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Mayor Ken Miyagishima, Residents Share Prime Concerns for Las Cruces

Nov 21, 2019

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima announced his bid for re-election on Aug. 13. The mayor defeated nine other candidates to win his fourth term in the Nov. 5 municipal elections.
Credit Michael Hernandez

Ken Miyagishima knows how to win elections.

In his career, the Las Cruces mayor has been in 14 races and won 11 of them. But the municipal race on Nov. 5 worried Miyagishima slightly because he’d never won on that day.

That didn’t make a difference.

In the City’s first ranked-choice election, Miyagishima won a fourth term, with Bill Mattiace coming in second after all nine elimination rounds.

Miyagishima said it reminded him of his first mayoral race against Mattiace in 2007.

“I really want to win to be able to continue doing what I love doing and that’s helping the public, helping the people, helping the citizens and whatever issues that I might be able to do. Sometimes we’re not 100 percent successful, but if we can make their lives a little bit better, that’s really what it’s all about," Miyagishima said. "Sometimes I feel a little bit selfish to be candid with you, that I’ve been here for a while, but you know, I love it. I enjoy it and every day I get up and just love doing what I’m doing.”

As for priorities, Miyagishima said he wants the City to be more active in providing mental health services and embrace opportunities to use renewable energy.

Infrastructure is also on his agenda. Miyagisima said he thinks turning downtown into a Tax Increment Development district has brought more people and businesses there. He wants to do the same for the El Paseo corridor.

“Years ago, we received a $2 million grant from the federal government. So, the planning is there and if we could maybe look at doing the TIDD in the El Paseo corridor connecting Main Street with the university. Maybe having a trolley going back and forth every 30 minutes or so to really kind of enhance that area and also allow the students at New Mexico State to visit downtown and have a little bit of fun in the downtown area," Miyagishima said.

Retiree Steven Marcus moved to Las Cruces a year-and-a-half ago. Marcus said he’s impressed with the City’s effort to revitalize downtown and develop open spaces. But he thinks it should offer more recreational programs for children.

Street view looking south along Main Street in downtown Las Cruces.
Credit Michael Hernandez

“I’m noticing a lot of kids especially in my neighborhood look a little bored. But they’re trying to get out there and do as much as they can. I’m really impressed with Meerscheidt for a recreation area for adults and children. I think it could be expanded and that would be a good thing," Marcus said. "Also, the roadwork. I’ve noticed that what they should be doing is doing projects, finishing a project and not… simultaneously doing projects. So, that would help a lot.”

“I think the efforts to concentrate development and to tip the appeal of the downtown mall is really important for this City, both economically and as a spirit of place," Joan Woodward, a retired environmental design professor from Cal-Poly Pomona said.

Woodward said she supports enhancing parks and agrees developing El Paseo Road is vital for the City.

“The El Paseo connection is critical to make the town and gown link and there have been quite a few previous planning efforts to strengthen that link. All of them are worth reinforcing. That’s really an important one," Woodward said. "And there’s a second one, not mentioned in the mayor’s priorities, looking at linking Mesilla with the university and the Department of Transportation is currently looking at doing planning for strengthening that link. That one too is critical.”

Mary Wunderlich, owner of Mew and Company, tags Christmas pillows in the stockroom of her boutique. Wunderlich began selling stationery in Maryland in 2011. After moving to Las Cruces, she sold her crafts at the farmer's market. She says the Downtown Las Cruces Partnership provided support to open her business in 2018.
Credit Michael Hernandez

On the corner of Main Street and Las Cruces Avenue, Mary Wunderlich operates Mew + Company, a boutique selling handmade goods.

Wunderlich set up shop downtown because of its location and the City’s economic incentives. But after some negative experiences with people off the street, she’d like to see more police officers in the area.

“I know it has been brought to their attention so I’m hoping that that presence stays because we’ve seen a big improvement in that. You know, if people are coming into downtown, they can do all this work and revitalization and make it beautiful but if people don’t feel safe in downtown, whether it’s founded or not, they won’t come. They won’t stay and they won’t be here in the evening either because they won’t be comfortable," Wunderlich said. "So, I guess that’s my big thing is just making sure that the downtown stays really safe and people feel that it’s really safe,” she added.

In addition to downtown, Miyagishima also has his eye on the East Mesa.

He said he’s excited to develop about 100 acres of city-owned land across from MountainView Regional Medical Center. Miyagishima said renting the commercial real estate would generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenue to fund City activities.

The City Council welcomes two new members in 2020. Tessa Abeyta Stuve and Johana Bencomo won their respective races in Districts 2 and 4.

Miyagishima, who comes from Japanese and Mexican descent, said the level of diversity and youth on the council is key to getting different perspectives.

“Pretty incredible. You know, four women—that’s going to be the majority there and then of course with Councilor Vasquez and Mayor Pro Tem Sorg and myself, I think we’re going to have a great team as usual. It’s almost like [being] a basketball coach. I think the team's going to be great. They’re going to bring a lot of ideas, a lot of energy. You know, these are highly educated, motivated women and I’m looking forward to the many great things that they wish to accomplish there on the City Council.”