Looking at EPCOR is prudent government
Mark Twain is credited with the saying that it’s easier to fool people than it is to convince them that they’ve been fooled. Even so, people who previously listened to Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood (CORE) are beginning to have second thoughts. CORE is desperately trying to maintain a nonviable status quo. There are several challenges Edgewood must deal with no matter what form of government emerges when the votes are tallied on August 24. Those serving in town government come January 2022 may not want to face them, but they won’t have a choice.
Town councilors Rita Loy Simmons, Chuck Ring, John Abrams, and Mayor John Bassett made it clear that they were thinking about these challenges when they first considered buying EPCOR and Thunder Mountain assets. Federal and state governments stand ready to return tax money to help small towns acquire and improve water and wastewater infrastructure, but there’s a catch: the assets must be municipally owned. Most towns in New Mexico have been proactive in taking advantage of the opportunities. Edgewood has already tapped these funds to build and improve the wastewater system.
What if it turns out that Edgewood can afford to buy the water company and improve the system for its residential and commercial customers? One of the primary reasons for incorporation was to get away from Santa Fe County government and gain local control over Edgewood’s future, yet councilors Audrey Jaramillo and Sherry Abraham have already said “No!” to the idea of the town taking the lead in water policy. Bravo councilors John Abrams, Linda Holle, and Mayor John Bassett for holding firm and reserving judgment until you have solid information on which to base decisions.
How much longer will it be possible to continue the original promise made to Edgewood residents that the town would be funded primarily by Gross Receipts Taxes (GRT)? Within a decade the town will have to replace its “hold harmless” reimbursements from the state. If a future town government decides that economic development isn’t worth the effort, how can it raise enough through property taxes to supplement the town’s mostly retail GRT, keep the town running at current levels, and support future growth?
In 1999, Edgewood’s first mayor and council made a decision to seek funding for a wastewater plant first, and put off the water question for later. Who could have predicted then that Edgewood Water Company would pass from local control and end up in the hands of a municipal government in Canada?
Edgewood has changed a lot since 1999. More people today say the town needs a larger variety of housing types and lot size options. They expect more municipal services, and they want more amenities. More people, especially younger families, want to “live, work, and play” right here in Edgewood instead of commuting to Albuquerque.
Demographic trends are probably the most important but the least regarded of the challenges facing the town. Edgewood grew a lot in the the 1980s and 1990s. However, by 1999, the growth had leveled off. The number of school-aged children began to drop. The declines eventually leveled off, but the Edgewood of today has become a bedroom community whose residents’ ages are significantly higher than the state average. Edgewood must look to the future and develop in a way that attracts younger families with children.
If the town were to purchase EPCOR, Edgewood would then be in a position to offer investors both water and wastewater services. This combination would enhance the possibilities for economic development. Investigating a possible purchase of the EPCOR system is not a crime. It is a prudent first step towards securing Edgewood’s long term water needs; a worthy goal for any community in the arid southwest.
Janelle Turner, Edgewood
Save representative governance
Let us paint you a picture of how Edgewood government would change if the Commission-Manager system is adopted in our town‘s upcoming August 24 special election. First and foremost, if Commission-Manager government is adopted, voters will only be able to cast votes for one commissioner from their designated district. The manager is not even elected but is appointed and hired. Currently we can vote for all councilors and a mayor to represent us, meaning that now we all vote for each of the five in Edgewood town leadership. At this time Edgewood has an “at-large representation” system where all votes cast together determine the town’s governing body. The mayor and all town councilors are elected by all Edgewood voters.
The Commission-Manager system is not like that. To us, this change of governance would be going backwards. Commission-Manager is a “first past the post” method of election which leads to less competition and is contrary to how most modern democracies are organized. For a small town like Edgewood, the Commissioner-Manager system splits out districts with very limited choice as to the final composition of commissioners and leads to absolutely no say as to who the town’s manager will be.
A town manager? Hmm…we don’t know about you, but we’d prefer someone running the town who has been elected by the townspeople and not appointed (or pre-selected) by buddies of a few commissioners or people of influence. Also, please let’s not forget that our town mayor currently receives a salary of $1,000/month which adds up to $12,000/year. The median salary for an appointed manager is upwards of $90,000 a year plus possible amenities and also a severance package if all does not go well. BTW, the average turnover rate for managers is 30%, so the aforementioned severance package is a distinct possibility for added expense if a manager is requested to depart.
In closing, we all know that this whole issue started with talk about the town’s water system (and evolved to extensive negative political gamesmanship, browbeating, and legal maneuvering). A switch to Commission-Manager governance will not solve that issue. It won’t get the mineral deposits out of our water pipes or immediately improve the water quality. It won’t stop the implacability either. The town has many more pressing issues at hand and in closing, we are voicing our request to vote against Commission-Manager governance.
Keep our truly elected and fully representative government intact.
Let’s continue to vote for all of our government leadership.
Week after week the Mayor and his Planning and Zoning appointees and relatives have been writing letters to the editor trying to bully and smear Edgewood citizens that want their constitionally protected free speech to count in Edgewood. They want to continue to abuse the power they were entrusted with by the people of Edgewood and they want us to shut up.
They are in a panic because they realize that if we vote in the Special Election to adopt the Commissioner form of government that will no longer be able to run roughshod over the residents and divert taxpayer money that benefit to our detriment.
If we vote For the mail-in ballot measure in August, it will:
Stop the corruption that is running wild in town government.
Return the government to a reflection of the will of the people that live here.
Stop the waste , fraud, and abuse of our tax dollars
Spend our money on things that are important to us and not on the Mayor’s land.
We will start receiving our mail-in ballots about the first week of August. Please register to vote and join me in voting for the Commission-Manager mail-in ballot initiative. Together we can get Edgewood back on track.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at email@example.com.