Monday, January 29, 2018

Governance in the City Different

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 Different.

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 fine.

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 "Great Ideas."

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.

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