Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said the "character and the involvement of the community” convinced him to seek a fourth term.
The mayor announced his bid for re-election at a Tuesday press conference downtown. Miyagishima, whose campaign slogan is “Building a Great City,” said he has many tasks left to accomplish as mayor.
Among his top priorities is developing the site of some 100 acres of land on Lohman Avenue that was once the City’s landfill.
Las Cruces purchased the lot across from Mountain View Regional Medical Center in 2018 from the City of Albuquerque for $750,000. Miyagishima said the income generated by leasing the land to businesses would help fund nonprofits and programs for seniors.
“This has the opportunity to really add to the quality of life of our residents by having, I believe, almost a million dollars a year, totally unencumbered, as well as adding to our Telshor Fund if council agrees," Miyagishima said. "And this would not only help the nonprofits that we serve but also to help with affordable care, I mean affordable housing that we’ve been able to utilize in the past.”
Miyagishima said that when he was first elected mayor in 2007, the City had few amenities that improved quality-of-life. He said that’s changed during his tenure and cited improvements to parks and recreational facilities, travel trails and the addition of the downtown Civic Plaza.
“Not a day goes by, not a weekend goes by that we have a lot of fun, a lot of activities going on here," Miyagishima said. "Of course, we’ve built City Hall which is another thing. We’ve passed the GO bond, first time in over 50 years. So, you’re going to see a new animal shelter, you’re going to see more walking and bike trails. Of course, we’re building a new fire department... not to mention our new public safety complex."
Miyagishima added that Las Cruces has no financial problems and highlighted the City’s credit rating.
“I have to point out our bond rating is the highest that any city our size can have. A lot of it has to do with my colleagues on the City Council, our careful financial management really lends itself to… a high bond rating which in turn leads to low interest rates for our residents," Miyagishima said.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol officials have dropped off thousands of asylum-seekers in Las Cruces since mid-April. The sudden influx prompted City Council to budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in migrant aid. The mayor said he’s received reports that those drop-offs are declining.
“In fact, one day it was almost zero. So, that of course is our number one concern right now and how we’re dealing with this and whether or not this is going to go on, whether or not it’s going to continue to go on for months on end," Miyagishima said.
He also spoke about the need to fill the city manager position left vacant by Stuart Ed in April.
“We’re going to be looking for a new city manager. We’re probably going to wait until the new council, hopefully I’m part of it, takes office in Jan. 1 and then get a chance to allow the new council to interview and choose the new city manager," Miyagishima said.
The 2019 municipal elections will mark the first time the City implements ranked-choice voting. That allows voters to rank candidates by preference.
In short, if a candidate receives a majority of votes, they win the election. If no candidate obtains a majority, the person with the least number of votes is eliminated. Their votes are redistributed based on the voter’s second choice. The process continues until there’s a winner.
“We feel that this ranked-choice voting gives the opportunity for the residents to kind of get a chance to understand it. But also those whose vote may not have been for their particular candidate, this truly means that their vote does count," Miyagishima said.
Four other candidates have announced their intentions to run for Las Cruces mayor. That includes current District 2 City Councilor Greg Smith, former councilor Jesusita Dolores Lucero, nonprofit founder Mike Tellez, and Gina Ortega, a business owner who ran for mayor in 2015.
Municipal elections will be held Nov. 5.