Over the objections of two of its town councilors, Edgewood’s council voted to bring before the voters a ballot question that, if enacted, would scrap Edgewood’s entire governing body.
Keeping in compliance with a health order prohibiting gatherings of more than five people, the meeting was mostly virtual, with town councilors calling in by telephone, members of the public who wished to comment using a conference call app, and with the meeting streamed live on Facebook by The Independent.
Viewers on the livestream, which lasted just over an hour, averaged about 30 through the broadcast. About another 30 joined the meeting through the conference call.
Mayor John Bassett chaired the meeting at town hall, with clerk-treasurer Juan Torres and Chief of Police Ron Crow also in attendance there.
A petition was brought to the town seeking a ballot question on whether Edgewood should move to a commission-manager form of government instead of its current council-mayor format—and under state law, the town had 10 days to host a meeting to decide when to put the measure before voters.
Torres said a petition was brought to him initially by Adrian Terry to verify its format; the signed petitions were submitted to the town by Jerry Powers.
Both men are part of a group called CORE, for Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood. That group filed a lawsuit Feb. 1 against Edgewood’s governing body, seeking to remove Bassett from office.
Among signatures on the petition are two members of the town council, Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo.
The question before the council was whether to hold that election in August, or to wait until the general election in November.
The mayor took public comment from a handful of people, including Terry and Powers, along with Tom McGill, who started CORE. Several people donated their speaking time to Powers.
McGill said decisions are being made “in secrecy and darkness,” and said citizens need more input. He favors holding the election in August.
Powers also said the vote should be held in August, with the aim of electing commissioners—if the measure were to pass—in the coming general election.
With the question on this November’s ballot, the election of commissioners would be held in November 2021 if the measure were to pass.
Edgewood’s attorney and Terry, also an attorney, disagree on the feasibility of accomplishing everything that would have to be done, including creation of five commission districts of equal population, before commissioners could be elected in November.
“When you have statutes in conflict, the more specific would apply,” Terry said, adding that he believes the municipal code should govern over election code in this case.
It would “do a lot to restore faith and trust” in town government, he said.
When public comment ended, councilor John Abrams made a motion to put the question on the ballot Nov. 3. He was seconded by councilor Linda Holle.
Abrams said “the timeline is just too tight,” and expressed concern about the ongoing public health order. “We will vote on this one way or another and we will move on,” he said.
Holle said there would be a cost savings and increased voter turnout in November.
Councilors Jaramillo and Abraham had much lengthier comments, and both want the election to be held in August.
Jaramillo said when the town opted in to the Local Election Act—which she voted for—that it took away people’s right to vote in the election which would have been held in March.
Special elections are conducted by mail, which Jaramillo said would “prevent people from standing in line.” She said that more people would participate if the election were mail-in, referencing a 2018 APS special election which had a 28.7% turnout.
“If we want more people voting on it, the logical choice is August,” she said.
Abraham read a state statute from the municipal code, which calls for a special election on the question.
She objected to the way Abrams made his motion, and said she was “highly upset” with the way the agenda was posted. “I’m very upset about the whole thing,” she said.
Bassett spoke at length, taking to task those people “who couldn’t be bothered to be here” when the town considered opting in to the Local Election Act in December, 2018.
He said the town held public meetings and heard from the Santa Fe County Clerk on more than one occasion about the change. “We did follow the will of the people who could be bothered to show up,” he said. “We chewed on this thing pretty good.”
When Abraham interrupted, Bassett said it was his turn to talk, and that he hadn’t interrupted the council when they were speaking.
Jaramillo asked for more discussion, when Abrams called the question. Jaramillo again asked for more discussion and to talk about revising the language of the resolution. “You’re cutting off our ability to debate and discuss,” she said.
Bassett called for the vote.
Jaramillo and Abraham voted no, while Abrams and Holle voted yes. In the event of a tie, the mayor casts the tie-breaking vote, and Bassett voted yes, meaning the question will be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The council then had a motion to adjourn the meeting. Jaramillo again asked for more discussion, and requested a meeting be held. Speaking over her as she requested a meeting, Bassett asked for a second, which Holle gave, and called for the vote.
With Jaramillo and Abraham voting no, and Abrams and Holle voting yes, the mayor again broke the tie, voting to adjourn. He banged the gavel, and the meeting was done.