Be vigilant with our water. Santa Fe’s greatest environmental challenge is water availability. If elected, I will apply my 25 years of professional experience as a green-jobs creator, an advocate for sustainable water use in Santa Fe, and a permaculture landscape designer-contractor, to ensure that our city addresses this critical challenge. Although we are blessed with diverse sources of supply, each has issues. On their own, none of our water sources can provide enough water to maintain current populations of humans, plants, and animals, but together they sustain us. I fully understand that we must always be vigilant in our pursuit of new sources, new technologies, and new methods of conservation. Not only do the Sangre de Cristos lack significant snow this year, but readings at the Otowi Gauge are also projected to be very low very soon. Our city’s wells are helpful, but they produce a relatively small percentage of our water and in the past have sometimes had to be abandoned due to contamination.
Certainly, we should maintain the search for water rights, and we should focus on a variety of forms of local and regional water planning, but we must also go well beyond these. We need to physically augment our wet-water supply with rain capture, on-site wastewater recycling, 21st-century stormwater infiltration methods, cutting-edge water-conservation technology, aquifer recharge, and large-scale recirculation. If we do this, we can create good-paying jobs and have enough water forever. If we do not do this, where will we get the water for all of the affordable housing that our community so desperately needs?
Given our city’s highly successful toilet-retrofit program, our acceptance of greywater recycling, our promotion of rainwater and stormwater harvesting, our commitment to a living river, our love for the land—based on our agricultural roots, and our respect for drought-tolerant plant material, our community has been at the forefront of smart water policy for decades, if not centuries. Most recently, we created a first-in-the-nation Water Efficiency Rating System (WERS). Although the new system needs to be improved, it’s a step in the right direction. In 2016 Santa Fe was chosen by the EPA to be one of five cities in the nation to lead the charge when it comes to watershed planning.
Even with all of these recent successes, it seems clear that Santa Fe is just scratching the surface when it comes creating a sensible water-conservation policy for the 21st century. The real challenge is that we may not have until 2040 to attain the water-sustainability goals that may be required for our success. To this end, I would take this responsibility extremely seriously and would immediately
- Promote the development of roof-reliant affordable-housing pilot-projects featuring units that require no water other than rain capture. Most likely located on the former campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and built in association with research performed via the Higher Education Center, these units would feature cisterns, on-site water recycling, and waterless toilets that produce compost. By 2027, these pilot projects would set the bar for all future development in the city. Right now, we not only waste potable water, but we also pollute our water by flushing it down the toilet. If we are to survive here in the long run, we must begin to adapt to a new era of something I called “aquifer independence” in a 2002 Permaculture in Practice column in the Santa Fe New Mexican.
- Support broad-scale efforts to harvest roofwater and stormwater for the benefit of the watershed and everyone downstream. We could infiltrate stormwater in a way that sequesters carbon, controls erosion, protects infrastructure and public safety, increases biodiversity, and creates shade throughout the urban environment. In addition, we could enhance wildlife habit, recharge our aquifers, improve our quality of life, and attract tourist dollars to our beautiful and intelligent oasis. Santa Fe is full of professionals who understand these concepts. This community needs to keep them busy.
- Fortify the Santa Fe Water Conservation Department’s latest rebate programs and proposals for greywater reuse, rainwater harvesting both inside and outside the home as well as their programs that reach out to 35 local restaurants and 325 grade-school students at the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade levels.. Alameda Raingardens project should be expanded not only in parks and other public land but also on residential land. We may need to look at a stormwater fee that is offset by incentives and rebates. Across the country stormwater fees are being put in place. The EPA is working on this, and I would be engaged in the development of a sound rebate policy. Parks and other water customers could get recharge credits for bio-infiltration basins
- Encourage the design, construction, and maintenance of aquaponics greenhouses. These year-round, closed-loop growing systems recycle water and use between 1/10th and 1/40th of the water necessary to produce fruits, vegetables, and fish. Any discussion of so-called “sustainability” lacks sincerity unless food is brought into the equation. There is simply not enough water to produce food for Santa Fe’s population unless controlled-environment agriculture becomes a big part of the equation. Last year I took a class in aquaponics, and at the end of the class there were plenty of wonderful students who knew how to design, construct, and maintain an aquaponics operation, but there were no jobs in it. We need to change this.
Having written two books and countless articles about water harvesting, water conservation, and water treatment and reuse, I am able to provide a highly resourceful perspective when it comes to water-resource development. Many opportunities exist for further improving our water situation in Santa Fe, and we can do this without shutting down growth. On the contrary, water-conscious development must be encouraged so we can create the workforce housing we need in a way that is acceptable to neighbors.
One of the best ways to do this is to soften the edges of buildings and parking lots—and even hide them—with native plants and trees. If we see every roof, road, parking lot, driveway, sidewalk, path, and patio as an opportunity to harvest rain, snow, sleet, and hail, we could stimulate the biodiversity necessary to make new developments attractive and desirable. Over 11 million gallons of water can be harvested in an average year from the existing impervious surfaces on the campus of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, but currently little if any stormwater is being effectively harvested there. This needs to change not only on city-owned land but also throughout the city generally.
As stated in the “Encourage green development” section above, the city’s new Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS) for new-home construction has some serious flaws, but its intent is headed in the right direction: water conservation. I look forward to working within the confines of WERS while finding ways to improve this one-year-old system.
Although much of my work has been focused on the water quantity side of the equation, we also face serious questions with respect to water quality. The Buckman Diversion Project has bought Santa Fe some time, but there are even questions now with respect to potentially high levels of chromium and other pollutants in that water source. We have to be vigilant, diligent, and intelligent when it comes to our most-needed resource. I’ll make sure we are.
With respect to the possibilities of urban farming, technologies that we should keep a close eye on are those being developed in the Controlled Environment Agriculture program at Santa Fe Community College. These systems recirculate water, so they use very little in order to produce impressive quantities of fresh food. Not just water-harvesting technologies, but water-recycling technologies represent the next wave of water conservation, and I will see to it that Santa Fe remains at the forefront of this movement.
At the heart of this community, of course, is the Santa Fe River. It’s the reason we’re here, and it needs to be respected. When I first moved here the “river” was a dead ditch. Now, it’s full of life. I am your candidate if you want the Santa Fe River to continue on its trajectory toward biological health and cultural vitality. The river is our source of life now as it was in the beginning. We must keep it alive. We must make it thrive. But we will not be able to do this if we do not have the vision for a roof-reliant, aquifer-independent community that will weather the storms (or lack of them) after we are long gone.
Energize renewable energy. Our next greatest challenge will be to attain our carbon-neutral goals by 2040. Fortunately, our local solar industry is strong, but we need to support their efforts by streamlining the permitting process, increasing the percentage of city buildings that convert to solar (both photovoltaic and solar thermal), and create incentive programs for solar installations. The concept of micro grids for future development must also be studied, designed, installed, and maintained. For new development, this can be done without changing state law.
The City of Santa Fe says that the low-hanging fruit of city owned businesses that would be easy to convert to solar has already been converted to solar. I believe it’s time to look at the placement of solar panels that provide shade for pedestrians and replicate the kinds of successful projects like the solar array at the Genoveva Chavez Center. All of the development on the SFUAD campus (new construction and the renovation) should be supported by photovoltaics and solar-thermal panels, and a large solar farm that doubles as a parking lot would set a good example for the city and pay for itself in the long run. Solar-panel carport-style parking should be the norm not only on the campus but for new development in general.
Carbon neutrality also means support for pedestrians, public transportation, and our bike-commuting infrastructure such that many more people can live and work in Santa Fe without a car. We need to convert city-owned vehicles to solar-electric. We need to support efforts to install solar-electric charging stations, in order to ensure that emissions-generating engines go the way of the horse and buggy.
Encourage green development. In order to meet the city’s 2040 sustainability and carbon-neutral goals, solar, wind, geothermal, and other forms of alternative energy should all be harnessed as quickly as possible, and the City of Santa Fe should not only facilitate private-sector alternative-energy efforts, but it should also lead by example with respect to its existing buildings and future projects.
New construction must not block any neighboring property’s ability to effectively collect and use photovoltaic or solar thermal energy, and variances for projects that provide significant levels of carbon-neutral energy should be given fair hearings and serious attention. All development should be encouraged to use clean-energy sources, particularly photovoltaics. Panels that were recently installed at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center (GCCC) should be encouraged for new construction and renovation projects. As the GCCC teaches us, solar panels can be installed to produce much needed shade, too.
Santa Fe’s successful application of the Home Efficiency Rating System (HERS) has been very good at making sure Santa Fe grows greener every year. The system requires a trained inspector from the private sector to confirm that a wide range of ecofriendly results have been achieved during and after construction. With a low enough score, certificates of occupancy are granted and the builder gets paid. Like so many things about which Santa Fe should be proud, the HERS system represents a great example of success by the city, especially since energy savings makes such excellent economic and ecological sense.
After so much success with HERS, a first-in-the-nation system called the Water Efficiency Rating Score (WERS) went into effect March 2017 in Santa Fe. The score is designed to reduce the water footprint for new homes by requiring that they pass a series of performance-based tests with the goal of water-use efficiency. Now, all new, single-unit residential construction requires a HERS rating and a WERS rating. Since March, 37 homes have hurdled this additional level of red tape. I was skeptical of WERS at first, but at this point I am willing to help make it work for Santa Fe. I do see that the tool has great potential particularly when it comes to indoor water use, and with some adjustments I believe WERS can also work for outdoor water usage as well, but we will have to think creatively such that WERS encourages ecologically friendly landscaping practices such as the production of food, fuel, wind protection, shade, biodiversity, a greater appreciation for life in the great outdoors, and more. (See also, the "Respect out water resources" section, below).
Green building is one of the keys to our success with respect to our goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2040, but we also have to look at the larger issue of community development and long-range planning. Where will we get our energy? Our water? Our food? How will we transport ourselves across town? These questions are linked to green development as are questions about efficient buildings, streets, parks, and infrastructure.
In many places in the city, especially in out city's core, I support building at higher densities. It’s high time that we recognized that Santa Fe’s most livable and traditional neighborhoods are dense, walkable, and mixed-use. Everyone deserves to live within walking and biking distance to parks, commercial areas, and schools. If the only housing that young families can afford is out in the county, and the only growth in the heart of the city is high-end, we will doom ourselves to sprawl and gentrification.
I will lead a city effort to identify sites where livable, walkable neighborhoods can be built with a mix of housing types, including apartments and multifamily dwellings, to create opportunities at every stage of life to live and work in Santa Fe: apartments for young people, reasonably-priced homes for the “missing middle” of young families, and all the way through to housing for our seniors.
These sites should be close enough to the City core that they can be connected by bike paths and transit to the services their residents need, without having to drive every time they go to school or go shopping. One such site is SFUAD, and more broadly the St. Michael’s corridor, which can become a vibrant mixed-used community. But this is not the only one: another possibility is the Siler area, where Meow Wolf is anchoring an exciting cultural renaissance. Young people like those who created Meow Wolf are desperate to find places to live in Santa Fe, and currently this is nearly impossible for them.
Finally, we need to recognize that while this effort is essential for the future of the city, it is not easily achievable politically. I will work to find common ground between environmentalists—who understand that suburban sprawl is the antithesis of sustainability—and neighborhood associations who want to preserve the character of their surroundings. People have many concerns about growth, and rightly so. But it is possible to make infill work, and create housing that is both affordable and sustainable, if it is well-planned, works well with the surrounding areas and existing traffic patterns, and offers a complete set of amenities as part of a walkable city.
My experience as a permaculture designer and a political activist gives me an orientation towards mobilizing support for the changes we need, while my business background and natural inclination towards finding common ground will be needed to keep this process moving forward without fomenting excessive opposition.
Fund “complete streets.” For the last fifteen years, whenever possible and practical, I have commuted by bicycle to projects all over the city. I have seen significant improvements during this time, but I know we have a long way to go in order to help make people feel safe on their bikes and in order to help people recognize bicycles as a convenient, fun, and cost-saving form of transportation. One of my goals as a councilor will be to support improvements in this regard. I favor more efficient use of taxpayer dollars, which can often be allocated toward less expensive solutions such as painting bike lanes on existing asphalt streets. Let’s always keep in mind how little damage bikes do when it comes to the cost of maintaining our roads. True, cyclists do not have to pay the city’s tax on gasoline, but they also do not create the damage made by vehicles, nor do they require as much space when it comes to the miles of asphalt used by vehicles.
Santa Fe is blessed to be a travel destination for skiers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Outside Magazine’s headquarters here is a testament to this fact, as are the annual Santa Fe Century rides. But we can and must do more to make Santa Fe a destination for two-wheeling tourists and to improve the quality of the mountain-biking experience for locals as well, but we must also do this in a way that does not impinge on the rights of pedestrians and drivers. I have personally found that there are few easier and more dependable ways to improve a mood than to hop on a bicycle. As a frequent bike commuter and vehicle driver, I know this town very well from both perspectives. Although I would encourage bicycling riding throughout town for work, errands, social events, and/or recreation, I fully understand that we are still a car culture. Whenever there are sensible proposals to make cars and streets greener (charging stations, bike lanes, street trees, bus stops, etc.), I will certainly give such proposals a chance at growing to fruition.
When the first city buses started rolling on our streets, I had just graduated from Santa Fe’s St. John’s College (located in District 2). Even with its limited routes and restricted schedules, I found the bus system to be a useful transportation alternative. Fortunately, there was enough support for the system on the council to make necessary improvements, and Santa Fe Trails has hobbled along ever since.
Although our bus system costs the city a significant amount of money to operate, it is often an essential service for people who cannot afford or choose not to own a car. Without a car in Santa Fe, it can be very difficult to hold a job. For some people, it provides a decent system for commuting. Let’s remember, too, that tax dollars accommodate personal automobiles—in the form of roads and road maintenance—far more than they accommodate buses, at least when buses are full. Like you, I cringe when I see an empty bus, but I see a lot of people downtown at the Sheridan bus stop for which it is essential. With the onset of driverless cars, my sense is that we are trending toward a time when more busses will also be necessary, so I will push for staying the course when it comes to our bus system, but we should consider expanding the schedule, too, to make the system more accessible to more people.
The recently proposed bond issue for road improvements is for $13 million. It’s easy to imagine the wear and tear on our roads (and the associated price-tag) for road maintenance being far lower if more of us would use the city bus system instead of driving around in our individual cars, trucks, and SUVs. I strongly favor roundabouts and will work towards additional roundabout installations on an aggressive schedule. Perhaps their only drawback is that they can make the driving experience more pleasurable, so they won’t get people out of their cars, but at least roundabouts are even more fun on a bicycle so I’m a big fan.
Tree boxes and rain gardens (low-tech systems that harvest runoff from roofs and roads) should also be a part any complete-streets approach. To me, roads = runoff water, and rain gardens just off the street have a wide variety of benefits to our community.
Honor Aldo Leopold. Few Santa Feans realize that one of the most important progenitors of the modern sustainability movement was a man who moved to New Mexico soon after college. He loved this place, and he fell in love in Santa Fe. Aldo Leopold proposed to his future wife in front of what is now the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. Their marriage lasted for four decades until Leopold’s untimely death of a heart attack in Wisconsin (where he had moved to work). They raised five brilliant children, and it was south of here, in the Gila Wilderness, where Leopold experienced his famous ecological epiphany—when he recognized the “green fire” in the eyes of a dying wolf that he had needlessly shot.
For a small town, Santa Fe is known for being an international leader when it comes to visual arts, modern opera, solar architecture, water conservation, and so much more, but nowhere do we recognize the Leopold family’s legacy. This is a shame. To many readers of this section on sustainability, memorializing on of environmentalism's modern founders may seem like a trivial gesture, but I believe symbols can have immense power, and I think our city would be well served to take a moment to explore and extol this land's effect on such an important soul.
Promote bike commuting. I have been an avid urban bicyclist for over 15 years. In my professional life, I bike to projects all over town. As a candidate, I bike to meetings, forums, hearings, and other events. As a father and a friend, I bike to go grocery shopping and do other errands and got to social events. From our home in the South Capital neighborhood, I even biked to my wintry radio interview at KSFR on the campus of the SFCC, but that was no big deal. Back when I was a regular guest on Diego Mulligan’s KSFR program, I knew the route well. I often go to the grocery store with a big backpack. I will admit that biking up from the Feed Bin on my Xtracycle with two 50lbs bags of chicken feed is something I’ve only done two or three times.
I promote bike commuting at every opportunity. It’s safe, fun, and a great way to get exercise and stay mentally invigorated. I certainly like the idea of a bike-share program, but I would like to make sure that people without smart phones or credit cards can have an easy way to participate. Is Santa Fe’s biking population big enough to support such a program? Perhaps, but I would certainly like to see the studies and the data before investing public funds on a bike share program. Organizations such as Chainbreaker that give away bikes for free represent another important entity involved not in bike sharing, but in bike giveaways. I would not like a bike share program if it reduced our support for the work of Chainbreaker. I understand that this is not an either or question but sharrows often need reapplication, bike lanes often need painting, bike paths need paving, bike racks need to be installed, and I would hate to see resources split up in too many ways so as not to be effective in promoting cycling in Santa Fe.
I could certainly see a bike-share program having many benefits for tourists and people who drive in to downtown to work. If they could hop on a bike and go to lunch or a meeting downtown rather than drive, this would reduce congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions downtown, so I think a bike share program is definitely something to explore. I would want to see specific details of the plan, however, before agreeing to it.
Relook at recycling, reuse, and composting. Like most people, I was sorry to see glass recycling eliminated, but I do like being able to put all of our other recyclables in one bin. As soon as possible, I would like to bring back curbside glass pickup, but at the moment I understand that it is not economically viable. In the meantime, dumpsters have been placed at a few locations around the city—behind Fort Marcy on Murales Road, Siler Road, Airport Road, and the transfer station on Buckman Road—none of which are anywhere near District 2. If elected, I will certainly dive into this issue to see if there may be a better way to handle our glass, which can be converted into a variety of products. For example, a recycled-glass product called Growstone was developed in Santa Fe, and it is currently being produced in Albuquerque. Used as a substitute for perlite and vermiculite in garden soils, it’s also an excellent alternative to pumice and scoria when it comes to infiltrating stormwater from roads into rain gardens (where the roots of plant material can absorb the conveniently located resource). I support the City’s disposable-bag policy. It’s been great to see how many people now bring reusable shopping bags to the store. Poisoning and pollution from plastics are and will continue to be among our most serious health-related challenges, and we need to continue to step up to the plate. I will not only study proposals for eliminating the use of Styrofoam, I will lean toward swift implementation. Compostable and recyclable/reusable containers are excellent alternatives for carry-out containers, but we should also provide residents and guests a means for composting them. Compostable containers often require industrial-style composting and are typically not compatible with backyard compost-piles. To this end, we should move toward a city-wide composting system like the successful ones that exist in Boulder, CO and Portland, OR.
Take food security seriously. Last year the city passed an urban agriculture ordinance that was a pretty good start, but I would like to see the City of Santa Fe support urban and regional food growers to a much greater degree. Like many people in this modern world, we live in a place that depends on food being trucked in from thousands of miles away. Is this sustainable? Not if there is a trucking strike, not if there is a large economic downturn, not if any number of foreseeable and unforeseeable events occur. In this day and age, it is irresponsible for elected officials to ignore the fact that we live in a food desert.
We can change this by supporting our local farmers at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and all of its satellite locations. In the near term, too, we could consider expanding access to local food by providing space on the SFUAD campus. Perhaps, for one evening per week in the summer and fall, local produce could be purchased there—where parking would be free. This would certainly make buying local easier for shoppers who don’t have the time or inclination to make the morning trip on a Saturday or a Tuesday to the main market in the Railyard.
We can change this by working with Santa Fe Community College and its Controlled Environment Agriculture Program. I know from experience that the aquaponics program at SFCC is first rate. (Anyone looking for a science-based or ecofriendly career should check it out, btw.) Controlled environments recirculate water, so they lose very little to anything other than the water that transpires through the life (and ultimate death in your stomach) of the plants. When they are designed, installed, and maintained with best management practices, water-saving estimates for aquaponics compared to soil farming range from 1/10th to 1/40th of the water usage.
We can change this by supporting the work of the Santa Fe Food Policy Council. And we can support this by supporting our neighbors who grow food, who keep bees, and who have a few chickens. We’ll need these people if or when times get tough.