“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced." — James Baldwin
Happy Labor Day, everyone! Let’s go to work.
Did you read the report of the task force addressing childhood hunger in Santa Fe? The authors recommended a significant increase in our living wage. When Santa Fe first embraced a living wage, we were ahead of the whole nation. Now it’s time to take another look at our living wage. We need to find ways to maintain the diversity of our workforce and our residents, the diversity that’s essential to our character. On Labor Day, in particular, we need to rededicate ourselves to the health and well-being of our middle class, which was first created decades ago by organized labor. (And while we’re at it, let’s say “thank you” to organized labor for the invention of the weekend.)
Did you read the CHART report? There are 52 recommendations for ways we can come together as a community and embrace our historical and cultural diversity. There are some that are plain common sense, where we can all agree. There are some that are more difficult and at least one important one about the Plaza that we’ll have to face together. But it’s work that no other community has attempted, work that some inevitably will denigrate and dismiss, and ultimately work that we can only do together. Let’s not shy away from it, just because it’s hard. Let’s do it because it is hard.
Have you been following the news reports of how our kids are doing in school after two difficult years of disruption caused by COVID? We need to pitch in and help our young students. They need to stay in school, and they need to attend school, and the City can play a constructive role in forging a tighter bond between economic security and educational opportunity. That’s what the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) is all about—and we need to expand it.
Did you attend the community meeting on homelessness at the Convention Center? Almost 200 Santa Fe residents came together to talk about ways we can end chronic and veteran homelessness in our city, and how we can keep our neighborhoods and businesses safe and secure from the impacts of those experiencing homelessness. We have a broad-based program that embraces better enforcement of our ordinance that prohibits camping in public spaces while, at the same time, devoting the City, County and State resources we need to open up more beds and wrap-around services for those in our community who are homeless. If we are to end chronic and veteran homelessness, there’s more to be done.
Are you tracking the debate on affordable housing? In the last three years alone, we’ve dedicated more than $9 million to our Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We’ve issued permits for almost 2,500 new housing units, reducing our long-standing deficit in housing, and directly creating housing that will enable our kids and grandkids to stay in Santa Fe. But if we want everyone who works in Santa Fe to be able to live in Santa Fe, we have more to do.
Did you read the newspaper story of one night in Santa Fe with our police? In this year’s budget, I included a 16% pay increase for our police. I allocated money for a $15,000 sign-on bonus. We budgeted for new police cars and the City Manager authorized a policy that lets us recruit and retain officers from a little farther away. I budgeted $750,000 for down-payment assistance for first responders, and we managed to keep it only for first responders because those are the people we rely on for our health and safety, and we want them to live in Santa Fe. In the last few weeks, we’ve had three officers who left Santa Fe come back home, we’ve sworn in four new lateral hires, we have three cadets in the Academy, and we’re soon going to swear in another seven lateral hires. We’ve added another Alternate Response Unit and we have three Park Rangers dedicated only to our parks. We’re making progress, but here again, we have more to do, including a renewed emphasis on mental and behavioral health to support law enforcement.
Are you following the progress at the Midtown site? This fall, we’ll be looking at a zone change and a master plan for Midtown, and then we’ll begin to consider offers for the whole site or specific parts of it. The plan calls for affordable housing, for mixed-use development, for the Garson Studios and Garson Theatre to be upgraded, added to, and improved. The plan calls for public spaces and public uses, for sustainable infrastructure and for protection for surrounding neighborhoods. After it’s approved, we’ll need to go to work implementing this sweeping vision that has come from the community.
Finally, at the end of Zozobra, after Old Man Gloom had been completely and thoroughly burned, did you see the New Mexico State Flag that was being carried up the steps at the end of the celebration? Did you see who was carrying it, the two figures who were waving it together? It was this year’s Don Diego and a Native American, holding the flag in unison, waving it with mutual respect.
We have a lot of work to do. We have elections coming up very soon and we all know that elections have consequences. The outcomes will either make it easier or harder for us to come together and face our common challenges and capitalize on our common opportunities. These are unprecedented times, and we have consequential choices to make. There are no easy answers, but there will always be some who offer bumper-sticker slogans. If we’re going to stick together, we can’t fall for that kind of lazy politics. Our work is hard and it’s worth it.
Happy Labor Day, everyone. Let’s go to work.