Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

March 5, 2002

The ringing of the alarm woke me this morning at 5:15. Usually I don't need an alarm, but last night I set it, because I had stayed up late watching a movie (“The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit”), and I had agreed to meet my fair-weather neighbor, just back from Palm Springs, California, at 6 for our walk. Off we went at the appointed hour. I was dressed warmly, but my neighbor was so bundled up he looked like he could spend winter at the South Pole. I guess Palm Springs does that to you.

Our conversation was lively as usual, and this morning it focused on the Santa Fe city election taking place today. Two men and a woman are challenging the incumbent mayor, a man. One of the male challengers and the woman are considered liberals, and the other male challenger is considered pro-development. The present mayor is considered by many to be a fence-sitter and non-performer.

I told my neighbor that, in my opinion, even though many former mayors and council members have had good intentions in performing the duties of the their office, the strictness that they have imposed on physical changes to the city have created a economic environment that few locales can afford. My neighbor replied that the same thing has happened in Palm Springs, a snow-bird city. Local policies, he said, have made things difficult for the business community, and the cost of living expensive.

Strict and unspecified restriction makes the cost of improved real estate expensive to buy or rent—and when exorbitant real-estate costs are coupled with an occasional national recession, it becomes doubly tough for the business to survive. I told my neighbor I'm not sure who all these Shangri-Las are being built for, because they are certainly not for most people who make their living in Santa Fe. Building monuments of beauty is wonderful, but only if all of us and not just a select few can enjoy them.

Socio-economic crystallization of a city that has the wonderful history that Santa Fe has is a sad thing indeed, because not too long ago, one of the many things that made this city unique is that neighborhoods contained people of all economic and educational levels. A scientist, janitor and a millionaire could all be neighbors; and this forced the issue of understanding each other better. Such neighborhood still exist, but they get fewer and fewer every year.

Neighborhoods where all the homes are of similar value, particularly in the upper-middle income and high-income range, have both good and bad points. Major crime problems are usually less, and the upkeep of the homes is generally good, which in turn keeps the real-estate values high. These are positive things.

The drawback of a uniform neighborhood is that it's like a party where all the guests don't necessarily know each other and there are enough chairs for everyone to sit down. The guests will seek out people they know with like values and interests and sit with them, and not bother to talk to anyone they don't know. This to me is sad, I told my neighbor, because the opportunity to learn something different escapes those who do not venture out of their fixed circle.

As we drew near the French Pastry Shop, where we love to get our quota of calories and coffee, the conversation lightened up. Though Santa Fe keeps changing, and not necessarily for the better, I think my neighbor and I agree that there are still some neighborhoods with a broad socio-economic mix, and that ours is one of them. For that we both are grateful.

Have a great day.


P. S. The incumbent mayor won.


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