Thank you, Rad Acton for City Council District 2
1. What are the most important strategies that you have for making Santa Fe a better place to live and work?
I want to start by saying thank you to AFSCME for this opportunity to present my views on issues of broad concern to the citizens of Santa Fe.
Because I have spent a lot of time involved in numerous Task Force groups, neighborhood associations and city boards focusing on specific community problems, I feel, as a 30 year resident of Santa Fe, parent and licensed architect, that I greatly appreciate the value of multiple perspectives and collaboration in the framing of questions and in the finding of positive solutions to our most complex problems.
That being said, my most important strategies for making Santa Fe a better place to live will focus on, but not be limited to public safety, education, and economic development:
- I would like to create an affordable housing program specifically for police officers in neighborhoods beset with high burglary rates. This would be accomplished through a partnership between the City, Police department, mortgage loan companies, and neighborhoods, so that our City’s officers won’t have to leave town at the end of their shift, but would go back to a Santa Fe neighborhood that greatly appreciates having a cop car parked on their street.
- Secondly, I would work in partnership with the SFPS system on programs addressing our school’s low student graduations rates and poor academic performance levels. I would do this through the creation of mentorship and leadership pilot programs with local businesses and institutions, focusing first on ‘at risk’ students, but to include those with specific interests in the business and professional communities.
- I would also establish, in concert with the Chamber of Commerce, ‘be kind to tourist’ programs to ensure a pleasant and rewarding stay by tourists when visiting our businesses, museums, art galleries, and cultural events. It would include a parking vouchers program offering visitors discounted rates at our City’s parking garages – thereby freeing up our coin operated meters for local users. This program would also include expanding the Santa Fe Pick Up shuttle system to include stops at hotels, local bars and restaurants. And a partnership with the Merchant’s Association to fund a badly needed public restroom at the end of the Canyon Rd. to take the pressure off tourists and gallery owners alike.
2. What are your plans for bringing well paying jobs to Santa Fe so that our kids don’t have to live and work in another city or state when their ready for their careers?
- Well paying jobs means continuing cost of living increases to the mandated minimum living wage policy. It also means that the City must exert it’s influence over big box stores whose policy of offering primarily part time positions allows them to avoid paying employee benefits. It undermines the economic stability of its employees and their families. The city should stand up to these major retailers and create compelling incentives for them to offer a minimum percentage of full time positions.
- Additionally, the City, with the co-sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce, should also promote a ‘Buy and Hire Local’ business recognition program for those that meet qualifying standards. Such a program would not only highlight the value of such businesses to the community, but, as an effective marketing program, it will attract broad-based adoption and beneficial support by the community.
- I would advocate that the City study what services are continually being contracted for with businesses outside of our city, and what can be done to create such business locally. We can easily identify what the goods and services are that must be flown or trucked in, and what might be provided here in the form of small manufacturing and service businesses. Then, once identified, offer entrepreneurial incentives for the creation of those businesses.
- Bringing well paying jobs to Santa Fe also means that we have to support efforts by our school district to improve the quality of its teachers, school programs, and facilities. The quality of our public schools and presence of a skilled workforce are major factors in attracting new businesses to move here, and, then, to stay and expand here.
3. How are you going to increase revenue to support growth, city programs, employee salaries and benefits, and needed labor that provides the services with looming economic shortfall? Also unstable GRT’s and the upcoming revenue loss resulting from the state’s budget which eliminated the Hold Harmless subsidy?
- We need both to more aggressively promote and expand on our economic strengths and to work to fix our weaknesses. Our strengths are our Historic Downtown, our unique cultural events, our institutions of higher learning, like the Community College, St. John’s College and the University of Art and Design. Our art galleries and performing arts are also major strengths. We are also home to our State government, a major stable source of employment for City.
- Our weaknesses include our troublesome drug and alcohol related crime rates. We are also struggling with the State’s lowest high school graduation rates. We are also facing the need for continued vigilance regarding the conservation and quality of our water supply from its four main sources. The responsible transfer of water rights must also be emphasized along side responsible agricultural practices and needs.
- I also firmly believe that we must not sit idly by while the State proceeds with its very harmful drawback of its Hold Harmless subsidy. I believe that we must continue to work with State leadership to create new compensatory tax breaks and and to compell them to reexamine areas of compromise and to re-define the agreement so that it actually achieves the intended and fair result. The withholding of the Hold Harmless subsidy is a huge misnomer, because our community will be harmed.
4. New Mexico’s education rating has dropped to what is our States and Country’s lowest. To help our education issues, which ultimately contributes to economic development, and how will you tackle economic development giving New Mexico’s education rating (a boost)?
I am a strong advocate of the City enjoining the SFPS in its lawsuit against the State, if only in the form of a ‘friend of the court amicus brief’, to get the State to begin tapping into it’s burgeoning 18 billion dollar Education Endowment fund. The future is now for our educational system if we are ever to pull New Mexico out of the national education ratings cellar. It is not whether we can afford to fund our educational system, it is whether we can afford NOT to. Our State leaders must feel the pressure to do their part to reinvigorate our State’s public education system.
There is a strong connection between attracting good jobs, creating incentives for businesses providing those jobs, and creating a skilled labor force to perform those jobs. You can’t have one with out the other, so they must build together. A broad-based collaborative approach is required for this is to happen.
5. What kinds of programs do you plan for Santa Fe youths and how do you plan to pay for it?
I believe that we, as a community, must actively engage our youth in the business of the community through the establishment of diverse set of collaborative public/private pilot projects designed to present tangible ‘career options for interested youth. An example is the current Bioponics curriculum at the SFCC where students are not only learning how to grow food and animal feed efficiently with a fraction of the water, but they are taught how to take it out into the real world, get a small business loan, start their own business, establish markets, benefit the community and make a good livelihood from it.
The entrepreneurial spirit in this town is alive and well. It must be fostered in our young people through expansion of such programs as Youth Works and new business education programs that introduce youth early on to different career opportunities. The St. Vincent’s Hospital’s pilot apprenticeship program for student’s interested in careers in medicine, is one good example of this.
6. If elected councilor, what traits will you look for in people that are presented to the Council for approval by the Mayor, for appointments in City Leadership, committee positions or a vacant council seat?
Additionally, since these appointments are submitted to you in advance in a governing body meeting packet, will you consult AFSCME if such appointments affects AFSCME and City workers who will not get the ability to vote for such appointments.
The main qualities I would look for in people in public service are competence, honesty, a strong sense of ethics, but I would also seek people with compassion, and possess a proven ability to work with people. They should also have a willingness and to seek and receive input from diverse sources and to weigh that input with out bias. I believe that all bonafide stakeholders, including the AFSCME, should have input in personnel selection processes.
7. If elected, what do you believe the biggest challenges are going to be for Santa Fe during your term in office and what is your plan to address issues and where will you start?
Our biggest challenge is water. Our state Representative, Peter Wirth, entitled his recent talk on New Mexico, “Things have changed.” In regard to our steadily dwindling water supply. Or, as I interpreted his message “We must continue to learn how to do more with less.” This means continuing to come up with new water conservation measures while maintaining the high quality of our drinking water, and the systems providing it. We must recycle more of our runoff for irrigation, and find new ways to use our treated effluent.
Also, we must take control of our electric utility and aggressively incentivise the use of photo-voltaic energy generation to protect our air and land, and to have more accountability from its operators and transparency in its pricing policy.
We must develop new approaches to dealing with drug related crime, such as Second Chance” programs that utilize psychological and family counseling, health classes, medical treatment, and job training, instead of incarceration and isolation.
The expansion of our City’s walking paths, hiking and biking trails, as well as the continued creation of new bike lanes, are critical to the health and well being of our community. It will make our beautiful City not only a safer place to behold, but by a healthier and happier citizenry.
8. What would you do to make sure that the City is at the forefront of the open gov’t movement?
I would encourage greater transparency on all levels of our government, and start by ensuring that City public relations efforts are enhanced with the more complete and broad publication of City meeting and ENN schedules and agendas. The City should take greater advantage of its web site for advertising meetings pertaining to individual neighborhoods. I also advocate opening the door of the council’s ‘closed door executive sessions,’ except in the case of the most sensitive personnel issues and areas subject to litigation.
9. How much control should the next Mayor have over the City and why?
I am not in favor of a change to a ‘strong mayor’ system, but I am in favor of one where the mayor is given the right to participate in the making of the council’s agenda, initiate policy discussion, introduce motions pertaining to ordinances and to vote on them. The mayor, I believe should be given the right to participate in the deliberation and debate of all issues brought before city council. I believe that a ‘strong’ City council will not only protect against the potential incompetence of nepotism, but ensures a more broad engagement with and by the entire community.
10. What distinguishes you from the other candidates that you believe AFSCME and City voters should consider?
I have often been in the position, through out my experiences on Board of the Old Santa Fe Association, Canyon neighborhood Association, Historic Design Review Board, and numerous community Task Force Committees, to see an issue from diverse perspectives. I have come to appreciate the amazing things that can be achieved in the resolution of specific problems where each perspective is given a voice in a collaborative process.
I have had the priviledge of serving on Task Force Committees at the City, County, and State levels, and most recently with the SFPS, where I am Co-chair of the Atalaya School Community Task Force, where we achieved what is widely considered to be a “win-win-win” for the school district, the parents and students, and the neighborhood.
Navigating the complexities of City’s most serious challenges requires experience in all the different instrumentalities and jurisdictions operating within it boundaries. I have chosen to devote a significant part of my life to being of service to this great city and to the diverse communities which make it up.
11. What important issues do you believe is not getting enough attention in the City of Santa Fe and why and what do you plan to do about it?
I believe that not enough attention is being paid to the strengths of this diverse, spirited, creative, culturally rich and hard working community of ours. Any vision, however inspired, can only become reality through the competent and hard working leadership at city Hall, from the Mayor and City Council, down to department heads and their staff. The responsiveness of City Hall to issues felt at the neighborhood level must greatly improve. Decision processes must be made more transparent, and operations made more efficient, and programs more effectively implemented.
A long range vision for our very unique City must include the preservation our cultural and physical heritage. Protecting and promoting our known physical assets, our historic buildings, streets and neighborhoods, is perhaps the most straight forward of all our challenges. Protecting and promoting our human assets, our children, students, families and workers, is decidedly less so, and will require relentless community involvement and collaboration, as our city government simply can not do it alone.
Today I have shared my vision for the City and what I will make my mission as City Councilor. I appreciate this opportunity to share much of it with to you.