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Put babies and families first

February 4, 2018 GMT

Imagine, if you will, that you have just been born in Santa Fe.

As you look around, you wonder, “Is this a city that cares about babies like me? Am I hearing from the candidates for mayor that they want this to be a community where I will thrive? If ‘it takes a village,’ will my parents be supported by their village so that they are the best parents they can be? Will they be able to afford housing, have meaningful jobs or education opportunities? Will I have high-quality affordable child care so they can work and go to school while my tiny brain grows and I’m nurtured through play and inspired early learning? Will the next mayor care about whether I and all the other babies born here have enough to eat, have parks to play in, are safe in our neighborhoods? Will Santa Fe be a city where all babies, no exceptions, have opportunities for a great start in life?”

We urge all Santa Fe voters to make noise about the needs of babies and their families in the race for Santa Fe’s next mayor. We believe it is critical that the city of Santa Fe actively demonstrates that this is a baby and family-friendly community. Our first full-time mayor has the opportunity to lead that crusade.

The candidates should be talking more about the importance of early childhood and making the health and well-being of babies and families a high priority. If this community truly supports our babies — that critical time in life when all the foundations are laid for future success — then our city will attract young families who will build our new economy. This requires thoughtful policies and deliberate actions; this requires bold leadership.

Cities and towns can do a far better job of creating the will, structures and opportunities for babies and their families to thrive than can states. They can be more creative and nimble, harness local talent, foster collaboration and more easily address pressing needs without some of the burdens of a larger bureaucracy.

Santa Fe, the state’s capital, can and should be the best place for babies and families in New Mexico. When we as Santa Feans insist that our next mayor be a champion for our babies, then we are proclaiming that this city values our present and our future.

Think about it as you listen to the candidates and cast that ballot for mayor: If you were born here, what would you like the Santa Fe that welcomes you into the world to be like?

Nan Schwanfelder is president and Kim Straus foundation manager with the Brindle Foundation, which is based in Santa Fe and believes all babies in New Mexico deserve a great start in life.