Round cocktail tables covered in room-temperature hors d’œuvres surround the longtime owner of 101 Coffee, which sits down the road from the library. The city has used tax dollars to pay for the catered snacks; Meng is unimpressed, calling Webber’s 30-minute speech a “vague overview.”
"As being one of the few business owners over here, that's what I hear from my regulars all the time: 'Why isn't there a grocery store?' Why isn't there more retail?'" Meng says, adding that the mayor did not address some of the most pressing issues facing the community. "I know they're going to build more housing, but it just feels like there's not many resources. … There's a lot of people out here, there's a lot of people moving to the area."
In the back of the room, SFR finds something of a counterweight.
Alfredo Carmona, a young Southside Santa Fe local, speaks animatedly with a colleague. Caroma teaches drums and acoustic guitar for Santa Fe Public Schools. He's also learning to sing.
Webber's event marks one of Carmona's first attempts at immersion in local politics.
"I felt there was a good sense he's putting us first and that's comforting," he tells SFR. "This is my turf, right? … I'm refreshed. I feel like I'm informed. Growing up, I didn't get a sense for what the city was doing. My family, being first-generation immigrants, they didn't teach me to see the city like that. It's only now that I'm trying to be responsible."
Webber eschewed the "pomp and circumstance" of his predecessors for this address, choosing the modest 90-seat setting of the library over the much larger convention center to tell people how he feels the city is progressing under his leadership.
The first-term mayor, who took office in the spring of 2018, strained his city's "different" moniker, likening it to a mythical beast, and played a saccharine video showing happy, employed Santa Feans, crescendoing music and sweeping drone views of the mountains. He also answered a few questions from residents that had been submitted beforehand.
"We are the unicorn," Webber says to a packed room, while sprinkling in anecdotes about what the city has accomplished since he took the city's reins.
Responding to questions he pulled from a box, Webber says police response times, comparatively slow in some parts of town, would improve now that police salaries and manpower numbers would be increasing. There will be a "back to school blitz" by the police department to crack down on speeding. He uses the example of a partnership with Somos Un Pueblo Unido and other immigrant rights groups that culminated in 105 documented immigrants being on the path to citizenship.
A housing question eventually fell to Webber. He says there's a "misconception" that affordable housing is all concentrated in one area and that, in fact, "it's pretty well spread-out."
Regardless of Webber's plans for the rest of his time in office, Carmona hopes to step up and get other young people involved in local politics. He started his journey into community engagement when he saw Webber's Facebook Live video announcing the meeting, although the city did not formally announce the event via news release until five hours before the mayor began speaking.
"I didn't grow up feeling like there was a lot of activity on the Southside or a presence here," Carmona says. "I want to help other young adults. I want to get them out here. I want to get them involved. The south and north, they're different mindsets. Different families. One of the things that's needed is for [the city] to come to us. And this is a great step in that direction."
Meng, the coffee shop owner, thinks the city should focus more on residents who are already living on the Southside and in dire need of places to shop, eat and gather.
The Southside library "is great, and then everyone points to Walmart as, like, that should be our one outlet," she says. "I feel like there's a lot of people out here who are moving to the area and I know I've had that response from my regulars: 'Where can we meet and gather and why isn't there this, that and the other?' The [Tuesday del Sur] Farmers Market leaving to Presbyterian was kind of a bummer because I felt like that was really a neighborhood thing. I'm not sure how much those decisions involved actual residents."