You always know when its an election year when politicians call a press conference to announce new initiative’s and funding for their constituents. What is pathetic is when those same politicians think that their constituents are so damn stupid or naïve not to realize their actions are to make amends for past positions and votes. Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton are two such politicians running to be elected again to the Albuquerque City Council.
On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis, joined by Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez, held a press conference to announce their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for the Nob Hill area affected by the ART Bus project. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the Nob Hill area central corridor.
Many Nob Hill business owners and area residents have experienced frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of ART construction. Many business owners and residents in Nob Hill along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area and numerous break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and security measures.
MUNICIPAL ELECTION PROCESS HAS BEGUN
The 2019 municipal election process is already underway with the City of Albuquerque’s Municipal election to be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. Debates are being held by neighborhood associations.
All the candidates running for City Council in Districts 2 and 7 are seeking public financing. Only one month is given to candidates running for city council to collect $5.00 qualifying donations to the city in order to secure public financing. $1 per registered voter in a City Council District is given to candidate who qualify and they must agree to the amount as being the “cap” they can spend on their campaign. Two months are given to secure qualifying nominating signatures to be placed on the ballot.
In District 2, the City Council District represented by Ike Benton, the qualifying period is May 1, 2019, to May 31, 2019 to collect the $5.00 donations to secure public financing. Each candidate running for the District 2 City council seat must collect 433 qualifying donations from registered voters. The 433 qualifying donations is based upon the percentage of voters in the last election and $43,174 will be given to the candidates who secure the 433 donations.
In District 6, the City Council District represented by Pat Davis, the qualifying period is also May 1, 2019, to May 31, 2019 to collect the $5.00 donations to secure public financing. However, each candidate running for the District 6 City council seat must collect 323 qualifying donations from registered voters. The 323 qualifying donations is based upon the percentage of voters in the last election and $31,979 will be given to candidates who secure the 323 donations.
The Qualifying period is May 1, 2019, to June 28, 2019 to collect qualifying nominating signatures from registered voters in the City Council Districts and each candidate must secure 500 signatures
There is no doubt that collecting $5.00 qualifying donations is extremely difficult with only one month to collect, and collecting nominating signatures is a lot easier and a candidate given 2 months to collect the signatures.
For the first time, the City Clerk has set up a “donation portal” and process to make the $5.00 qualifying donations on line. It is called the “Clean Campaign Portal” and is a website created a joint project between the City Clerk’s office and the Department of Technology and Innovation.
Isaac (Ike) Benton is the District 2 City Councilor and was first elected to the council in 2005. Benton is a retired architect and avowed urbanist. Benton’s city council district includes a large area of downtown Central and the North Valley which leans left and is heavily Hispanic. Benton ran unopposed in 2015. Democrat (D) Isaac Benton has 5 opponents: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (Unknown), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, Republican.
City Councilor Pat Davis was elected to the Albuquerque City Council on October 6, 2015 to represent District 6. District 6 encompasses the International District, Mesa Del Sol, Nob Hill, Southeast Heights, and the University of New Mexico. Last year, Davis ran for US Congress in the First Congressional District but withdrew from the race when he polled at 3% and could not raise the money to run a viable campaign. Before Davis withdrew form the congressional race, Davis had no problem accusing then then Democrat front runner of being a “racist” which was a lie and he endorsed the eventual Democratic nominee who went on to become elected to congress. Democrat (D) Pat Davis has only one opponent: Gina Naomi Dennis (D).
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
There is little doubt among city hall observers that both City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac (Ike) Benton will secure the necessary qualifying $5.00 donations as well as nominating signatures and be on the ballot. Both have done it before and they do have the advantage of incumbency. Davis and Benton are two politicians who are so much alike as to be almost indistinguishable when it comes to their voting records and voting against the best interests of their own constituents.
Both Davis and Benton proclaim to be “progressive democrats”, however their City Council voting records say otherwise. During the past four years, Albuquerque has suffered from record breaking high crime rates and the ART bus project without either Benton nor Davis even trying doing much to improve things, at least not until now when they want to be elected again.
There are at least 8 egregious specific votes Isaac Benton’s and Pat Davis’s that reveal the true voting record as going against core Democratic principles:
1.Councilors Benton and Davis voted repeatedly for and the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed the character of Route 66. Both refused to advocate to put the ART Bus project on the ballot for public approval. Benton and Davis voted to spend federal grant money that had yet to be appropriated by congress. The ART Bus project has been a total disaster resulting the destruction of the character of Route 66. ART has a negative impact on Central resulting in several businesses going out of business. Many central businesses and Nob Hill businesses, no longer exist because of the ART Bus Project.
2.Both Benton and Davis voted to use $13 million dollars in revenue bonds to pay for the ART Bus project. The revenue bonds were not voted upon by the public. It was reported that the Albuquerque City Council borrowed over $63 million dollars over a two-year period to build pickle ball courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing the voters. The $65 million dollars was borrowed with the Albuquerque City Councilors voting to use revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects.
3. The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget. Benton and Davis did nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and has never challenged the previous Administration and the former APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms. Each time the Federal Court appointed Monitor presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, Benton and Davis remained silent. Both declined to demand accountability from the Mayor and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms. Both Benton and Davis failed to attend any one of the federal court hearings on the consent decree.
4. Both Benton and Davis voted for the city ordinance amendments requiring equal pay for woman but failed to demand more. The amendments to the equal pay for woman ordinance sounded good and look good on paper but accomplished very little. The truth is that the equal pay for woman ordinance only applies to city contracts and those who do business with the city. The ordinance is voluntary and gives preferential treatment on city contracts to those who voluntarily comply. The equal pay for woman ordinance should apply to all businesses licensed to do business in Albuquerque, it should be mandatory for all businesses and enforced by city planning that issues business licenses and could be made so by the city council.
5. When he served on a task force to overhaul Albuquerque’s public fiancé laws, Pat Davis declined to advocate meaningful changes to our public finance laws making it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance. The only change both Davis and Benton agreed to was increasing the amount of money candidates get and not the process of collecting the donations to qualify and not expanding the time to collect qualifying donations. The lack of changes to the public finance laws favors incumbents like Davis and Benton.
6. Davis advocated for enactment of the Healthy Workforce ordinance by voters which would have mandate the pay of sick leave by employers and was always there for a photo op with those organizations who pushed to get it on the ballot. However, both Benton and Davis never demanded the City Attorney’s office enforce the existing Albuquerque minimum wage ordinance, even when workers were forced to sue their employers. Davis and Benton claim to be in favor of increasing the minimum wage, but they have never demanded the Mayor nor the City Attorney to enforce the current city ordinance enacted by voters with a 2 to 1 margin.
7. On July 2, 2018 Democrat Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the $2.6 million economic development package that would help Topgolf to construct a $39 million entertainment complex at the site of the former Beach Waterpark. Benton and Davis went along with the City Council voting 8-1 to give the incentives after a 9-0 veto override Keller’s veto of a resolution expressing the city councils support. A few weeks later, Both Benton and Davis again voted to override Democrat Mayor Keller’s veto of the funding. Rather than give the new Democrat Mayor the benefit of the doubt, Benton and Davis voted to overturn the veto, but never once voted to overturn a veto of the previous Republican Mayor.
8. The most egregious votes by Benton and Davis was that they voted for the final adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan which will have long term impact on our neighborhoods and favors developers. The enactment of the comprehensive plan was a major priority of Republican Mayor Berry and the development community pushed hard for its enactment before Berry left office. The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character. Benton, a retired architect knew better but refused to intervene on behalf of neighborhood interests.
The only reason Benton and Davis are supporting investing up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for the Nob Hill area affected by the ART Bus project is that they are hoping their constituents will “forgive and forget” their past support of the ART Bus project that has destroyed the Nob Hill Central area. If their constituents “forgive and forget” they deserve the representation they get and cease any complaints of two city counselors ignoring what they want who promote their own personal agendas.
What is disappointing is that Pat Davis has only one opponent after so many in the Nob Hill business area complained about him not listening to them and voting repeatedly against the area’s best interests. At one time, an effort was undertaken to initiate a recall against Davis, but nothing ever materialized.
What people should be sick of are Democrats acting and talking like Republicans especially after they get elected to positions like City Council and arguing that they are being “nonpartisan”. Both City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis will say that they have done a great job as City Councilors by acting “non-partisan” and they needed to cooperate with Republicans to get things done, even though Democrats now hold a majority of 6-3 on the City Council and even though the Mayor is a Democrat.
There is a significant difference between cooperating and working with other elected officials from the opposite party and then being hypocritical and going against your own basic political philosophy of what you believe to be true and then turning around and acting and voting against that what you claim to believe in. What would be disappointing is if Davis and Benton are elected again saying they are Progressives Democrats when in fact they vote like conservative Republicans.
Any of those running against Davis and Benton who fail to secure the necessary $5.00 donations for public financing should continue their efforts to get on the ballot. Hope springs eternal that both Benton and Davis will have strong opposition from solid Democrats so their constituents can thank Benton and Davis for their service and they can move off the City Council.