Dear Santa Claus,
Although you aren’t accustomed to reading letters from superannuated believers in holiday magic, please listen to this plea: The city of Santa Fe is in need of a Miracle on Marcy Street.
At the moment, the mayor and city councilors listen attentively to what I will politely call the more eccentric voices in the community. If a very few individuals are convinced that fluoride is hazardous to their health, then City Hall seriously considers its ban. Never mind that Santa Fe’s children will likely win the Most Decayed Teeth Award in the nation, local government wants to be progressive and make “nice” to every point of view.
Since I don’t generally make it onto your “nice” list, Santa, I might as well give my “naughty” take on City Hall’s policies. No matter how impractical or bizarre, any opinion gets a full hearing in Santa Fe. If a sad individual believes he is being contaminated by emissions from a neighbor’s computer, then City Hall considers banning Wi-Fi or cell towers. If a relatively limited number of individuals demand a $3 million-plus tunnel for their bicycles, then our local government spares no tax dollar to make them happy.
Santa Fe prides itself on its welcoming and progressive spirit, but I am not a “progressive,” and I am definitely not “nice.” Santa, I want a different kind of progress and I have a wish list for City Hall:
• It would be really, really nice if we had a police force sufficient to the city’s needs. Recently, the City Council refused to continue paying a private security firm to patrol the Santa Fe Railyard on the grounds that it wasn’t fair to favor one part of town over another. I would argue it is not fair that our entire city is exposed to panhandling, drunkenness, thieving and other assorted crime. Police Chief Ray Rael explains away responsibility for the problem by pointing to Santa Fe’s growth into a “big” city. In the same period of time in New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg oversaw a decrease in criminal activities. No more excuses.
• It is past time to make investments in infrastructure that will promote the city’s prosperity. As a friend recently put it, there is a big difference between shabby and quaint. Our streetscape is looking tired and unfriendly. As long as tourism remains our chief source of income, the appearance of Santa Fe needs to become a priority.
• Santa Fe needs to become more accessible not only to tourists but to potential new business. Were Mayor David Coss only to take the bold step of requesting funds for the airport, the federal government would pay for a two-gate terminal and improved runways at the airport. More planes would mean more tourists and more money coming into the city. Santa, I suppose even you can’t provide a full-sized airport appropriate to a capital city. But I can dream about new business being attracted to a more accessible Santa Fe.
• City Hall could redirect the millions for a bicycle tunnel toward providing Santa Fe with additional high-speed wireless. Google has partnered with some Midwestern cities to install fiber optic cable, and those cities are successful in attracting new business and, more importantly, young people. This improvement would mean a future of high-paying jobs for our children.
• To fill those new tech jobs, our children need to be better-educated and here, too, Mayor Coss might take a leadership position. With assistance from the Wallace Foundation, mayors in cities such as Providence, R.I., New York and Boston have orchestrated after-school programs. Extended-day sessions that offer tutoring in math and science or teaching computer skills would not only help out working parents but would also prepare an educated workforce that will attract new business.
Dear Santa, please give the gift of vision and leadership to City Hall. A true Miracle on Marcy Street would mean that tax dollars are put to work to increase the vitality and prosperity of our city. Unfortunately, the best that can be said for the eccentric city our mayor oversees is that a neighborhood next door to a cemetery is generally quiet.
Dorothy Klopf writes about Santa Fe and the world from a curmudgeonly point of view.