New Santa Fe mayor says: "This town is not for sale'

  Defying predictions and the clout of big money, Santa Fe, N.M., voters elected former city councilor Debbie Jaramillo mayor March 1. She promised to rein in runaway development and return city government to the people.

Pre-election polls and campaign funds had shown Jaramillo lagging well behind other candidates. Projected winner Peso Chavez raised $86,400 from local business and development interests, compared to Jaramillo's $34,000. But money didn't talk this time.

"The real politics is not about money, or about power. It's about people," said Jaramillo in a victory speech. "This town is not for sale. It belongs to the community."

Her "Take Back Santa Fe" volunteers had hit the streets weeks earlier to register more senior citizens, low income, Native and Hispanic voters (HCN, 2/7/94). At dawn on election day, the volunteers were out again with bullhorns reminding people to vote, said volunteer organizer Gloria Mendoza. Grass-roots campaigning drew many first-time voters to the polls, as well as people who had given up on voting years ago, Mendoza added.

The 59 percent turnout proved to be a Santa Fe record.

The new mayor told the Santa Fe Reporter that she is not anti-development, but wants to guide "development that will work for everyone." Jaramillo said she will push for more affordable housing, less emphasis on tourism and high-end construction, and a more diverse local economy.

It will be an uphill battle, but at least Jaramillo won't have to fight city hall. Three other grass-roots candidates were elected to the city council, creating "the most progressive governing body in the history of Santa Fe," according to new councilor Frank Montaûo.

Chavez's pro-development supporters "are still in denial," said Mendoza. One unidentified Chavez supporter told the Albuquerque Journal that Santa Feans are going to regret electing Jaramillo, and that she "won't last six months."

But Mendoza believes the election will begin "a domino effect all through northern New Mexico." Grass-roots candidates also won the Espaûola mayor's seat and city council seats in Las Vegas, N.M. Take Back New Mexico next goes after the governor's seat.

"We want to get the people involved and to change the image of New Mexico as a resort target, to preserve the culture, values and natural resources of the state," said Mendoza.

For more information contact Gloria Mendoza at 505/473-2090.

* Ernie Atencio

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