A virtual meeting was hosted June 25 by members of CORE, which stands for Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood.
The group talked about the upcoming special election Aug. 24, which came about as a result of its organizing a petition drive seeking to change the form of Edgewood’s government from the council-mayor style it now is to a commissioner-manager style.
CORE members Jerry Powers and Adrian Terry made a presentation and took questions from a handful of Edgewood residents, including town councilor Sherry Abraham and former mayor Bob Stearley.
The forum focused on the election and its ongoing efforts to unseat Edgewood Mayor John Bassett. Those efforts include the petition for a special election, a lawsuit against Bassett and the entire governing body seeking to remove all of them from office, and complaints to the Attorney General, State Auditor the state Environment Department and N.M. Foundation for Open Government, in what Terry described as a “shotgun approach.”
At the center of its efforts is the town’s exploration of acquiring the Edgewood portion of Epcor Water, owned by the city of Edmonton in Canada. Epcor has said it will mount a legal fight at any such attempt.
Epcor held an emergency contract with the town to manage its wastewater system, which has long been plagued with problems stemming from Edgewood’s hard water.
CORE believes that if Edgewood acquires Epcor, water rates in town will double or triple, pointing to the community of Eldorado as a nearby example.
Powers explained that if the commissioner-manager style of government is adopted, that means the town would be divided into districts of equal population; commissioners would run for a district, as opposed to the at-large election now in Edgewood, in which the two candidates with the highest numbers of votes are seated to the town council.
“You shouldn’t take our word for everything,” Terry said, adding that “all of the source materials are available.”
Powers said having a professional town manager is essential. “You can’t expect somebody who just got elected in a small town with no experience to be able to manage things effectively.”
He said he would also expect “cost savings and efficiencies” with a manager, and that the current salary range is $70,000 to $80,000, “currently what we’re paying our town clerk.”
The town previously has had managers in the past. Under Mayor Brad Hill, Kay Davis McGill started with a salary of $82,160 in 2012, leaving in 2014 at a salary of $89,818.
Steve Shepherd held the position from 2014 to 2016 at a salary of $85,999, according to numbers provided by the Edgewood town clerk.
Terry said he is “thrifty but not a penny pincher,” and added, “If it costs a certain amount to [hire a manager], that’s what has to be done.” He said it would save the town money in the long run.
Chief among benefits Powers gives to changing the form of Edgewood’s government are what he calls the “superpowers” of referendum and recall petitions if the governing body does something the voters in the town don’t like.
If the measure passes Aug. 24 in the all-mail election, the town will have to immediately reorganize as a commission-manager style, with the mayor and current town council becoming commissioners. Under election law, that group then elects a mayor.
“If someone’s a bad actor you don’t want referendum after referendum so you go into recall,” Powers said. “Once commissioners understand we have this power they’ll have to listen or they will have to face recall.”
“Yay! I’m all for it,” said Stearley, who had posed a question about how the change would be accomplished if the measure passes.
The CORE group can be found on Facebook and Youtube, and has a website, eyeonedgewood.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.