Talk about one big yawn of a Mayoral forum and a lost opportunity for anyone of the candidates for Mayor to really differentiate themselves from the 8 pack of candidates.
(See August 29, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “Mayoral candidates are split on sick leave measure; One opponent calls the proposed ordinance on the ballot a business killer.)
Seven of the eight candidates for Mayor took part in the “Business, Real Estate, Construction ABQ Mayoral Candidate Forum” with about 500 business leaders in attendance at a sit down, table cloth luncheon at the Marriott Hotel.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE AND THEIR MOTIVES
Given the make-up of the audience, why the forum was billed and reported on the way it was and not as the National Association of Commerce and Industry (NAIOP) forum is a mystery.
The forum was also moderated by Albuquerque Journal Senior Editor Ken Waltz.
The Albuquerque Journal is owned by Albuquerque Publishing company that has major investments in the real estate development community and the Journal Center.
The forum audience was predominately business owners, real estate development and investment people and construction industry firms and architects with many who do business with city, bid on major city construction contracts and have contracts with the city.
Over the last eight years, NAIOP, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the business community in general have been big cheerleaders, almost without question or fault, for the current administration.
All these business organizations oppose all tax increases, oppose city government regulations, champion right to work laws, oppose any increases in the minimum wage and feel city government is an impediment to business and development.
What is not at all surprising is that candidates were asked at the forum and offered their views on tax increases, what could be done to improve public schools and the mandatory sick leave ordinance, all topics the candidates should have known what the audience wanted to hear without any surprises.
What is downright remarkable is that nothing was reported on the candidate’s positions on the three major and most critical issues facing Albuquerque and how the candidates would solve those problems: the police department, soaring crime rates and economic development to turn our economy around.
You would think just for once that the business community that the audience represented would be demanding answers, thoughts and ideas about how to turn our economy around, attract new businesses and industries to Albuquerque and to bring our unemployment rates down.
Instead the audience was more concerned about finding out if the candidates opposed tax increases that will affect their bottom line profit margins, or an education system that a Mayor has absolutely no authority or control over.
The audience was apparently more interested in having the candidates discuss the mandatory sick leave initiative that will be on the October 3, 2017 ballot for a public vote and if passed will affect their profit margins.
The only thing the candidates for Mayor can really say about the mandatory sick leave ordinance is if they will vote “yes” or “no” to enact it and nothing can happen until the public votes on the initiative.
Democrats Brian Colon, Tim Keller and Gus Pedrotty and Independent Susan Wheeler Deichel voiced support for the mandatory sick leave ordinance.
Republicans Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson and Independent Michell Garcia Holmes oppose the mandatory sick leave ordinance.
The sick leave ordinance is in a real sense is an extension of increasing the minimum wage initiative passed by voters three years ago, it is a first step toward a living wage.
None of the candidates who support the mandatory sick leave initiative had the stomach to make any commitment to enforce it as mayor or if it is enacted by voters, no doubt knowing that would turn off the audience and the Albuquerque Journal.
Republican Wayne Johnson took the opportunity to make a snarky little remark about the mandatory sick leave ordinance when he said:
“It won’t make our workforce healthier, it will make them more unemployed” and many no doubt had a good laugh.
Republican Wayne Johnson is the County Commissioner who voted not to put the measure on the November, 2016 ballot as requested by the City Council and who attended the Court hearings to keep it off the ballot so he could be seen by the business coalition who filed suit to oppose the measure, no doubt in anticipation of seeking donations for his campaign for Mayor.
Mitchell Garcia Holmes when out of her way to say about the mandatory sick leave ordinance:
“This will actually be a devastating thing to our city … I want you to know I am 100% against this ordinance. It will be a business killer.”
So, what is Michell Garcia Holmes as Mayor going to do if voters enact the ordinance?
Is Mayor Michell Garcia Holmes going to sit back like Mayor Berry has done with the minimum wage ordinance and instruct the City Attorney not to enforce the mandatory sick leave ordinance?
None of the candidates challenged nor called out the business community to show far more leadership and to be far more committed to improving our economy, to bring down unemployment rates and poverty rates and help improve our education system.
None of the candidates for Mayor told the audience that the business community has become part of the problem and not the solution to turning our economy around with them having more concern about maintaining the status quo, protecting their profit margins and maintaining their membership levels.
None of the candidates for Mayor challenged the audience to be part of the solution and not the problem and did not ask for help to develop a strong economic development initiative with a partnership with the city and the business community.