Sent this to the New Mexican, for what its worth:
Being about to relocate to Santa Fe from Los Alamos this spring, here is
my letter to the folks running for Mayor and Council in the City
The Mayor and Councilors must run an efficient city government and
ensure Santa Fe is an attractive and affordable place to build a
business, visit, or settle down to live.
Keep the people's trust. There is renewed interest in the recent reallocation of
funds from a city bond issue, diverting money from its intended purpose
as capital towards park and recreation improvements to money used to
float city operating expenses. Exigent circumstances aside, the public
typically takes a dim view of a city administration that plays fast and
loose with trust regarding dedicated public funds. Aside from the
question of whether people should be held accountable, future bond
elections are at risk if voters think city government cannot be trusted
with our money when we vote to earmark IOUs for a specific purpose.
One candidate's supporter recently complained (in a New Mexican
commentary) that a second candidate would build bike paths rather than
fill potholes. My eyes rolled. A mayor with the proper vision for Santa
Fe will both maintain current infrastructure and make sure Santa Fe is a
city true to its vision of being multimodal, affordable for a diverse
population, and both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure is paramount to that
vision and indeed are transportation, wellness, and economic resources.
Further, individuals must spend a lot of money if they have to buy and
maintain a car as the only way to do business in Santa Fe when a
bicycle, shoe leather, or bus, with proper connectivity, would do just
Don't champion divisive issues which are not necessary to run the city.
The sugary drink tax, which ended up pitting north against south Santa
Fe, is a good example. While the idea of supporting preschool education
was noble and in New Mexico quite necessary, this proposal looked like
the upscale progressives in the 1st and 2nd Districts were lecturing
residents on how we should live. That was a dreadful mistake. We need to gauge and build public
consensus on big issues rather than beat people over the head with
Finally, true economic and environmental sustainability involves more
than filling recycling bins, charging for shopping bags, or using hybrid
cars. Sustainability favors urban compactness, as more people per
developed acre lowers the individuals costs of maintaining, and the
inevitable upgrading, of public infrastructure (sewers, water, power,
etc) as new developments age and need to be maintained. That is
something often brushed aside with starry eyed proposals such as
Santolina in Albuquerque. Sprawl can eventually bankrupt a community. We
need to infill rather than spread out. That includes housing for all of
us rather than those who already have theirs. We need to attend to the
science of development.
Lets get it right in Santa Fe. Lets sweat the details now rather than later.
Bio: Khal Spencer is a geoscientist and was a member of the Los Alamos
County Transportation Board from 2003-2017. He contributed to bike plans
and complete streets ordinances in Honolulu and Los Alamos, was a
scientific advisor to the Ala Wai Canal Watershed, Water Quality
Improvement Project in Honolulu, and a consultant to the Univ. of Hawaii
Environmental Center while a faculty member in the Geology Dept of the
Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa.