2017 City Council Candidates and Questions

The Albuquerque City Clerk has verified that fourteen (14) candidate have qualified to be on the October 3, 2017 ballot to run for Five (5) City Council seats, which is the majority of the nine (9) person city council.

All the incumbent City Councilors have opposition and the majority of the nine (9) person city council is at stake.

(See June 29, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Section C, Metro and NM, page C-1, “14 candiates qualify for 5 council seats).


Each candidate had to secure 500 signatures from registered voters who live in their City Council District by June 28, 2017.

A number of the City Council candidates also collected the $5 qualifying donations and qualified for public financing.

The office of Mayor will also be on the ballot.

The opportunity to change the majority of City Council seats and the office of the Mayor only comes once every four years.

If no candidate gets 50% of the vote in the respective City Council Districts and the Mayor’s office, a runoff election will be held one month later between the two top vote getters.

Following is a listing of the City Council candidates who qualified to be on the ballot:

City Council District 1:

1. Three term Incumbent Democratic City Councilor Ken Sanchez, accountant. (Secured public financing)
2. Progressive Democrat Javier Benavidez, co-director of Southwest Organizing Project. (Secured public financing)
3. Independent Sandra Mills, Albuquerque native and retired IBM employee. (Private financed)
4. Independent Johnny F. Luevano, retired Marine Captain and Presbyterian Health plan employee. (Private financed).

City Council District 3:

1. First term Incumbent Democrat City Councilor Klarissa Pena (Secured public financing)
2. Democrat Christopher Sedillo, Albuquerque native, retired from navy after 26 years having served as a navy paratrooper and numerous tours of duty in Iraq, Kuwait, Persian Gulf and Viet Nam. (Private financed)

City Council District 5:

1. Republican Robert Aragon, private attorney, NM Board of Finance member. (Private financed)
2. Democrat Cynthia Borrego, retired city planner. (Secured public financing)
4. Independent Catherine Trujillo, provider of workforce placement. (Private financed)

City Council District 7:

1. First term Democrat incumbent Diane Gibson, retired Sandia National Laboratories employee. (Secured public finance)
2. Republican Eric L. Lucero, retired New Mexico Army National Guard and Air Force. (Private financed)

City Council District 9:

1. Three term Republican Incumbent Don Harris, private attorney (Secured public finance)
2. Libertarian Paul Ryan McKenny, Air Force veteran, college student, (Private financed)
3. Democrat Byron K. Powdrell, Albuquerque native and general manager of radio station and Albuquerque native. (Private fianced)

Following are a few issues voters should be thinking about and a few questions the city council candidates should be asked:


1. The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including approving its budget. As a City Councilor, would you challenge the APD command staff in any meaningful manner and demand compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms? If not, what oversight role do you believe the Albuquerque City Council should play when it come to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD)?
2. What is your position on the APD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and mandated reforms?
3. Should the City seek to renegotiate or set aside the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and if so why?
4. The Albuquerque City Council has “advise and consent” authority over the Albuquerque Chief of Police and will be required to approve the new Mayor’s appointment of Police Chief. Should the current APD Chief be replaced? Should City Council authority to give “advice and consent” be extended to the Assistant Chief and Deputy Chiefs?
5. Should a national search be conducted for a new law enforcement management team to assume control of APD and make changes and implement the DOJ consent decree mandated reforms?
6. Should the City Council by ordinance create a Department of Public Safety with the appointment of a Chief Public Safety Officer to assume management and control of the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Emergency Operations Center and the 911 emergency operations call center?
7. Should the function of Internal Affairs be removed from APD and “civilianized” under the City Office of Inspector General, the Internal Audit Department and the City Human Resources Department?
8. What are your plans for increasing APD staffing levels and what should those staffing levels be?
9. Are you in favor of the proposed charter amendment that seeks to add 375 Albuquerque Police Officers at a cost of $16 million dollars a year and that would require the city to have 25 sworn officers for every 11,500 residents and if so, how would you pay for such an increase?
10. Should APD staffing be “work load” based or “population” based?
11. How do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can enhance civilian oversight of APD and the implementation of the Department of Justice mandated reforms?
12. Since 2010, there have been 41 police officer involved shootings and the city has paid out $60 million to settle deadly force and excessive use of force cases, with all settlements negotiated by the City Attorney’s office and the Mayor’s Office . Do you feel the City Council should have representation on the City Risk Management Committee that approves settlements or have ultimate and final authority to approve settlements? Should the City return to a “no settlement” policy involving alleged police misconduct cases and require a trial on the merits or a damages jury trial?
13. What are your plans or solutions to bringing down high property and violent crime rates in your district and Albuquerque and does your plan include community based policing?
14. Should APD personnel or APD resources be used in any manner to enforce federal immigration laws and assist federal immigration authorities?
15. Should the City of Albuquerque consolidate law enforcement and fire services with Bernalillo County and create a single agency under one governing authority?
16. The City of Albuquerque has a vehicle forfeiture program where vehicles are seized by the city when a person is arrested for the second time for DWI, the City secures title to the vehicles and they are sold at auction. Are you in favor of the program or would you order the program stopped?
17. Should the City Council reinstate the “red light camera” program where civil traffic citations are issued to combat and reduce red light violations and intersection traffic accidents?


1. What strategy or policies should the Albuquerque City Council implement to bring new industries, corporations and jobs to Albuquerque?
2. Albuquerque’s major growth industries include health care, transportation, manufacturing, retail and tourism with an emerging film industry. What should the City Council do to help or enhance or grow these industries?
3. To what extent should the Albuquerque City Council use tax increment districts, industrial revenue bonds and income bonds to spur Albuquerque’s economy?
5. What financial incentives do you feel the city can or should offer and provide to the private sector to attract new industry and jobs to Albuquerque, and should the Albuquerque City Council implement a policy that includes start-up grants or loans with “claw back” provisions?
6. What sort of private and public partnership agreements or programs should the City Council promote to spur economic development?
7. What sort of major projects or facilities, such as a multi-purposed arena or event center, if any, should the City Council consider to spur economic development?
8. What programs can the City Council implement to better coordinate its economic development with the University of New Mexico and the Community College of New Mexico (CNM) to insure an adequately trained workforce for new employers locating to Albuquerque?
9. Are you in favor of the enactment of a gross receipt tax or property tax dedicated strictly to economic development, programs or construction projects to revitalize Albuquerque that would be enacted by the City Council or be voter approved?
11. What programs can the Albuquerque City Council enact to implement to insure better cooperation with Sandia Labs and the transfer of technology information for economic development?


1. What is your position on the two-year rewrite of the City’s comprehensive plan known as ABC-Z project which is an attempt to bring “clarity and predictability” to the development regulations and to attract more “private sector investment”?
2. What do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can do to promote “infill development” and would it include the City acquiring property to be sold to developers and the formation of public/private partnerships?
3. What do you feel the City Council can do to address vacant residential and commercial properties that have been declared “substandard” by city zoning and unfit for occupancy?
4. Should the City of Albuquerque seek the repeal by the New Mexico legislature of laws that prohibits City and City Council resolutions annexation of property without county approval?
5. What is your position on the Santolina development project on the West side and should it be annex by the City through City Council resolution to provide utility services?
6. What is your position on City and County consolidation for all government services, including zoning and development?


1. Should the City of Albuquerque have representation or be included on the Albuquerque School board, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents and the Community College of New Mexico Board?
2. What should the City do to help reduce high school dropout rates?
3. Should the City of Albuquerque advocate to the New Mexico legislature increasing funding for early child care development programs and intervention programs with increased funding from the permanent fund?
4. What education resources should or can the City make available to the Albuquerque school system?


1. What should be done to reduce the homeless population in Albuquerque or your District?
2. What services should the City provide to the homeless and the poor if any?
3. Should the City continue to support the “coming home” program?
4. Should the city be more involved with the county in providing mental health care facilities and programs?


1. The Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project (ART) is a $129 million-dollar project including $69 million Federal Transportation (FTA) grant that has yet to be approved by congress. Should ART project be completed?
2. If the total $69 million ART grant is not approved by congress, where do you propose the money should come from for any shortfall, the general fund, revenue bonds or a tax increase?
3. Are you in favor of increasing the city’s current gross receipts tax or property taxes to pay for essential services and make up for lost gross receipt tax revenues caused in part by the repeal of the “hold harmless” provision and that has mandated budget and personnel cuts during the last 7 years?
4. Do you feel that all increases in gross receipts taxes should be voter approved?
5. Are you in favor of diverting any funding from the Bio Park tax enacted by city voters that will generate $250 million for other services or projects not associated with the Bio Park?
6. The City Council has approved over $63 million dollars over the past two years to build “pickle ball” courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing voters and using revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects. Do you feel revenue bonds is an appropriate funding mechanism for large capital improvement projects?

1. Are you in favor of replacing the current Director of the Animal Welfare Department?
2. What is your position on the City’s “catch and release” program for feral cat’s that upon being caught by the city’s Animal Welfare Department, they are spade or neutered and then released?
3. What would you do to promote dog and cat adoptions or should the city euthanize all animals after a thirty (30) day hold?
4. What is your familiarity with the HEART ordinance and do you feel it is too restrictive and should it be amended or repealed?


1. What is your position on the mandatory sick leave initiative known as the “Healthy Workforce” ordinance mandating private businesses to pay sick leave to employees and that will appear on the October 3, 2017 ballot?’
2. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office enforce the increase in the minimum wage enacted by voters?
3. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office to enforce the mandatory sick leave initiative if it is enacted by city voters?
4. Are you in favor of increasing public financing for Mayoral and City Council candidates or should Albuquerque’s public finance laws be repealed by the City Council?
5. Do you feel changes to the city public finance laws should be made expanding the time frame to collect contributions and making it easier for candidates for Mayor and City Council to qualify for public finance?
6. Do you intend to ask for or rely upon your political party affiliation to promote your candidacy for City Council?
7. Should major capital improvement projects such as the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project (ART), be placed on the ballot for voter approval and should there be a specified amount before a public vote is required?
8. What is your position on the ART Bus project and should it be stopped or scaled back if Congress does not fund the $69 million federal grant?
9. Should Albuquerque become a “sanctuary city” by City Council resolution?
10. Should the issue of Albuquerque becoming a “sanctuary city” be placed on the ballot for voter approval?
11. All municipal elections in the State of New Mexico are supposed to be none partisan. Notwithstanding, should the City Clerk be required to disclose party affiliation of candidates running for municipal office on the ballot?
12. Is it your intent to endorse any one of the candidates for Mayor and if so who?


Four years ago, only 19% of all eligible voters voted in the municipal election.

Each City Council District has approximately 75,000 residents.

Historically, only 2,000 to 4,000 votes are cast in each City Council District.

Each vote can and does make a difference.

Voters should demand and expect more from candidates than fake smiles, slick campaign flyers, and no solutions and no ideas.

Our City needs more than promises of better economic times and lower crime rates for Albuquerque.

Voters need to demand answers and find out what candidates really stand for and what they intend to do once elected.

Unless you vote, real change can never occur and if you do not vote you have no business complaining about the condition of our city.

Please vote and get involved.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.