Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reflections on the State of the City

I attended Mayor Miyagashima's State of the City address Wednesday for the first time.

The speech, available on the City's website, was thoughtful, forward-looking, and – at least in intent – healing. He dealt straightforwardly with the minimum wage brouhaha, praised both CAFé and certain business owners, and said the City was better off for the experience.

Above all he characterized city government as something we're building together.

We can differ on whether some projects are wise or well-planned; but no one could reasonably suggest the City shouldn't be providing amenities such as the Munson Center, with its incredible impact on the lives of many seniors and their families; youth sports and recreation programs; or parks and pools.

I don't agree with the City Council about everything. Will the Spaceport be a complete bust? Will the Downtown Plaza be worth the cost? How well did the City handle development plans for the old country club, both substantively and procedurally? How many of the complaints about city officials' attitudes were reasonably avoidable? The City's legal department – like the County's – deserves a column of its own. (One interesting question is exactly who is the client of a city or county attorney.)
Miyagashima stressed his hope to make the City as responsive and service-oriented as a five-star hotel. I hope he can. He claimed progress had been made during the past year. Maybe so; but we've a ways to go.

What I do see and much appreciate is a group of reasonably intelligent people working consistently toward the public good. I see Councilors and the Mayor listening to their constituents and persevering in their duty as they see it despite some internal sabotage and now a divisive and dishonest recall effort. Mostly, I see Councilors with open minds, not vested interests.

Miyagashima was more forgiving than I'd have been in his place; but that's why he's Mayor. He didn't even mention the municipal recall effort.

By the way, the recallers have turned in petitions. The circulators made false and fraudulent statements to citizens, though we can't know how many signatures resulted from fraud. The circulators signed under oath statements that don't appear completely true. If you experienced fraud, or have evidence that they were gathering signatures prior to December 10, please contact me.

People who wish to withdraw their names, for any reason, have an absolute right to do so prior to final action on the petitions' validity. The City Clerk says she needs a signed writing that includes your name, address, and telephone number; and she'd like you to include your best guess on the date you signed, to help locate your signature. Stating your reason for withdrawing your signature is optional, though I'd urge you to include it if you were misled.

Despite the recall blemish, and other problems, our City seems in good shape.
What resonated most in Miyagashima's speech was the sentence, “We're all in this together.” Randy Harris said that to me Saturday, and I've suggested the same in columns; but I heard it in a new way Wednesday.

We are all in this together. I agree, and wish more of us recognized that truth.

Recognizing that we're all in this together doesn't mean I don't fight against the vicious recall effort, or don't work to help the County fire the Treasurer for his sexually harassing conduct. It doesn't mean we don't all criticize and encourage our public officials, to help make our community as grand as our mountain view. Being in this together doesn't mean we don't disagree vigorously, just as neighbors, friends, and family-members do.

We are all in this together, and should keep that in mind.
[This column appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 22 February, and has appeared or will soon appear in other area newspapers and on KRWG's website.   For a different take on the Mayor's State of the City speech, read Walt Rubel's column in this morning's Sun-News.  We independently chose the same subject for our columns today.]
[With regard to the Recall, let me stress this: the recall effort will  likely fail, but it's still important for anyone who was misled into signing petitions withdraw his or her signatures.  A voter has the absolute right to do so, at least until the City Council takes final action. One needs to write the City Clerk, Esther Martinez-Carrillo, requesting his or her name be expunged.  The signed letter must include your name, address, your request, and the date; it should also include your phone number and, if you recall, roughly when you signed; and giving the reason for your withdrawal is optional.
The address is:
City Clerk Esther Martinez-Carrillo
700 North Main St.
Las Cruces, NM 88001
If you have questions, please feel free to call me at 575-five-two-one-0424 regarding this.]
[I should also mention that the more time I spend talking to folks who were fed lies by $12/hr. petition-circulators  as part of the recall effort, the less patience I have with the signature-gatherers' conduct.] 

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