Ahead of Election, Mayoral Candidates Lay Out Plans For Policing and Environment
Next week, Santa Fe Residents will be heading to the polls to cast their ballots for Mayor.
The big-ticket issues on a lot of people’s minds? Policing and climate change.
Reporter Taylor Velazquez sat down with incumbent Alan Webber and Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson for their insights and plans if elected to the seat.
*Candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler did not respond to multiple interview requests from KSFR.
Major cities all over the country had protests last summer when it comes to police brutality and Santa Fe was no different. As conversation about police reform continued, KSFR asked Alan Webber how he has balanced the needs of the Santa Fe Police Department and calls for reform and what his plans would be if re-elected.
"When I became mayor couple of the first things I did, one was to open up the contract with the police department, so we could provide retention bonuses. Secondly, a 27% on average across the board pay increase for our police officers. We also Implemented a $15,000 lateral incentive to bring in experienced officers from other departments. And invested in equipment and training."
"And we have stood up the Alternative Response Unit, which consists of an officer and emergency response person and a social worker. So, we’re responding to social issues with a social team and crime and criminal justice issues with our police officers," Webber said.
Alexis Martinez Johnson has criticized Webber’s handling of the police department and the handling of the Obelisk as it was torn down by protestors, because of this she believes there’s a strong division in the city.
"We’ve seen such a politicalization of the police department, that it has really interfered with the promoting the safety of the community. And what we saw last year was very unsafe, it was very extreme" said Martinez Johnson.
And if elected, what would your first steps be in combating crime?
"I think that we need to have more funding for our police officers. We saw in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that police officers, that their increase was only a little bit above inflation as far as for their department. And we really need to make sure that we turn around this extreme crime that’s occurring in Santa Fe. We’ve had a bank robbery, we’ve had carjackings, and this is pretty violent.
So, I would advocate for more money to be allotted to the current department that we can use non-lethal methods for any criminal apprehension first, so that these officers can be trained and that they can have mental health aassistance after these very traumatic situations," said Martinez Johnson.
And are there any obstacles that you’re anticipating?
"We have already allocated money in other areas and not to our police department. So, I would look for areas where we can make some budget cuts in order to make sure that we are safe. And also, I liked to have a well balanced transition team. And so I look to bring that into play here in Santa Fe to really unify our city as we have gone through cultural upheaval, especially last year."
Webber said that the biggest need for Santa Fe is having more officers on the ground.
"So, we want to recruit and retain and develop more officers. We’re working with our high schools to see if anyone wants to get on a career track to become a police officer. And we continue to recruit and offer incentives for people to come in from other departments."
"As we get more people into the department, we’ll be able to do more community policing. And that model is what we need to continue to move forward on where people know and trust officers, their officers are part of the community, they feel comfortable out of their cars. That is what community policing looks like. That’s what I will do in my second term."
Now, climate change is something that the state is starting to see effects of everyday as we see hotter temperatures and drier conditions. Martinez Johnson has a background in environmental engineering, but how would that impact her decisions when it comes to mitigating climate change?
"You know, we have to be really sincere, authentic environmental stewards. But we also have to have the know how and make sure the altruism that we do have is coming out into play in Santa Fe, that we can afford to make these changes and that we can have water going forward with all the development that we have in Santa Fe."
"I’d request a water audit immediately and I would want to know and secure our water resources going forward. So, I’m very much concerned that would be a number one priority moving forward in my administration to make sure that we are environmental stewards but also that we’re utilizing common sense and that we don’t jeopardize our future.Taking in account that we do need affordable housing but we also need to make sure that we take care of our very precious water," Martinez Johnson said.
In 2019, Mayor Webber ushered in Santa Fe’s version of the Green New Deal. But what came of this? And how is it helping Santa Feans in the long run?
"Going green is good for everybody. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for our future, it makes our city more liveable and more sustainable. So, The Santa Fe Green New Deal pulls all those pieces together. It’s water conservation and sustainable water practices as we diversify our water portfolio for the future. It’s also energy and renewable energy as a pillar of our future. We are in the process of putting solar panels on every city owned building. And thanks to the arrangement to change out our street lights, we will have much more sustainability as when we move to completely changing those street lights. It will be the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the streets of Santa Fe.
We’re anticipating by 2040, we will have 100% carbon neutrality in Santa Fe," Webber said.
A major issue of contention is the oil and gas industry. How do we reduce emissions if our state is so heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry?
"Well the oil and gas industry is one that is extremely important, particularly to New Mexico and it can go up to even 40% of our state budget is supplied by oil and gas. Now, we need to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to make sure that we have adequate public transportation in Santa Fe and that would reduce some of the emissions that we have. We need to make sure that affordable housing is placed and put near areas where there's transit."
"I’d also like to make sure that we support initiatives where we are wisely using our oil and gas," Martinez Johnson said.
One area of concern that next year in 2022, the summer, we don’t want to experience any type of brown out. Because we are pushing too hard and too fast in regard to some of the sustainable measures. So, we have to take a balanced approach," Martinez Johnson said.
While Webber is quite confident and optimistic that New Mexico already has the natural resources to ween off natural gas.
"I think Santa Fe is on the way to becoming the most sustainable city in America. That’s our goal. Whether it’s talking about solar, wind energy. We really have the capacity because of the gifts from nature to sustain ourselves and get off from oil and gas. In the meantime, we gotta capture those dangerous emissions and make sure they don’t become the hot spots that you can see from outer space
We can capture those emissions and turn them back into usable energy and not have them go into the atmosphere. So, I’m very optimistic that New Mexico and Santa Fe are on the right path when it comes to a sustainable future," said Webber.
The candidates will face off in the general election held on November 2nd. Candidate JoAnne Vigil Coppler did not respond to multiple interview requests from KSFR.
You can still participate in early voting, which has been extended until October 30th.