Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima focuses on climate change and policing

LAS CRUCES — Mayor Ken Miyagishima delivered his first in-person State of the City address in two years to a sparse crowd Wednesday afternoon, during which he outlined the city council’s progressive goals as necessary to preserve the individual liberty.

Addressing just over two dozen people in an otherwise empty council chamber, with seats still limited by social distancing signs, the mayor’s 25-minute speech also focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the looming threat posed by climate change and police reforms.

It was a talk reminiscent of last year’s, which touched on many of the same topics and issues.

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima thanked the public for attending the 2022 State of the City Address on March 2, 2022. The limited audience included members of the media, city officials, officials of the county and some members of the public.

There was no mention of the city’s rising violent crime rate and little mention of homelessness, two topics that have figured prominently in local discourse over the past year. He was also light on specific goals and promises for the rest of the year.

To kick off the speech, the mayor praised the city and community’s response to the pandemic and said the light at the end of the tunnel was visible.

“As an exhaustive two-year stress test has proven, the condition of our city is strong,” the mayor said.

The mayor said the city has protected the community through health protocols and providing millions of dollars in aid to households, businesses, nonprofits and vulnerable populations. “The pandemic is still here,” he said, “but we hope we’ve come through the worst of it, and that better days lie ahead.”

He praised how Las Cruces adapted to the ever-changing situation, helped those in need and maintained daily life.

“Fires and other emergencies were dealt with, clean water was still flowing from our taps, sidewalks were laid and parks were maintained,” Miyagishima said. “We hired a new city manager and held local elections. We’ve attracted new businesses and better jobs for our residents, and helped existing businesses adapt and grow.

Miyagishima extolled the values ​​of personal liberty and freedom, but he said these cannot be separated from individual well-being and stressed the role of the council and city government in ensuring residents have access to education, health care, housing, transportation and safe neighborhoods. fully enjoy their freedom.

“Some people enjoy more freedom than others,” Miyagishima said. “Others face clear obstacles to their own autonomy and their ability to progress in the world.”

The mayor mentioned the threat of climate change to the city and the human species and celebrated council’s actions to combat it, including a resolution to convert the city’s fleet to electric vehicles, a commitment to phase out natural gas , a policy requiring carbon-neutral energy for new buildings owned or subsidized by the city and upcoming revisions to the building code to make all new buildings “electricity ready”.

Miyagishima also spoke about the need to reform the way local policing is done. He said not every situation requires “a badge and a gun.”

“We hope that trained social intervention staff will soon lead calls to help people with mental illness, addiction and homelessness, and to respond to child protection checks and suicide threats. “said the mayor.

But the mayor also said he recognized many police officers felt “under siege” following protests against police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system. In response to recent officer shortages, the mayor highlighted steps the city has taken to recruit and retain more officers, through incentives such as signing bonuses.

The mayor said improvements in policing must come from considering the experiences of officers and citizens on the other side.

“In a city like Las Cruces, our police are not an occupying force – our officers live among us as neighbors and friends,” the mayor said. “The path to optimal policing follows the path we just discussed – given our different backgrounds, our fears and expectations, and how life is lived by everyone involved.”

Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, [email protected] or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.

Keep reading:

Teresa H. Sadler