Mayor Alan Webber said Wednesday he plans to call for the removal of three controversial monuments in Santa Fe, including an obelisk in the heart of downtown that will be at the center of a rally Thursday led by indigenous activists.

The mayor also announced plans to form a commission that will evaluate every statue and monument in the city and help determine their fate — a move former Mayor Javier Gonzales started but that hadn’t gained traction until now. In addition, Webber said he planned to sign an emergency proclamation Wednesday “addressing institutional racism,” which “recognizes that we are taking action both to address the moral truth of the moment and also the legal truth of the moment.”

The city declined to provide a copy of the proclamation.

Webber said during a webcast on Facebook that the time had come for Santa Fe to “step up.”

“My intention as mayor is to call for the obelisk located in the Santa Fe Plaza to come down, to call for the Kit Carson obelisk located in front of the Santa Fe courthouse to come down and to remove the [statue of Spanish conquistador Don Diego de Vargas from Cathedral Park], and to put it perhaps in a safe place while we look for its proper home,” Webber said.

“My belief is that we must take these steps now because they are the right thing to do,” he added. “It is a moment of moral truth, and we’ve been called to do it by our Native American colleagues, friends and family members, and it is long overdue.”

The mayor made the announcement on the eve of a protest over the obelisk in the middle of the Plaza. The obelisk was dedicated in part to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians,” according to an inscription on the war monument, which was erected more than 150 years ago.

The latest push to remove the obelisk is not the first in the city’s storied history — and another attempt could prove challenging, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler wrote in a message.

“When the 1973 City Council unanimously voted to remove the obelisk from the Plaza, it learned they had no say in the matter without serious penalty of losing federal money if the Plaza monument was removed,” she wrote, adding the historic downtown square is a National Historic Landmark and on the State Register of Cultural Properties.

“No changes are possible without federal and state legislation. That 1973 City Council rescinded their vote,” wrote Vigil Coppler, a former First Judicial District Court clerk of the court who based her research on a former District Court judge’s writings.

The obelisk has been a long-running source of controversy that recently reignited amid escalating tensions across different parts of the country over certain historic monuments.

In the 1970s, an unidentified man wearing overalls climbed into the Plaza obelisk and chiseled the word “savage” away. The city at some point installed a plaque stating “monument texts reflect the character of the times in which they are written and the temper of those who wrote them” and that “attitudes change and prejudices hopefully dissolve.”

Natives consider the monument racist and say it celebrates violence.

The Santa Fe-based Three Sisters Collective, which organized Thursday’s protest, said on social media the demonstration would instead be a celebration.

“Long story short, all three of our demands are being met: obelisks and statue are coming down,” the organization wrote on its Instagram account.

Webber said he planned to attend the “peaceful protest” and encouraged almost everyone to attend.

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“The one group that I do not invite to be there are highly armed, self-proclaimed vigilante groups,” he said, referring to organizations such as the New Mexico Civil Guard, which had attended a protest recently in Santa Fe. “That group is not welcome in Santa Fe. That group should not bring the violence and the confrontational mindset they carry with them to a peaceful protest.”

Before the mayor announced his intent to call for the removal of the three monuments, Three Sisters Collective had sent an open letter to Webber and the City Council demanding the removal of what it called “three racist and white supremacist statues that celebrate oppressors who led genocide and systemic oppression on the Indigenous Peoples of this region, and in particular, on the Pueblo People.”

Not long after the mayor ended his webcast, the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department issued statements on behalf of its Cabinet secretary and two pueblo governors lauding Webber’s decision.

“As we are seeing throughout the state and across the world, people of good conscience are coming together to change how we think about powerful symbols like statues,” Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo said in a statement. “It is no longer enough to present just one version of history. We owe it to all those who lived it to portray the full complexity of our shared past.”

Tesuque Pueblo Gov. Robert A. Mora Sr. said the obelisk on the Plaza sits on land originally belonging to the tribe and “has long been an affront to our people and history.”

“Mayor Webber’s actions continue the better course, set forth in the Entrada dialogue, toward truth and reconciliation,” Mora said in his statement, referring to a successful effort to end a controversial dramatization known as the Entrada, which Native Americans and others called revisionist history and a celebration of genocide.

The Entrada, which had been performed on the Plaza each year during the Fiesta de Santa Fe, depicted the “peaceful” reentry of de Vargas into Santa Fe after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

The pageant, which had sparked raucous protests that grew bigger each passing year, was replaced with a celebration of peace and reconciliation that Webber helped broker two years ago.

“My intention is to move past those monuments, to convene the group that helped two years ago with a historic proclamation that was really more than any city in America had achieved toward recognizing the mutual relationships and dependence that we have on each other,” Webber said Wednesday. “That proclamation and the courage of [Los Caballeros de Vargas, which put on the Entrada] and the Fiesta Council turned a page in Santa Fe and turned a page in our history.

“Now we have to write the next pages, and those pages will come when we establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission composed of a broad cross section of people from Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico to look into each others’ hearts, into our past and to create the future we want our children and our grandchildren to live in,” he added.

Webber called the formation of such a commission “logical” and “overdue.”

“That commission will be asked to look at all of those statues, all of those monuments, all of those works of art and really evaluate them. Do they cause pain? Do they tell an honest version of history? Do they tell everyone’s version of history or only the victors’ version of history?” he said.

“Where do each of those pieces belong? Maybe they belong in a museum. Maybe they belong in a particular collection that tells the story of Northern New Mexico history. Maybe they’ll belong exactly where they are with a new plaque or a new explanation to go into the context of why they’re there and what the story is that they tell,” he added. “But simply leaving things as they are are not an option.”

Webber started his webcast by quoting former President Abraham Lincoln, who said “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present” — a quote that Webber repeated later in his address.

Native American activist Elena Ortiz, who started an online petition calling for the removal of the de Vargas statue from Cathedral Park, said she was glad Webber announced his decision to call for its removal. But she said it was ironic that Webber quoted Lincoln during his webcast.

“Abraham Lincoln was Kit Carson’s commander when he was ordered to round up the Navajos right before the Long Walk,” she said.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

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(52) comments

Daniel Valdez

What NM needs to do is vote every one of these democrats out of office. Anybody but Democrat 2020. Enough is enough!!!

Orlie Romero

I changed from Democrat to Republican not because of any other reason than i noticed the vision and focus the libs we’re taking our country in mid 2000s. They placed the wool over the Democrats eyes and made them believe they we’re for them, this is what has derived. Nothing American, it’s a crappy miserable place, nothing but decisiveness, scared people won’t speak up, no jobs, no money, education is horrific, religion gone, people voting against their own kids future just to be right. Majority of young people don’t have a clue as to what their voting for and what’s coming. Take Webber, didn’t grow up here and doesn’t get the culture here, so now he is trying to change our culture to match Bernies, f that, I say vote these idiots out!

Robert Gallegos

Let's rename of the city Santa Fe! Relocate all the monuments to the casinos. Give them a new home. 80% of the people that go to their casinos are Hispanic 😂

Jose Smith

Good morning class. Today we're going to talk about the word, systematic, which, even if you do just a quick search of the word on your phone, you'll see that it's defined as "done or acting according to a fixed plan or system; methodical." Now, as I'm sure you've read in this morning's paper, our Mayor does not seem to be acting in a very methodical way in rushing to take down these local statues that are unquestionably rooted in a dark and destructive past, and I can see how doing this angers many people. However, one of the reasons why this reckoning with our past is so complicated and painful is that it is, as the word systematic makes clear, asking us to look in the mirror and understand more clearly how we have all been part of a plan and a system that has methodically, not just brutalized and attempted to destroy other human beings, but has went on to embed and celebrate these conquests in the fabric of who we are. What an uncomfortable and shocking dilemma, to have to come to terms with the reality that so much of our history is founded on the lies and fabricated historical myths of those in power. What does is say of a culture that celebrates itself by honoring its conquests? So many of you are right, toppling statues does not fix or change what is rooted in our psyches and hearts, but it's a step in the right direction, a step toward what is a difficult reckoning for all of us. In my opinion, class, taking down a statue does not erase history...erasing someone's history and culture is usually done in a more methodical and menacing way, like forcefully removing a people from their homeland and sending them to schools where they are not allowed to speak their native language, thereby attempting to erase who they are. Or, like mine and my mother's generation in Northern New Mexico, not being taught the Spanish language by our elders because they had been systematically taught that someone else's language and history were more valuable. As I said, class, this is complicated and painful, but no one ever said undoing a system built on methodical violence and oppression was going to be easy. I do believe though, that our next steps, especially if you don't fully understand this, is to walk towards the mirror and take a long, hard look at what is deeply rooted in who you are.

William Schmitt

Jose Smith, Thanks for your thoughts here. Just like the virus this controversy seems to have blown out of a clear blue day although this has been brewing for decades. Suddenly the choices before us seem urgent. While it is true that removing a monument cannot erase history, it is worthwhile recognizing that the symbolism inherent in monuments only reflects the biases of the people who make them while frequently ignoring truth. the current moment is a watershed moment for us as a community to start to reconcile ourselves with our past. We have a wonderful opportunity before us to express ourselves in our time, in our own way and reflect our shared vision as an inclusive community with malice toward none. To this end, I wish to proffer the idea of keeping the obelisk in place as a reminder or our past, but place it in context by building a truth and reconciliation monument around it. The design must be supported by all parts of our community and to this end a group comprised of community members be formed to look at this idea, and reach a consensus going forward. My initial thought is a structure of 3 arches made in a pueblo or chaco style surrounding the obelisk but not obscuring it, only serving as an access to it. and standing outside of the structure 3 bronzes or stone sculpture representing our 3 communities in Northern NM. It's our time, we can create something beautiful to express our shared values of peace and respect. bearing in mind our future generations.

Stefanie Beninato

I like your idea William.

Jeff Varela

"Webber started his webcast by quoting former President Abraham Lincoln, who said “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present” — a quote that Webber repeated later in his address."

Now this self-proclaimed "CEO" is making bold, political and sensitive suggestions. We warned many SF natives that Webber was a phony and an opportunist while he ran for office...including Governor. She he doped many SF natives and others to vote for him for Mayor. And now instead of working to fix the many infrastructure and quality-of-life problems SF has, he resorts to a Crusader instead of Mayor. It appears this dude can't lead a camel to water, and uses ethnic issues to right the wrongs of history. With the majority of the City Council in his corner...looks like SF continues its quest to become Fantasyland for those who seek a place to create their fantasies!

Philip Taccetta

Michael Johnson - I think they should imagine what NM would be like without these brave people who came and settled this uncivilized, undeveloped land.

The population of the state at the time was close to what it is now. There were cities, roads, government and agricultural with sophisticated irrigation ditches as well as local catchments for smaller fields. They traded extensively far into Central America and all over the country. There’s Cerrillos Turquoise in the Museum at Cahokia outside of St. Louis in Illinois.

Uncivilized, undeveloped land? I don’t think so.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Wow! You need an education in more than history. The population of NM was 195,000 in 1910, so you are saying more than 2 million people were killed from say 1492 to then??? You can't be that ignorant. Sophisticated irrigation ditches???? You mean like the primitive acequia system today that could never even feed the existing pueblos? Traded extensively thousands of miles away, roads? Ha! Those were primitive trails and people were on foot, they didn't even have horses, mules, or oxen they were so backward and poor and uneducated. Please come back when you hav read a few books at least.

Dr. Michael Johnson

I suggest you read: "A Laboratory for Anthropology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press." It shows the population of New Mexico from 1600 (when it was about 80,000) to 1842 (when it was about 65,000).

Eric Allin

This "PC" sudden uprising is a joke. Tell me, how many people that these monuments truly "offend" contemplate, on a daily basis, about how these monuments offend them? Or, is it "the thing to do" since it's being broadcast all over the media, across the world? Do these activist dwell on the offensive nature of the statutes on a daily basis? Every time they drive by, walk by one of these monuments, are they brought to tears, sent into deep thought about the travesties their people endured hundreds of years ago? Probably not. It's in the news, so let's suddenly get "woke" and make some headlines. Basically, if anything offends any of us, let's just get a mob of protesters (with similar view points) and demand we get what we want. My group of like minded protesters will demand the the removal of weeds that plague the city and demand that the road conditions throughout the city are repaired, as they should be since that's what we pay taxes for. Maybe then, our voices will be heard. Apparently that's what you need to, march, protest and vandalize (Kit Carson monument- on federal property by the way) and then we'll get our way.

Ruby RO

At what point does Webber’s reign of terror stop? The guy tries to stand high on his soap box of ideology and can’t deliver on ANY results. Now he’s taken divisive steps that pit our city’s cultural heritage against one another by not allowing the community to participate. SHAME on you Mayor Webber, and if a petition to remove you from office starts to circulate I will sign. You are a discredit to the office of Mayor of Santa Fe, and have not the slightest clue on how to unite people and run a participatory city government.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Firstly, thank-you Mr. Chacon for another well-written article. Also, I'm encouraged by some of the intelligent and thoughtful comments posted. Be clear: A Mob Rules mentality has infected our nation. Not unlike COVID-19, no community in our once-Godly blessed nation is safe, as Federal, State and Local "leaders" cowardly surrender to

belligerent, special-agenda serving -and often destructive- voices. The recent removal of monuments within the state is not only another attempt to marginalize the vast contributions, however imperfect, to American History by -both- Native American and Hispanos alike, it is a spat upon the graves of the U.S. Military Veterans of both groups - the two highest per capita in U.S. military service. As, mostly beloved monuments to

American History are removed to satisfy angry, misled and ignorant mobs. Perhaps, the Smokey the Bear Monument in Capitan is next?

Lee DiFiore

There is nothing "progressive" about the progressive agenda. Book burnings will be next as I'm sure the libraries are filled with publications offensive to someone.

Manuel Martinez

The problem with the State and Country it's one giant latex condom! Everyone is to ultra sensitive!!!!

Eric Allin

Statue at Cathedral Park is already being removed as of 7:15 this morning.

David Romero

There’s a plaque on the monument that says the words Reflect the times in which they were written. Enough said.???

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David Romero

I agree

Khal Spencer

"Tearing down monuments, creating laws and legislation, and pulling 200 year old breakfast brand names off grocery store shelves WILL NOT change what is inside of a man's heart."

True enough, but ignoring these monuments to brutality and conquest indicates that the heart has not turned over a new leaf. I've long wondered (well, since 2001) why Onate was still being glorified and thought that if his statues were to remain up, they should officially have one foot lopped off and offered with an explanation. The Obelisk dedication is repulsive even with a word or three ground out, as we all know what those words were. We really should re-dedicate the obelisk as a memorial to reconciliation. Perhaps using the Resettlement Camp memorial up at Frank Ortiz as a model.

One of my City Councilors reminded me last night that the overall context of this discussion isn't people beating on Onate's likeness down in Albuquerque but the whole discussion of Confederate hero statues, most put up during Jim Crow.

Ok, mea culpa for missing the big picture. I apologize, Mr. Mayor.

Monuments that have meaning and contemplation value need to remain up even if they leave us uncomfortable with our past. No one should be comfortable with our past and we need ways to remind ourselves of that. So I don't have any respect for cancel culture or other Orwellian attempts to put stuff down the Memory Hole.

The bigger discussion is how to look at all these statues and memorials and institutions. Its tough to have a real public discussion in the middle of a pandemic when the only way to get together for a Council meeting is ignore the emergency order or to rail at the computer remotely. That's my main bone to pick with the Mayor. Me? I'd like to see this done by referendum so we show that the overwhelming public in Santa Fe is on board.

Stefanie Beninato

Where does Webber get off calling for the removal of particular statutes without seeking public input (and not just from protesters). Is he going to use the bogus emergency powers that he and his city manager have been using to make all kinds of changes without tranparency and public scrutiny to tear down the statutes and the obelisk. I am glad that Joanne Vigil Coppler has some institutional memory on the obelisk. To me it is in a different category than the statutes--which were put up in the late 20 C to honor one ethnic group in our town--the one sidedness of ethnicity in this town has always been problematic IMHO (and I am part Hispanic but not from here). The obelisk because of the removal of the word savage and the "excuse our language, it is historical" marker on the other side gives us opportunity to reflect and discuss racial/ethnic attitudes/bias and the changes over time. The obelisk is also the zero point for many deeds in downtown and the eastside. I am glad it is a historic monument and Webber cannot unilaterally take it down.

Oh BTW how about changing the name of Entrada Park (Don Diego and Cerrillos--actually a small, insignificant pocket park) to Peace Park?

julian espinoza

New Mexico has a pluralistic history of mixed races. Systemic racism didn't end after the 17th century and continues on to this date. Now, the oppressor are not 17th century Spaniards but white supremacy or nationalist. We cannot allow these proponents to circumvent New Mexico's history. Remember, "The Frontier and Manifest Destiny" non white people were destroyed; this includes Native Americans. We need to prevent our history from being erased!

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julian espinoza

Webber presents to be initializing a framework of systemic polarization.

Katherine Martinez

Tearing down monuments, creating laws and legislation, and pulling 200 year old breakfast brand names off grocery store shelves WILL NOT change what is inside of a man's heart.

Paula Lozar

Maybe they could leave the obelisk in the center of the Plaza and remove the plaque with the offensive wording ...

Khal Spencer

"Native American activist Elena Ortiz, who started an online petition calling for the removal of the de Vargas statue from Cathedral Park, said she was glad Webber announced his decision to call for its removal. But she said it was ironic that Webber quoted Lincoln during his webcast. "Abraham Lincoln was Kit Carson's commander when he was ordered to round up the Navajos right before the Long Walk," she said."

IIRC, Lincoln also, at one time, wanted to free the slaves and send them back to Africa. Few major figures, to quote a Monty Python movie, gets out of our history without s**t all over them. So where to we stop with the Statue Purge?

I've got two problems with this discussion that I wish the Mayor had considered. One, I'd prefer to build consensus on what to do with the statues rather than make a statement at about the same time people are tearing them down. It just looks too much like a capitulation to pressure. Two, that at a time when people can't even go to City Hall or the Legislature to petition the government for a redress of grievances, so to speak, this looks like it is being done without adequate public input.

The original wording on the Obelisk was racist and awful and needed to change. I suspect like Lincoln's or Jefferson's impurity, or for that matter that of the Catholic Church (a major player in the subjugation of the SW), this reflects the evolution of history and has to be fleshed out rather than sent out as a condescending lecture.

So sure, now that Daniel Chacon has written a long report on what the Mayor actually thinks, lets see a committee to discuss reconciling ourselves to the past but not flogging ourselves for it. None of us were here to offer our opinions, so its up to us to make improvements to the present rather than apportion blame for the past. I wish him luck even though my initial response was "what the blazes"?

Manuel Martinez

A Nation that Forgets its Past has no Future! I don't get it! I grew up in Santa Fe enjoying our culture our history! Really taking down a statue what change is going to do accept satisfy a few. I doesn't change anything. I grew up with Native Americans from Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Tesuque, Pojoaque, Nambe, San I, Santa Clara, and San Juan and never never was any bad blood!!!! Played sports with them invited into their homes and never not one inch of racism. What happened to our towns to our state? Removing one thing and maybe replacing it with something else isn't going to change anything! Maybe leaving them where they are and adding statues and monuments of Native Americans and Anglos is a better approach. Remember people A Nation that Forgets its Past has no Future!!!!!

Richard Reinders

I agree with you Manuel 100% I married into the culture who is both Spanish and Native like the majority of locals and believe in leave it like you find it, the reason the tourist come is for the history. The progressive west and east coast transplants only want to erase the culture and homogenize the community and in doing so they stir the pot until they get their way. I think the agitators should go back to where they come, or live and let live. I am ready to go back to some kind of normal with out the daily friction that is driving the country mad. Maybe it is to much time on their hands , go back to work and be productive not destructive.

David Romero

What happened? This carpet was elected mayor.

Kathy Fish

Removing relics of racial injustice does not "erase history." They're statues, cold and dead. We're not forgetting our past - we're acknowledging its truths. Native Americans were the first Americans.

Robert Bartlett

Cowardice. Weakness. Political correctness. It will only provoke more destruction.

rodney carswell

without passing judgement on the issue of the statues--go or stay: I think this mayor should just remain on the sidelines of the debate. If the city council, representing all parts and constituencies in the city, wished to both individually and as a body, argue their position(s), I think that would have some relevance (and provoke effective

constituent debate/blowback) for the people of Santa Fe.

Richard Wendel

Since city is broke, maybe a game show will sponsor it if we change our name to say “Wheel of Fortune “?


Other than being a true testament to the tenacious human spirit proceeding through psychological and environmental circumstances and conditions of which most of us could not even come close to being able to fathom. Most of the spin put to this country's history, myths and various actors there of is 90 percent a warm and fuzzy made to feel good shaggy-dog-story and to the dismay of those who have their identities invested in the let's pretend identity games going on, having a closer and deeperlook-see at history is actually somewhat sobering and is a house of cards ready to tumble down in the winds of change blowing about these days, dismantled and re-mantled in the ways which our Hearts are speaking to us in how to Live with our brothers and sisters, interdependently with our best foot forward in Love with all of Life today.      The truth may hurt, but the lies will kill you, or at least keep you being nicely complacent to the programming of the paradigm...... [huh]

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Judith Senda

Exactly! This is ain’t Portland, Mr. Mayor, and you’re only a temporary custodian of this town. You weren’t elected to give it a 400 year makeover. Maybe you’d be better suited as mayor of the Taliban, and tear down a couple more ancient Buddhas.

Jeff Clark

Onate was recalled from New Mexico and tried and convicted of cruelty to both the Natives and his own people. He was banished from the New Mexico for life and Mexico City for five years.

That is the real history of Onate. He was not a hero.

John Onstad


Mayor Webber should promote the destruction of The Cathedral too since it's just another symbol of Hispanic Roman Catholic cultural oppression of Native Americans.

Maybe the Roundhouse and City Hall too.

Ya think?


KT Rivera

This is history belongs to all of us. This is OUR city.

Khal Spencer

When is the next Mayor election?

Richard Wendel

Not soon enough

joe archuleta

Where are the Caballeros DeVargas they should be out there Raising cane along with the Fiesta Consol on the removal of the DeVargas statue it’s part of the Hispanic History.

David Romero

Mayor Webber doesn’t that these monuments are a part of our culture. History good or bad needs to be told. Just like removing the Confederate monuments, it does nothing to bring about social justice or healing . It just causes resentment.

Orlie Romero

All those that vote and support democrats, welcome to power hungry and socialist run governments, you got what you asked for.

Nicoletta Munroe

Signs of hegemony, patriarchy, colonialism, may not be appropriate in Santa Fe. While dialogue is necessary, the obelisks and the Onate statue may be oppressive, and may cause unnecessary civil disobedience. In announcing the removals we avoid an incident. Let us speak about the next step for the Plaza, Cathedral Park and the Federal building. Let us build consensus about the monuments of our future. Are Native American heroes more apt for our vernacular?

Leo Catelli

The statues have been there for decades or more. They haven’t caused much of an incident until the last few weeks. People are unemployed or underemployed, sitting at home and ruminating. People of the social justice persuasion are channeling their economic frustration and anger on trying to erase parts of history to fit their narrative. Toppling a statue is pretty trivial in the grand scheme, and won’t change the issues of racism in the country.

Richard Reinders

Webber what about talking to the majority, this is a form of racism against the Hispanics of this state, you definitely are not the right person to represent Santa Fe you lack the backbone and cultural perspective to make such discussions. Pueblo Governor Lavato did not think it was right to take down Onate because it was history and you can't erase it. Where was the public discussion and dialog. If the public agreed it would be one thing but a petition with 100 signatures does not represent a majority. If I get 100 signatures to remove you from office is it sufficient. I don't have a dog in the fight between the Pueblos and Hispanics but I do have dog in the fight if we stop following the rules of the majority. Put it to vote that is the American way if we still have an America.

Philip Taccetta

If we followed the “rules of the majority” trump wouldn’t be in the White House.

Gail Martinez

Thank you Richard for your comment and I agree with you 100%. - if our city government fails to hold themselves to a higher standard and not hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to - nothing! Unfortunately the quality of our leadership in our City Government is going downhill fast and they no longer serve "the people".

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