Better late than never and much better than the non-response from other candidates, please find Ingo Hoeppner’s answers to the Citizen’s questions below. The two other candidates who are non-incumbents were sent the same questions, but did not respond. The Citizen gave the candidates a week to respond, which was Oct. 2. Hoeppner responded one week late.
I would also like to address welcome criticism I received on my prior statement on Oct. 3 concerning Hoeppner. I said Hoeppner is difficult to understand because of a heavy German accent, which, I asserted, is his biggest barrier to being elected.
Understanding, one person said, is a two-way street, and both listener and speaker need to work at it. It should not be just the speaker’s responsibility. And saying it was a heavy German accent, this person said, could be interpreted as my being xenophobic.
Another person said my statement made it seem as if what Hoeppner had to say was not of value, that it was dismissive.
I agree with both criticisms. In retrospect, I feel my statement was a disservice to upholding the U.S.’s tradition of being a “melting pot” that welcomes and encourages a plurality of voices and cultures. I apologize, Mr. Hoeppner, for not keeping those values front and center.
I think I normally would have been more tolerant of having to work a bit harder to understand a candidate if the city were not in crises and therefore needing leaders who can work and communicate quickly to address these crises.
I’ve gotten fairly desperate and despairing over the last four and a half years. Of the dozen or so local governments I have covered as a reporter over nearly 20 years, T or C is the least transparent and the least communicative and in the worst fiscal and physical shape.
That’s my excuse for wrongly making Hoeppner’s accent disqualifying—despair and desperation to find leaders who will save T or C.
I have not edited or changed even a comma in his responses, which are in bold below.
- What governmental experience do you have?
Four years as a member and for the past two years as Chairman of the Parks and Golf Advisory Committee for the City of Truth or Consequences New Mexico. I also served for the German Air force for 8 years as a soldier and as a civil servant for 12 years.
- The Chamber of Commerce, at City Manager Bruce Swingle’s request, ran the campaign to pass two general-obligation-bond questions that more than double city property taxes to fix water and wastewater infrastructures and roads. The ballot questions passed with about 80 percent approval ratings. The campaign gave very little information to voters, showing pictures mostly of water breaks and pot holes. The city was also extremely vague about what the money would be used for, the vague and very general ballot language being basically the only guide to how the money will be spent. The city has no master plan for fixing the water and wastewater infrastructures. Do you feel it was responsible of the Chamber to push through tax-funded projects that are unplanned and unknown to the public?
The proper way to address municipal capital expenditures is to approve a funding request from State and Federal Officials for an engineering study, and then submit the request of the voters; however, the need to increase property taxes rates to properly run the city has been long overdue. For years the city has been relying on utility bills to support the general fund.
- What will you do about addressing the water, wastewater and electric utilities crises conditions?
I agree the current city manager’s proposal of hiring a lobbyist at the state government level is the only way this city will raise the money to fix 50 years of neglect.
Have you read any of the engineering reports on these infrastructures?
I have not read the engineering reports. The City Manager and the Utility department report to the commissioners. As a commissioner I would have access, without filing FIA’s to get the information.
- What do you think about department heads never giving oral or written reports to the city commission?
The department heads report to the City Manager. The City Manager, before Bruce Swingle demanded it, did not even have a job description of the city manager, which would spell out such needs.
- What do you think about the current $51-million budget?
What I think about it is not relevant. What is needed is an outside study commissioned by a competent auditor to evaluate where savings can be made. Allocation of funds is a political decision. I will work for a closer management of the expenditures of public money.
- I have not seen any of you at very many city commission meetings. How have you informed yourselves about what is happening in city government? Why haven’t you attended city meetings?
How much information is provided the public about the topics to be voted on before the meetings? The three minutes allowed for a tax payer to speak is not enough. As a commissioner I will work to change the way in which the public is included to the discussions by making the information public in a report on the problem. There are some very well trained and bright folks who have retired to our city. But without information prior to the meetings, going is not very effective.
- What do you think about the last three city managers being hired behind closed doors? What do you think about Assistant City Manager Traci Alvarez being placed in that position by the city commission without the job being advertised, without a job description, without revealing her qualifications?
This city, like most small cities with a small tax base, with only retail and government jobs, and retirees, it is hard to hire and retain employees at the pay rates offered. I am not familiar with the hiring practices, but as a commissioner, I will look into these practices.
- What do you think about the city commission passing nearly 100 percent of its motions unanimously and with little discussion?
As a citizen I am not impressed. It seems like there has been discussion out of the public view, which is against the spirit of the public meetings law. The Chairman of the commission is not doing the citizens any favors by not asking for support for an issue or the opposite in a public forum. As a commissioner, I will work to reform this practice.
- Two years ago, during the city commission’s traditional, once-a-year, policy-making retreat, held at the Holiday Inn Express, the city commission and city staff, when asked what was the city’s biggest problem or challenge, agreed with City Commissioner Shelly Harrelson that “CAVERs,” citizens against virtually everything, were the biggest problem. What do you think about that?
Was this publicly reported, or was it a rumor? It is true that the city commissioners’ biggest problem is those who oppose practically everything coming to meetings and asking questions. But the city’s biggest problem is a political one and it is a tough one. The citizens feel they have no voice in how the city is run. Structure is policy, and it is clear that the structure of city government is skewed toward electing those with ideas that have gotten Truth or Consequences in the fiscal challenges it now has.
- What is your platform?
- Open government
- Public information in a timely manner
- Working with the state and federal governments on infrastructure
- Working with developers in line with the City Master Plan.
- Working to get the city’s portion of the Rio Grande Trail development on line.
If you have not voted before in City Elections, now is the time to vote for Ingo Hoeppner as a new voice for a new chance for change in our city.