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The City Council Bows In

Though Mayor David Coss tried to talk them out of it, a majority of the City Councilors voted tonight to approve Patti Bushee’s resolution calling for the preservation of the Paolo Soleri. (Here is a glitchy video of the short debate.)

Generally these symbolic gestures have no teeth, but another of the resolution’s sponsors, Councilor Matthew Ortiz, added amendments that may give the city some leverage over the Indian School. Last year the Council passed an ordinance requiring other government entities — county, state, or federal — that are served by the city water system to abide by its zoning and land development laws. The ordinance, still untested, was inspired in part by the County’s insistence that its new courthouse was exempt from review by the Historic Board. But the larger point was to remind these occupying powers that they are part of our town and that their actions affect us all.

Speaking in support of the Paolo Soleri resolution, Councilor Rosemary Romero put it like this: “I don’t think this is adversarial. I think this is accountable. This is saying to the All Indian Pueblo Council, ‘You are part of our community.'” Whether they want to be or not.

Councilor Ortiz also referred to some deal struck by a former City Manager, Jim Romero, that evidently promised the school — nobody can find a copy of the letter — 43 acre-feet of city water for future expansion. Mr. Ortiz called for the agreement, which he finds of questionable legality, to be declared null and void. If the Indian School seeks approval for a commercial project, it would, like any other developer, have to acquire its own water rights and transfer them to the City

For Mayor Coss this all seemed so unfriendly. Wasn’t it enough that the school superintendent, Everett Chavez had “reached out” to him that very day? “Reaching out” meant agreeing to do lunch a few hours before the resolution was scheduled for a vote and then trying to forestall it. The superintendent (who has been governor of Santo Domingo Pueblo and who donated $1,000 to the Coss campaign) apparently reminded the Mayor that a city sewer line runs across school property and that the easement expired in 2003. Mr. Coss was impressed: “Telling them, ‘You can’t hook up to our sewer’ may be a hard statement to make when our sewer is on their land,” he argued.

In the end only Councilor Miguel Chavez sympathized, casting the sole vote against the resolution.

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review