Santa Fe’s City Council might finally be ready to move forward with plans to start community dialogue about the city’s complicated history—and the cultural grievances that boiled over in October when protesters tore down the obelisk at the center of the Plaza.
Councilors have proposed a new resolution to convene community listening sessions and a committee to provide recommendations regarding public art and future policies.
The new resolution is set for a vote at Wednesday's council meeting after first making its way through two committees on Monday and Tuesday evenings.
Councilors spent months following the destruction of the obelisk debating a similar resolution that would have created a Cultures, Histories, Art, Reconciliation and Truth committee. That resolution called for the mayor and councilors to appoint 21 members to a committee that would then be responsible for organizing community dialogue and reviewing the city's public monuments.
Even though all councilors unanimously agreed on the need for and purpose of the CHART committee, they could not line up on how committee members should be chosen and who would get a seat at the table. The resolution stalled in city meetings where elected officials spent hours arguing over the details. The measure bounced on and off the council agenda, perpetually postponing a final vote.
In contrast, the new resolution calls on the city to organize community conversations and surveys before selecting a committee, which has been renamed the "Community Solutions Table." Seats will be reserved for community representatives and individuals who've participated in all three listening sessions.
"I'm excited about it because I think it allows the community to be heard, not just particular groups," said Councilor Chris Rivera at a news conference Monday. "It allows all individuals [to have a say], whether you are part of a large group or just a member of this society."
Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth said the new structure is based on Albuquerque officials' approach after a demonstrator was shot by a counter-protester in June following a confrontation over activists' attempt to tear down a statue of Juan de Oñate, the brutal colonizer.
In Santa Fe, the city's Community Engagement and Arts and Culture departments will lead the reconciliation effort. The city also plans to hire professional facilitators with cultural competency training and professional historians to help navigate some of the more challenging conversations about painful personal experiences and conflicting interpretations of truth and historical fact.
"There may be difficult conversations around race and culture, but I think they are necessary starting points in how we begin to heal," Romero-Wirth said Monday.
The new resolution also offers councilors the opportunity to "participate in diversity and inclusion training," the resolution states.
Residents have a chance this week to comment on the resolution at three city meetings: the Public Works and Utilities Committee meeting at 5 pm Monday, the Finance Committee meeting at 5 pm Tuesday, and the City Council meeting that starts at 4 pm Wednesday (at present, the item is on the 6 pm agenda). Agendas for all city meetings can be found on the city website, and all public meetings are broadcast live on the city's YouTube channel.