What’s more important in Santa Fe’s mayoral election, the shattered Soldiers’ Monument or all the endorsements for one candidate or another?

My instinct is it’s the monument. There was only one obelisk on the Plaza, and it was destroyed by a mob that attacked without resistance from the police department.

Most voters are hard-pressed to remember any mayoral endorsements from as recently as last week.

But they haven’t forgotten the ugliness of last October. Criminals with red paint, chisels, hammers, ropes and chains defaced and then smashed the obelisk. The violence happened in light of day.

Mayor Alan Webber is leading in endorsements, but the obelisk is still his albatross to carry.

True, Webber caught his main challenger, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, overstating his role in the police surrender of the Plaza. Vigil Coppler said Webber gave the order to cede the historic area to criminals, making it easy for them to destroy the 152-year-old obelisk.

There is no evidence the mayor participated in his police command staff’s decision to let lawbreakers do as they pleased. For Vigil Coppler, it was her first blunder of the campaign — an unforced error that gave comfort to Webber.

Vigil Coppler had ample reason to criticize Webber, but she went further than the facts allowed. In doing so, she gave Webber an opening. He seized it to tell Vigil Coppler she didn’t know what she was talking about.

Vigil Coppler would have been wiser sticking to the known record. It can only help her win the election.

A day after criminals tore down the monument, Webber publicly traded softball questions with his police chief, Andrew Padilla, about how the violence on the Plaza came about. The mayor announced he agreed with the police pullout.

Webber said it was wiser for police to let criminals have their way than to risk injuries in a confrontation.

Webber’s rationalization in support of the police department standing down has never been persuasive.

Had police officers been a strong presence on the Plaza before and during Indigenous Peoples’ Day, they could have prevented any violence. Webber’s political problems also would be smaller and less emotionally charged.

The out-of-towners who arrived in hopes of causing mayhem would not have been smug had they faced a police force that was properly deployed and well-disciplined.

Police are sworn to protect and serve the public. They did neither when it came to the Soldiers’ Monument.

Instead, police permitted intruders with no interest in Santa Fe’s well-being to break laws and rip down historic public property. Webber says it was smart strategy.

That is the story Vigil Coppler needs to tell. There’s no need for any guesswork with a record that clear.

Vigil Coppler could have stressed another hard truth. The criminals were emboldened by support from members of Webber’s political base who wanted the monument removed, if not destroyed.

Webber intended to accommodate them. He tried but failed to remove the monument under cover of darkness months earlier. His reasoning was it might be a flashpoint for violence, ignoring that a capable, committed police department can keep the peace.

Because the police were nowhere to be found as the Plaza violence escalated, most of the criminals who destroyed the obelisk escaped.

Only eight were charged by District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, and she’s let seven of them slither into a secretive mediation program.

The other defendant would have received the same unwarranted leniency if only he’d had a lawyer.

Webber himself was no fan of the Soldiers’ Monument. He has oversimplified what it stood for, saying the obelisk was racist because an original panel praised soldiers who fought “savage” Indians.

Webber ignored that the monument, like history itself, was far more complicated than its critics admitted.

Most panels on the obelisk celebrated Union soldiers who stopped the Confederate Army’s advance in New Mexico.

Other cities yanked down Confederate statues. Webber wanted to remove an obelisk that in part paid tribute to soldiers who fought to preserve the union during its most tenuous time.

The mayoral campaign has five weeks to go. Issues abound. There’s the quality or lack thereof in basic city services. There’s an external audit of city finances that, without adequate explanation from Webber’s administration, has not been submitted to the state auditor. The delay threatens to extend into the start of early voting.

And there will be Indigenous Peoples Day — the one-year anniversary of mob rule on the Plaza. It’s still an open wound in a city about to elect a mayor.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(51) comments

Russell Scanlon

Well let’s see: The obelisk is gone. There were no fatalities, no serious injuries, no other property damage and just a handful of arrests. And this was during a pandemic and an incredibly hostile and tense election season (thanks to the Trumpies). And now life goes on in beautiful downtown Santa Fe. I wondered if any of the people commenting here ever considered how much worse it could have been. Probably not, because that axe needs grinding.

Dennis Romero

Hello Russell - no axe to grind on my part, just extremely disappointed for the lack of leadership and transparency on the part of Mayor Webber. He claimed he'd address the issues associated with monuments for over a year before this incident took place. He did not.

He attempted to remove a monument, and did remove a statue with absolutely no public input and no public meeting with the City Council.

He took a number of actions in the dead of night, so that nobody would be present to question him or his antics.

He had a police force stand down, according to his own comments and statements last year, now he claims he had nothing to do with the police standing down. This is pretty darned disingenuous and dishonest.

So, the bottom line is, the albatross hanging around Mayor Webber's neck is of his own making.

Russell Scanlon

If Webber goes, y’all are going to have to find another person to hate on.

norma perez

Everyone has their opinions, and that is why we vote. In my opinion, to expand on something Janet said earlier, is that we are all transplants except for the indigenous people. All I can remember about that monument is savage savage savage, and I think to myself, it is a fact that the monument was racially biased. There would be no reason to say anything about savages if the only intent of the monument was to celebrate the heroes of the civil war. I am Hispanic myself, And I wouldn't want to see a monument that called Hispanics savages.

Emily Hartigan

OK, I'm new.

But the word "savage" has been gone for nearly FIFTY years.

It was chiseled off in about 1973 or 1974.

The rest of the monument was to the soldiers who helped shorten the Civil War.

Long gone racist word. Help in ending slave-holding.

How is this so clearly "racist"?

andres paglayan

Scapegoating the mayor for the results of 400 years of violent and abusive history is not going to solve any problem. This logic would instead weaken us and transform Santa Feans in ignorants.

Dennis Romero

Hello Andres - I'll repeat what I wrote above -

I'm extremely disappointed for the lack of leadership and transparency on the part of Mayor Webber. He claimed he'd address the issues associated with monuments for over a year before this incident took place. He did not.

He attempted to remove a monument, and did remove a statue with absolutely no public input and no public meeting with the City Council.

He took a number of actions in the dead of night, so that nobody would be present to question him or his antics. He had a police force stand down, according to his own comments and statements last year, now he claims he had nothing to do with the police standing down. This is pretty darned disingenuous and dishonest. So, the bottom line is, the albatross hanging around Mayor Webber's neck is of his own making.

Despite what you stated, Santa Feans are not ignorant. We just expect honesty and integrity from the Mayor's office, and we haven't seen either in the past four years.

Khal Spencer

"...The out-of-towners who arrived in hopes of causing mayhem would not have been smug had they faced a police force that was properly deployed and well-disciplined...."

Well said, Milan. Regardless of whether it was the Chief of Police or the Mayor who agreed to not having a strong police presence in the Plaza in advance of Indigenous People's Destruction Day, the buck stops at City Hall.

Councilor Vigil Coppler needs to find her fighting form before time runs out. Maybe folks annoyed with the current mayor ought to be carrying around "Remember the Obelisk" signs, akin to "Remember the Alamo". Now that got people riled...

Mike Johnson

And of course the sudden resignation of the police chief in question speaks volumes about the liabilities heading into this election for Webber.

Kirk Holmes

[thumbup]

Kirk Holmes

[thumbup]

Mike Johnson

Speaking of endorsements, we all know this rag's editorial board will soon endorse Webber, and that speaks volumes too.

A Ortega

It is pretty amazing to see where webber is getting this money from. https://www.santafenm.gov/media/files/Candidate%20Alan%20Webber_Mayor.pdf

Janet Eduardo

Vigil Coppler doesn't need extra cash to aid her campaign, Milan is doing a great job all by himself with today's front page campaign ad for her.

Dennis Romero

Good morning Janet. Milan is writing a column. He addresses issues that some people agree with, and some don't. Four years ago, he wrote positive pieces about then candidate Webber. Now, based upon Mayor Webber's performance, he is writing not so positive pieces. This isn't advertisement any more than when a story about Mayor Webber is published on the front page of the paper.

Dennis

LeRoy Sanchez

Well said!

John Cook

We should start a pool on how many columns about the Mayor and the obelisk Milan will publish before the election. It's five weeks to the election. I take '12'. He will no doubt be as effective as he was with his constantly repeated columns against Andrea Romero. You know, before she won the election.

Mike Johnson

And if Webber should win, just like with Andrea, it will tell you much about the intelligence of voters.

paul pacheco

It’s not just endorsements that push a political candidate up over the top, it’s MONEY! Even though Webber is a coward for running from the vandals, his campaign has more money! Vigil-Coppler can’t win or outspend Mr. Webber! Even though the citizens find his lack of action on the obelisk a big deal, he’ll be mayor 4 more years! Vigil-Coppler will no longer be a city councilor but city government moves on! Poor Santa Fe and poor community, but long live our culture and our history!

Andrew Lucero

Milan is 100% right… Webber was counting on the obelisk to be a non-issue. That it would fade from the memory of voters and that his progressive transplant base would carry him to an easy victory. He grossly underestimated the obelisk’s importance to a very large segment of our community. His ignorance of our history, his arrogance and dismissiveness to Hispanics and our culture will be his Waterloo. Yes, Webber has his supporters and they do have money. Fortunately for us, they only have one vote each. But they do vote! Historically, voter turnout has always been abysmally low. But I have a feeling that there is going to be a large voter turnout this election. If the people come out to vote, Webber doesn’t have a chance and he knows it. Early voting starts October 5th… If anyone needs a ride to the polls, I will be happy to take them!

Janet Eduardo

You'll give rides as long as they're not transplants? Like many, you seem to have a real bias against anyone who was not born here but moved here by choice.

Dennis Romero

Janet,

If you or anyone else need a ride to the polls to vote, please contact me - I'm on Facebook.

I'll help with a ride, whether I agree with or like who you aren't voting for. As a matter of fact, I won't ask who you are voting for, because that's none of my business who anyone else but me is voting for.

Dennis

Dennis Romero

I wish I knew how to edit past posts, but I don't. I meant to type: "I'll help with a ride, whether I agree with or like who you are or aren't voting for."

Andrew Lucero

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Andrew Lucero

That's a pretty nasty assumption on your part Janet. I didn't make any such statement or qualifications to get a ride. I said "If anyone needs a ride to the polls, I will be happy to take them"... I guess you didn't see the "anyone" part... It's pretty evident that the person with the bias is YOU!

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

Maria Bautista

He will give rides, so will I, civic duty, what will you be doing?

John Cook

We'll find out how big your '...very large segment of the community...' is. I suspect it is a very small but very vocal segment. Perhaps I'm wrong. We will soon see.

Kirk Holmes

[thumbup]

Russell Scanlon

Voting for whoever can make this city a better, safer place to live.

Tiffany Thomas

Then Webber isn’t your guy

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]

Russell Scanlon

I’m

Emily Hartigan

Modeling tearing down the obelisk (at night, under dubious legal rationale), and then sending city workers on a city holiday (rather than a few days earlier) actually on Indigenous People's Day, was waving a red cape in a volatile situation.

Various groups had worked out, over two years, a new Proclamation for Fiesta. It would have been possible to address the unseen scar of "savages" so that the lawlessness didn't prevail.

So the negative things I hear about Vigil-Coppler are probably outweighed by the huge series of errors over the obelisk.

With so many terrific people in Santa Fe, how can it be that voters are stuck with no good choice?

Maria Bautista

JoAnne Vigil Coppler is a good choice.

Santa Faith

Excellent article. well written and articulate. Milan you nailed it on the historical accuracy.

I voted for Webber in the last election, but now, its obvious he needs to take some time and revisit a few decisions he has made.

The time now is for healing and actual reconciliation from Coppler, who represents women, Hispanics, Native Americans, business people and state workers. She does this because she is part of each of those groups. I don't know her very well, having only met her once, but I am impressed by her.

Its time to have some healing and I for one will vote for that.

B. Rosen

I still haven’t decided who will get my vote. For many years now the mayors of our town have been very disappointing to me. I have seen very little evidence that any of them have significantly helped those who are most in need in our community. Have they improved the overall quality of life here? Not that I have seen. The Obelisk fiasco was an embarrassment for all those who were supposed to be in charge. We had mob rule right in the heart of our city. One can’t help but to wonder if these crazed vandals would have been stopped had they attacked the Governor’s mansion, the Cathedral….Crime has continued to climb, a lot of it derives from our problems with homelessness, drug addiction, and overall poverty/cost of living here. Quite frankly, I don’t see any candidates in this race who are going to do anything tangible to fix these problems, Am I wrong?

Janet Eduardo

No, you're not. People are more concerned about who is "attacking" their "culture" rather than fixing the incredibly serious problems in Santa Fe. Where they're from is more important to a lot of these folks than what they'll do.

Dennis Romero

Hello Janet,

During the last Mayoral forum, the subject of the 2020 Fiscal Audit came up. It's now close to a year overdue. I believe both candidates challenging Mayor Webber discussed it. That's an issue of substance, isn't it? That affects all of us, doesn't it?

Dennis

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

norma perez

I don't support the way that the monument was torn down, but I think it was bound to happen. I was in Baltimore when the statue of Columbus was dropped into the Chesapeake Bay. This happened because of long-term disrespect of 1 culture over another, not because of the mayor. This is a good discussion. There will be many issues facing the city, and I don't know who to vote for yet. Thanks all for your voices.

Khal Spencer

Good point, B. Rosen. I suppose the Catholic Church was one of the more central malefactors in the conquest, suppression and destruction of local indigenous cultures. I also suspect if those vandals had attempted to trash the Basilica, we would actually have a shooting war in these parts.

Maria Bautista

Yes, there are huge problems. I believe city hall needs a mucking.

Richard Reinders

IMO Webber can say what he wants, he directs the police dept. , and the police standing down was a direct or indirect action of Webber policies. I call on all New Mexicans to get in this fight because it is your culture he is attacking, those monument represent all Hispanic and Indigenous people of New Mexico. We all have family and friends in Santa Fe, so call them and ask them to show up and vote for Joann Vigil Coppler she will focus on the meat and potatoes of running the city not a political agenda. Webber is counting on the Hispanics/Indigenous to sit on their hands at home and not vote, show him how wrong he is.

David Romero

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

LeRoy Sanchez

So true. Vote for JoAnn!

Katherine Martinez

Thank you Milan. 100%. Now it’s up to the ignorant, Pavlovian voters here in our liberal hamlet; let’s wait and see, not holding my breath.

Maria Bautista

You could die holding your breath. Why not educate voters even offer free rides to the polls.

John Cook

Neither 'ignorant' nor 'Pavlovian' normally describe liberals. Those words more nearly suit folks who know they are in the minority for lack of ideas and who substitute invective for ideas.

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

norma perez

[thumbup]

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