Hank Hughes, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, announced Wednesday that he has entered the race for the Santa Fe County Commission District 5 in the Democratic p rimary election. The current commissioner for the district, Ed Moreno, has not signaled he does not intend to run again.
So far, just one other candidate, Floyd Trujillo, has announced a bid for the seat. Trujillo tells SFR he still lives in the same Santa Fe County neighborhood where he born and raised, and is a graduate of Capital High School. He is the director of Information Technology for the New Mexico Finance Authority and has served on the Turquoise Trail Charter School Governance Council for 18 years.
Hughes has lived in Eldorado for 31 years. Before co-founding the Coalition to End Homelessness in 2000, he worked as the executive director of St. Elizabeth's Shelter. The life-long advocate has also served as a member of the Immigration Task Force for the United Church of Santa Fe, where he is a member, and as the president of the Santa Fe Search and Rescue.
SFR spent some time on the phone with both candidates to find out more about what they would bring to the commission.
SFR: What made you decide to run for county commission?
HH: I've always been interested in that spot, and when Ed Moreno told me he was not going to run for reelection, I decided to run. I just think that with the federal government in disarray, it's really important that we have good leaders at the local level to try to hold everything together.
Are there any issues specific to District 5 that you want to focus on?
I think people in the district are concerned about the mining proposal in the Pecos that might affect not only the water supply in the Pecos but the water supply for Santa Fe County coming from that direction. I think people are concerned about development that is not in keeping in character with the county like the Dollar Store. And people are of course always concerned about the condition of roads.
What initiatives has the county pursued in the last few years that you feel really excited about, and also some things you think they should pursue more or that you would steer the county toward if you were in that position?
The county is working on making its operations sustainable with renewable energy and other things, so I think they are on the right track and I would like to push that further to get the county government to have a zero carbon footprint as soon as possible. I would promote putting as much solar energy into the grid as we can by helping people put panels on their homes and businesses. If we get community solar passed at the Legislature this year, then that would open up other opportunities for solar energy projects in Santa Fe County.
Is there anything else at the state legislative level that you are following particularly closely this session?
We are following funding for programs that support homeless people. [The Coalition to End Homelessness] really thinks the state needs to increase its support for housing programs for its most vulnerable citizens, and there are proposals in the governor's budget to do that.
Recently the coalition put out a statement that ending homelessness in New Mexico is possible, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
We did an analysis of how many people were homeless each year who weren't helped by the current system, and then we figured out how much it would cost to house all those people and came up with a figure of $61 million a year… That would mainly go into short-term rental assistance for people who just need a little bit of help to get out of homelessness, and the rest would go to permanent supportive housing vouchers for people with disabilities who can't be expected to work their way out of homelessness.
What will you bring to county governance from your experience over the last 20 years?
I think my experience of running a nonprofit organization has taught me a lot of skills with finance and administration. Working with a lot of communities around New Mexico developing affordable housing issues is something else I would bring to the commission… The county has resources and land and it could be doing quite a bit more on the affordable housing arena.
SFR: What do you think makes you a great candidate?
FT: I think that having lived my entire life in the same neighborhood and same community is something that really grounds me in the community and gives me a firm vested interest here. I know my neighbors, I know the city and the county and I really feel passionate about the area… Having spent 18 years in governance of the charter school I've gotten to know pretty much every aspect of governance from policy making, to legislative work, to having a constituent base that I represent at the school level.
You've said you want to push for more educational opportunities in the county, how do you propose to do that as a commissioner?
It doesn't seem to me historically that the county has done a lot of work around education, it seems like that work has been left to the school district and in some cases the city. What I'm hoping to do is find out what the county can do to help with education… I think there's a lot of potential for the city and the county to collaborate to improve educational outcomes.
What would you want to focus on for your district?
I can tell you that I strongly believe that infrastructure projects are something that the county has a lot of opportunities to continue to improve… I want to look at what the long term planning is for the county and the district.
You've talked about wanting to make sure the county has "it's own Green New Deal." What would that look like?
The number one thing is looking at the county's use of renewable energy and…looking at how we can get off of fossil fuels. I'm also very interested in the social justice piece of the Green New Deal umbrella. It's not enough for us to improve lives and well-being for certain segments of the county, we need to see how we can improve for all constituents in the county and explore how we can do that sustainably.
What do you think the county needs to do to make sure everyone is included?
I think we need to make sure that we are providing every opportunity for our children to be successful. From several aspects, community, economic, everything, we need to see what we can do to improve opportunities for our young adults so they can continue to remain in the community. That's really important because we're seeing so many of our young adults leave the community and in some cases even the state…. I'm also concerned about the affordable housing aspect. Having lived here my whole life, I've seen that its gotten more and more difficult for people to afford to live in the county. I think affordable housing is another place where we can work with the city and the state to achieve those goals in a way that promotes sustainability.
Where is Santa Commission District 5?