The New Mexican
As Santa Fe's mayor and City Council meet more and more in secret, emerging long enough to cast quick and unanimous votes very likely against the public good, it appears that, until they can protest in next March's municipal election, citizens should assume the worst whenever that gang gets together. What kind of horse-trading goes on behind the closed doors where the council cowers? What favors too shameful to be offered in public are pledged in secret? Is anything shady going on? Who knows? Only those worthies the taxpayers have to trust because, for now, they're the only leaders we have. Yet they seem intent on taking away area residents' say in shaping the future of our community. The latest sneak attack seems aimed at Agua Fría Village, that semi-rural enclave whose residents long have resisted city takeover while owners of huge neighboring tracts ripe for development looked longingly upon the land along the Santa Fe River's left bank. Now, it seems, the subdivision lobby will settle for a rush into land north and west of the village; land soon to be annexed by the city. In preparation for the invasion, all eight councilors have bought into a new zoning category: "rural residential." Make that "urban oxymoron" — little boxes on the hillside with barely more elbow room than in any suburb; ranchettes within shouting distance of each other across yet another dirt road. Built in the name of what — rural infill? Or, given local governments' servitude to campaign-contributing developers, maybe in time there'll be bunches more "villages" touted as places where people can live, work, wine and dine in close collegiality long dreamed-of by creators of Reston, Va., Columbia, Md. and other "new communities" that became clogged versions of Levittown. Maybe if the "villages" already approved by the council had trolley lines into town, some of the increasing commuting traffic could be reduced. The stretch from Agua Fría Road to the bypass will become land-hustler heaven unless our councilors come to their senses. Will they back away from this scheme defining "rural" as three houses to an acre? Or will they simply steamroll the many neighborhood activists trying to head off, or at least properly guide, a new burst of building? As if to justify another growth spurt, the council is working on a "water budget" of equally dubious quality. Count on the early drafting to be done in secret, too, after which there'll be any number of "public meetings" where citizen input can be received — and whatever doesn't fit our políticos' preconceptions can be transferred to the nearest wastebasket. Are the editorial "we" wrong? Are all eight members' motives purely public-service? We hope so. Surely some of the politically more ambitious of councilors will start leaks in what has been a water-tight process of community planning. Maybe they'll insist on an end to clandestine dealings under convenient interpretations of our state's open-meetings laws, and march toward March's election under a banner of transparency. And maybe we'll all be ice-skating down the river next month.