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STATE OF THE CITY

Mayor outlines major initiatives for fourth term

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In his 2020 State of the City address, Mayor Ken Miyagishima outlined five major initiatives he supports and believes will “pay valuable dividends for our community for years to come.”

Miyagishima, who was re-elected last November to an unprecedented fourth consecutive four-year term as mayor, made the 30-minute speech Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 19, at City Hall. The audience included former Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith, as well as mayors from surrounding communities and Las Cruces and Doña Ana County leaders and elected officials.

“I’m pleased to announce the state of our city is strong,” Miyagishima said, as he outlined these initiatives:

  • Affordable housing. “Access to quality housing is key to our residents’ ability to live as fully empowered members of the local community,” the mayor said. “While we haven’t had the extreme inflation in housing prices that some communities experience, home ownership and affordable rents remain out of reach for many of our residents. This is especially true for millennials, seniors and disabled people on fixed incomes, and young families with children, even when both parents are working. We can, as a community, do more to meet this need.”

Miyagishima said he would like the city “to make greater use of the investment portfolio of the Telshor Fund, a public-benefit account created through the leasing of Memorial Medical Center, to make low-interest loans to local housing providers, which he said could then be applied as part of the match for state and local grants.

The mayor said the city should also “be more proactive in acquiring infill property for new housing” so that lower- and middle-income residents can use existing public transit and other facilities and infrastructure and devote more of their incomes to housing. The mayor also called for a wider variety of affordable housing in Las Cruces.

  • Developing the 110 acres the city owns on far east Lohman Avenue across from MountainView Regional Medica Center. “Rental of commercial real estate along Lohman will eventually provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in non-tax revenue for city activities,” the mayor said. “Non-commercial space can be developed, as well – master-planned in a public process to include improvements like open areas, a nature park and a model residential community.”
  • Behavioral health. “We have all become more aware of the behavioral challenges facing many in our community, and the role those challenges play in poor school performance, substance abuse, crime, homelessness and reduced quality of life,” Miyagishima sad. “We are realizing that law enforcement officers and classroom teachers have ended up being frontline responders for individuals in crisis and that the county jail has become our de facto treatment facility, a role it was never intended to play.

The most effective responses work by drawing together the entire community … to collectively plan and develop comprehensive, multi-faceted service for affected residents,” he said.

The mayor said he supports the collaborative effort being led by Mayor Pro-Tem Kasandra Gandara to combat adverse childhood experiences and Local Collaborative 3, which Families and Youth, Inc. and more than 50 local partners are creating to “coordinate and align” the local behavioral-health system.

Miyagishima said he has asked Gandara to work with the city council, the county and surrounding communities “to create a county-wide Behavioral Health District, governed by a joint-powers agreement among the various entities,” which he said would better align governmental services and investments with the overall efforts of the larger behavioral health community, to provide better service and outcomes for us all.”

  • El Paseo Corridor Blueprint. “The development of a major commercial and transportation corridor along El Paseo and Main Street, linking Downtown with New Mexico State University and the Las Cruces Convention Center [would connect] NMSU students and visitors with downtown restaurants and brewpubs, shopping, museums and cultural activities, the Plaza and community events,” the mayor said.

The corridor could include “a well-landscaped thoroughfare with wide sidewalks for pedestrians, designated bike lanes and leafy trees and shade structures along the way,” he said, along with “frequent transit service … with distinctive vehicles.”

  • A low-carbon future. Miyagishima said “concern about a rapidly warming climate has only deepened” since he spoke about the issue in his 2019 state of the city address. “In addition to effects already in evidence around the world – rising seas, failing agricultural regions, climate refugees, wildfires, unprecedented storms and widespread flooding – we can expect to be especially challenged here in southern New Mexico by extreme heat, extended periods of drought and threats to our river and aquifer from increased pumping and less water arriving from snow melt in the northern part of the state,” the mayor said.

As a result, “one thing we can expect is a steadily accelerating trend toward electrification of everything possible,” he said, “because electricity can be generated by non-carbon sources like wind, geothermal and solar, and stored and distributed for later use by new technologies, many of which are already less expensive than fossil fuels. We want our community to ride this wave rather than be swamped beneath it,” the mayor said.

At an April work session, Miyagishima said the city’s sustainability officer, Lisa LaRocque, and city staff “will begin outlining the full range of implications for the city of this energy transition, to include our fleet of vehicles, our buildings -- both existing and proposed -- and countless other impacts only now being realized.”

Miyagishima said the state of the city “will only remain strong if we keep learning together, reaching out to one another and building on our strengths and ties as human beings. One city, one people, in one community – serving one another and, in turn, being served.”

 

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