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Mayor addresses city staffing, homeless situation

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Kintigh

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who was recently elected to a second term as mayor, visited the officers of the Roswell Daily Record last week for a conversation about issues impacting the city and its residents. Kintigh, members of the city council and other local leaders face a number of decisions on matters with long-term consequences for Roswell. RDR editor John Dilmore and city/RISD reporter Alison Penn asked Kintigh questions provided by the RDR staff and others. The first part of the interview was published Sunday. The remaining questions and answers follow.

PENN: So for the transitional housing, where (the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty) sent that letter … has there been any progress on them looking into whether the accusations are true?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty contends that an ordinance being considered to regulate where homeless shelters can be located is too restrictive.

Kintigh: We’ve had some discussions with the leadership of the Homeless Coalition and with our attorney. I’ve not had a specific discussion with our city attorney, but I’ve talked to the city manager that they are misunderstanding the ordinance. What we’re striving to do is to create the potential for a housing situation that does not exist now at all. So what we’re trying to do is carve it out and doing it in an area where we’re less likely to get push-back. That’s unfortunately one of the problems. We had a big public meeting — I’m going to say 10 months ago, 11 months ago — at the convention center on this topic. And my comment there was the same I will make today: Everyone expresses desire to help the homeless. Everyone supports the idea of helping people find a place to stay. Everyone loves that. The question is, where?

Dilmore: Are there any plans in the works regarding the air center after the governor did not sign off on the proposed legislation?

Kintigh: We’ve actually got a draft resolution — that hopefully will be on legal committee the next time we meet … to create an advisory commission that would act, in many ways, similar to what the authority would do — but without the authority’s authority, if that makes sense. The point being that the governing body retains the ultimate responsibility — the council and the mayor — for that property, which is city-owned. But I recognize, and we all do, that it would be good to have a group of … right now, the proposal is five, who would serve in an advisory role. In other words, they would collect data, collect information, propose courses of actions to the government body, and then we move forward or not.

Penn: I have one question that’s not on our list — you had the city retreat (April 20-21). How, if you were going to sum it up for the public — what were the highlights? What were some of the big topics?

Kintigh: I would say it was good, useful, candid discussions. We talked about — I’ll be honest, one of the big topics was sanitation and trash pick-up and lids on trash cans, and councilors were … some of them were very blunt in their frustrations in that area. Part of the challenge for staff is, what’s the priority? What do we need to work on? I think this provides clarity because the responsibility of the government body isn’t to get into the weeds, but it’s to say, “This is an important area. We need you to address this.” The whole area of sanitation and how do we clean up our alleys, whether it’s grappler trucks or the Dumpsters, that whole thing. I think what comes out of it is, this is an important issue and we want staff to say, “This is how we’re going to deal with it.” If that means more resources are needed, tell us, and tell us what you need in the way of resources because that’s a two-way street. One, the governing body identifies our priorities and says, “This is where we need to go.” Staff needs to come back and say, “We can do that if …”

Dilmore: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to address with us?

Kintigh: Well, the pay and compensation plan that has been worked on for quite a while, lots of discussion about that. … We have about half of our city employees are now covered by it, but about approximately another half are not because they are in collective bargaining units. Those, all three of the collective bargaining units — the utility workers, the Roswell Police Officers’ Association and the firefighter’s union, which has just been formed are representing about half of our staff. Those negotiations are ongoing, and we’ll see if that can be resolved sooner rather than later.

But one of the interesting little tidbits that I should have known but didn’t, is this: A collective bargaining agreement covers the personnel in a unit. In other words, let’s say that we had a widget turner’s department, okay? And we had the widget turner’s union representing the 50 people in that unit. So, the city makes an offer and that offer is voted on, but only by the dues-paying members of the widget union, even though it impacts everyone in that unit. So, there could be only 35 dues-paying members in the widget department that are dues-paying members of the … widget workers union. Then, what often happens, is they will have a meeting where they will vote. Only those who show up at the meeting vote. So let’s say there’s 20 out of the 35 show up for the meeting, and the vote is 11 to 9 to reject it. So, this is out of 50 employees impacted in this scenario, which is not a complete fabrication. Eleven could decide: no. …

That, to me, was an eye-opening little tidbit, and so I’m concerned. I want to make sure that all those who are involved in these collective bargaining units are engaged. We want to treat everybody fairly and equally. I’m excited about the 20-step plan because, I’ll be honest with you, I talked about this with the mayor at the time and the RPOA president at the time, 20-some years ago. … and it wasn’t done then. I needs to be done now. You want to keep people who are productive and skilled, and the way you do that is you allow them to see growth in their salaries. Mr. Neeb (Joseph Neeb, city manager) is very spot-on about that. So, hopeful, but we’ll see.

Penn: How is hiring going with the RFD and the RPD at this point?

Kintigh: RPD, I look at very closely … Where we were at April 1, because we get personnel reports every month, I think we were at 87 out of 93 slots. … You got to be careful with that though, because that includes all the newbies who are still in training and some of them need to go to the academy, some of them are in the academy. From a time an individual walks in the door to become a police officer until that individual is through training and able to function effectively on their own, in my estimation, is a minimum of 15 months, if not a year and a half. And even then, they’re going to need close attention by the first-line supervisor. You think you’re grown up, you’re not.

Penn: And then the fire department?

Kintigh: I know that they’re doing testing on May 5. As one of the challenges of the fire department, their physical fitness standards are pretty serious. You go down to their training facility on Brasher, and it’s an interesting … I actually went through it myself a few years ago, and it’s multi-faceted but it’s very much based upon actual work they do. You’ve got to carry a fan, you’ve got to carry a hose upstairs, you’ve got to extend a fully-charged hose out, you’ve got to lift a 90-pound dummy and drag it an X-number distance. So, these are all things that firefighters have to do and it’s a challenging standard. That I think, unfortunately, is what adversely impacts a lot of folks interested. But we are looking at that, and I know they strive to hire what they can.

Penn: And then my last question: I know that you pay attention to the state’s politics, it’s not just about the city. So, what else is going on in the state that you think readers should know about?

Kintigh: It’s going to be interesting, two interesting areas. One will be Congressional District 2 — CD 2 as we call it. We’ve got two … no, we have more than that. We have multiple Republican candidates and we got multiple Democratic candidates who are vying for the nomination. It’s going to be interesting to see who comes out in that area. This is a district that has historically gone Republican, although the voting registration tends Democrat. Steve Pearce has been the representative here, is right now, and Pearce has successfully defended that seat every time he’s run. The man is an incredible campaigner. The governor’s race is also going to be very interesting. Right now, there’s three Democrats running for it: Congresswoman Lujan Grisham, Jeff Apodaca, and State Senator Joseph Cervantes. If I’m leaving anybody out, I apologize. I know the congresswoman slightly. We’ve met a couple times, I’m not sure she would remember me from Adam. I don’t know Mr. Apodaca at all. I have known Joe Cervantes and observed him. I think most people kind of consider him in third place. Joe Cervantes is a very sharp young attorney.

Now understand, we have some significant and serious philosophical and political disagreements, the senator and I. I cannot fail, however, to respect his hard work and his attention to detail in the legislature. Joseph Cervantes taught me how to be a legislator. He did not mean to — but we were in judiciary together and when everyone else would do their questioning, all the other legislators would have lots of questions, and really, they’re speeches. You get to Representative Cervantes — at the time, he was a state representative — and he would say, “Okay, let’s turn to page 3, line 14. After the semicolon, should that be a may or a shall?” And we kind of smiled at that. That’s exactly what legislators need to do. And so, I have respect for him. I disagree with him. I am not going to vote for him.

Congressman Pearce running for governor … A number of years ago, in 2008, he ran for the U.S. Senate and was beaten badly. It was the Obama tidal wave, and many people wondered, can he win? I think Steve Pearce can win, because I’ve seen this man campaign and he is an incredibly committed campaigner. He’ll be up-front with you what he believes, but he’s committed to this. He has a compelling story where he came from, dirt-poor poverty to the positions he’s at, built a company, served in the Legislature, and he is an incredible asset to this state. I look forward to voting for him for governor.

So, we have some local races that are interesting — that I am staying out of.

Readers with questions they would like to see asked during the RDR’s next discussion with Mayor Kintigh can email them to editor@rdrnews.com.