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LAS CRUCES - Las Cruces business owner Philip VanVeen is making his second bid for the District 2 seat on the Las Cruces City Council.
Four years ago, VanVeen, 54, challenged incumbent Councilor Greg Smith for the seat, and received 46 percent of the vote. “I ran a strong campaign,” VanVeen said. “I knocked on pretty much every door in my district.”
Smith is running for mayor this year instead of for re-election, so District 2 is an open seat. To date, VanVeen and Tessa Stuve are the only two announced candidates for the seat. Filing day for mayor and three seat council races is Tuesday, Aug. 27. VanVeen described District 2 as “basically everything south of Missouri/Boutz.
VanVeen said the theme of his campaign, “Cut the Red Tape,” is the same this time as last time “because the problem still exists.”
“Getting the city council back to realizing they are servants of the people” is the issue,” VanVeen said. City councilors and employees “are there to serve the needs of the people, and not the other way around.” Even city council chambers reflect the attitude, he said, with the dais set up so that councilors “look down on residents” during council meetings.
One example, he said, is an effort by the Las Cruces Host Lions Club, of which he is the presiden,t to put a bench in Candlelight Knolls Park in east Las Cruces. Working with Lions International, VanVeen said a bench that met city standards was located but had to be installed by city workers. As a result, he said, the process took more than a year and cost $1,200. The actual cost of the bench, VanVeen said, was $300.
“This is what I’m talking about with red tape,” he said. The city is unwilling to partner with civic organizations and businesses. “There’s no connection,” VanVeen said. The city also needs to improve its relationships with New Mexico State University and with the county, he said.
A native of Roswell, VanVeen has lived in Las Cruces for 22 years and has owned Eagle Security since 1998. But in the current business environment, “I would not start a business in Las Cruces,” he said, “because I couldn’t make it here.” When he started the business 21 years ago, Las Cruces “was an ideal place to launch of business,” VanVeen said. The city government was business-friendly and taxes were reasonable.
But for anyone starting a business in Las Cruces today, he said, the city will “try to find ways to deny it initially. They will try to find ways to make it difficult. You know that your first attempt is going to be a failure.”
VanVeen said he knows getting the city “back on track” won’t be an easy task. It will be a gradual change, he said, but as the council changes, so will the city.
The most important consideration in hiring a new city manager, VanVeen said, is determining “are they are there to rule over people or are they there to serve people?”
“I’m a moderate,” VanVeen said. “I’m pretty good at weighing out a good idea from the left or the right. I can support things on both sides if it makes sense."
Currently, the council “lacks balance entirely,” he said. “We don’t have much perspective,” he said, because the council is comprised entirely of progressives. “People feel alienated from the government.”
“I’m running because I want to make a difference,” VanVeen said. “I love this city, I really do.”
For more information, contact VanVeen at 575-323-1477 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Cook may be contacted at email@example.com.