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Mr. Coss’s Second Term

The day before the city elections, a reader who is a realtor with Sotheby’s told me what she thought about my final dispatch in last month’s issue. “You’re right about one thing,” she said. “If enough people pull the lever for Mr. Coss, we will have more of the same.” She didn’t mean that as a good thing, but her words got me thinking: Would it really be so bad? As mayor, David Coss has done more than anyone at City Hall to support river restoration, and he was crucial in striking the deal to keep the College of Santa Fe, an important cultural resource, from closing. He has given dependable support to affordable housing and Santa Fe’s minimum wage — noble efforts to keep this place from becoming another Aspen.

Then I picked up the newspaper on election morning to see that he had received a last-minute $5,000 donation from Andrew and Sydney Davis, the immeasurably wealthy couple who maneuvered around Santa Fe’s land use laws to build their castle in the sky,  a sad monument to the city’s failure to protect its scenic ridgetops.

How far Mr. Coss has strayed from his roots. Five years ago when the Davises wanted to close off and gate the public street that leads to the mansion — the project was just getting under way — Mr. Coss, who was then a city councilor, showed no sympathy: “I think they’ve basically manipulated the escarpment ordinance to build a trophy home that the rest of us have to look at,” he told the New Mexican. A few months later the Davises sought revenge by contributing $10,000 to David Schutz, the land developer who was opposing Mr. Coss in the 2006 mayoral election. Now the Davises are on board the Coss bandwagon, as is Mr. Schutz himself, who also donated to the mayor’s reelection.

The same thing, of course, happened with Garrett Thornburg. As a councilor Mr. Coss questioned Mr. Thornburg’s plans to plop down his corporate “campus” in the middle of a northside neighborhood. Mr. Thornburg retaliated by supporting Mr. Schutz. But when it came time to shell out for the 2010 campaign, he too had become a believer, another of Mr. Coss’s influential new friends.

I guess you can call that building bridges or loving thy enemy. But inside the voting booth, it didn’t sit right with me. I pulled the lever (o.k., darkened the oval — I miss the old voting machines) for Miguel Chavez, knowing Mr. Coss would go on to win by a landslide. I still think he is the best mayor Santa Fe has had in awhile. The bar was set pretty low. What he lacks and maybe still can gain is a vision, something bolder than his slogan un lugar para todos, or, roughly translated, Can’t We All Just Get Along?

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review