Mayor Alan Webber on Tuesday slammed what he described as personal attacks against Public Works Director Regina Wheeler surrounding the city’s controversial streetlight conversion project, a day before the City Council was scheduled to vote on a final design.

Wheeler is spearheading the project to convert 5,600 high-pressure sodium bulbs to energy-efficient LEDs, part of the city’s larger push to go carbon neutral by 2040. The cost of the project will be covered through energy savings, according to city documents.

The project has sparked intense interest, particularly among dark-sky advocates, over the proper lighting specifications needed to protect the city’s nighttime vistas.

The City Council will discuss the project Wednesday during its evening session.

Webber said some of the emails have amounted to character assassination, including what he said were unfounded accusations of kickbacks and a lack of transparency. The mayor added there was a level of “misogyny” surrounding the attacks on Wheeler.

“She has been raked over the coals; her integrity has been questioned; her professional qualifications have been questioned,” he said. “There are people who don’t even live here who have turned this into a personal attack against one of the most qualified and diligent community-minded managers that the city of Santa Fe has ever had.”

In February, the City Council voted to approve a contract with Dalkia Energy Solutions to take on the project through a cooperative agreement that allows the city to select contracts approved by other cities in New Mexico. Dalkia Energy Solutions previously worked on Albuquerque’s streetlight conversation project in 2015.

Originally, the city discussed lights at around 3,000 kelvins — a measurement of the color temperature of a light source — on residential streets and local roads, and 4,000 on major arteries.

After a process that solicited community input, the proposal was adjusted to setting residential streetlights at 2,700 kelvins, with local and major roads set at 3,000. The lights also would include shielding and technology to allow for lights to be dimmed. According to a city memo, the design would reduce energy consumption by over 60 percent, and the overall lumen budget by over 50 percent.

However, members of the community raised concerns about the discussed kelvin level, which led the City Council to elongate the conversion timeline to engage in a community outreach process.

The city installed four demonstration sites across the city to gather input, with some manned with Dalkia and city staff members to answer questions. A website also was set up to provide information and registered community feedback.

During the process, a streetlight steering committee was formed, but the names of the committee members and the meetings originally were kept from the public.

Wheeler originally said the decision was made to shield steering committee members from harsh and consistent correspondence. Some members of the steering committee, however, have said the decision to keep names secret came from a city staff suggestion.

The committee had two meetings, which some members said did not provide enough time to actively vet and discuss the project as a whole. Only one of the meetings was open to the public.

Richard Ellenberg, a member of the steering committee, said there wasn’t enough time provided to ask enough questions surrounding the proposal. He added he didn’t feel the committee “steered” anything surrounding the project.

But Wheeler defended the process as “incredibly robust,” offering a newsletter, the demonstration sites, the working groups and the City Council hearing as examples.

“I think you will find the feedback of people who say there is not enough time are the same ones who continue to barrage us all with emails,” Wheeler said. “What their motivation is to tear up the process, I’m not sure.”

Wheeler said the majority of the approximately 220 responses gathered through the website came from residents in Districts 1 and 2. Wheeler said she didn’t believe the feedback reflected the entire city because fewer responses were received from other parts of town. Knowing that, she said, “we tried to put our ear a little closer to the ground to hear feedback from others.”

Webber defended the procurement process in selecting Dalkia, sharing an email from City Attorney Erin McSherry that stated Santa Fe’s actions fell in line with local and state statutes.

“These contracts are part of a package that includes ordinances, they were reviewed by the city’s bond council … it all goes through the public hearing process,” Wheeler said. “I feel confident it was a very good procurement.”

(31) comments

Ramon David

"Wheeler originally said the decision was made to shield steering committee members from harsh and consistent correspondence. Some members of the steering committee, however, have said the decision to keep names secret came from a city staff suggestion."

Can't both be true?

Maria Bautista

Ask Attorney General for clarification.

Thor Sigstedt

There is the old joke that asks, "How many Santa Feans does it take to change a lightbulb? ...10 ; one to change the bulb and the other 9 to say how much they liked the old one!" But there is something to this and the brightness must be a consideration as we go forward into the future where all kinds of pollution must be addressed. I live out in the country and whoever we want to watch the night sky we turn ALL of the house lights out before we enjoy the miracle and splendor above! Try it and SEE!!

Khal Spencer

Yep. I moved down from North Mesa in Los Alamos and the first thing I noticed down in Santa Fe was that the night sky was hazy and subject to light pollution compared to the old digs. But it is a city, and one has to balance the needs of a city with dark skies. That means enough light of the right color temperature, aimed in the right places and not scattering in the wrong places, to be sufficient for public safety.

That said, my Newtonian gets far less use in Casa Solana than it did on North Mesa, and that's sad.

Gerald Joyce

Wow! Logic and common sense. Who've thunk it.

Emilio Gonzales

If the street lighting, as proposed,, is an energy efficient, effective and esthetics upgrade, this project should proceed in a timely manner.

Maria Bautista

With taxpayer input.

david cartwright

Whenever the mayor starts publicly complaining like this, we can rest assured it is a campaign the end result of which is we (the residents) are about to be screwed by the City. Virtually guaranteed. Santa Fe will look like Vegas once this conversion program is completed for reasons that aren't really clear.

Maria Bautista

Read Webber's past, he wants Santa Fe to be Portland.

Elizabeth Pettus

Character assassination is always wrong, misogyny is always wrong, irresponsible social

media trolling is always wrong. Please get the facts and stop destroying people just for sadistic fun, or misguided anti environmental nonsense. If one doesn’t like a policy, fine, but please cease the crazy, for all of our sakes.

Dennis Romero

The article didn't list the correspondence that Mayor Webber termed misogynistic. Webber, unfortunately, has a track record of being less than honest and ethical during his tenure as mayor. I won't agree with his opinion on anything until I see it.

I haven't seen this correspondence. Have you?

Just something to think about.

Andrew Lucero

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

Maria Bautista

Webber uses women as mouth pieces, when they are targets of opposition he uses them as shields, and too look at...

Khal Spencer

I've known Regina since she was the Environmental Services Manager in Los Alamos and I was a member/chair of the County Transportation Board, interacting routinely with city staff and elected officials. She is highly qualified and a good person and I was surprised and happy to see her as DPW director down here.

You don't like the way the city is run? Get off your okole and do some work or run for office. You will find out how tough some of these jobs are and the thankless garbage people get in return for their efforts.

Lupe Molina

Bingo! Thanks Khal.

Khal Spencer

[smile]

Dennis Romero

Khal - while I'm glad that your experience with Ms. Wheeler has been positive, I've been told by others that their experiences have not been. So, I submit to you that everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

I do agree with you - don't like the way something is going - get involved, vote, do something about it.

Khal Spencer

Dennis, of course I was offering that as my opinion alone, but I was not intending to sound like I was speaking ex cathedra. I imagine others have had experiences different than mine. As the saying goes, YMMV.

Dennis Romero

Khal -

Thank you for being open minded on my perspective.

I value and respect yours.

Thanks

Dennis

Dennis Romero

Khal,

I've tried multiple times to respond to you, but my comments appear to be getting reported by either Lupe or Stephanie.

I wanted to say that I thank you for being open minded enough to listen to my perspective. I appreciate that.

I value and respect your perspective, as well.

Dennis

Marsden DeLapp

I worked with Regina on the solar system project for the Pump station 2a on the Buckman Direct Diversion project. The contract required a 2 MW system and she installed a 1.5 MW system. My opinion is she has no technical competence, and no ethics. She does not have the qualifications to be the public works director. The public works director should be a Professional Engineer with technical competence relating to public works projects.

From everything I have seen, this lighting replacement project is a disaster in the making.

J. Marsden DeLapp, PE

John Onstad

Marsden:

Can you be more specific? I'd like to hear your facts and reasoning.

John Onstad

Hubbell Electro-Mechanical

Ramon David

Me thinks thou doth protest too much. Maybe because your design wasn't used? There was a change order. If BDD still wanted a 2 MW plant they would not have signed the change order. There are various reasons PV systems are sized the way they are including electric utility demand rates, efficiency of the modules (more efficient modules require less modules (less KW DC), less racking, lower land footprint, etc. If she were a professional engineer, I guess you would not be making these statements as she could file a complaint against you and you could lose your license.

"Engineers shall not attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice, or employment of other engineers. Engineers who believe others are guilty of unethical or illegal practice shall present such information to the proper authority for action."

https://ez-pdh.ez-pdh.com/course-material/NM101-New-Mexico-%E2%80%93-Laws-Rules-and-Ethics-for-Professional-Engineers1.pdf

Dennis Romero

Ramon David - the portion of the Canon of Ethics for Licensed Engineers doesn't necessarily apply in this case. I looked up Regina Wheeler in the licensee roster. She isn't a licensed engineer. I also re-read Marsden DeLapp's comments. I think he's trying to say this - Ms. Wheeler isn't a licensed engineer and shouldn't have been designing a PV system.

I wasn't involved in the project or transaction, but I did want to point out the potential flaw in your argument.

If you believe Mr. DeLapp is acting in a wrongful or malicious mannner, I'd encourage you to reach out to him and discuss it. I looked up his company's contact information online.

If that doesn't satisfy you, you can report him to the Board of Licensure via a formal complaint, but after the (very) cursory research I did this morning, I do not think they will choose to pursue an investigation, because, as I said, the portion of the ethical code you cited doesn't, at least in my opinion, apply in this case.

Dennis

Ramon David

Mr Romero,

You say “I looked up Regina Wheeler in the licensee roster. She isn't a licensed engineer. I also re-read Marsden DeLapp's comments.”

I know. I said, “If she were a professional engineer, I guess you would not be making these statements as she could file a complaint against you and you could lose your license.”

You also say, “I think he's trying to say this - Ms. Wheeler isn't a licensed engineer and shouldn't have been designing a PV system.”

She didn’t design the PV system. She was the CEO of an engineering procurement and construction company that employs an engineering team, which includes a professional electrical engineer that designs PV systems.

You are maligning the reputation of an entire company, not just a person with statements about things you know nothing about, by your own admission.

I do not wish to report anyone. I just would like people to stop spreading libelous rumors.

Dennis Romero

Ramon David -

From your reply: “ You are maligning the reputation of an entire company, not just a person with statements about things you know nothing about, by your own admission.”

I’d ask you to read my comment again. I maligned nobody. I maligned no company. I maligned no reputation.

I simply pointed out what, in my opinion, were a few fatal flaws in your original analysis.

That simple.

I wish you well, and since you wish to stop the spread of rumors and statements you feel are malicious, I respectfully ask that you do this by ceasing to misinterpret my statements.

Dennis

Dennis Romero

Ramon David— you stated: “ You are maligning the reputation of an entire company, not just a person with statements about things you know nothing about, by your own admission.”

You need read my comment again. I maligned nobody. I maligned no company. I maligned no reputation.

I did point out flaws in your analysis of a canon of professional ethics that I have affirmed to uphold.

That simple.

If you’d like to see personal attacks stop, I’d encourage you to stop trying to misinterpret my statements in what could be construed as a veiled attack upon me.

Have a lovely evening, Ramon.

Best,

Dennis

Lupe Molina

When will we stop letting this city's good policies get sidetracked by a few entitled people with too much free time? There are real problems with education, housing, and policing in this community but instead we're spending many more months and dollars screaming at each other about whether the lights should be dark yellow or light orange?! Facepalm.

Dennis Romero

Lupe - your opinion is that this is a good policy. Based upon the feedback from the public, others don't necessarily agree with you.

Facepalm.

Dan Frazier

I suspect that many if not most of the personal attacks are from people outside the City. I also suspect that most of the people in the City have not heard anything about this project. Even if they knew about the project, I suspect most City residents would not care much about it.

My view, to the extent I even have a view on this, is that I am glad that the City is moving toward greater energy efficiency. I hope the lights are not not too bright. I suspect they will be fine and few residents will even notice the change.

As for Webber's statement, that Wheeler is "one of the most qualified and diligent community-minded managers that the city of Santa Fe has ever had," this statement seems highly suspect on its face given the number of managers of different departments that the City has had over the years. Also, my understanding is that she has no prior experience in Public Works which makes it hard for me to believe she is one of the most qualified. My own interactions with her on other matters have been few, but sometimes disappointing. Her name pops up in connection with all sorts of things that go on in the City (or don't go on), which makes me wonder if she is tasked with way more than any one person can realistically deal with.

Richard Reinders

Dan I agree with your assessment, and say sometimes you just have to make a decision after hearing the public knowing you will never make everyone happy, just make the decision that is in the best interest and public safety of the public.

Welcome to the discussion.

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