city candidates 2020 collage

Tara Lopez (top left), Pedro Valdez and Dennis Tim Salazar are running for the District 1 seat on the Española City Council. Peggy Sue Martinez (bottom left) and Richard Martinez, no relation, are running for the District 2 seat. Municipal Judge Stephen Salazar (bottom right) is running unopposed for reelection.

All but one of the candidates in contested races for the Española City Council answered the same set of five questions over the phone in the last two weeks. None of the questions were revealed to the candidates before the interviews. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Peggy Sue Martinez

Running for: District 2

Occupation: Hairdresser

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Peggy Sue Martinez

Why should voters in the city choose you for City Council?

I am completely devoted to the constituents of District 2 and the city at large. I study the issues in an effort to make the best decisions for our community. I never miss City Council meetings, so the constituents are always represented.

What is the biggest issue facing the city right now, and how can city councilors play a part in addressing it?

Public safety. There’s things we could do, one of them is look over our policies and procedures and make sure that they are effective to protect the public. Another is studying high-crime areas within the community, and install video cameras in those areas to deter crime. Another is to study current response times to 911 calls and look at ways for creating quicker responses to our citizens. The most important thing we can do is to build trust, by improving and ensuring accountability.

The EPA is reevaluating its response to Las Cumbres’ exposure to cancerous chemicals coming from the Superfund site on Railroad Avenue. Meanwhile, EPA is no longer funding the cleanup of the site, even though the cleanup is incomplete. If elected to City Council, what would you do about this?

We need to re-look at the whole situation to make sure it’s effective. We recently got news about a second contamination, I feel like that could start a new 10 years of cleanup. We can’t be having meetings with environmental once per year. Council has to stay informed and advocate for as much remediation as we can possibly get funded.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, called the Cannabis Regulation Act. If that becomes law, how should the city react? (The Senate Judiciary Committee tabled this bill on Wednesday night, after press time.)

State law trumps local law, we all know that. But at our level, the most important thing is to ensure that the youth don’t have any access to any of this.

Between 2012 and 2017, Rio Arriba County has seen increased levels of people living in poverty and increasing levels of income inequality. Do you think the city should do something about this, and if so, what?

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Richard Martinez

The City Council could draft and support policies that support economic growth throughout the city, or think about diversifying our economy in ways we haven’t before. There’s a lack of blue-collar jobs outside the service industry in our community, so trying to build off that and looking for ways to bring different kinds of jobs in Española. We have the Nambé warehouse, we could utilize that city asset to create jobs, we could renegotiate that lease to see if we could possibly have Nambé bring some of their manufacturing back into Española, or look at some other type of manufacturing company that might be wanting to utilize a building like that. The other thing I think about is the possibility of creating a training and apprenticeship program for youth, working with Española Public Schools, Northern New Mexico College, the counties and the tribes.

Peggy Sue Martinez’s opponent, Richard Martinez, no relation, declined to answer the Rio Grande SUN’s questions.

“I cannot and will not share my opinion,” he said. “I don’t want you to write anything about me. I am on one side, and your publisher is on another. I don’t want you to get in the middle of it. With that in mind, through this entire election, I won’t have a quote.”

 

Tara Lopez

Running for: District 1

Occupation: Chair, Northern New Mexico College Humanities and Social Sciences

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Tara Lopez

Why should voters in the city choose you for City Council?

I have a professional background in education that’s always focused on community service, with experience working in the education system, understanding its strengths and weaknesses, which gives me insight as a city councilor. My experience as a sociologist gives me insight into understanding the dynamics of problems. I am committed to honest democratic participation. I believe it’s important that so many people start to become even more involved because our city is so great, and my candidacy is an avenue for other people to get involved as well.

What is the biggest issue facing the city right now, and how can city councilors play a part in addressing it?

The contamination with the North Railroad Avenue Plume and the EPA withdrawal, because that’s the basis of how all of us are going to survive and live. My neighbors and I drink this water, inhale this air. I don’t think there’s enough public knowledge around it so a key thing the Council can do is really make this public. How are we conveying information to ordinary citizens? We can hold a forum but is that accessible to people who are disabled, elderly or working, or who only speak Spanish?

The EPA is reevaluating its response to Las Cumbres’ exposure to cancerous chemicals coming from the Superfund site on Railroad Avenue. Meanwhile, EPA is no longer funding the cleanup of the site, even though the cleanup is incomplete. If elected to City Council, what would you do about this?

First would be to have a robust conversation with our state legislators and those at the U.S. level to push the EPA to reevaluate their approach. Second, what can my neighbors and myself do to push the issue? The City Council can’t do it on their own. The people need to direct our action. Are we really taking preventative measures from keeping this from happening in the future? If you compare what they did in Albuquerque, at the Superfund site there, the type of remediation here was paltry. It’s a classic approach, unfortunately, to lower-income communities of color. It’s a form of environmental racism. Those are strong words but those are appropriately strong words for this case, if our community is being neglected. 

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, called the Cannabis Regulation Act. If that becomes law, how should the city react? 

The city should evaluate if we want to opt in, what kind of economic growth it can actually bring. It’s not a magic answer to everything, but it can bring growth. I would study how beneficial it would be before taking any type of action. 

Between 2012 and 2017, Rio Arriba County has seen increased levels of people living in poverty and increasing levels of income inequality. Do you think the city should do something about this, and if so, what? 

Absolutely. All governments, whether federal, state or municipal need to address income inequality because in any society where you have dramatic forms of income inequality, you have a form of instability. At a moral level, we have an obligation to our families, people in our community, to address that. The Española Pathways Shelter is a good, immediate way of addressing homelessness, but a key cause of homelessness across the nation has to do with a lack of housing, especially in Española, where there are a lot of abandoned or derelict buildings. So if we could begin to refurbish those buildings to create more affordable housing, and then you can house people.

 

Pedro Valdez

Running for: District 1

Occupation: Retired

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Pedro Valdez

Why should voters in the city choose you for City Council?

Because I’ve had 33 years in the City Council, under many mayors and administrations that I participated in. I was chairman of (the) Finance (Committee) and Public Works (Committee) and quite a few other chairs that I belonged to. I’m also on the organizations including the Downtown Action Team, Northern New Mexico Regional Arts Center, the Plaza Foundation, the Bond House Museum and (Española Public) Library Board. I’ve been involved in a lot of things that made Española, and building Española.

What is the biggest issue facing the city right now, and how can city councilors play a part in addressing it?

I would bring communication. I’ve been to some of the Council meetings, they’re not communicating with each other. That’s one of the things I always did, was to be able to know what the mayor wants or his way of running the city. In council meetings, they do a lot of talking but looks like they haven’t communicated with each other. When I was there, I may not have to communicate in open City Council (meetings), I used to go and speak to them and personally, or the mayor, to argue about something.

The EPA is reevaluating its response to Las Cumbres’ exposure to cancerous chemicals coming from the Superfund site on Railroad Avenue. Meanwhile, EPA is no longer funding the cleanup of the site, even though the cleanup is incomplete. If elected to City Council, what would you do about this?

I’d probably go to Santa Fe, talk to whoever is in charge of those areas, also the federal government, which is our congressmen and representatives. That’s one of the things we did at that time with Richard Lucero and other mayors I was under is, we would actually go to those places, set some money aside to do that, have the mayor or chairman of that committee, especially Public Works (Committee) go and visit those people.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, called the Cannabis Regulation Act. If that becomes law, how should the city react?

I’d have to do research, how we react to that, to be able to make a good decisions on that.

Between 2012 and 2017, Rio Arriba County has seen increased levels of people living in poverty and increasing levels of income inequality. Do you think the city should do something about this, and if so, what?

I sure do and my plan is to try and get industrial park moving. This would have to be us talking to Los Alamos and Santa Fe area developers that if we could do the same thing that Mayor Richard Lucero, we put that building, right now it’s a police station. It was supposed to put economic (development) there. Bringing some of the things going up in Los Alamos we could put buildings there and facilities so we could get more people hired down here.

 

Dennis Tim Salazar

Running for: District 1

Occupation: Transportation program manager, North Central New Mexico Economic Development District 

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Dennis Tim Salazar

Why should voters in the city choose you for City Council?

I am very committed. During my time as a city councilor, I have proven that I could work with any city councilor, and any mayor, that has come before us. We need to continue working hard to protect the jewel of our community: which is our senior citizens. But at the same time, work hard for our youth, who are our future leaders.

What is the biggest issue facing the city right now, and how can city councilors play a part in addressing it?

Public safety for sure. City councilors can best address this issue by doing our best to inform the public, to be able to work together in a productive manner, which includes effective communication rather than this back-and-forth. Action is what is needed. Several issues that have arisen in the recent past, including issues that the Rio Grande SUN has reported on, these issues are unacceptable. Everybody in our city, and everybody who visits our city, deserves the safest city we can possibly provide.

The EPA is reevaluating its response to Las Cumbres’ exposure to cancerous chemicals coming from the Superfund site on Railroad Avenue. Meanwhile, EPA is no longer funding the cleanup of the site, even though the cleanup is incomplete. If elected to City Council, what would you do about this?

The entire City Council and city management, along with our fellow government entities including Rio Arriba County, northern Santa Fe County, the pueblos, it is of the utmost importance that we need to be one strong voice in expressing these concerns. For starts, we all need to possibly hold some kind of meetings, work sessions, anything to work with our fellow government entities.

State lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, called the Cannabis Regulation Act. If that becomes law, how should the city react?

We’re all gonna need to put our heads together, the mayor, city councilors and city management to assess it. At this point it’s an unknown issue. We need to look into it as one body, and then see from there.

Between 2012 and 2017, Rio Arriba County has seen increased levels of people living in poverty and increasing levels of income inequality. Do you think the city should do something about this, and if so, what?

Absolutely. When there is a safer community, there is more opportunity for economic development. That would attract more people to come live in the Española Valley, or bring business to the Española Valley. As far as poverty, I know we have a few Bandaids, but we need to look at the big issue. There’s the homeless shelter in the city, and I think that needs to be where we work with the people from the shelter, and get other stakeholders involved, bring them to the table to get a better understanding of it and work together to see how to tackle it. That’s our people who live in our area, so we need to work to make their lives better.

(2) comments

Sundevil4life

What has Peggy or this council done to bring any industry to the Valley? All low paying jobs. The Mayor fought against raising the minimum wage, the rest just give lip service to the radio

GGAllin

Does Richard Martinez really think he will be elected by not answering questions? What a coward! How can anyone possibly cast a vote for him when he refuses to even go on record about policy? Is this the kind of counsel men we want representing our community? Someone with a such a distrust of free press? What are are you hiding Richard?

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