Campaigns never seem to end. The latest is a push by typists on social media to have Stacey Abrams named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Abrams helped Democratic President-elect Joe Biden carry Georgia, a citadel of the Republican Party for the last 28 years.

Abrams played a part in an impressive turnabout. But her effort didn’t make her the most important newsmaker of 2020, which is what Time’s Person of the Year really is.

Murderous villains such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have been designated as the magazine’s Person of the Year. The only reason was they made news, most of it bad.

Time’s choice this year for most important newsmaker should be easy and without controversy.

Biden, having received more votes for president than anyone in history, is unchallenged as the most influential figure of 2020. By defeating Republican President Donald Trump, Biden gets the arduous job of rebuilding a country with a worsening pandemic and sagging economy.

Deciding on Santa Fe’s newsmaker of the year is tougher than the international choice. It comes down to whose action — or inaction — changed the city most.

I’m going with police Chief Andrew Padilla. He and his command staff let violent protesters take over the Plaza on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Lawbreakers destroyed the 152-year-old Plaza obelisk on grounds that they found it racist — a tribute to killers of Native Americans. The violent protesters ignored that the obelisk also commemorated soldiers who fought to preserve the union during the Civil War and outlaw slavery.

Padilla said permitting a mob to break the law was a wise decision. His reasoning was doing nothing avoided bloodshed, as though the only choices police had were to crack heads or permit mob rule.

There was another way. A strong presence by Padilla’s police force could have kept the peace. Abandoning the area only emboldened the bubbleheads who wrecked the obelisk.

The message Padilla sent was a dangerous one: Those who claim political correctness is on their side can break the law with the tacit endorsement of city government.

Sure, a handful of people have since been identified as suspects in the destruction of the obelisk and related crimes. But this amounts to damage control by Padilla and Mayor Alan Webber.

Had Padilla done his job well in the first place, any protests would have been peaceful, the obelisk would still be standing and lawbreakers wouldn’t get to decide how history should be told.

A day after the obelisk fell, Padilla and Webber participated in one of the great farces of the year.

Webber didn’t take spontaneous questions from reporters about the violence that occurred while his police department did nothing. Instead, the mayor asked Padilla leading questions, all of them designed to commend their collective wisdom in allowing certain people to break the law.

Webber contributed to Padilla’s failure with a poor plan of his own. In summertime, the mayor decided the city at least temporarily should remove a statue and two obelisks that some people found objectionable. Webber claimed he wanted a community discussion rather than violent confrontations over monuments.

Like his police department, Webber did nothing. This emboldened the mob that received an opening to destroy the obelisk while rampaging through a National Historic Landmark.

The second obelisk Webber targeted highlights frontiersman Kit Carson. It’s in front of the federal courthouse, a space the mayor cannot control.

Starting a campaign to remove the Carson obelisk was another example of Webber trying to tell everyone what’s best without regard to historical context.

Webber’s failures give a bit of cover to Padilla. But Padilla did something I’d never seen any police chief do: He surrendered city property to an ugly mob.

A conscientious chief never would have taken that course. Padilla never would have ceded the Plaza to Klansmen or Proud Boys. But lawbreakers operating under the guise of political correctness were off limits, supposedly for fear of violence.

If Padilla had rocked the boat by doing his job, Webber might have thrown him over the side.

Padilla still would have been Santa Fe’s newsmaker of the year. And had he done his best to keep the peace, he could have worn the title as one of honor.

Ringside Seat is an opinion

column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at or 505-986-3080.

(24) comments

Samuel Herrera

Padilla needs to resign. Weber needs to resign

Lane Coulter

Must be a really slow news day when Milan, with nothing new to observe has hauled out this subject to rehash and repeat what we already know he thinks. The larger context of these decisions was one where many US cities were seeing protests and there was violence, property damage and human suffering. Padilla and Webber did not want to take a chance and at the time the protestors were engaged in taking down the monument, there were few to no cops around to be of help and the back up was spread out over town. There's not an easy answer to this dilemma except to blame, blame, blame until boredom sets in, which it has. Milan, see if you can drum up something interesting and NEW to write about.

Khal Spencer

Yep. Just give the streets over to mob rule. After all, enforcing the law at a time like that could be sooooo, messy.

Annie Oakley

Let's not forget that is was the Governor who provided the manpower to help Webber bring down the obelisk under the cover of darkness this past summer. They ended up breaking the top part of the statue in the process so they gave up. I am remembering this correctly, right??

Jim Klukkert

No Annie, you are not remembering this at all correctly. You are making up stuff again, sort of that alternative fact thing so popular with the loser Trump and staff. Oh well, they are saving you space in the Home, Annie, no worries.

Annie Oakley

Actually Jim I am right ~ you must have a selective memory. You are rude and condescending in your replies to me and others. Please refrain from the insults.

Khal Spencer

I don't know whether this is God's truth, but Milan says "...Worse still, Webber and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham conspired to remove the obelisk the same night the de Vargas statue was hauled from Cathedral Park.

State workers arrived on the Plaza with a crane and a plan to blindside the public. But they aborted their attempt to remove the obelisk, fearing they might damage it..."

Annie Oakley

And from today's paper....."The city, with help from the Governor’s Office, tried to remove the Plaza obelisk but stopped the work when it began to damage the monument." And again, this was under the cover of darkness with a crew supplied by the Governor to "help" Webber.

Jim Klukkert

Annie Oakley [is that really your name?], your rude comments, fallacies of logic and brutal mistreatment of facts & truth, insult the very intelligence and civility to which America used to aspire.

It is you, Ms. Oakley, who thinks it right to condemn a whole group of people as being ‘illegal’ [beyond your power to so condemn], to put words into the mouths of your opponents, and to generally sow discord and spread hatred while polluting our public square with disdain, ‘mistruths’ and bile.

So expect to be called out Ms. Oakley, for your poor choices. If you cannot stand the heat of the stove, get out of the kitchen.

Maria Bautista

Annie, correct, Webber also consulted with Keller in ABQ. MLG gave Webber an ok, ladrones, thieves in the night.

Mike Johnson


Khal Spencer

I wouldn't blame Padilla entirely for this fiasco without knowing how hard his arm was being twisted by the Mayor, given the whole history of this obelisk fiasco.

Still, one might ask what his culpability was or if he should have resigned in protest if he felt he was being asked to look the other way as vandals attacked the Plaza. As you say, I have my doubts the Governing Body would have stood by and done nothing if it were Proud Boys, the Klan, or some other right wing mob showing up with ropes and chains. Maybe its time to test the hypothesis and invite in some right wing yahoos with their tiki torch parades to do something untoward and find out.

Well, lesson learned. But ultimately, this falls on all of us who live here and vote for the Mayor and Councilors. We elect the members of the Governing Body and it appoints the Chief of Police. If majorities of the various council districts disapprove of what happened, we can vote in folks who have different ways of handling these things. Or not.

Statues are only as important as we make them. Other nations have dispensed with statues when political winds change, such as the Monument to Soviet Tank Crews, a Soviet tank on a pedestal** that used to live in Prague until the fall of the USSR and removal of its boot from the satellite nation's necks. But its always better to do it by consensus rather than a self-appointed mob of destructive clowns.


Richard Reinders

Padilla could have grown a pair stopped the vandalism and then challenged the Mayor to fire him for doing what he swore to as a police officer and is in his job description. What about this scenario

Khal Spencer

Sure. That would be another scenerio. Seems the city got caught with its knickers down, either due to inadequate manpower or lack of planning.

Carlos Montoya

Wishful thinker

Lee DiFiore

Don't forget, Padilla has had other "moments of greatness" in his career as chief of SFPD. The evidence room comes to mind as another.


Carolyn DM

Black, white, who the F cares where the votes came from. The main point is that your buffoon squatting in the WH did not win the vote in that state or any of the other swing states. Georgia is Blue like it never has been before. You people on the Right will desperately grasp at anything to make yourselves feel better in your loss!! LMAO!!

Mike Johnson

If by blue you mean Democrat, actually in 1992 Georgia voted for Clinton, and in that same year, 7 out of 11 House reps were Democrats, and both Senators, as well as the Governor. This year saw only 6 out of 14 House reps being Ds, an R Governor, and most likely, none of the Senators will be Ds. Not nearly as good as in the past.

Emily Koyama

You "LMAO" an awful lot. Do you have any "A" left? Just askin'.

Mike Johnson

Excellent! Well said![thumbup]

David Brown

Exactly right.....

Richard Reinders

Well stated Milan. but we all know Padilla marches to Webbers drum and ultimately it was Webber that got what he wanted.

Carlos Montoya


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