Municipal Elections in Anthony and Sunland Park: The Big Picture
Interviewing municipal candidates has been an eye-opener for me, after an absence of five years. I was struck by the high quality of candidates across the board. This suggests a stronger citizenry. Without exaggerating I can state that I would rather be governed by a committee composed of the candidates I interviewed than by the list of Dona Ana County commissioners and city council members of Las Cruces.
Most impressive, Sunland Park and Anthony are each beginning to develop a political class keeping up with who gets what, when, and how. Incorporation had a huge impact on self-examination and political discourse in Anthony. In Sunland greater self-awareness is more the product, first, of serious threats from neighboring entities and second, from the shadow of shame (not always deserved) the city has fallen under in recent years.
Sunland Park is the older of the two, having been incorporated in 1983. Since then Sunland has been aware that, like a Caribbean island in the 1500s, outside interests were the dominant forces making local history: owners of the racino, the Santa Teresa project (in all its many phases), El Paso downtown business groups, an often hostile county government, and powerful interests in Juarez. There is also an occasional pirate ship swooping down. What is new is a growing determination among the city's emerging political class first, to prevent potential dismemberment, and second, to learn, like all successful islands, how to put obvious assets to good use and make serious money. Both of these goals will require unity of purpose, nimble politics, and dogged willpower.
In the case of Anthony the emerging political class is only beginning to wake up (after a lengthy, divisive, and intoxicating fantasy about a casino) and discover that it, too, is an island, in the path of powerful forces that would just as soon see it become a franchise truck stop and Walmart between Ft. Stockton and Deming. But the focus of the city election is not so much how to deal with the giants surrounding it, as how to deal with the nuts and bolts of building parks, paving sidewalks, developing elementary rules of political civility, and understanding the mechanics of its own institutions. These things are important (first things first) but someone in the political class needs to take a crash course in the politics-of-urban-development-when-surrounded-by-giants-who-would-like-to-gobble-you-up, and then spread the alarm and put a finger in the dike.
Is there any possibility the two cities might explore creating a limited partnership with each other? Sharing resources? Even better, finding leaders who who represent Southern perspectives in the state legislature and county? Developing long-term infrastructure plans together? After the elections the winners have their work cut out. Saludos a todos.