Santa Fe's governing body held its meeting of the year Wednesday night, where the City Council welcomed two newly elected members, approved four public hearings for the next meeting on Jan. 29, and heard from members of the public who oppose Los Alamos National Lab's development proposal for the Midtown property, among other business.
Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez, the new councilor for District 4, grilled city staff with detailed questions about various contracts. Districts 2's new councilor, Michael Garcia, stood out later in the evening when he called on the council to ensure public engagement, transparency and the prioritization of public interests in the sale of the property at the Railyard that once housed Santa Fe Clay.
Los Alamos National Lab is one of a reported seven "master developer" groups to submit formal expressions of interest for the Midtown campus. At least a dozen people spoke in then open "matters from the public" time on the agenda to address the idea, and to say, 'not in our town.' Later, councilors held a closed-door executives session on the Midtown project.
The city has not yet shared any clues to indicate which bids are at the top of the list, but has convened an evaluation committee made up of department directors and staff to score each proposal based on a set of established guidelines. According to the city website, the next step is for the committee to present its recommendations to the governing body.
Arguments from the public targeting the lab proposal included philosophical musings on the banality of evil, appeals to the city's Catholic background and concerns about social equity and the need for affordable housing.
Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, said LANL has not undergone such rapid expansion since the Cold War. He and others raised concerns for the long-term safety of Santa Fe residents and the environment.
Margaret Kuhlen's critique was grounded in the needs of lower to middle income Santa Feans. "We have an expressed need for workforce housing for Santa Fe nurses, doctors, policemen. To invite Los Alamos to do the development when their expressed need is to develop housing for 1,000 out-of-state nuclear developers," she said, would ignore the needs of the public.
William Bruce, on the other hand, made an appeal to a sense of religious moral duty. "The patron saint of this city is Francis de Assisi, a man dedicated to preservation of the natural world. It would be an immoral crime for us to have any relationship with a bomb making weapons industry here in our city…of Holy Faith" said Bruce, adding that Pope Francis is an advocate for an end to production of nuclear weapons.
If civic engagement is one of your New Year's resolutions, mark your calendars: The upcoming City Council meeting on January 29 will be busy. The council voted to publish notices for four public hearings on the following proposals:
- Amendments to the Santa Fe Traffic Operations Program, otherwise known as the STOP or the “speed van” program, that uses cameras and unmanned vehicles to enforce speed limits, especially around schools. The amendment would stop fines from increasing if you get more than one violation in two years.
- Sale of the Santa Fe Clay building in the Railyard. Councilors raised concerns at Wednesday night’s meeting because the deal was not subject to an open bidding process.
- A new ordinance to establish an Arts and Culture Department at the city.
- A new ordinance to bring city building codes up to date with state codes.