The City Different has become the City Difficult

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By William Sellers

Unlike most, I can vividly recall the actual approximate time modern Santa Fe “took off.” It coincided with an Esquire Magazine article, May 1981, showing an outdoorsy dude on the cover, extolling the fact they had discovered the “right place to live.” The rest was counter-culture history. The sleepy little burg that was New Mexico’s state capital, aka the “city different,” would never be the same.
Looney-tunes, trust-babies, wannabe artists, oil millionaires, and the Hollywood sparklies from far and wide descended in droves.
Living in Albuquerque I remember thinking, “well, this is cool” and of course, we talked it up to all the relatives and friends back East, who’d eventually make the journey and be amazed. Not anymore, amigos.
Fast forward to the present, and one realizes these people have now taken over the political power structure of Santa Fe.
Oh, there’s still some lingering vestige of classic New Mexico politics, as evidenced by the occasional corruption caper. Former County Public Works Director James Lujan was just busted for years of receiving bribes.
And there was the sensational case a short while back of Jerome Block Jr., former state Public Regulations Commissioner, who managed to fade the heat with his boyish pleas about substance abuse. What was it P.J. O’Rourke said about giving bottles of whiskey and car keys to teenage boys?
But this new Santa Fe political crowd … now, they’re committed hard-core Leftists. Their wacky geriatric foot-soldiers can be routinely spotted, en mass, at the intersection of Cerrillos and St. Francis protesting for Mother Earth. Meanwhile downtown at City Hall, it’s a whole new intrusive level for the municipal Nanny State.
Construction and development costs have skyrocketed due to an entire panoply of new micromanaging fiats, from intense design restrictions, to mandated retrofits, and actual operating standards for diverse business models city bureaucrats can only guess at.
The “living wage” model has taken off full-bore, with its counter-intuitive, unintended consequence of encasing workers in a permanent low-wage, low value-added economic nightmare absolutely no other western state capital suffers. The social ecology of high school kids aspiring to nothing higher than head waiter status, or as a state government drone, is clearly permeating the topsoil level. Really bright ambitious kids are voting with their feet.
Along with banning plastic bags while less than half the population actively recycles, the latest idea is that Santa Fe will own and run its own municipal electric utility. Buying only “green energy” of course, can you say “employment honey pie?” And there’s even word that a flat 2 percent city income tax is being studied.
Recently, the remaining younger Santa Fe cognoscenti were stunned by public comments from the departing owners of notable local watering hole, the Atomic Grill. Letting the cat out the bag, Brisa Barnes a 20-plus year resident-entrepreneur, decried what everyone suddenly realized: Santa Fe was now Geezerville.
For all you hysterical Lefties out there, welcome to the combined, immutable laws of demography and anti-capitalist consequence. Yep, the “City Different” has become the “City Difficult.”

William T. Sellers is a venture coach in Los Alamos, he is best reached via email at readbill19@usa.net.