Alan Webber is determined to not go quietly into the rapidly darkening fall nights.
Webber introduced a trio of resolutions during the governing body's evening session that would more firmly set Santa Fe on a course to be the progressive, sustainable city the mayor envisions. The first would adopt a sustainability plan that demands carbon neutrality for city operations in barely more than two decades. If passed, the second and third would urge the next Legislature to adopt restrictions on gun ownership and to legalize recreational marijuana use.
All three measures are on track for action during the governing body's Nov. 14 meeting.
The sustainability plan has been a long time coming, set into motion during the term of previous Mayor Javier Gonzales, with roots that reach at least back into the term of former Mayor David Coss. The city created the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission in 2015 and ordered it to figure out how best to address climate change at a local level. Over the past three years, the commission created nearly a dozen working groups and sought advice from hundreds of community experts.
"At long last, our 25-year sustainability plan," said commission chair Beth Beloff, quickly adding: "Now, our 22-year sustainability plan."
Beloff, a consultant and city staff spent 50 minutes Wednesday detailing the commission's lengthy report and its 91 strategies, which lay out a path forward for the city. While complicated, the 188-page plan prioritizes some familiar issues, such as city efforts to incentivize sustainable development, updating the land use plan and increasing both affordable housing and housing for those who work in Santa Fe, but can't live here. It also targets expanding energy efficiency programs.
Beloff stressed community involvement in the plan's development as well as its roll-out.
"I think we're all clear that without stakeholder buy-in, we really can't succeed with this sustainability effort," she told the governing body.
"The city has not been waiting for this document to be delivered before moving into action," Webber said, more for posterity than to inform the City Council. "It predates me and really is a testimony to people who have sat in these chairs before us."
"This is a place that was always aware of sustainability. We didn't always call it that, but the people who lived here for hundreds of years, for millennia before us, knew that you have to be working with nature, not against nature," Webber said.
The mayor also introduced two measures that are largely symbolic, and have become the sort of grand pronouncement for which the City Council has become known. The city isn't allowed to set its own gun control laws, nor can it legalize recreational cannabis. However, the mayor sees both issues as likely to come up during the next legislative session in January.
Webber's position on gun ownership closely adheres to views advanced by Democratic candidate for governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. His resolution would voice the city's desire to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic violence offenders, ban bump stocks and strengthen background checks.
"We have seen what happened in Santa Fe, Texas," the mayor said, referring to the May 2018 high school shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 injured. "It struck too close to home for us to take it for granted. … [These] are reasonable steps toward gun safety. They're not polarizing. They're not intended to provoke. They're intended to solve problems."
Webber, a Democrat, also said recreational marijuana legalization has already become a national conversation that could become more realistic in New Mexico if Lujan Grisham were to beat Republican Steve Pearce in next month's gubernatorial election.
On a more local scale, District 1 City Councilor Signe Lindell introduced a proposal to rename Torreon Park after the late Mike Jaramillo, the husband of former Mayor Debbie Jaramillo.
During SFR's interview with the former mayor this summer, she referenced Mike as the driving force behind her involvement in politics. She said the pair's first foray into city policy was preventing the development of the land and organizing a clean-up effort in the neighborhood. Her home is nearby.
"We'd tell our grandkids, 'This is your park,'" Jaramillo recalled to SFR in August. "Of course, they took it a little too far and they'd see other kids there and tell them, 'This is our park!' and we'd [have to explain], 'No, no, no, that's a little much.' … But back then we did everything we did for future generations."
Lindell told SFR Wednesday that she and Jaramillo had breakfast recently and the park came up.
"It's a deserved honor. Mike and Debbie did a lot of work on that lot. … That was city property [and] going to be developed into condos," she says. "And you know, particularly in these times, reflecting on Debbie being the first female mayor and what that meant to their family—it's to be acknowledged and honored."
While Lindell was complimentary of the former mayor, city law bans naming city parks after anyone who is still alive.
In a notable move, every other member of the governing body signed on to co-sponsor the resolution. The body is expected to act on the designation at its first meeting of the new year.