Las Cruces residents will have the option to rank their choices for city positions at the polls on Nov. 5. Here’s how it will work.
Diana Alba Soular, For the Sun-News
The Las Cruces Sun-News asked Las Cruces City Council candidates the following questions ahead of the Nov. 5 election:
1.What is a challenge or opportunity unique to your district?
2. Having seen the swift and decisive response to the asylum seeker crisis this year, can similar resources and organizing power be focused in another area? What might that be?
3. Your sole employee is the city manager. How would you evaluate a city manager’s success?
Kasandra Gandara (incumbent)
1. District 1 has some real opportunities for economic prosperity. Using our infill plan not only provides incentives but a process for vacant properties. It is my hope that this strategy will address the affordable housing needs in our city. In addition, we have tools available such as Tax Increment District-TIDD, LEDA and our new designation with the Arts and Culture District-ACD, that will enable us to diversify our economy.
2. I would recommend we continue to use the process established to address our most serious needs as a city. I was impressed with the level of collaboration and coordination by many entities. In addition, I would like to continue to utilize the current space to act as an overflow for our partners working on homeless issues, hunger and finally, the development of a triage center. This would help our law enforcement and fire personnel from spending an ordinate amount of time with folks in crisis at the hospital determining if one is a threat and getting them back to providing safety services.
3. I would utilize the mechanisms such as one-on-one meetings to address positive and negative issues on a monthly basis, using a 6-month and yearly evaluation that council is required to do and sharing the data with the manager. And, finally, administering an organizational assessment before to establish a baseline then one administered after a year to see if moral is good and metrics are being met. Frankly, I expect quality of work, improved communication internally and externally and an excellent delivery of quality customer service.
Shelly Nichols Shaw
1. One of the challenges and opportunities unique to District 1 is the living cultural history that continues to exist in this area. Being the original part of Las Cruces — we have many of the unique old adobe homes are in such disrepair, they are becoming safety issues. I would love to see a program/community effort that would provide support and care for these properties so they can return to being used as homes rather than having to be destroyed and lost forever. This would be an opportunity for people —young and old — to learn how to take care and modify the existing adobe structures as well as provide homes for those in need to build a stronger community.
2. If we don’t already have one, I believe our city should have an emergency plan already containing an organized structure of authority, resources, different language translators/interpreters, transportation, needed medical equipment, etc. for our entire community — especially for people who have disabilities and other vulnerable populations who will need extra assistance. Right now, most people don’t know where the shelters are located, much less if they are handicap accessible or not. What if people need to transported out of the area — will the help that people need be ready to act — especially for those who have specialized medical equipment that utilize electricity, etc.?
3. I have met with Mr. Studer in person. He’s a likable gentleman, however, I don’t see him as a someone who is willing to stand by his morals. Mr. Studer has followed Mayor Miyagishima’s lead in making false and misleading claims as well as failing to meet and provide requested information. He also made promises to provide information and has yet to honor his own words for the last five weeks. Instead of checking the facts for himself, he relied on the claims of others. Good leaders may trust what they are told — but they also verify the information. I have yet to see anything he has brought to the table since he took over for Stuart Ed. Therefore, I have been shown every reason to believe he is not successful other than maybe being able to maintain basic daily operations of our city.
1. I came to Las Cruces 17 years ago for college (receiving my bachelor’s degree in government) and found a place to call home; it is important that our students at NMSU have opportunities to do the same. The city can assist by increasing connectivity and seeking academic partnerships so that students can find job opportunities upon graduating. Because our district is so diverse, I have been working on a needs assessment by precinct discussing with constituents the challenges that each area faces. In doing so, we can focus our energy more proactively to make improvements before they reach a critical status. Infrastructure repair and improvement is a constituent issue among our district.
2. The funding source used to address our situation with the asylum seekers came from the Telshor fund, which can be used for health-related issues. Addressing the needs of our homeless (and near-homeless population) is an area of great concern for many residents. Also, our city continues to struggle with adequacy of mental health services. I would like to explore the possibilities of proactively investing in both of these areas as it will be easier to manage than when reacting in the moment. Our city’s generous and caring individuals showed that we have the ability to come together for positive change.
3. Evaluation of the city manager is vital to ensure that our city is run effectively and with quality customer service for our constituents. Addressing competence with measurable goals and expectations can be tracked to better determine success (e.g., fulfillment of the mission and objectives of the city’s Strategic Vision Plan, operational effectiveness, fiscal and staff management, public relations, advocacy, etc.). We also need to address leadership skills reflecting a wide range of interpersonal qualities like integrity, commitment, communication, financial and budgeting acumen, staff development, conflict resolution, and innovation.
Jack L. Valencia Jr.
1. NMSU is located in District 2 with opportunities to improve the quality of life for city and student residents. For the safety of all, better lighting is needed on University Avenue and student neighborhoods. I would establish a help desk at Corbett Center to assist students in obtaining city services, to benefit students and the city. I see opportunities to expand recreational opportunities and parks for our youth. Revitalize off-campus student housing in my district, with renewed emphasis on standards for upkeep for maintenance of roads, bike paths, sidewalks and rental properties. Parking alternatives near NMSU are also needed.
2. The community will rally around NMSU and the city, sector partnerships with NMSU that encourage economic job growth and competitiveness. Additionally, improve worker training, retention and advancement as part of a local infrastructure. The city has the industrial park along with NMSU’s Arrowhead Park to assist recruitment of industry. There should be a focus of teaming proposals that could be unique to the Las Cruces, NMSU and the community college.
3. I had the opportunity to employ and evaluate four different city managers during my previous 16 years as city councilor (1985-2001). Evaluation of success is determined by the ability to follow direction from the mayor and city council. Once consensus has been reached, implementation is to follow. There should no deviation without discussion. Additionally, there should be no favoritism among elected officials; each elected member has the same weight of voting. Evaluation of success is determined if those attributes are followed, and the direction is implemented as flawlessly as possible with the intended outcome of the project or policy adopted.
1. The relationship with NMSU that District 2 has, as it surrounds our university. I feel it is important to have a city councilor who is willing to work closely with NMSU. I would like to work closely with leadership on campus as well as with students in creating a few think tanks. One example would be to concentrate a think tank for creating jobs in our area so we don’t lose our students and graduates to other communities.
2. Yes, and it should have been done a long time ago. Our city has neglected the homeless situation for years. With their answer being, “let’s put people in a tent, in a field.” We also have a huge mental health crisis in Las Cruces. Although the facility is available, our city has chosen not to fund this very needed and worthwhile cause.
3. Our current city manager is in interim and at this point, I do not feel he has been in the position long enough to evaluate the results. For future city managers, I would evaluate their success by how efficient and effective the departments in Las Cruces are operating. If you wish to evaluate our previous city manager, Mr. Ed, I can oblige. Mr. Ed was always open to communicate with members of the public. He took on the role of trying to fill the shoes of some city councilors who seemed unwilling to work directly with the public. I had the opportunity to bring a problem to Mr. Ed after I got nowhere with city council. I am not sure why he left, but I see a trend of good people leaving the city all the time without reason. My question is, “what’s going on at City Hall that keeps driving out good employees?”
1. The biggest challenge that I see in my district is to bridge the gap between maintaining the retirement community culture, while also making our community more appealing for the younger generation to want to stay and pursue their careers in Las Cruces rather than leaving. In order to bring any change to our community, all city council officials will need to work together and make Las Cruces more appealing to all generations in our community.
2. The city should continue to use the resources used for the asylum seekers and organize a response to the city’s growing homeless population. While the asylum seeker situation was only temporary and prompted a quick response, the same mentality should now be transferred to helping those who need it in our own “backyard” before our city has a similar problem with the homeless filling our streets like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Programs could also be put into place to help employ the homeless and help them better their situation.
3. A city manager should be evaluated based on performance just like any other employee would in a business. The city manager has expectations and guidelines they have to meet and if they are unable to meet all those requirements, then the city manager should be replaced with a better candidate for the position.
1. District 4 is incredibly diverse. We have the North Alameda neighborhoods; a piece of the Historic Mesquite Neighborhood; the Mayfield area, Valley, Picacho and Valley corridors; and a Mesilla Park neighborhood. Each precinct or area have their own unique stories and needs. To me, this is more of an opportunity than a challenge. If I am lucky enough to be elected and serve District 4, I will implement precinct wide meetings instead of larger district meetings. This will give residents an opportunity to express their desired changes through a more localized process that honors their unique situations.
2. The city did an incredible job responding to the crisis we were handed overnight, from funding the processing center to partnering with key community stakeholders. I saw our ability as a city to live into abundant generosity and I know we can do it again. One of the biggest issues facing our city right now is public safety. We need to invest swiftly and responsibly in process that will help us understand what is driving the rise in crime in our neighborhoods; whether it is services for addiction, mental health or economic insecurity. Then move toward addressing such issues with urgency.
3. City manager is such an important role. For me, it will be important that the city council hires someone who has a passion for local government, serving people, and has a strong ethical code. In evaluating their success, I would look at their willingness to be transparent, nonpartisan and build relationships with a wide range of community residents. As well as their openness to feedback and accountability from the council and their employees. They must work to build trust with city employees and residents, then always lead with a strong sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.
Robert J. Palacios
1. For District 4, the Industrial Park and Las Cruces International Airport are very unique. Not only do we have great opportunity to expand but it is also in a Federal Opportunity Zone. We need to exploit our resources for the city and this is a great way to promote positive growth in District 4.
2. Yes, we must always move swiftly for public safety. Mental health and drug addiction is not on easy topic to cover or an easy issue to solve. We need to evaluate our communities need and collaborate to provide or seek out the best resources that Las Cruces desires to best serve those dealing with mental heath issues or drug addiction. This just one example of how we can move forward with more urgency.
3. I would evaluate it based on response and feedback from the community. In the end we are voted in by our constituents and must serve them. Of course there are performance measures that need to be met but when we listen is when we can best serve. I would also evaluate performance based on proactive measure taken to improve our community.
Antoinette M. Reyes
1. District 4 is incredibly diverse and each community within has different needs. The sections that have vacant buildings, one after another, are prime areas to convert into more affordable housing, in a way encouraging mixed-use (walking distance to stores and recreation). Many District 4 roads have never been resurfaced in over 50 years. Other parts of the district struggle with hard drugs, petty theft, domestic violence and homelessness. We must expand internet service, encourage more partnerships (LCPS, NMSU, community agencies, government, public-private), and encourage more entrepreneurs and medical providers to operate in Las Cruces. District 4 is also home to two industrial sections of the city. These are prime locations for the development of more processing facilities for hemp and other agricultural products.
2. I love our community and am proud to see the way we responded. People here are unlike anywhere else because we care about one another and are able to come together in times of need. People came from around the country to learn how efficient we operated and some parts of our management strategy will be included in the under construction El Paso processing facility. The city stepped up rather than permitting the dropping off at city bus stops, with only the clothes on their back. If we work together, anything is possible.
3. As a former city employee, having worked in multiple departments, I believe the city has a very top-down approach to managing. A good city manager will show how they appreciate staff, especially our first responders, through their actions. I believe it is important the city establishes an anonymous reporting tool to enable employees to report sexual harassment, problems with upper management, and any other need. I am hopeful that the policy review committees will include more staff input for the council. I believe in honesty, transparency, and sustainability; I believe those qualities are important in a city manager as well.
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