Ken Miyagishima is Winning Victories in Las Cruces
No matter your success as a public official, there will always be someone who can’t wait to kick you out of office. In a healthy democracy, dissenting voices present alternative views and spur the incumbent to stay engaged in their community. But the Citizens United decision has propagated an environment where a DMO beloved by one’s city can be threatened by the wealth of outside forces. This was the case with our DMO of the Month, Las Cruces, New Mexico Mayor Ken Miyagishima. This May we take a look at a DMO doing right by his town, and how his success put him in the crosshairs of a super PAC.
Las Cruces (population 101,324) is a city in need of strong municipal leadership. The city is officially in a recession, with 23% of residents living in poverty. Workers are facing the same transitional economy being felt across the nation, with the local mining industry on a downturn but hospitality and healthcare on the rise. Mayor Miyagishima is addressing the immediate financial crisis felt by residents on a number of fronts. The minimum wage has risen to $8.40 an hour, with the city phasing in additional raises to make it $10.10 by 2019. He also implemented the Wage Plus incentive and the Jobs to Career Boot Camp to connect young workers with better employment opportunities. Under his administration, Las Cruces was the first city in New Mexico to end veteran homelessness. These steps address the economic difficulties of residents while keeping the city itself above water.
An essential part of Mayor Miyagishima’s agenda is creating sustainable infrastructure to carry Las Cruces forward. His office has built $150 million in new infrastructure in the past 8 years without raising city taxes. Mayor Miyagishima favors the most cost effective approach, scheduling a regular street maintenance program and installing LEDs in buildings to avoid more expensive costs in the future. Meanwhile, new fire stations increase public safety and help residents keep their insurance costs low.
Other recent additions include a new sports complex, aquatic center, intermodal transit center, city plaza, and convention center. Amid the southern deserts of the United States, Mayor Miyagishima set up a $5 million dollar water reclamation plant to supply near potable water for washing and watering plants. Process is just as important as execution when it comes to these major overhauls. This revitalization happens with public oversight, such as holding public charrettes to review the master plan for reforming the downtown area. Mayor Miyagishima uses debt recycling, lodging taxes, and impact fees to keep the brunt of funding these projects off of taxpayers.
The people of Las Cruces like Ken Miyagishima enough that they’ve consistently reelected him to city government since 2001. That hasn’t stopped businesses from Carlsbad, Roswell, and Hobbs from trying to decide who is allowed to be Mayor of Las Cruces. GOAL WestPAC, founded with the help of US Representative Steve Pearce (who denies current involvement, although his brother is the PAC’s treasurer), and funded by New Mexico’s oil, gas, and ranching interests, paid a firm upwards of $69,000 for services including mailers against the Mayor in November’s election. And while mayoral candidates’ campaigns cannot personally accept more than $5,192, Goal WEST received contributions as high as $30,000. The PAC posted content that was featured in social media posts, flyers, and robocalls against Miyagishima. The Mayor’s out of town opponents highlight a growing trend of big money getting involved in local elections. Municipal Democrats now have to run their races against hostile super PACs in addition to their electoral opponents.
Mayor Miyagishima defeated all challengers last November, but other mayors have not been so fortunate. There is no electoral security to be found in excellence when outside parties can fund your downfall. Ken Miyagishima has lowered insurance costs, increased public safety, built new infrastructure, and ended veteran homelessness in Las Cruces. These accomplishments are at stake when an out of town group can skirt local campaign finance laws and outspend his campaign by $30,000. Our DMO of the Month this May showcases the best of local Democrats. His constituents have elected him to public office again and again over the past 15 years. DMO will continue to support local residents over the financiers of outside interests attempting to overrule their votes.
Are you currently facing opposition from outside groups seeking to recall you, or put an interest friendly challenger in your place this fall? Learn how you can fight back against these organizations when they come after you during your next election. DMO and our Political Council are here to support you and your efforts to represent your city. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.