Goodman: Why We Supported Proposed Questions In Special Election In Las Cruces

Aug 7, 2018

Credit peter goodman

Commentary: We received our mail-in ballots from the County Clerk's Office, voted, and popped them back in the mail.

There are two sets of items: four separate general obligation bonds and six proposed amendments to the Las Cruces City Charter's recall provisions. The former will increase property taxes a little. The latter won't cost anything, and could save us money and headaches if some fly-by-night group wants to undo a city council vote.

Each of the ten is a good idea.

The bonds would fund good things for the community. Replacing a deteriorated firehouse and building a new animal control facility seem pretty basic. Others would improve quality of life; and some could contribute to saving money dealing with crime, obesity, and bored kids.

City officials didn't initially propose the total package. Their proposal was more modest. A long public-input process revealed that citizens very much wanted additional improvements. The overall plan is based on community needs, not some ivory-tower concept.

Benefits include more parks, sports fields, and trails.

The four would increase real estate taxes modestly. If your house is worth $100,000 or $200,000, you'd pay an extra $70 or $140 in taxes next year, and for a few years thereafter.

If you're on a low fixed income, and feel you can't afford that, I can't argue with you. But that $70 is basically $1.35 per week. It would buy five and a half packs of cigarettes during 2019.

I'd respectfully suggest that feeling pride in your contribution to our community is worth that.

The right to recall elected officials was a novelty during the Progressive Era a century ago. It's important – but can be abused. Rich folks, mostly from outside the city, abused it in 2014 because they didn't like the minimum-wage hike. (They used paid canvassers, some wild lies, and other tricks to garner signatures.) The city spent money dealing with the recall effort, and councilors and citizens spent money uncovering canvassers' misconduct and fighting back. We nearly had to pay for a special election. The non-financial cost was a widened chasm between people, a bitter rift in the community.

The new rules would track the state rules, which also apply to the county. We still could recall councilors; but we'd need demonstrable grounds, such as illegal or improper conduct, not just political views and actions we didn't happen to agree with. Before signatures were gathered, recall proponents would present their case to a judge. As with pre-trial criminal proceedings, the judge would determine whether there was probable cause.

I was involved in the recall fight. It was a mess. My suggestions for improvement were somewhat different from these. I think mine were a better balance of various interests. But these proposals are far better for our community than the existing charter language. They'd also give the city clerk longer to inspect petitions, and give petitioners only one shot at gathering enough signatures.

The proposed amendments on the ballot would spare us another such community-dividing and costly event. People we voted in could concentrate on their jobs, not on repelling recall attacks. (Under existing law, we could have had two or ten efforts during the past four years, not just one.) Once the community elects someone, that should stand – unless there's actual malfeasance or criminal conduct.  ("misconduct or violation of the oath of office.")

So, yeah, we cheerfully voted “Yes” to all these proposals. I hope you vote for most or all of them.