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“Johana Bencomo is a leader on the city council,” fellow Las Cruces City Councilor Becky Corran said at the Aug. 26 campaign event during which Bencomo formally announced her candidacy for a second four-year term on the council.
Bencomo was elected to the city council in November 2019, winning almost 63 percent of the vote after two rounds of ranked choice voting in the District 4 race. In the Nov. 7, 2023, election, Bencomo faces three opponents: Gabriel Duran Jr., Lorenzo M. Medina and Ramon O. Ortega. District 4 includes west Las Cruces, Las Cruces International Airport and Las Cruces Industrial and Innovation Park. (Visit www.lascruces.gov/1487/City-Council and click on “Council District Map” under Quick Links.)
Despite “an internalized need to be humble, to be quiet about our wins,” Bencomo said at the event, “quite frankly, I’ve been very good at my job. I care about people,” she said, adding that the city council has been “passing good policy” throughout her term.
Critics of Bencomo and the other five female members of the council – “women in power,” she said – “are saying awful things about us, calling us everything under the sun. This is all they can do when you’re doing a good job.”
Bencomo took office in January 2020, two months before the onset of Covid-19.
The city council was very responsive to the pandemic, Bencomo said, quickly allocating millions of dollars that went directly to businesses and organizations partnering with the city to help those in most in need, she said.
Bencomo said other accomplishments during her first term include banning the commercial use of plastic bags; enacting zero-fare transit for the city’s public bus system; joining with Mayor Pro Tempore Kasandra Gandara to create Project LIGHT, a crisis intervention team the Las Cruces Fire Department launched in March; the creation of two metropolitan development areas to re-develop neglected areas of the city and “be intentional about how we reinvest in these communities”; getting a $6 million general obligation bond passed to pay for affordable housing; prohibiting landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income; promoting entrepreneurship throughout the city by ensuring that new cannabis businesses are fair for all; investing millions of dollars of additional funding in the city’s pavement management program; and using federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to create a guaranteed basic income program that is providing $500 a month for 18 months to about 450 single-caregiver homes in Las Cruces to help lift families out of poverty.
The council hired Ifo Pili as city manager in September 2020, and last month it voted to extend his contract through September 2026.
“He is an incredible human being,” Bencomo said of Pili. “He can be bold because his city council is bold.”
An early initiative for Pili was raising the minimum wage for city employees, Bencomo said, and increasing the city’s share of their healthcare benefits so there is “more pay to their families.”
“We have done incredible work at the City of Las Cruces, and we have to continue,” Bencomo said.
The city has reached “a critical moment,” she said, and must focus on its housing, mental health resources and fentanyl crises as major initiatives going forward.
New Mexico is enjoying historic levels of revenue, Bencomo said, and the city must collaborate with state legislators to bring the city the state revenue it needs to “create more housing for all income levels,” continue the transition to renewable energy; provide adequate mental health resources and substance abuse treatment; and improve bicycle and pedestrian safety, she said.
Bencomo said she also wants the city to work more closely with New Mexico State University on “how we can improve quality of life for students.”
“I’m ready to take on the challenges,” Bencomo said. “We can do this together.”
Visit johana4lc.com/ and www.facebook.com/Johana4LC.