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“It’s time for a new voice,” Las Cruces business owner Daniel Buck said about his decision to run for Las Cruces City Council District 1.
The owner and publisher of “The Historic Mesilla Valley Magazine,” Buck is making his first run for public office. Incumbent District 1 Councilor and Mayor Pro Tempore Kasandra Gandara is giving up the District 1 council seat to run for mayor in the Nov. 7 local election. Cassie McClure has also announced her candidacy in District 1 in the nonpartisan race. Filing day for all races is Aug. 29.
As part of his campaign, Buck said he has studied the city charter to become familiar with city policy so he can advocate for changes to city code that are needed to better serve the community.
“I do a lot of investigation,” he said. “I ask questions. I want to go deeper.”
For example, Buck said the council needs to reinstitute a ban on panhandling and loitering, which he said would make the city safer for everyone, including the panhandlers who operate on busy streets.
Communication should be clear between the council and the Las Cruces Police Department that existing city code will be enforced regarding vandalism and property crime so cases can be prosecuted in municipal court, he said.
If city code isn’t giving the police and the court the tools needed to make Las Cruces safe, the code should be amended by the council, Buck said.
“People shouldn’t be scared to go to the gym or Albertsons,” said Buck, who said he walks along El Paseo Road near Mesquite Street and Main Street at least three times a week and would welcome city councilors to join him on the walk. He also regularly rides RoadRUNNER Transit public transportation at night along El Paseo.
“I’ve been there. I do it,” he said.
Buck said he’s aware of assaults and incidents in the District 1 area, including a rock thrown through a restaurant window that struck an employee in the mouth, and a fire that destroyed playground equipment in a park.
Buck said there are people who won’t go into city parks in District 1 because of a “lack of maintenance and safety concerns.”
“Clean it up first,” he said, by transitioning people from the streets to the services they need.
“The best kind of help is human contact,” Buck said.
A long-term city investment in single-family housing is necessary, along with ensuring new housing developments “are a part of the community,” he said.
“That’s smart development,” Buck said. “That’s how you lift each other up.”
The city must also sharpen its focus on economic development, he said, including “forgotten” areas of the city like the West Mesa and El Paseo.
“We haven’t planned for infrastructure,” Buck said. “Where was this discussion 10 years ago?”
Creating high-end jobs is vital if Las Cruces is to retain its graduates and bring back those who have moved away, he said.
“We need to be forward thinking,” Buck said, about everything from low-income housing to his vision for “village-style living” that includes ideas such as sidewalk cafes. The city should conduct more forums for builders and developers and offer “progressive economic incentives,” he said. It should allocate funds from the millions of dollars it collects in impact fees to help small business development.
Buck said more questions need to be answered during city council work sessions before the city charter can be amended to create a police oversight board in Las Cruces.
“Let’s look at all the facts,” he said.
An oversight board would “guard the public” from excessive use of force and safeguard the police department from legal action, Buck said, but board members must be trained to “make the proper recommendations to the council under the charter.”
Additional de-escalation training for police is also called for, Buck said. The city’s new Project LIGHT crisis response team is “a good step,” he said.
Buck has lived in Las Cruces for the past 13 years.
“I consider myself a native,” he said, and “a spearheading community member.”
Buck is a graduate of Mayfield High School. He has a bachelor’s degree in business and finance from New Mexico State University.
As part of his campaign, Buck said he is knocking on doors at “20 houses a night, seven days a week.”
“I don’t need the backing of a political group to spread the message,” he said. “I want to be able to talk to voters.”
Rusty Pearce is Buck’s campaign manager.
“I’ve got a great team,” Buck said.