Organizers of the effort to recall Alfonso E. Ortiz Jr. did not decide to undertake this effort lightly, or for trivial reasons, or around a single issue. The reasons for this recall effort have already been misrepresented, and so we are setting the record straight.
Ortiz’s actions surrounding the Community Water Rights Ordinance displayed disregard for state law, the city charter, and will of the governing body. He violated both the city charter and state law by refusing to sign ordinance 12-06, by causing it not to be published, and by causing it not to be authenticated by the City Clerk. He then acted in defiance of the governing body by issuing an executive order claiming to veto the ordinance, despite the fact that the mayor holds no veto power. And he compounded his error by attempting to legislate a moratorium by executive order, when he has no legislative authority.
But this is not all about the Community Water Rights Ordinance, by any means. It is about a much broader pattern of unlawful conduct and general misbehavior.
Ortiz held two elected offices, despite the city charter’s requirement that “no elected officer of the city shall hold any other elected public office during the term for which the member was elected.” Ortiz issued executive order (2012-1) that reversed the governing body’s decision to terminate funding to the Chamber of Commerce. Ortiz both placed on the agenda and cast the tie-breaking vote on contracts for the city’s directors, despite the fact that under the City Charter, city directors are employees at will. In each of these instances, Ortiz acted outside of his authority, and in defiance of the governing body and the city charter.
The office of mayor is that of the city’s chief executive, and it is the mayor’s responsibility to execute the will of the governing body; he is subordinate to the governing body, not superior to it. What has been going on under Ortiz’s regime is a return to old-school bossism. Bossism is a part of Las Vegas’ history, but it is in our best interest to insure that bossism remains history, and that the city operate transparently, democratically and in accordance with the terms of its own charter. We cannot accept Ortiz’s style of “leadership” any longer.
The decisions directing this community’s course should be made by majority vote of the governing body, not by one man.
Beyond the illegal, there is the unacceptable.
Despite the incessant talk about water, the changes made seem limited to an increase in our water bills. In fact, if our mayor could talk water into our reservoirs, we would be flush, but we have heard much talk and seen little action. The people of Las Vegas have reduced their water use significantly, and now are paying more. The single greatest threat to our water is the high probability that the Gallinas Watershed will go up in a catastrophic superfire similar to the Las Conchas and Little Bear superfires, and with similar results.
Should this happen, the Rio Gallinas will become unusable as a water source, our reservoirs choked with ash and silt. The watershed needs to be thinned to reduce this risk. Doing so will create jobs as well as protect our water. Ortiz has been apprised of the facts, but has taken no leadership role on this most crucial issue facing the city.
Rather than negotiate with local acequias, Ortiz has squandered vast amounts of taxpayer money on Santa Fe lawyers to fight them. The cost of Ortiz’s recall will likely be less than the city spends on these lawyers in a month. The acequias have tried time and time again to negotiate in good faith, and have been repeatedly rebuffed. This is not good use of taxpayer money, and it is no way to treat our local farmers and ranchers.
Ortiz has maintained support through the following principle: Keep the privileged, the vocal and the influential happy, and you can ignore the voiceless and the powerless. The Seventh Street corridor looks lovely, and it is a relatively affluent neighborhood that largely supports Ortiz. But drive west past Montezuma street, look around, and talk with the residents. Dogs are running wild in packs. Most streets don’t have sidewalks, many are unpaved, and some of the fire hydrants are reported to be non-functional. Many homes stand vacant. Some are collapsing.
These neighborhoods need more, not less, of the city’s resources, but those resources under Ortiz are not being administered fairly, and conditions on the west side have been getting worse rather than better.
These are some of the reasons why we have said “enough is enough.” Our goals are democracy, transparency and good government. If we cannot have this from our current mayor, we have no choice but to replace him.
Lee Einer is one of the organizers of the recall effort and a local proponent of community rights ordinances that ban oil and gas drilling.