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Election 2019: Las Cruces Mayor

Mayoral candidates talk about business issues at chambers forum


Nine of the 10 candidates for mayor of Las Cruces talked about doing business with the city at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the three local chambers of commerce Oct. 16.

The forum allowed each candidate to address three topics: making the city more business friendly, the city’s minimum wage and the city’s inspection and permitting process. Candidates spoke in the order they appear on the ballot.

Here are some of their comments at the forum:

  • Jorge Sanchez is a 20-year-old Las Cruces real estate agent who was born in Deming and has lived in Las Cruces since age 7. Sanchez, who runs his own business, wants to be a voice for younger residents and said the city needs to be more business friendly, especially toward businesses supporting local families. The city’s increase of minimum wage hurt small business and raised prices. The minimum wage should be at “a livable level and a payable level,” he said. The city needs to attract higher-paying jobs and businesses to its industrial park. Sanchez previously told the Bulletin, “Owning a business, I’ve learned how long it takes to get permits and inspections in Las Cruces. It is no joke for a business having to take over a year to open in some situations, and the city government having no sense of urgency. I will change that.”
  • Greg Smith represented city council District 2 the last eight years and was mayor pro-tem for four years. He said Las Cruces has many assets and needs to retain what’s special about the city as it attracts jobs to keep graduates here and adapts to changes in an evolving job market. It needs to study the impact of the minimum wage increase and determine the right wage. The city needs to broaden services provided by its concierge to better serve businesses and may need more inspectors.
  • Isabella Solis is a Doña Ana County Commissioner. She cited a “need for ordinary people” and common sense in city government. Solis said Las Cruces has the state’s highest gross receipts tax, which hurts small business. Minimum wage increases have had “a huge impact,” she said, causing some businesses to close. The city needs to evaluate department heads and inspectors to make sure they are meeting the needs of business.
  • Mike Tellez is a business owner who has worked in the restaurant industry for 40 years. Tellez stared the nonprofit Dream Center 19 years ago. The city needs a “change in culture” to become more business friendly. “It starts with the mayor and it flows down.” The minimum wage is an entry-level wage and increases should be earned. The city should do more to attract jobs that pay livable wages. Providing long-term treatment for mental health issues and dealing with crime and substance abuse will make Las Cruces more attractive to businesses.
  • Bev Courtney is a long-time Las Cruces resident who has run previously for city council and for state representative. She is founder and president the American Gun Culture Club and said she supports voter identification. Courtney said her four grown children had to leave Las Cruces to find good jobs. The city needs to “roll back regulation” on local businesses and not impose any new taxes. Courtney said the city shouldn’t mandate the wages paid to workers because it takes away their incentive. Hard work and education pay off, she said. “I want to hear what you want and make it possible,” Courtney said.
  • Jesusita Dolores Lucero served eight years on the city council as Dolores Connor and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011 and county clerk in 2014. “I understand small business,” said Lucero, who owned a Las Cruces small business for 11 years. Government has “pushed small business into a corner” and regulates it at every step. The city council should make sure the only employee it hires, the city manager, is business friendly and allocates adequate funding for business inspections and permitting.
  • Bill Mattiace was Las Cruces mayor 2003-07 and served previously on the city council. He served eight years as director of the New Mexico Border Authority. Mattiace said he is concerned about the direction the city council is taking and cited ranked-choice voting as an example, saying it should have been approved by voters. Las Cruces has many attractions but needs to deal with abandoned buildings and weeds. The minimum wage should be an entry-level wage not a goal. The city should bring higher-wage jobs to Las Cruces, including to the city’s industrial park. A smaller city legal department could provide more funding for more timely inspections. Recently, Mattiace received the endorsement of Las Cruces Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 2362. He has said, if elected, he will remove his office door to symbolize honest and transparent government, and said he will work to increase pay for the Las Cruces police and fire departments. As New Mexico’s second largest city, Mattiace said he believes Las Cruces public safety officers’ pay should be at least the second highest in the state.
  • Ken Miyagishima was elected mayor in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and 2015. He served six years on the city council before that and served eight years on the Doña Ana County Commission. A number of surveys and studies indicate Las Cruces is well run, a popular destination for visitors and a good place to live and retire, the mayor said. It also survived the 2008 recession with no layoffs or employee reductions and continues to be “a financially sound organization.” The city has successfully renovated downtown and needs to move into other areas of Las Cruces and do the same.
  • Gina Ortega owns La Fiesta Bakery with her husband, which they hope to re-open. “I am worried about everybody in Las Cruces,” Ortega said. “Our voices have gone unheard for too long.” Small businesses deal with too many regulations, she said, adding that it took two years to get her business open. Ortega opposed the minimum wage because it hurt small business and didn’t help workers, who lost jobs and had their hours cut. The city has been talking about inspections and permits for many years, she said. “I’m tired of all the talking. “We need to have a mayor go in there and take care of business.”
  • Alexander Fresquez did not attend, but here are some comments from a press release he provided the Bulletin: “Being born and raised in Las Cruces, many of you know who I am. I’ve been your classmate and your student, your co-worker and employee. Every election is an opportunity for the people to come together, to share their experiences, and to discuss solutions for their common needs and concerns. … By engaging you in open and frequent conversations, that draw the best of everyone’s hearts and minds together, ‘we the people’ can find the best ways to share the bounties of ‘life, liberty and justice.’ This is how I intend to serve your needs and address your concerns. With your help!”


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