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Mayor Alan Webber, top right, faced his opponents JoAnne Vigil Coppler, bottom left, and Alexis Martinez Johnson, bottom right, in a virtual forum hosted by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

As the three candidates vying to be Santa Fe’s next mayor faced off Monday evening in their first forum ahead of the Nov. 2 election, incumbent Mayor Alan Webber defended himself against his rivals’ allegations he ordered police to stand down last year as protesters toppled the Plaza obelisk.

“To be absolutely clear, there was no order from the mayor to stand down,” Webber said at the virtual forum, hosted by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler and former congressional candidate Alexis Martinez Johnson had claimed the order came from the mayor, though city and police officials said at the time a commander on duty issued the call for officers to leave the Plaza amid a skirmish during an Indigenous Peoples Day rally. Shortly after officers left, the protesters took down the 152-year-old Soldiers’ Monument in three sections.

Eight people have been charged in the destruction of the obelisk, and two others initially faced charges tied to the earlier skirmish. Seven of the defendants qualified to participate in a pre-prosecution restorative justice program through the District Attorney’s Office. One case filed after the program was approved is pending, and one man’s charges were dropped. A remaining defendant has not qualified for the program.

Vigil Coppler said she heard Webber made the call to stand down from someone within the police department.

“It is clear that order came from the mayor,” she said. “We just saw our culture, our meaning, our tradition, what we used to mean on the Plaza just fade away, and no one has really been punished for that.”

Webber fired back. “I would expect Councilor Vigil Coppler to know more about how the city works than to say something as blatantly false as that,” he said. “The mayor does not order the police chief or any police officer to stand down. That is simply false and inaccurate.”

Alan Webber, JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Alexis Martinez Johnson debate the issues facing Santa Fe in this forum sponsored by the Santa Fe Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Drury Hotel.

Republican candidate Martinez Johnson, who spent a lot of the hourlong forum differentiating herself from the two Democratic candidates in the nonpartisan race, said she never would have allowed “activists from outside of Santa Fe” to commit crimes unchecked.

“We don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Martinez Johnson said, referring to the Indigenous Peoples Day protesters. “No matter if you want the obelisk to stay or to go, I am talking about outright lawlessness. … I don’t care what any political party you are from, lawlessness is wrong.”

The forum served as the best look yet at Martinez Johnson. Other than filing an unsuccessful ethics complaint against Webber over his campaign’s promotion of a city event, she largely has flown under the radar.

Webber used the event to tout his endorsements Monday from U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich.

The forum also provided an opportunity to get a sense of the candidates’ thoughts on other cultural issues as well as economic issues facing the city, including how to provide support and housing for a workforce that is facing an increasingly tight residential market.

Each candidate was given one minute to answer questions given by chamber President David Fresquez.

All candidates cited a lack of housing and child care as barriers for employers and employees.

When asked how the city could help lower its unemployment rate — 7.8 percent as of June, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — Webber said he supported a living wage of $15 an hour. He also touted the city’s participation in the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income program, which is being implemented at Santa Fe Community College.

Under the program, 100 student parents at the college will receive a $400 monthly stipend for one year.



Webber noted his administration’s disbursal of federal COVID-19 assistance funds, which Vigil Coppler said was a City Council effort.

Vigil Coppler also said she supports a $15 minimum wage — the city’s current hourly minimum wage is $12.32 — but added the city should work with small businesses and support vocational training in Santa Fe schools.

Martinez Johnson said the key to providing more job opportunities is keeping businesses open by working with business owners.

She also mentioned a need for mentorship of aspiring entrepreneurs.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” Martinez Johnson said.

Vigil Coppler cited homelessness as one of the major issues facing Santa Fe and said she would promote a strong city network to assist and track people without housing.

She also said the city is affected by social divisions.

Martinez Johnson said crime was the city’s largest concern.

“Everyone around here should be aware that a giant monument in the middle of our Plaza came towering down in the middle of the day by a mob,” she said, referring to the obelisk.

Webber said COVID-19 has put a spotlight on long-simmering issues in the city, such as income inequality. His administration has housed more people struggling with homelessness than any other city administration, he added.

“We are making progress,” Webber said. “We have a strategy.”

Vigil Coppler took on Webber’s handling of basic city services, saying his administration has not prioritized them. The Parks Department has remained understaffed, she said.

Martinez Johnson noted any city issue that occurred under Webber also happened during Vigil Coppler’s council term. Moving forward, she said, the city needs to outline its priorities.

Both Webber and Vigil Coppler, who represents the City Council’s District 4, were elected in 2018.

“What we have here are two individuals who have not got it done,” Martinez Johnson said. “When you talk about ‘I will,’ you have had this chance already.”

Webber said over 4,000 potholes were filled since March 2020, and the city has approved $3 million in new funding for street services. He also said additional attention has been put on parks and other recreation areas, and to address an abundance of weeds along city medians, to further support tourism, the city’s strongest economic source.

He called the fiscal year 2022 budget “the most progressive budget” the city has ever seen when it comes to taking care of basic services.

(45) comments

Kirk Holmes

Being a fan of action / sci fi movies, I can only hope New Mexico continues its downward spiral in the toilet bowl by continuing to elect Democrats into office. Mad Max, Escape From New York, etc …… God I love living in New Mexico!!!! Keeps the adrenaline going!!!! Woo hoo!!

Stefanie Beninato

I too feel that this mayoral election has no real good choice. I was struck by Martinez Johnson but wonder if she would really fulfill some of her promises especially after appearing maskless at the plaza to win Trumpite votes and then saying she would follow public health directives. We should all remember that V-C said she would never make a client wear a mask during a showing during the first very bad months of COVID. Maybe she never did that but the rhetoric is part of the public record. Webber came across as bureaucratic and Vigil-Coppler was repetitious. It was old to hear Vigil Coppler whine that" Webber has his voting block and he put me into another block" when Martinez Johnson criticized Webber's and her failure to make changes. I shared V-C's remark with someone and they LOL-- Is Vigil-Coppler going to complain about being left out if she is mayor? And her anonymous source in the police dept is about as convenient as accusing Webber of calling Yolanda Vigil clerkie without having specifics or anyone else agree with her.

KT Rivera

John Coook: I am a lifelong resident of this city. Santa Fe is in the worst shape ever (inside and out) thanks to Webber's incompetence. His is not the best government for our city. Anyone who thinks so, must live in a gated community, in the hills, away from the reality of what Santa Fe has become.

John Cook

We have gate posts but no gate. Is that the same?

Kimberly Duran

Do research into Weber's background and his connection to child pedophilia in Oregon.

John Cook

No, no, that isn't right. It's in the basement of a pizzaria in Washington. Where he goes with Hillary Clinton. Sheeesh.

Eric Allin

Bring back Sam Pick!

Joseph Tafoya

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Eric Allin

Good one

Fred Lopez

As the former city of Santa Fe Comptroller (15 ears total) I worked closely with Ms. Joanne Vigil Coppler when she was HR Director and I can assure you that she is the most qualified candidate for Mayor. During our tenure we were never late in submitting the annual financial audit report and the city was awarded the GFOA Certificate of Excellence in financial reporting for several years. She knows the importance of financial reporting.

Fred G Lopez retired City of Santa Fe Comptroller

Richard Reinders

Like I said before we need someone that focuses on the job description not the personal agenda, and Joanne Vigil Coppler has the experience to do the job.

LeRoy Sanchez

👍

LeRoy Sanchez

I agree.

MP Paul

Webber’s only attribute is rebranding reality with a spin that paints his administration as a success. Unfortunately for Webber there are few residents left in Santa Fe that have’t been impacted by his administration’s appalling oversight of our city services: city parks used as homeless encampments, poorly maintained streets, parks, and medians, new parking garage equipment trapping people in city garages and new parking meters not working, building permits given to large contractors but individual residents a low priority, deficient management of sports facilities, fiscal audits painfully tardy, College of Santa Fe bellyflop, SFPD understaffed and struggling with evidence, loud street racing….

Like many, I also find Mayor Webber’s tone with his political opponents condescending and bordering on misogynist and racist, although based on his job performance his arrogance is truly puzzling. Santa Fe needs a change in leadership.

Joe Brownrigg

I was surprised this wasn't publicized earlier and to a wider extent.

Overall, I was disappointed by all three.

Stefanie Beninato

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rodney carswell

I watched the entire discussion on replay.  My reaction is that it was mostly what one might expect--not too enlightening.  No one did particularly well or particularly poorly.  There were promises and claims; and some attacks.  I did think that Vigil Coppler had an effective question about whether our (the voter's) direct experience of living in Santa Fe for the last 3-4 years reflected well on the City leadership during that time--it landed; at least it landed with me.  It reminded me of the Reagan/Carter debate "are you better off?" question; those of us who were around then know that simple question landed and had an impact on the election.  

The cultural issues sparked by the Plaza and Cathedral Park debacle, the unkept look and feel of the city, crime and the homelessness problem are all real and substantial issues, both for the new candidates to run towards and for the current mayor to defend his record on. I was surprised that the failure to resolve the old College of Santa Fe campus reuse did not come under the microscope, as that was one of the big Webber promises in the last campaign and given the "HOT" status of the recent RE market, one would think that competent and focused leadership would have led to a redesign and rebuild at that all important site in the geographic center of town.  That rebuild failing to date, is real grounds for criticism.

Martinez Johnson did OK, I guess.  She has no record and several of her claims (honesty, environmental stewardship) coming from a Republican, are cause for a "whaa?" double take, at minimum.  I looked online to find evidence of her record of accomplishment or even employment as an environmental engineer and could not find any...to be fair, I only scrolled through a couple of Google pages; so maybe it is there and I didn't find it.  The campaign webpage link from her FB page is no help and is singularly unimpressive in its lack of information about her professional background, not to mention it completely lacking in anything on her "vision" for our little town's future under her guidance.

Kimberly Duran

Google search is biased against conservative politics so try another search engine like Duck Duck Go.

Lynn k Allen

Discussing obelisk, if Indigenous people are local protesters or not, and who commands police are certainly the hot button issues. Santa Fe missing their audit for THE SECOND YEAR is more critical. Inefficient management of standard government functions jeopardizes the finances we all want to spend for our community. This is a serious crack in management & leadership! 2 years !!

Augustin de la Sierra

Mayor Webber's comments about how his administration has assisted the homeless intrigues, to say the least. Could the New Mexican please seek out studies of how well Santa Fe is doing with its homeless compared to similarly-sized cities, and in particular during this pandemic?

Did Vigil Coppler have anything intelligent to say about homelessness in Santa Fe?

Lynn k Allen

👍

Lloyd Dobber

Protesters, homelessness, crime? This is in part related to the mayor but far more a reflection of the city council and local judges. And the voters. You're mad that a grossly understaffed and outmanned police force had to retreat in the face of a violent mob? The blame falls on a government and public that doesn't value them. Our police and fire departments are extremely overworked and underpayed and it's getting far worse. Recruiting and applications are a fraction of what they were before and people are far more likely to go work on a place they can afford to live and where they are paid a reasonable salary for what they do. This is directly a result of a council that doesn't value it's civil servants.

The local judges repeatedly give light sentences to violent offenders and criminals, many of who are homeless because of the fact that the jails are full and they are repeat offenders.

If the public is sick of these problems, stop electing councilors and judges who ignore the problems and solutions just because they are recognized local names.

Lee Vigil

I don't know how much of the obelisk coverage you've been following, but what you seem to gloss over, is that the Mayor got a call from one of the collaborators of the obelisk destruction the day before, telling him that it was going to be destroyed the following day. What did he do in response? Nothing. No extra police presence. Nothing. The following day, TWO police officers, TWO were dealing with a huge crowd of unruly demonstrators after the riot had already begun.

Maybe Webber doesn't value the lives of police officers, because one police officer had a protester on his back. He was charged with assault on an officer. This didn't have to happen the way it did. But it happened under Webber, because he was after the end result. No due process. No public discussion. No democracy.

I'm in agreement with you on the judges. They are absolutely ridiculous in terms of the sentences we see for serious crimes. I disagree with you in terms of who is to blame. Certainly it's a broader problem than the City Council.

Lee Vigil

... And then again, there's the fact that he hasn't been able to get an audit completed on time and his admin folks can't get the payroll right, either. Pretty basic stuff from literally anyone, including ALL OF HIS PREDECESSORS, but it's a problem for his administration. SMH.

Lee Vigil

That's right. The audit is nine months late and the payroll person is his campaign manager's spouse. Good government? https://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/santa-fe-submits-audit-nine-months-after-original-deadline/article_99fd591e-14ad-11ec-b945-f77e6f5ca1f3.html

Kimberly Duran

Repair the election process so these candidates are no longer getting "selected".

Thomas Gonzales

Webber's term as Mayor can be summed up by the conditions of our parks, medians and roadways

Lupe Molina

Pretty poor showing by all, frankly. Martinez Johnson wasn't making much sense, Vigil Coppler didn't seem prepared, and the mayor spent a lot of time bragging about things he's gotten done in a city that most seem to think is worse off than it was 4 years ago.

Francisco Carbajal

In every four years of the election cycle, the City of Santa Fe conducts an election day for a new Mayor and City Councilor's. Yet, like every small and large city government, the political machine will run it's course whether you like it or not. Their are several cultural component's that makes the City of Santa Fe different from the rest of the smaller urban cities in America (e.g. Flagstaff, AZ, Aurora, CO, etc.). Definitely, the diversity of race, nationalities, ethnicity, cultural, traditions, customs, language, religion, and the New Mexico History are some of them but not all of them. The above sacred attribute's have been tainted and smeared by the same political machine that has contributed to the festers of hostility, division, separation, distortion, and inappropriate human behavior against it's own residents of this City of Holy Faith. The fact that we have a failed public safety, health, and welfare system is only one integral part of a poor leadership system of decision-makers at best. This is a clear poor role-model example and the lack of trust relationship being exhibited between the Old Santa Fe Community that has existed since 1607 and the current Mayor and the City Council Members at this time. Every city resident who is registered to vote during election day should consider what is the "best interests" for their city and make their voices heard loud and clear. Again, the City of Holy Faith is NOT California, Texas, or New York. The true composition and make-up of the City of Holy Faith is connected with the riches of Northern, NM and it's cultural veins of land, water, and faith. Ya! Basta!

Vince Czarnowski

At this point anyone who believes Webber and votes for him deserves everything they get. Webber is trying very hard to turn Santa Fe into Chicago or Portland. The voters cannot let that happen.

John Cook

Yep. I'm going to vote for Webber even though I have some issues with some of the things he has done. An election is a choice and he is the best choice of those running. So I will deserve what I get: the best government available in this election.

William Craig

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqMTtaNZ1P4

1¼-hour video is at the link above.

Andrew Lucero

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Alexis Martinez Johnson’s performance. In my opinion, she was the best candidate of the lot. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a chance of winning. The combination of the mask debacle while running for congress and her not really campaigning all but sealed her fate in this election. That said, I think she would make a fine Mayor one day. I don’t know what District she lives in, but she should start making a concerted effort to getting elected to a City Council seat first. She is a smart young lady and has a bright future. She seems to be a person of good character. (Which is a virtue sorely lacking in the vast majority of politicians these days). If she can get elected by earning the trust of the people and serve them over her political ambitions, she could be great. I wish Alexis Martinez Johnson well. She won’t be my first choice in this election, but definitely my second. And I will be keeping a close eye out for her in the future.

Richard Reinders

I agree with you , we need to look at the Candidate not the party moving forward, this will get us the best mix.[thumbup]

Khal Spencer

Five years ago, Santa Fe got written up ( https://www.abqjournal.com/717326/municipal-employee-count-is-high-sf-chamber-of-commerce-says.html ) for having a glut of municipal employees. How many do we have now, per capita, and what are they doing?

Being mayor means getting the most bang for the least buck for one's residents while keeping important city services humming. Well, in many places it does. I'm far less impressed by what Lujan and Heinrich think, since they never have to worry about making sure stuff actually gets done. In fact, Congress seems to be the epitomy of spending a lot of time getting nothing done. Mayors have to make sure the buses are running, cops patrolling, fires being put out, and the water and sewer lines work. Oh, and in my opinion, making sure we are not a juicy target for destructive protestors.

LeRoy Sanchez

Yes, mayors are in the trenches doing all the grueling and dirty work in their states. Good training for running for Congress. But unfortunately, how many members of Congress have been mayors? Not enough.

Richard Reinders

PS IMO it is not an accomplishment to be endorsed by Lujan or Heinrich they haven't done anything for the constituency either, birds of a feather.

Andrew Lucero

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Emilia Martinez

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Cynthia Paxton

Agreed. In fact - all other things being equal, this endorcement would cause me to vote for someone else.

Mike Johnson

Very true, but there are some special interests who love them both. After all, they did help steal large chunks of our water rights in the NPT valley......

Richard Reinders

IMO If Webber didn't tell police to stand down why wasn't the Commander fired? The problems in the city all start with Webbers progressive agenda, homelessness, crime, and lack of city services being accomplished. The city had pot holes on Los Montoya's for over 2 years and finally got filled because it is an election year otherwise they would still be there. Come election day the public will speak.

Maryann Palker

Your statement is true. Some cannot see behind the smoke screen of politics - I am glad you can

Lupe Molina

The Chief deserves to be fired for a lot more than that too. None of them will say that because everyone is afraid of retaliation by cops

Mike Johnson

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