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Income inequality and climate change.
City Councilor Gill M. Sorg has kept those two issues in mind during every vote he has cast as a council member during the past 11-plus years.
Sorg, 74, announced in April that he will not seek a fourth four-year term representing District 5 on the Las Cruces City Council.
“It’s time to let someone new have a chance,” he said.
Sorg moved to New Mexico from Montana in June 1998, and to Las Cruces in December of that year. He was first elected to the city council in November 2007, defeating incumbent Gil Jones.
The Great Recession began a short time later, damaging economies around the world and reversing job growth and low unemployment in New Mexico. Sorg said helping to rebuild the city’s economy by getting infrastructure projects – utility connections, street improvements, new parks – back on track is among his proudest accomplishments as a council member.
He’s also proud of the minimum wage increase that he voted for and the council passed in 2015, along with the work the city has done in the last few years to increase the availability of affordable housing.
In the last year, Sorg said, the city has done everything it could to help lessen the impact of Covid-19.
The council has allocated more than $3 million since the pandemic started to help businesses and nonprofits in the city, with most of the money coming from the Telshor Facilities Fund (TFF) rather than from the city’s general fund.
“I’m glad we had that,” Sorg said about TFF, which is funded from a pre-paid lease payment the city received for Memorial Medical Center.
He is also pleased that Las Cruces is “a much greener city” than when he took office, Sorg said.
The city has converted all its street lights to LED, which is saving about $100,000 in energy costs, he said; it has installed solar panels on city buildings and parking lot structures and has more solar projects on the way; and it has begun the move toward a hybrid city-owned fleet and electric buses.
“I’m looking forward to riding an electric bus,” Sorg said. “I’m going to ride all over the city.” (Sorg drives a 2013 Prius hybrid.)
With new initiatives in place, including the construction of all-electric homes complete with outdoor chargers for electric vehicles, the city could surpass its goal of being 50 percent carbon free by 2030, Sorg said.
Going forward, Sorg said he is hopeful the city can be part of a film and media studio and soundstage in Las Cruces.
There are “so many aspects of Las Cruces that would fit the film industry,” he said, including generous film credits for shooting in the area, the local climate and the wide availability of locations.
The film industry would provide the good-paying jobs and economic diversity Las Cruces needs, Sorg said. Film, he said, along with local agriculture-based businesses, including the newly expanding Saputo Cheese USA, Electronic Caregiver, new cannabis-related businesses and others can give the city “nice diversity,” he said.
During his council service, Sorg said he has heard about all kinds of issues from constituents, including whatever is on that week’s council meeting agenda, and especially speeding on city streets.
Whatever the issues, Sorg said the best advice he could give his successor in the District 5 council seat is to “stay in contact with your constituents. Respond to inquiries, questions and concerns.”
It’s also important for people to have the facts about what the city is doing, he said.
“It’s all about correct information,” Sorg said.
Sorg said he is hopeful whoever follows him on the council will continue to work on issues of income inequality and climate change as the city implements its comprehensive plan.
“There’s so much work to be done there,” he said.
Sorg said he plans to continue working on those and other issues he cares most about after he leaves the council next January. In addition to the committees he serves on as a city council member, Sorg is a member of the state Workforce Development board and the Outdoor New Mexico board, and is chairman of the Paseo del Norte Watershed Council.
He’s also looking forward to exploring parks and remote areas.
And, he has will continue to live in Las Cruces.
“This is paradise. Why would I leave?” Sorg said.