Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Can't We All Just Get Along?"

Congratulations to Maury Castro and Ed Frank; to DACC; to the few citizens who voted; and to the community, for electing two people who'll do what they can to cut off a few heads of the “Testing” serpent.

Most citizens don't seem to much care or don't feel meaningful change is feasible. But a majority of voters judged right in the school-board election; and if Troy Tudor's candidacy was part of the Chamber's self-proclaimed electoral assault, his fourth-place finish in a four-way race was a small success for opponents of that plan.

Maybe another battle got decided this week, when municipal recall proponents failed to turn in signed petitions.

Apparently petitioners seeking recall of Gill Sorg and Olga Pedroza have failed. As of Wednesday, nothing's been turned in to the City Clerk. We could be close to another victory (or two) in the war certain wealthy businesspeople declared on us.  [Note: by my count, the deadline for two of the petitions passed Monday; this was written Wednesday; Friday all three petitions were turned in -- and I don't yet know whether the recallers will claim they didn't understand the law, claim they got their first signature later than they really did, or just demand extra time.  Or maybe they managed some way to get around the fact that they collected their first signatures by November 28-29.  See discussion below.]

That makes this a good time to skip most of the crowing about victory and to reach out to business leaders. Particularly if those business leaders are about helping local businesses, without getting sidetracked by ideology.

We shouldn't be at war. We're a community. Despite our differences, let's talk honestly and seek solutions together.

Working together starts with talking together, with both sides trying seriously to understand what the other wants and really needs – and each side focusing on facts, not some damned ideology. If a building code provision or an ordinance seriously hurts business, let's specify the harm and try to harmonize competing interests – not debate whether government is too big.

Although there's no excuse for the recall effort, many businesspeople have felt pushed aside during recent years. Citizens and councilors would do well to acknowledge that feeling, despite the recall effort.

Two things are happening in the minds of businessfolk: real complaints about the collision between their needs and the local government's obligations regarding safety, traffic, the environment, etc.; and an ideology that demands as little government as possible – with private enterprise sacred.

Two things are happening in the minds of some city officials: the need to follow the law and fulfill their obligations to the public; and (according to businessfolk) an excess of non-cooperation or fussiness that suggests they're either hostile to business or feel that, “As long as I have some power for a moment I oughtta use it.”

We'd do well to assume that some city officials do conduct business that way. (Not many, I hope.)

Both sides must reach out to each other. Talking is a way of learning the other's language. It's how each of us learns more about the context in which the other appraises things – and talk can build trust and candor.

Sometimes business interests and the public interest necessarily collide; but sometimes we can avoid those collisions or find reasonable compromises to make the next collision less violent. We need to understand what each side really needs.

We're a community! Successful businesses are a plus for all of us. So are healthy workers. So are things that draw more visitors, as the Monument likely will. (Even the dreaded minimum wage will likely help the local economy, though probably not as much as the wage hike in Sea-Tac has. After a bigger minimum wage hike, the city's economy is booming.)

Talking to each other is worth a try. Having real dialogues, not shouting ideological slogans into each other's deaf ears.

If the Chamber insists on a war, I hope this week's events are omens that the Chamber would lose because its policies don't appeal to most citizens.

But I'd prefer peace. Can't we all just get along?

[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 8 February I sent it in Wednesday evening.  Friday afternoon, the Recallers turned in petitions seeking to recall the three city councilors, Olga Pedroza, Nathan Smart, and Gill Sorg.  The petitions regarding Pedroza and Sorg were turned in days after the legal deadline; the campaign to procure signatures was rife with fraud and probably fatal procedural irregularities; and there's a reasonable likelihood that some signatures could be mis-dated in order to evade some of the legal problems.]

[Here's the applicable law, as I understand it.  NM election law [3-1-5]  states in subsection E:
 "E.   A petition filed with a municipal clerk . . . .  If no time period is established by law, petition signatures may not span a period of time greater than sixty days from the date of the earliest signature on the petition, and the petition shall be filed within sixty-five days from the date of the earliest signature on the petition  "
Put another way: If, for example, they procured their first signature on 29 November, then their deadline (65 days) for turning in the petitions was this past Monday (62 days in December-January, plus 30November, plus the first two days in February)   Further, if they got that first signature on 29 November, they were required to stop collecting signatures on January 28 or so, to keep the final signature within 60 days of the first. 
That applies to this petition situation, and the City Clerk so informed the recallers when they picked up petitions. City Charter 7.01 states that where the City hasn't explicitly stated a contrary rule, the applicable state statute applies: "Except as otherwise provided by this Charter, the provisions of the general election laws of the State of New Mexico shall apply to elections held under this Charter."
I had hoped this would be the end of this ugly episode in our city's history.   Deadline clear in the  law, deadline missed.  (The same rules were applied to CAFe.)  However, the recallers will undoubtedly claim a misunderstanding, advance some reason for an extension, or will have fudged some dates, and it will be interesting to see how City officials and perhaps some judges regard the situation. In Small's district, the petitions were probably timely.  (Recallers needed a figurehead within each district to pull the petitions; the one in District 4 had a serious health problem and had to withdraw; so the recallers had to pull a new petition regarding Small.  As I recall, that delayed their start a couple of weeks; thus if, as I was told over at City Hall Friday afternoon, they turned in a petition regarding Small, they're likely within the deadline.)]

[Meanwhile, the folks pushing the recall have accomplished a lot: they've unified against them people in town who care about good government and honesty; and they've alienated even some of their own Chamber members or non-Chamber business owners by the extremism and dishonesty of their statements and conduct.  What they say in public is a pale shadow of what they say to fellow businessfolk, some of whom are appalled.]
[It's in this context that I'd like to see better communication between councilors and progressive citizens, on the one hand, and businessfolk who either are moderate or can leave their ideologies at home and discuss facts and actual practical needs.  We should be helping each other, as neighbors, whether or not we agree on who should be President, whether Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, whether religion should affect state law, or whether our economy is screwed up because of greedy corporations, greedy welfare recipients, or wars.]
[The turning in of the petitions could delay the healing process, as the City Clerk counts the valid signatures on the petitions, as the untimeliness and other problems get dealt with, and perhaps as we go through an undoubtedly rancorous recall election campaign, perhaps regarding only District 4.]  

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