A year ago, the city of Santa Fe touted a 10-point corrective action plan that officials said would resolve the perennial problem of weedy traffic medians “once and for all.”

While the city made progress, reducing the number of complaints about weeds, the plan didn’t anticipate a pandemic — and residents are once again seeing streets being inundated with pesky weeds.

“The progress that we’ve made over the last couple of years where you saw median and weeds complaints go way, way down … we’re seeing that creep up again, unfortunately, and that’s really just due to staffing,” Parks and Recreation Director John Muñoz said Monday.

Blame the coronavirus and its resulting economic downturn, which prompted the city to let go of temporary workers assigned to weed control, as well as contractors to augment their efforts.

The city had as many as 19 people cleaning medians at one point. Now there are six, Muñoz said.

“We feel the pain with the residents because we’re driving down those same roads as well, and my guys take total pride in what they do,” he said. “When they hear about the complaints or the concerns, it obviously affects them. They don’t take it lightly.”

Kristine Mihelcic, the city’s constituent and council services director, said in an email the city doesn’t use pesticides, which she called the “right choice for our community” but one that “significantly limits our ability to control the weeds around the city.”

“Additionally,” she wrote, “COVID-19 has disrupted our operations over the past few months, and our teams have been working hard to maintain essential services despite ongoing furloughs, layoffs and frozen positions.”

Mihelcic said employees who work in facilities that were closed because of the pandemic were moved to assist parks crews on medians.

“Collaboration, teamwork, and leveraging limited resources is our focus in many areas and is an essential element of our proposed [reorganization] that will allow us to ensure the city’s resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible,” she said.

The proposed reorganization, which the governing body will consider during a public hearing Aug. 23, calls for a split of the Parks and Recreation Department. A proposed Parks Division would be moved into the Public Works Department, and recreation would be folded into a new Community Development Department under the mayor’s proposal. The possible split of the Parks and Recreation Department has generated the most questions and concerns from council members during budget hearings.

Mihelcic said city workers would continue to clear weeds from medians “to the best of their abilities.”

“We will continue to navigate the pandemic and economic crisis while maintaining essential services,” she wrote. “We are all doing our best during these times and extraordinary circumstances.”

While the city hasn’t been able to deliver on its promise from last year, Muñoz said it had a “great plan” that was working before the pandemic.

“We saw evidence from the complaints going down from the top of the charts to the bottom of the charts where people were not complaining about it, and we started getting compliments,” he said. “We had good funding then, and we were seeing results. Unfortunately, with the pandemic as it has affected other areas around the financials, these are some of the results that you’re seeing, is just slower weed management.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter

@danieljchacon.

(12) comments

Michael Marvier

Fill the median stripes with cement.

Amanda Hatherly

Another way to think about weeds - they do not need to be watered and add greenscape and habitat for bees, butterflies and other critters. Some people may not like how messy they can look and, of course, if they are a traffic hazard or create accessibility issues they should be removed. But many of the "weeds" in Santa Fe are beautiful grasses or have lovely flowers. In France there is a national program to celebrate weeds in cities - called "Sauvage de ma Rue / Wildness on My Street".

BOB SCHWARTZ

Next year weeds will be legal in NM Whats the big deal

George Welland

Not sure what Mr. Schwartz meant; but if , next year "weed" will be legal in NM, then that might help the economy; and take some incentive out of an illegal enterprise? Although marijuana sales and use might be governed by local jurisdictions with public consumption prohibited, it might be able to raise enough revenue to keep the medians maintained (maybe Santa Fe could fight weeds with weed?).

Kathy Fish

Black people are being exterminated, federal troops are descending on Albuquerque, and New Mexicans everywhere are losing their jobs and watching their health and support services dwindle and disappear. But the weeds! The weeds! Come on, people. This is a first world problem, and it's time to get a life. If the weeds bug you, go out there and pull them, and then use them to mulch your spring bulbs or flowering trees. Our public servants are widely furloughed, and it's no surprise that things are looking a little overgrown. Take it upon yourself to beautify the land outside your door.

Daniel Werwath

thank you

LEE HAI

Ah Ms Fish, as usual such a fresh voice in contrast to all those uppity self intitled whiners lurking about the city indifferent.......[tongue]

Ramon David

Why keep pulling weeds when weed barrier can be installed beneath gravel?

Stefanie Beninato

CORRECTION

The photo does not say much. It is ONE weed on a median. If you want a better photo op, go to Chavez Center and see the weeds there--a place that has been staffed during the pandemic. And maybe you would like to do a follow up on the give away to LifeLink that was going to train homeless for just such jobs. I think you will find that 40-50 percent of the two year (not one year as publicized) grant is going to Lifelink's operational budget. How many of these homeless people who got a 5 hour job experience have been hired by the city as promised in this grant? Let's try some real investigative reporting here rather then casting blame on the head of a dept who has seemingly received little support from the Webber administration and instead has been placed in the role of a whipping boy.

Stefanie Beninato

The photo does not say much. It is ONE weed on a median. If you want a better photo op, go to Chavez Center and see the weeds there--a place that has been staffed during the pandemic.

And maybe you would like to do a follow up on the give away to LifeLink that was going to train homeless for just such jobs. I think you will find that 40-50 percent of the two year (not one year as publicized) grant is going to Lifelink's operational budget. How many of these homeless people who got a 5 hour job experience have been hired by the city as promised in this grant? Let's try some real investigative reporting here then casting blame on the head of a dept who has seemingly received little support for the administration and instead has acted as a whipping boy.

Dan Frazier

Ignoring the weed problem as a way to save money is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Santa Fe is a tourist town. When we let the weeds get out of control, we are saying that we don't care about tourism. Who wants to visit a weedy town? If we don't have tourists, we don't have money, and City financial problems are compounded.

Meanwhile, employees who clear weeds are undoubtedly among those who are paid the least. Letting them go saves the least. These low-paid workers no doubt need the money more than some of the higher-paid City employees. Without jobs, they will be among the first to be evicted and the first to become homeless. More homelessness is not going to help our tourist economy either.

The article talks about the City's policy of not using "pesticides." A pesticide kills insects. What is probably meant is "herbicide" which kills plants. The City's policy regarding herbicides is as stupid as this article's use of terminology. Some herbicides may be much more benign than those found in the popular imagination. In any case, the policy of cutting down weeds and watching them grow back year after year is ridiculous. The only good thing about it is that it guarantees a certain number of low-paying jobs, provided the City sees fit to provide funding.

The City may have a 10-point plan for combating weeds; I have a 1-point plan that starts with electing a different mayor.

Jennifer Why

I'm voting for you Dan! Absolutely right!

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.