SANTA FE, NM (AP) – The outgoing Santa Fe entrepreneur-turned-mayor defended his handling of conflicts over historic landmarks and dealing with an economy battered by COVID at a candidates’ forum on Monday amid criticism scathing of two Latinas challengers.
Mayor Alan Webber is challenged by fellow Democrat and city councilor Joann Vigil Coppler, who pointed to his difficult local upbringing in a Hispanic family and long experience in public administration and finance in the hour-long debate .
Vigil Coppler accused Webber of mismanaging the city’s finances and neglecting rock park and recreation obligations by lengthy repairs to an outdoor pool. Webber claimed not only the backfilling of potholes, but also the transformation of Santa Fe into a closely watched proving ground for Universal Basic Income by offering guaranteed monthly payments to 100 young parents while they were attending school. Santa Fe Community College.
Vigil Coppler and Republican candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson blasted the mayor’s response last year as a tumultuous crowd toppled a downtown monument depicting Union soldiers who died fighting native tribes and Confederate soldiers . The monument, which bore an inscription designating Indigenous peoples as “savages,” is vilified by Native Americans for glorifying military campaigns against their ancestors.
Events in Santa Fe’s historic central plaza catalyzed criticism of the mayor by several fraternal orders, including a local Hispanic pride and heritage advocacy group.
As the monument was toppled in October 2020, scores of police left the area in a move the mayor said was aimed at preventing physical violence. At least eight people were subsequently charged with the destruction, seven of whom participated in a diversion program that involves community service that will save them jail time.
At Monday’s forum, Webber and Vigil Coppler gave conflicting accounts of that day’s action – and what it meant.
“I would never have ordered the police to withdraw, and it is clear that this order came from the mayor,” said Vigil Coppler. “We just saw our culture … what we are used to seeing in the square is fading away.”
Webber said he did not dictate the police response, while noting that previous city councils and mayors had advocated for the removal of the obelisk, which is vilified by some Native Americans.
“The mayor does not order the chief of police or any other police officer to withdraw. It is simply wrong and inaccurate, ”said Webber.
He said the city ultimately avoided any major civil unrest.
“No one was killed,” Webber said, paraphrasing the comments he heard. “Everyone went home safe and sound, there was no tear gas hanging over the plaza. No glass was broken.… People were cited for their illegal behavior.
At the same time, all three contestants said the city’s ongoing truth and reconciliation process over culture and history was worth it, amid a nationwide conversation about public markers paying homage to the characters. histories of racism, slavery and genocide.
During Webber’s tenure, Santa Fe interrupted an annual reenactment of the return of Spanish settlers 12 years after the Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1680.
Webber, who won the 2018 election as the first candidate for public office, is known as a publishing entrepreneur and founder of Fast Times Magazine.
He is running for a second term after leading the fastest growing large city in New Mexico through the pandemic and state emergency health orders that have all but shut down crucial hospitality and tourism industries. .
Vigil Coppler, elected to Santa Fe City Council in 2018, campaigned for mayor as a seasoned public administrator who previously served as Santa Fe’s director of human resources after previous positions in the justice system of Los Alamos State, State and County Government.
The roundtable-style discussion, sponsored by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Drury Hotel, has been moved to a remote online format in response to concerns about the coronavirus.
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