ABQ Journal Editorial On Proposed Homeless Shelter

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board, a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.

The most controversial bonds on the November 5 ballot are the $14 million designated for a centralized, 24-hour, 7 day a week homeless shelter. The $14 million in funding is buried in Bond Question 2 for $21.7 million with the language saying it’s for “senior, family, community center, homeless and community enhancement bonds”.

Below is the October 31, 2019 Albuquerque Journal Editorial with the Journal link a as well as link to a related blog article published on October 29 entitled “Compromise, Consensus And Concessions Needed For City Homeless Shelter; Vote YES On Bond Question 2.

Editorial: Proposed homeless shelter is city’s first, very important step
BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
Thursday, October 31st, 2019 at 12:02am

“How much research and planning is enough?

It seems for critics of Albuquerque’s proposed centralized, low-barrier homeless shelter, no amount will suffice.

The city is asking voters to sign off on a $14 million general obligation bond issue that will fund the first stage of the shelter. Early voting continues through Saturday; Tuesday is Election Day. Supporters, including the Journal Editorial Board, see it as an important step in combating homelessness. While the shelter is no panacea, it will help fill a number of needs not being met by the current disparate resources available.

Critics, including City Council candidate Connie Vigil in a column in the Journal on Wednesday, have voiced concerns the project is a knee-jerk answer and provides a short-term solution that won’t solve the larger problem.

Homeless shelters by definition are short-term solutions. But the proposed shelter also provides access to resources that could help provide long-term solutions.
It also creates a place for law enforcement to take the thousands of “down-and-outers” they come across each year. Currently they or other first responders take them to hospital emergency rooms, even though a fraction have life-threatening conditions, which costs more than $15 million. This shelter will provide a smarter alternative where individuals can get the care they need without clogging ERs or taking first responders off the streets.

Critics worry having a one-size-fits-all shelter will dump an even bigger burden on those living and working in the area it lands. The city has yet to pick a location but says it will work with the adjacent communities.

The fact is, the needs the shelter aims to fill are here, front and center. Voters just have to take one look around the metro area to know what we’re doing now isn’t working well. And it’s not like leaders haven’t been doing their homework. Last year a delegation of city, county and law enforcement officials, as well as representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and University of New Mexico Hospital, toured the massive Haven for Hope homeless campus in San Antonio, Texas. And while that may not be the exact blueprint for Albuquerque, Haven for Hope serves around 1,700 homeless people daily and has got nearly 4,100 people into permanent housing, cut San Antonio’s downtown homeless population by 66% and jail bookings by 3,300, and saved $96 million in jail, emergency room and court costs.

Currently, Albuquerque’s Westside Emergency Housing Center is a good resource, but many who need it won’t use it because it’s too far away from where they want or need to be during the day. Meanwhile, taxpayers spend around $1 million a year busing those who do use it out there and back. The other overnight shelters serve only men. Or only women and children. Or only youths. Or only victims of domestic violence. Or don’t allow pets. Or turn away those under the influence of substances.
Or they’re constantly at capacity.

Vigil is right to call for a statewide, comprehensive plan to address homelessness on multiple fronts, as well as metrics to measure success, failure and deliver accountability to the taxpayers footing the bill. But the time is now to embrace realistic expectations and secure $14 million for a low-barrier shelter. It’s the first important step in addressing our homelessness crisis.”

The link to the editorial and the blog article are here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1385597/proposed-homeless-shelter-is-citys-first-very-important-step.html

Compromise, Consensus And Concessions Needed For City Homeless Shelter; Vote YES On Bond Question 2

John Strong: “New Mexico Needs A Moonshot in Technology”

John B. Strong has lived in New Mexico since 1997. He is a highly successful private business owner and has been investing in business startups since 2004. He is a co-founder or board member at several different companies, mostly in technology, healthcare, and financial services. Mr. Strong describes himself as being “obsessed” with entrepreneurship and small businesses.

On October 11, Mr. Strong’s article “Keeping up with Wyoming” Or How to “Stake our claim to a piece of a multi-trillion-dollar industry” was published on this blog. You can read the blog article here:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/10/11/john-b-strong-keeping-up-with-wyoming-or-how-to-stake-our-claim-to-a-piece-of-a-multi-trillion-dollar-industry/

The below article written by Mr. Strong is essentially “Part 2” of his October 11 article.

(NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are those of John Strong and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com blog.)

NEW MEXICO NEEDS A MOONSHOT IN TECHNOLOGY

Here in New Mexico we are finally getting really aggressive at courting economic development opportunities for the state and trying hard to lure companies here. We’ve had some notable successes in attracting major commitments from Netflix and NBC Universal. These are important wins, but the cost is also very high to entice them. I read this morning that we are anticipating giving back cash rebates to the film industry of $81 million dollars this year and growing to nearly $165 Million over the next few years. Thats a lot of money, and hopefully we will be getting an adequate return on that investment, as well as being able to wean this industry off these rebates as they mature here.

There is, however, an opportunity in technology that will give us really meaningful returns, with a much smaller investment that will not need to be permanent either. That opportunity is Boot Camps. Specifically Boot Camps for software developer/programmers and Data Scientists. If you are unfamiliar with Boot Camps, they are immersive, intensive training programs for about 12 weeks or so full time (40 hours per week plus) and when you exit them you are certified as a software programmer/developer or Data Scientist.

These Boot Camps are an increasingly important part of the technology ecosystem here, and are professional occupations that are in very high demand. In fact the Bureau of Labor Statistics says these are the fifth fastest growing professional jobs in the country, and we will be needing in excess of 300,000 of them at a minimum in the next 10 years. Extrapolated for population New Mexico should be getting over 6000 of these jobs, but we can get many more. Here’s how.

In the San Francisco, Los Angeles ,Boston, and Washington DC areas, software developers can expect starting salaries of approximately $100,000 per year and Data Scientists more than $200,000 per year. In New Mexico the average starting salaries for these positions are $50,000 and $95,000. This is creating a large demand for outsourcing from Western States and the Boston/Washington DC areas to less expensive regions, and New Mexico is one of the least expensive. The three main local bootcamps are already fielding requests from companies out of state for outsourcing, and that can increase dramatically.

There are a few roadblocks for the Boot Camps and the opportunities for outsourcing. Here’s what we can do remove them:

Boot Camps cost anywhere from $8,000 to $9,000 for the full course. Students also need a laptop computer if they do not have one, as well living expenses for 90 days as these are full time camps for 12 weeks. Obviously, some students will work some evenings, but it is not realistic for them to work full time. All of this can be done for less than $15,000 per student.

What will we get in return? Let’s do some math. The placement rate for graduates in these Boot Camps is in excess of 85% in the first 6 months. The average starting salary for a Software developr/programmer or full stack developer is $50,000 per year and increasing to around $60-$70,000 from there. For a Data Scientist it is $95,000 rising to over $110,000 after a year or two. In addition to that for each Data Scientist that we create , they will need the support of as many 5-software developer/programmers. Both of these occupations have unemployment rates of less than 2%. Even better, creating a professional technology job comes with a job multiplier in excess of 4. That’s 4 additional jobs for every one we create.

Contrast that with manufacturing jobs that have an average multiplier of 1.4 and an even bigger bonus here is that the 4 additional jobs created from tech are heavily waited to professions such as lawyers, accountants and CPA’s, marketing specialists, and engineers. In manufacturing the multiplier jobs skew towards retail and restaurant occupations. We are also giving ourselves something else here that we desperately need: employment opportunities for other professionals who are exiting our University System. Currently, there is a real lack of job opportunities for theses graduates, and they are leaving for states like Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and California. Keeping them here has to be a top priority for our state. A growing technology ecosystem will help provide the opportunities to keep these University graduates here.

Let’s make some comparisons to what we give the film industry and what we can do with bootcamps. Here’s an excerpt from the Albuquerque Journal on Oct 24th:

“… New Mexico expects the amount it pays out in film tax credits to double over a four-year period, from about $81 million this year to $165 million in fiscal 2023.

Representatives of the state Economic Development Department told lawmakers Wednesday that they are working to collect and share more data to help lawmakers evaluate the economic impact of the film tax credit.

They estimate that the film industry pays better than the state average and that it’s responsible for about 8,000 jobs altogether, in direct and indirect employment. Sen. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, said the size of the film industry demonstrates the importance of scrutinizing whether the tax credits are worthwhile. “The thing that’s scary,” he said, “is the more they spend, the more we have to give them. … .”

You can read the full Journal story here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1382236/lawmakers-push-for-more-info-on-tax-breaks.html

So it seems that we are on track to give the film industry in excess of $400,000,000 over the next 4 years! That’s a lot of money to create 8000 jobs. In fact, it’s more than $50,000 per job. Let’s compare that to our bootcamp jobs. If we graduate over 4-5 years 250 Data Scientists and 1,000 software programmers/developers the job multiplier will add an additional 5000 jobs. So now we have an impact of 6,250 jobs. Most all of them professional jobs at that. If we paid the entire cost of each qualified applicant to one of these camps ($15,000) it would be less than $19,000,000, or less than $3500 per job. And that’s if we paid for everything with no reimbursements at all.

You may be asking why the state would need to get involved here? The reason is that these programs do not currently qualify for traditional student loans and funding. There are some grants available from foundations and companies, but it is not nearly enough. We have to also consider the social benefits we can get here as well. We are taking people who are largely working in retail, call center, and restaurant occupations paying $10-$12 per hour and converting them into professional job holders earning $50,000 plus. That is very meaningful when you take a person who is currently able to afford an apartment with roommates, and put them in a short time in a position to actually own their own home and raise a family. The benefits there are clear, in reductions in all of the ills that come with low income and poverty. We know that this leads to reduced levels of crime, addiction, physical abuse, and mental illness. How do you even place a value on that?

I would advocate that we take a strong look at this, as well as a comprehensive budget to promote New Mexico as the Technology State. If we create a marketing program similar to tourism’s “New Mexico True” program that targets bringing in outsourcing from other companies, there is a significant amount of money to be made. When we get those outsourcing dollars, we are essentially exporting knowledge and importing wages into the state. Economically it just doesn’t get much better than that. Even if we have a marketing budget of $10,000,000 promoting the state, and then paying tuition and expenses we are still less than $30,000,000 over a few years. That’s a rounding error in our surplus, and it is minuscule in comparison to what we are giving the film industry.

I’d also take one additional step. I would have the state appoint a Technology Czar at a cabinet level position. The issues and support needed in recruitment and nurturing our technology base are quite different than the brick and mortar businesses we are after in economic development, and a number of leading technology CEO’s here have voiced their concern to me that they really do not have anywhere to go for help and to give critical input on their needs. They need a full-time advocate to interface with the Governor’s office, legislature, and departments such as Tax and Rev, and Regulation and licensing. By appointing a Czar, we are telling our burgeoning technology base as well as the rest of the nation that we are dead serious about this commitment, and there is nothing temporary about it. Other states are seriously looking at these industries, but we are uniquely situated to be the most competitive and we have the resources to surpass everyone else.

I’ll end this article the same as the last one by asking that when you see your elected officials, or political leaders, asked them what they are doing to ensure that New Mexico is the technology state.

“Democracy Dollars” Engages In Class Warfare And Tribalism While Mayor Tim Keller Promotes Funding Source For His 2021 Election; VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 2 “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”

Class warfare is loosely defined as “conflict between different classes in a community resulting from different social or economic positions and reflecting opposed interests.”

https://www.dictionary.com/browse/class-warfare

Political tribalism is loosely defined as a very strong feeling of loyalty to a political or social group, so that you support them whatever they do or say.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/tribalism

“DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election is the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is very lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board election, a ballot measure for a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.

The November 5 ballot includes the Democracy Dollars “Proposition 2” which sets up a city funded voucher system to use city general funds to give out $25 vouchers to voters who in turn will give the vouchers to candidates they support who will cash them with the city. If Democracy Dollars passes, the city will donate and mail $25-dollar redeemable vouchers to all “qualified” city residents, not just registered voters, to make money donations on their own to a candidate of their choosing.

Proponents of Dollars for Democracy argue that it will encourage more people to register to vote and more varied and diverse candidates will run for office who normally do not run or who cannot raise the necessary funding for a campaign. Proponents also argue Democracy Dollars will have the benefit of candidates directly contacting and discuss issues that affect them. Democracy Dollars does not require recipients be registered voters, just city residents. Democracy Dollars proposal does not specifically state that to qualify for a voucher a resident must be a United States citizen.

DEMOCRACY DOLLARS PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS REPRESENT CLASS WARFARE

“Democracy Dollars” campaign has set up a “web page” and a FACEBOOK page to promote the ballot initiative. The web page is here https://www.burquebucks.org/ . The web page contains numerous bold claims including:

“Too many elections are often decided by a small group of secretive and rich political donors. They have all the power to decide who represents us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Today’s candidates pay too much attention to wealthy donors and not enough to regular people.

The “Democracy Dollars” web page has an entire section entitled:

“Albuquerque Donors Do Not Match the City’s Diversity: Democracy Dollars Can Make Every Voice Matter in Albuquerque’s Elections”. This section contains the following statements:

“A review of donations from individuals to mayoral and city council races in 2017 shows that those who contribute to campaigns, and therefore are more likely to have their voices heard, do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population. Instead, the donor class is whiter, older, and higher-income than the general population. As a result, people of color, young people, and middle- and working-class residents are underrepresented in the city’s politics and policies. Our elections are fairer—and our democracy works better—when politicians listen to the entire public instead of only to a few, unrepresentative big donors.

While 41% of Albuquerque residents are white and 48% are Hispanic, the donor pool in Albuquerque is 70% white and only 23% Hispanic. Native Americans make up 4% of Albuquerque residents but only .04% of donors to city elections.

Together, blacks and Asian Americans make up 6% of Albuquerque residents, but only 2% of donors.”

DEMOCRACY DOLLARS MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEE

Measure finance committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits like candidates. When it comes to ballot initiatives, such as Democracy Dollars, any Measure Finance Committee can be formed supporting or opposing any ballot initiative and raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to produce and distribute information, including producing “political propaganda” not based on fact. There are absolutely no regulations nor limitations what can be produced and disseminated by measured fiancé committees, even if false or misleading.

A measured finance committee was formed to promote “Democracy Dollars”. The measured finance committee is entitled “ABQ Democracy Dollars, Common Cause New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party, Ole Education Fund”. On October 21, 2019 filed its eight Campaign Finance Report covering the reporting period of October 12, 2019 to October 18, 2019. You can review the report here:

https://www.cabq.gov/vote/documents/democracy-dollars-statement-8.pdf

The 8th campaign finance report filed with the city clerk for Democracy Dollars lists two contributions as having been made on October 17, 2019. Those two donations are:

$81,526.98 in a single in cash contribution from by the New Mexico Working Families Party. In 2017ABQ New Mexico Working Families raised $122,000 and spent on Mayor Tim Keller’s behalf to get him elected Mayor. The Working Families Party is a progressive grassroots political party building a multiracial movement of working people. Former Albuquerque City Councilor and former State Senator Eric Griego is its executive director. Griego was the sponsor of the original City’s Public Finance Ordinance .

$1,526.96 in cash was contributed by Ole Education Fund. OLÉ is a non-profit, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico and gathered signatures to put “Dollars for Democracy” on the ballot.

There are 10 in-kind donations including in kind donations of $4,244, $3,709, 3,250, $2,248. A one in-kind donation of $20,912 is listed as having been made by a Colorado corporation advocating campaign finance reform with the purpose of the donation to make phone calls to registered voters.

MAYOR TIM KELLER ENDORSEMENT OF “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”

“Democracy Dollars” sent out a slick and impressive mailer to 49,158 registered voter family household encouraging Albuquerque voters to vote YES on Proposition 2. According to the latest Campaign Finance Report, the cost of the mailer with postage was $20,286.48.

The flyer that “Democracy Dollars” sent out has a color photo of Mayor Tim Keller quoting him as follows:

“At the heart of every democracy, everyone should have a stake in their elections. That connection is what Democracy Dollars is all about.”

The flyer also contains the disclaimer:

“PAID FOR BY ABQ DEMOCRACY DOLLAR, COMMON CAUSE NEW MEXICO, NM WORKING FAMILIES PARTY, OLE EDUCATION FUND. NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATES CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE.”

2017 CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR

During the 2017 Mayor’s race, Tim Keller proclaimed that he was “walking the talk” when it came to campaign finance reform and his decision to have his campaign funded with public finance, agreed to the spending cap and agreed not solicit campaign donations from any other source. Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller supporters realized that more would be needed to elect Keller. The supporters formed three (3) measured finance committees that either raised money directly to spend on his behalf or indirectly spent money and supported Keller’s candidacy for Mayor.

ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by a former campaign consultant for Mr. Keller when he ran successfully for New Mexico State Senate. $67,000 was raised and spent by the Firefighters political action committee known as ABQFIREPAC for Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Keller’s behalf.

$1,358,254 was spent on Tim Keller’s successful campaign for Mayor. ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward + $67,000 ABQFIREPAC + $122,000 ABQ Working Families = $1,358,254.)

PROPOSITION ONE:

The November 5 ballot also includes “Proposition 1” which ostensibly deals with updating the city’s public finance ordinance. Proposition 1 if enacted will dramatically increase the amount of city general fund and taxpayer money that will be given to mayoral candidates. The current public finance system in place today requires candidates to collect $5 qualifying donation from register voters after which qualified mayoral candidates are given $1 per registered city voter. In the 2017 Mayors race, the amount of public finance was $380,000. Under Proposition 1, the amount would increase from $1.00 to $1.75 per voter, which means public fiancé will go from $380,000 to $665,000 in public finance paid by the city to candidates for Mayor.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The “Democracy Dollars” system is touted as a “voucher” system to allow the city to donate $25-dollar redeemable vouchers to all “qualified” city residents who are less fortunate to make money donations on their own to a candidate of their choosing like those who can afford to make donations on their own. This is a warped interpretation of democracy. It equates political donations as the only meaningful way to participate in the election political process.

It is very misleading to call citizens who are not able to make monetary contribution under the present system to be referred to as “small donors” when they have been given a $25 money voucher to donate to a candidate of their choice and when the funding source for the voucher is the city general fund. Those who cannot afford to make political donations can and usually do get very involved with campaigns and volunteer time and “sweat equity” to campaigns on a grass root level. The hallmark of city elections is “door to door” campaigns to ask for a vote and support.

THE HYPOCRITICAL CAMPAIGN DONATIONS SAY IT ALL

It is very difficult to ignore the absolute hypocrisy of the supporters and promoters of Democracy Dollars when they engage in the very conduct they condemn and supposedly deplore in the form of “big money donations” to political campaigns and then turn around and make $80,000 cash donations, raise thousands for a measure finance committee to support a candidate or initiative and make $20,000 in-kind donations.

Democracy Dollars received one single $82,000 cash donation and 10 in-kind donations including in kind donations of $4,244, $3,709, 3,250, $2,248. A whopping one in-kind donation of $20,912 is listed as having been made by a Colorado corporation advocating campaign finance reform with the purpose of the donation to make phone call to registered voters

CLASS WARFARE AND TRIBALISM

What is worse and far more troubling than the hypocrisy of “Democracy Dollars” supporters is the “class warfare” and the ethnic “tribalism” that “Democracy Dollars” is promoting to get passage of the ballot initiative. The “Democracy Dollars” campaign is not even subtle about the “class warfare” they promote when they publish and enflame division within this city with such statements as:

1. “Too many elections are often decided by a small group of secretive and rich political donors. They have all the power to decide who represents us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

2. “Today’s candidates pay too much attention to wealthy donors and not enough to regular people.”

3. “… those who contribute to campaigns and therefor more likely to be heard do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population.”

4. “… the donor class is whiter, older, higher income than the general population.”

5. “… people of color, young people, and middle- and working class-class residents are underrepresented in the cities politics and policies.”

6. “While 41% of Albuquerque residents are white and 48% are Hispanic, the donor pool in Albuquerque is 70% white and only 23% Hispanic.”

7. “Native Americans make up 4% of Albuquerque’s residents but only .04% donors to city elections. Together, blacks and Asian Americans make up 6% of Albuquerque residents, but only 2% of donors.”

Virtually all of the above 7 statements used by “Democracy Dollars” are highly questionable, misleading or downright false and on so many levels. No supporting research or data is offered by Democracy Dollars to back-up the sweeping statements, especially when it comes to ethnicity claims and who donates.

When political campaign contributions are made in city elections either to candidates, to support or oppose a ballot proposition or measured finance committee’s, city finance reports require only the date of the donation, identification of the donor, the donor’s employment, give the address of the donor and state the amount of the donation. Ethnicity and age are not required to be reported. Annual income brackets or tax brackets are not required to be reported. To obtain the facts being asserted by Democracy Dollars and to be 100% accurate, virtually all who donated in the municipal election would have to be contacted to confirm the information.

THE DIVERSITY “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS” SEEKS ALREADY EXISTS DISCREDITING ETHNIC CLAIMS MADE

The City Council and the Mayor’s Office would no doubt strongly dispute that they do not reflect Albuquerque’s diverse population as Democracy Dollars assert. Further, virtually all the incumbents for city council who ran in 2017 for re election qualified for public finance.

The current city council has 3 Hispanic Democrats, (Ken Sanchez, Klarisa Pena, Cynthia Borrego), three Republican Anglos (Republicans Don Harris, Brad Winter, Trudy Jones) one Anglo Democrat Isaac Benton, one openly gay Democrat (Pat Davis), and 4 women (Klaressa Pena, Trudy Jones, Diane Gibson and Cynthia Borrego). No member of the City Council is known to be very wealthy in the least nor a “millionaire” and their financial disclosure statements filed with the City Clerk Office reflect that point.

Of the nine current city councilors, 7 qualified and received public finance to run their last successful campaigns for city council not relying on, listening to or being indebted to “a small group of secretive and rich political donors.” (Sanchez, Pena, Harris, Gibson, Borrego, Benton and Winter.)

Employment wise, the city council is very diverse and has one accountant (Sanchez), one lawyer (Harris), one retired city planner (Borrego), one retired APS official (Winter), one formerly in the commercial real estate industry (Jones), one retired Sandia Labs technician (Gibson), one executive with Youth Development Inc. (Pena), one architect (Benton), one former community activist and former police officer (Davis).

CITY COUNCIL RACES

There are 4 City Council races that will be on the November 5 election ballot. With 3 incumbents running and one open seat, the make up of the city council with public finance candidates could dramatically change and diversify the city council even further with younger people who have varying backgrounds.

In the event that District 2 City Councilor Isaac Benton, 68, loses his reelection bid, he will be replaced by either one of 4 minority men or all who qualified for public finance: Hispanics Zack Quintero, 28 a recent UNM Law School graduate, Steven Baca, 30, a process server, Joe Griego, 29, a medical equipment business owner, American Filipino Robert Nelson, 39, a nonprofit manager with The Grants Collective. One Hispanic woman is also running against Benton, Connie Vigil, 62, President of the Greater Albuquerque Business Association (GABA).

Republican District 4 City Councilor Brad Winter, age 66, who is not running for another term will be replaced by one of 3 women: Republican Brook L. Bassan, age 39, a self-described “Household CEO”, Democrat Athena Ann Christodoulou, age 57, a civil engineer or Democrat Ane C. Romero, age 38, a legislative director for the Governor’s Office.

In the event District 6 Democrat Pat Davis, 41, loses his race it will be against a woman of color, Gina Naiomi Dennis, 41, an attorney and community activist. Both Davis and Dennis are both public financed candidates.

In the event District 8 Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones, 70, loses her race, it will be to public finance candidate S. Maureen Skowan, 56, a Data analyst with UNM and former Marine.

Mayor Tim Keller is Anglo, age 41, is a native of Albuquerque and our first Lady Kirsten Keller is Jewish. Keller’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sanjay Bhaka are both minorities and Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael is Hispanic.

KELLER ENDORSEMENT OF DEMOCRACY DOLLARS CONFLICTS WITH HIS “ONE ALBUQUERQUE” CAMPAIGN

Since being sworn in as Albuquerque Mayor on December 1, 2017, Tim Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to re brand the city image with his “One ABQ” initiative, including a new logo and a new nickname. The Keller Administration has created a web page with slick videos promoting the city. The City’s web page describes the purpose and intent of ONE Albuquerque as follows:

“Mayor Tim Keller is bringing our city together as “One Albuquerque.” We are re-discovering our potential by celebrating our multicultural diversity and our authentic resilience. One Albuquerque is more than a slogan; it’s an aspiration, a call to action, a reminder that the best way to tackle our challenges is by facing them together. No one leader alone can fix our problems. We’ve each got to step up for our block, our neighborhood.”

https://www.cabq.gov/one-albuquerque

Democracy Dollars promotes tribalism and class warfare that is totally contrary to Keller’s “ONE Albuquerque” initiative, but Keller endorsed Democracy Dollars anyway with a photo and a quote on the mailer sent out. You are not celebrating “multicultural diversity” when you pit cultures or people color against each other or pit them against all Anglos.

With his very public support and endorsement of Democracy for Dollars, it does not take a political genius to figure out what Mayor Keller is really up to and what he will do in the future.

Keller does not want to alienate some of his biggest donors or supporters who are promoting Democracy Dollars. It is more than likely than not that Tim Keller will be running for re-election in 2021 using the same formula that won him the 2017 election which is to seek public finance first, proclaiming he is once again “walking the talk” only to turn around and expecting considerable help from measured finance committees to promote his candidacy. Keller’s 2021 reelection campaign will no doubt want another new funding source in the form of “Democracy Dollars” and probably run another million dollar or more campaign with the increase in public finance, Democracy Dollars and measured finance committee assistance.

NEW MEXICO ANTI DONATIONS CLAUSE

“Democracy Dollars” violates the New Mexico Anti Donation clause in the New Mexico constitution. The language of art. IX, Section 14, is very clear when it states “neither the state nor any county, … or municipality … shall directly or indirectly … make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation ” The “Democracy Dollars” $25 vouchers are clearly a donation and aide to people given to them to give to another. This is the very type of activity the anti-donation clause was designed to prohibit.”

It was ill advised and a mistake for Mayor Tim Keller to appear on campaign literature endorsing a campaign financing plan not approved by the city council that violates the New Mexico Constitution, something he swore to defend. The propriety of Mayor Keller, who was elected to represent all city residents and who is the top city elected official, endorsing a campaign finance program that he will be able to take advantage and benefit from gives the appearance of impropriety and smacks of a conflict of interest that will benefit him directly.

CONCLUSION

It is going to take a hell of a lot more than a voucher system that relies on “class warfare” and “tribalism to put public financing directly in the hands of voters.

“Democracy Dollars” are “free vouchers” provided by the city to voters in an apparent attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to the city that are now required to secure public financing. Free vouchers defeat the intent and purpose of public finance campaigns.

Every effort should be made to make Albuquerque’s public financing laws for municipal elections to legally provide for a “dollar for dollar” match to privately raised funds by candidates, thereby providing a real level playing field.

The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is destroying our democracy. Many highly qualified candidates for office all too often do not bother to run because of the inability or difficulty raising the necessary money to run.

Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process. Money spent becomes equated with the final vote. Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome of an election.

“Democracy for Dollars” is a pathetic attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to secure public finance from the city with money that would be better used for essential services such as public safety or social services. The voucher system will be funded by financing from the general fund, so there is nothing free about it. To say that Democracy Dollars will encourage more people to register and vote is a real stretch of the political imagination.

Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement and not just another pool or trough of money candidates and incumbents can drink from.

On November 5, VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 2 “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”
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POSTSCRIPT

On January 2, 2018, a blog article with recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election code laws was published:

Following is a listing of the recommendations:
1. Allow four (4) months and two (2) weeks, from January 1 to May 15, to collected both the qualifying donations and petition signatures, and private campaign donation collection.
2. Allow the collection of the qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country.
3. Once the allowed number of qualifying donations is collected, the public financing would be made immediately available, but not allowed to be spent until starting May 15.
4. Permit campaign spending for both publicly financed and privately financed candidates only from May 15 to the October election day.
5. Return to candidates for their use in their campaign any qualifying donations the candidate has collected when the candidate fails to secure the required number of qualifying donations to get the public financing.
6. Mandate the City Clerk to issue debit card or credit card collection devices to collect the qualifying donations and to issue receipts and eliminate the mandatory use of “paper receipts”.
7. Increase from $1.00 to $2.50 per registered voter the amount of public financing, which will be approximately $900,000, and allow for incremental increases of 10% every election cycle keeping up with inflation.
8. Allow for additional matching public financing available for run offs at the rate of $1.25 per registered voter, or $450,000.
9. Albuquerque should make every effort to make municipal elections partisan elections to be held along with State and Federal elections by seeking a constitutional amendment from the legislature to be voted upon by the public.
10. Any money raised and spent by measured finance committees on behalf a candidate should be required to first be applied to reimburse the City for any taxpayer money advanced to a public finance candidate or deducted from a publicly financed candidates account and returned to the city.
11. City of Albuquerque campaign reporting and finance ordinances and regulations need to define with absolute clarity that strictly prohibit the coordination of expenditures and campaign activities with measured finance committees and individual candidate’s campaigns in municipal elections.
12. A mandatory schedule of fines and penalties for violations of the code of ethics and campaign practices act should be enacted by the City Council.

You can read the complete blog article here:

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

Compromise, Consensus And Concessions Needed For City Homeless Shelter; Vote YES On Bond Question 2

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board, a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.

The most controversial bonds on the November 5 ballot are the $14 million designated for a centralized, 24-hour, 7 day a week homeless shelter. The $14 million in funding is buried in Bond Question 2 for $21.7 million with the language saying it’s for “senior, family, community center, homeless and community enhancement bonds”.

This blog article is a deep dive into the ongoing controversy and the need for a centralized city sponsored homeless shelter.

IDENTIFYING CITY’S HOMELESS POPULATION

Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels. The PIT count represents the number of homeless people who are counted on one particular night. This year, the count in Albuquerque was made on January 28, 2019.

According to the 2019 Point-In-Time count, there are 1,524 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people counted in Albuquerque . This is 206 more homeless than the 2017 PIT count that recorded 1,318 homeless people in the city limits. The 2017 survey found that there were 1,318 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count, which then was an increase of 31 people over the 2015 PIT Count. The 2015 survey count found 1, 287 people reported experiencing homelessness on the night of the count.

For 2017, 379 people self-reported as chronically homeless, which was an increase of 119 people over the 2015 PIT Count. PIT counted 39 more people who self-reported as chronically homeless who were sheltered and 80 more people that self-report as chronically homeless who were unsheltered in 2017. The 2019 PIT report states that most people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Albuquerque were residents of Albuquerque before becoming homeless.

Lisa Huval, Deputy Director for Housing and Homelessness in the city’s Department of Family and Community Services expressed the opinion that there is no definitive answer for why the number of homeless has risen. Huval said it may be partly because the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness is getting better each year at locating and counting unsheltered homeless people.

According to Huval, people who keep track of the homeless population believe there are more homeless encampments than in previous years and she said it suggests “there’s an increasing number of folks who are sleeping outside” This in turn, may be a reflection of the opioid epidemic affecting communities across the country, including Albuquerque. Huval put the problem this way by saying:

“Often, substance abuse makes it difficult for people to access shelters, or makes them unwilling to access shelters, so they prefer to sleep outside … [Although the count shows an increase] we [also] know it’s an undercount, because it’s really hard to find people who are living outside, particularly if they don’t want to be found.”

SOURCE: https://www.abqjournal.com/1355819/annual-count-shows-citys-homeless-numbers-up.html

ACTUAL NUMBER OF HOMELESS MUCH BIGGER

Government agencies and nonprofits report that the city’s homeless numbers are greater than the 1,524 found and the number of homeless in Albuquerque approaches 4,500 in any given year. The Keller Administration estimates that 5,000 households will experience homelessness over the course of a given year in Albuquerque.

The nonprofit Rock At Noon Day offers meals and other services to the homeless. Noon Day Executive Director Danny Whatley reported that there are 4,000 to 4,500 homeless people in the Albuquerque area. What is alarming is that according to Whatley, the fastest-growing segments are senior citizens and millennials (ages 23 to 38 in 2019).

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students. APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta stated the number of homeless children enrolled in district schools, meaning kids from families that have no permanent address, has consistently ranged from 3,200 to 3,500. APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program. The APS school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

The centralized citywide system known as the Coordinated Entry System that the city uses to track the homeless and fill supportive housing openings reports that approximately 5,000 households experienced homelessness last year.

CITY’S WEST SIDE EMERGENCY HOUSING CENTER

The city’s West Side Emergency Housing Center is the old west side jail that was closed for decades and then later converted for winter shelter for the homeless. One of the community jail pods has wooden cubicles constructed in order to give the homeless a little privacy. The westside facility is deteriorating needing major repairs and remodeling for use. The city does not consider the West Side Facility sustainable in the long term. The Emergency Housing Center is 20 miles from downtown where the city transports by shuttle the homeless. It costs the city $4 million dollars a year to operate the West Side Emergency Shelter and upwards of $1 million of that is spent to transport people back and forth to the facility.

In the past six months, the city has added to the Westside Emergency Housing Center medical and behavioral health care, and career services for the men, women and children who stay on site. In recent weeks, the center opened a computer lab with about 15 computers that previously were at the Cesar Chavez Community Center.

On October 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced that the west side emergency housing center has been expanded to provide a coordinated approach to homelessness. The homeless can now use the facility to get medical care, treatment for addiction and behavioral health, job placement and case management services. According to a news release, the west side shelter now has the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Presbyterian Hospital and ABQ Health Care for the Homeless providing medical services two days a week. It also has case management services being provided by Centro Savila, funded by Bernalillo County. Job placement opportunities are being provided by Workforce Connections.

The building of a new and permanent emergency shelter has been planned now for a few years. The city hopes to break ground on a centralized 300-bed facility shelter within the city limits of Albuquerque as early as 2021. The shelter would be opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help families with children and single adults. Building a permanent shelter is a major goal to move people from the streets into permanent housing.

During the 2019 New Mexico Legislature, the city secured $1 million in capital outlay money to start the architectural design for the facility. Another $14 million for construction is needed. On the November 5, 2019 election ballot $14 million in general obligation bonds to build the emergency facility will be on the ballot for voter approval.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/city-of-albuquerque-unveils-plans-for-new-homeless-shelter/?fbclid=IwAR1Q_SyA4U1Q-yNqKtZVm3yayWn4eby7CxeYeKZ5MAN7VTiewd_9LRIfeZ4

24 HOUR, 7 DAY A WEEK HOMELESS SHELTER PROPOSAL

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week facility to temporarily shelter the homeless within the city as critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter would assist an estimated 300 homeless residents and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility would serve all populations, men, women, and families, and offer what Keller calls a “clearing house” function.

The city facility would have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources. According city officials, the new homeless shelter will replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side. The former jail is so remote that the city must bus homeless to the facility and back at a cost of $1 million annually.

According to Mayor Keller, the new homeless shelter will provide first responders an alternative destination for the people they encounter on so-called “down-and-out” calls. Many “down and outs” today wind up in the emergency room even when they are not seriously injured or ill. According to city officials, only 110 of the 6,952 “down and out” people were taken by first responders to the Emergency Room in a recent one-year period had life-threatening conditions.

MAJOR BENEFITS OF CITY CENTRALIZED SHELTER

Mayor Keller and supporters of the city shelter outline 3 major benefits of the shelter:

1.Currently, the only option polices officers and firefighters have is to take the homeless to an emergency room or to arrest them on minor crimes in order to book them into the jail. on a minor crime. The hidden cost of an arrest includes the time first responders must devote to report writing and transporting to the west side facility. The city shelter center will provide an option and a place for police officers and Albuquerque Fire and Rescue responders to take the homeless individuals with whom interact.

2. The city shelter center will offer the necessary types of support and services the homeless individuals or families need. Substance abuse and mental health treatment or referrals will also be provided at the city operated shelter.

3. The city shelter will be able to provide safe, overnight sheltering for the homeless rather than relegating the homeless to use public parks, back alleys, or entry ways for overnight sleeping.

BIGGER SHELTERS DO NOT MEAN BETTER

Critics of the centralized shelter plan want Mayor Keller and the city to abandon the large centralized shelter model in favor of a dispersed shelter system and focus on smaller facilities that better blend into neighborhoods. According to many providers, smaller shelters promotes a higher level of comfort for both the homeless residents and the surrounding neighborhoods. Smaller shelters help deliver the services more directly to those in need.

Heading Home’s Albuquerque Opportunity Center is cited as an example. Albuquerque Opportunity Center has 101 men’s-only beds, 30 specifically dedicated to those who need “respite” care after leaving the hospital and the rest for emergency shelter.

Danny Whatley, the director of The Rock at Noonday day shelter had this to say about Mayor Keller’s proposed city shelter:

“I’m just not convinced that large shelter will attract those who are most vulnerable.”

Heading Home CEO Dennis Plummer said he supports relocating the city shelter away from the West Side but questions the wisdom of creating one large replacement facility by saying:

“We just know from best practices that serving sub-populations [in different locations] .. leads to better outcomes and it has less impact on neighborhoods.”

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, say they have not seen research that shows smaller shelters are more effective. Steve Berg the Vice President for Programs and Policy for the National Alliance to End Homelessness said this about smaller shelters:

“… There’s just nothing we’ve been able to find that shows any evidence that one size is better than the other in terms of what works for the people … [however] there can be issues about siting a shelter.”

Lisa Huval, the Deputy Director for Housing and Homelessness with the city’s Family & Community Services Department said that trying to locate, design, fund and build a series of smaller shelters could take a decade. Huval says that the current crisis demands the city move quickly. According to Huval the city has a network of smaller, more specialized shelters that the city provides funding. The problem is that there is no shelter that does not restrict access based on gender, religion, sobriety or any other factor and that will take anyone at any time.

Sources:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1377766/mayor-boosts-plan-for-centralized-homeless-shelter.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200884/business-alliance-proposes-solution-to-citys-growing-homeless-problem.html

OPPOSITION BY DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS

NIMBY stands for “not in my backyard” relating to proposed projects opposed by homeowners, property owners or business owners.

The location of a centralized shelter is a major concern to the downtown business community and downtown neighbor hoods. Many believe that there is too big of a concentration of providers in the downtown area such as the Brothers of the Good Shepard and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission that are literally adjacent to each other.

The Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance (GABA) , a coalition of 57 downtown business owners upset with the number of homeless in the down town, was formed to advocate and raise funding for a remote homeless campus. GABA is proposing a 20-acre complex on the far west side, beyond city limits, to provide feeding, housing, health care, treatment for mental illnesses and drug and alcohol addictions, social services, medical care and job training, and job placement to Albuquerque’s homeless. The project is being called “Homeless Vision 2018”. The ultimate goal of GABA is to create a single large “campus” or a complex for the homeless thereby eliminating the need for homeless providers concentrated in the downtown area or scattered throughout the city next to businesses or residential areas.

Connie Vigil, the President of GABA, is quoted as saying:

“The homeless [in Albuquerque] have not been seriously cared for the way they need to be. … There is homelessness and mental illness everywhere you look and crime is skyrocketing. The Downtown and surrounding areas are being seriously hurt. We need a real solution.”

According to Vigil, there are too many unknowns about the city’s current centralized proposal, notably where it will go, and feels a stronger analysis is necessary by saying:

“Just like [Albuquerque Rapid Transit] , they said they worked on it for six years and here’s what we have to show for it [a busline with no buses down Central Avenue.]

GABA is essentially proposing what the West Side Emergency Housing Center is evolving into with the recent services provided by the city.

DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD OPPOSITION

Martinez town resident Christina Chavez-Apodaca, who also serves on the mayor’s homelessness task force, said she worries about the “economic devastation it’s going to do to the surrounding neighborhoods” if the city builds one large facility in the in the downtown area or adjacent to it and the neighborhoods.

According to Chavez-Apodaca, her community is mostly low-income and lacks adequate street lighting and amenities. Area parks have already attracted a large transient population, scaring away many neighbors. There is fear the city could ultimately select a site in her area, potentially creating additional challenges. While she expressed empathy for those who are homeless, she does not agree a single large shelter is the best solution for the community as a whole.

At a recent District 2 City Council debate held in the Saw Mill Area, the topic of locating the homeless shelter in the Saw Mill area drew sharp and strong opposition. City hall insiders are reporting that land south of Lomas and east of downtown the possible shelter location. There are large swaths of vacant land owned by University of New Mexico which could partner with the city and University Hospital. The biggest problem is will neighbor hoods and other property owners oppose the use of the land being used as a homeless shelter.

The city does not plan to work on identifying a location until after voters approve the funding. Mayor Keller has said the selection will be a public process and said the city can take steps to limit the visibility and neighborhood impact, such as special landscaping and fencing, while at the same time ensuring safety and security for those inside.

CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE SERVICES TO THE HOMELESS

The Family and Community Services Department is a key player in the City’s effort to end homelessness. The Departments services include prevention, outreach, shelter and housing programs and supportive services.

The City of Albuquerque has at least 10 separate homeless service provider locations throughout the city. The entire general fund budget for the Department of Family and Community Services is approximately $41 million. The $41 million is not just exclusive funding for services to the homeless.

The service offered by the Family and Community Services Department are directly provided by the city or by contract with nonprofit providers. The services include social services, mental/behavioral health, homeless services, health care for the homeless, substance abuse treatment and prevention, multi-service centers, public housing, rent assistance, affordable housing development, and fair housing, just to mention a few.

The following homeless services are funded by the City of Albuquerque, HUD’s Continuum of Care grants, Emergency Shelter Grants, and other grants administered by the City of Albuquerque:

1. Emergency Shelters for short-term, immediate assistance for the homeless for men, women, families, emergency winter shelter and after-hours shelter. The city’s West Side Emergency Housing Center has up to 450 beds available. The shelter is now open year-round. The operating cost of the facility is $4.4 million a year.
2. Transitional Housing assistance designed to transition from homelessness to permanent housing.
3. Permanent Supportive Housing for homeless individuals dealing with chronic mental illness or substance abuse issues.
4. Childcare services for homeless families.
5. Employment Services and job placement for homeless persons
6. Eviction Prevention or rental assistance and case management to prevent eviction and homelessness.
7. Health Care services for homeless individuals and families.
8. Meal program providing for homeless individuals and families in need.
9. Motel Vouchers or temporary vouchers for homeless individuals with immediate medical issues and families with children, where emergency shelters cannot accommodate them. The city spends $8 million a year to provide 775 vouchers for rental assistance and to move homeless people from the street into housing. In the 2019-2020 approved city budget, an additional $2 million was added to the fund which will allow another 125 to 150 people to get into housing.
10. The Albuquerque Heading Home program initiative which moves the most medically fragile and chronically homeless people off the streets and into permanent housing. Since its inception in 2011 to January, 2017, it has placed 650 people into housing that assists with housing and providing jobs.

CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS

Charitable organizations such as Joy Junction, St. Martins HopeWorks project, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, The Brothers of the Good Shepard and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission provide services and meals to the homeless. Many business organization and neighborhoods believe that there is too big of a concentration of the providers in the downtown area and that the city’s plans to build yet another will only exasperate the problems, create even more and attract more homeless to locate in Albuquerque.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The single most controversial bonds on the upcoming November 5 ballot are the $14 million designated for a centralized, 24-hour, 7 day a week homeless shelter. It is controversial not because it’s needed but because established businesses, neighborhoods and many charitable homeless providers object to the location or the need for a centralized facility somewhere within the city. Opposition arguments range from negative impacts on well-settled business areas, residential areas, increases in crime, reducing neighborhood safety to cost justification. It’s the classic case of “not in my back yard” (NIMBY).

The city will not identify a location until after voters approve the funding , no doubt for fear that the bonds may fail. It is very disappointing, but typical, that the city was not upfront on the locations being considered so that a more informed decision could have been made by the voting public.

The only way the city is going to be able to reduce the number of homeless in the city is to reach a viable consensus and implement an aggressive plan on how to reduce the number of homeless. This will mandate the city to work with virtually all the charitable providers and a “pooling of resources”.

Voluntary relocation of some of the charitable providers should be on the table for such discussion as part of consensus building with the city, the neighborhoods and the charitable providers. Design and construction remodeling assistance, regulations, and zoning changes, code enforcement need also to be considered as a means to implement a policy to reduce impacts of the providers to the neighborhoods.

THE CHALLENGE TO ALL

Albuquerque has between 1,500 and 2,000 chronic homeless, with approximately 80% suffering from mental illness. The city does provide extensive services to the homeless that include social services, mental or behavioral health care services, substance abuse treatment and prevention, winter shelter housing, rent assistance and affordable housing development, just to mention a few. But more needs to be done by the city to reduce the ever-increasing numbers.

However, too many presume that the homeless want our help which is part of the problem. Charitable organizations such as Joy Junction, St. Martins HopeWorks project, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, The Brothers of the Good Shepard and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission provide very critical services to the homeless. They do so by being where the homeless can be found and where the homeless can reach out and have easy access to services if only if they want it.

Joy Junction, St. Martins before the HopeWorks project, Steelbridge, The Rock at Noon Day, Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, The Brothers of the Good Shepard and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission have been around for decades. More likely than not the organizations own the buildings and facilities they are housed in and comply with zoning laws to operate the facilities where they are located. There is no real incentive for the charitable providers to move elsewhere and to locations that would reduce their impact on the area or adjoining neighborhoods. It would be a major mistake for the city to try to close them down for any number of reasons including civil rights violations, unconstitutional taking of property and the resulting void in services to the homeless that would result just to mention a few.

The greatness of a city is reflected by the commitment it makes to help its homeless who suffer from mental illness. All too often, we tend to forget our humanity, our political philosophy and our religious faith and beliefs of hope and charity, and condemn the homeless for what we think they represent or who we think they are.

We condemn the homeless whenever they interfere with our lives at whatever level – such as pandering for money, begging for food, acting emotionally unstable, sleeping in doorways and defecating in public, and, yes, when we stand downwind from them and smell what living on the streets results in personal hygiene. The sight of homeless camps, homeless squatters in parks and living under bridges usually generates disgust and condemnation.

People condemn the families of the mentally ill for not making sure their loved one has been institutionalized or is taking their medications. All too often, the families of the homeless mentally ill are totally incapable of caring for or dealing with their loved one’s conduct. . Calling law enforcement in Albuquerque to deal with the mentally ill has a history of ending tragically, as was the case with mentally ill homeless camper James Boyd who was shot and killed by the Albuquerque Police Department SWAT in the Sandia foothills.

We easily forget the homeless are human beings who usually have lost all hope, all respect for themselves and are imprisoned for life in their own minds, condemned to fight their demons every hour, minute and second of their life until the very day they die. One thing that must never be forgotten is the homeless have human rights to live as they choose, not as anyone says they should live. The homeless cannot be forced to do anything against their free will or change their life unless they want to do it themselves. The homeless should not and cannot be arrested and housed like criminals or animals in cages.

Many homeless do not want to be reintroduced into society. Many have committed no crimes and they want to simply be left alone. The homeless who suffer from mental illness cannot be forced or required to do anything for their own benefit without due process of law. Too often, the homeless are the victims of crimes, even being bludgeoned to death for fun as Albuquerque saw a few years ago when three teenagers killed two Native Americans sleeping in a vacant lot on a discarded mattress.

Albuquerque voters will be deciding between greatness or benign neglect of the homeless and treatment of the mentally ill. These philosophies are fiercely raging in Albuquerque when it comes to mental health services and housing for the homeless in a centralized location.

We as a city have a moral obligation to make every effort to offer and make available to the homeless services they desperately need, especially to the mentally ill who need it the most. Funding of a permanent city facility is the first major step, but not as a means to compete with the charitable providers but to cooperate with them and encourage them to work with the city and affected businesses and neighborhoods.

Vote YES on Bond Question 2 for the $21.7 million with the language saying it’s for “senior, family, community center, homeless and community enhancement bonds”.

“Democracy Dollars” Measured Finance Committee Raises $81,526 Cash And $39,745 In Kind Donations From Big Donors; Democracy Dollars Violates NM Anti Donation Clause; Fact Check On Democracy Dollars “FAQs”; Vote No On Proposition 2

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is very lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board election, a ballot measure for a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.

The November 5 ballot also includes a “Proposition 2” which sets up a city funded voucher system to use city general funds to give out $25 vouchers to voters who in turn will give the vouchers to candidates they support.

This blog article is an examination and in depth analysis “Democracy Dollars”, the measured finance committee formed to promote it and the representations being made to promote the program.

DEMOCRACY DOLLARS BALLOT QUESTION

The Democracy Dollar ballot question is as follows:

Shall the City of Albuquerque adopt the following amendments to update the language of the Open and Ethical Elections Code, which provides for public financing of City candidates: provide eligible city residents with Democracy Dollars, to contribute to their choice of qualified candidates, which the candidates could redeem with the City Clerk, up to a limit, for funds to spend in support of their campaigns, as directed by the City Council, and increase the funds for publicly financed mayoral candidates?

A yes vote is a vote in favor of creating a program called Democracy Dollars that would provide eligible city residents with $25 vouchers that they can give to a participating candidate.
A no vote is a vote against creating a program called Democracy Dollars.

MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEES EXPLAINED

Under the City of Albuquerque’s campaign finance laws, a Measure Finance Committee is a political action committee (PAC), persons or group that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure in City of Albuquerque elections. Measure Finance Committees are required to register with the City Clerk within five (5) days once they have raised or spent more than $250 towards their purpose specific purpose.

All Measure Finance Committees must register with the Albuquerque City Clerk, regardless of the group’s registration as a political action committee (PAC) with another governmental entity, county, state or federal. Measure finance committees must also file financial “Campaign Finance Reports” reporting monetary contributions, loans, in kind donations and expenditures.

DEMOCRACY DOLLARS MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEE

A measured finance committee was formed to promote “Democracy Dollars”. According to finance reports filed with the Albuquerque City Clerk, the measured finance committee is entitled “ABQ Democracy Dollars, Common Cause New Mexico, New Mexico Working Families Party, Ole Education Fund”. The “Democracy Dollars” measured finance committee has filed eight 2019 Campaign Finance Reports.

On October 21, 2019 filed its eight Campaign Finance Report covering the reporting period of October 12, 2019 to October 18, 2019. You can review the report here:

https://www.cabq.gov/vote/documents/democracy-dollars-statement-8.pdf

The Financial Summary of the report is as follows:

TOTAL MONETARY CONTRIBUTIONS … $81,526.98 3.
CASH BALANCE FROM LAST REPORT … $53.28
TOTAL LOANS THIS REPORTING PERIOD … $0.00
TOTAL LOAN FORGIVENESS THIS REPORTING PERIOD … $0.00
TOTAL EXPENDITURES THIS REPORTING PERIOD … $21,813.46 6.
CLOSING BALANCE THIS REPORTING PERIOD … $59,766.80

OTHER ACTIVITY

TOTAL IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS THIS REPORTING PERIOD … $39,745.60 8.
TOTAL DEBTS AND OBLIGATIONS INCURRED … $0.00
TOTAL ANONYMOUS CONTRIBUTIONS … $0.00

CASH DONATIONS TO DEMOCRACY DOLLARS

Specific Monetary contributions are listed in the 8th Campaign Finance Report for Democracy Dollars with two contributions listed as having been made on October 17, 2019. Those two donations are:

$80,000 in cash was contributed by the New Mexico Working Families Party. ABQ Working Families raised $122,000 and spent on Mayor Tim Keller’s behalf to get him elected Mayor in 2017. The Working Families Party is a progressive grassroots political party building a multiracial movement of working people. Former Albuquerque City Councilor and former State Senator Eric Griego is its executive director. Griego was the sponsor of the original City’s Public Finance Ordinance .

$1,526.96 in cash was contributed by Ole Education Fund. OLÉ is a non-profit, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico and gathered signatures to put “Dollars for Democracy” on the ballot.

IN KIND DONATIONS TO DEMOCRACY DOLLARS

The 8th Democracy for Dollars Campaign Finance Report reports a total of $39,745 in “in -kind” donations. The dates, contributors and amounts are as follows:

10/17/2019 OLE EDUCATION FUND In-Kind PURPOSE: FIELD CANVASS, FACEBOOK ADS: $4,244.05

10/17/2019 PLANNED PARENTHOOD ROCKY MOUNTAINS, PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REPRODUCTIVE AND SEXUAL HEALTH CARE; EDUCATION; AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS AD ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES, In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME: $1,083.05

10/17/2019 RETHINK, BUSINESS/GROUP … FOR SECURITY, RIGHTS, AND DEMOCRACY ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME $3,709.00

10/18/2019 CENTER FOR CIVIC POLICY … BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: ORIANA SANDOVAL RESEARCH AND EDUCATION TO INCREASE VOTER OUTREACH AND PARTICIPATION ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF AND OVERHEAD: $1,051.42

10/18/2019 COMMON CAUSE NEW MEXICO, BUSINESS/GROUP … REDUCING THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS, HOLDING PUBLIC OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE, CREATING A MORE R ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF MANAGEMENT TIME $1,220.00

10/18/2019 EQUALITY NEW MEXICO … BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: To INCREASE EQUITY, FULL ACCESS, AND SUSTAINABLE WELLNESS FOR LGBTQ NEW MEXICANS ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME $175.00

10/18/2019 NEW MEXICO WORKING FAMILIES, BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: … ADVANCE BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME AND STAFF MANAGEMENT FOR CAMPAIGN LAUNCH/OUTREACH $3,250.00

10/18/2019 STAND UP AMERICA … [New York] BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: … A GRASSROOTS PROGRESSIVE ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON STRENGTHENING OUR DEMOCRACY ACROSS THE COUNTRY ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME $1,612.32

10/18/2019 THE CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY, New York BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: TO CREATE EQUITY, OPPORTUNITY AND A DYNAMIC DEMOCRACY ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: STAFF TIME $2,487.98

10/18/2019 US PIR, DENVER, COLORADO BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY FOR PRODUCT SAFETY, PUBLIC HEALTH, CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM, TAX AND BUDGET REF ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) In-Kind PURPOSE: PHONE CALLS TO REGISTERED VOTERS $20,912.78

Total in-kind contributions to Democracy Dollars is $39,745.60

EXPENDITURES TO PROMOTE DEMOCRACY DOLLARS

The 8th Democracy for Dollars Campaign Finance Report reflects a total of $21,813.46 in expenditures. The dates, who was paid and the amounts are as follows:

10/17/2019 BASE BUILDER 1 … BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: SEN ONISHI PAYROLL SERVICES ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) FIELD CANVASS Monetary $1,526.98.

10/17/2019 DON MICKEY DESIGNS, INC. … BUSINESS/GROUP INFO: DON MICKEY PRINTING, GRAPHIC DESIGN, PROMOTIONAL MARKETING, DIRECT MAIL ASSOCIATED CANDIDATES / BALLOT MEASURES DEMOCRACY DOLLARS (SUPPORT) 49,158, 8.5″X 11″ COLOR, 2 SIDED HALF FOLD ELECTION MAILER WITH POSTAGE Monetary Amount paid $20,286.48

Note how “Democracy Dollars” has already sent out a slick and impressive mailer to 49,158 registered voter family household encouraging Albuquerque voters to vote YES on Proposition 2. According to the latest Campaign Finance Report, the cost of the mailer with postage was $20, 286.48

MAYOR TIM KELLER ENDORSEMENT OF “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”

The flyer that “Democracy Dollars” sent out to 49,158 registered voter family households has a photo of Mayor Tim Keller with his quote “At the heart of every democracy, everyone should have a stake in their elections. That connection is what Democracy Dollars is all about.” The flyer also contains the disclaimer “PAID FOR BY ABQ DEMOCRACY DOLLAR, COMMON CAUSE NEW MEXICO, NM WORKING FAMILIES PARTY, OLE EDUCATION FUND. NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATES CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE.”

Tim Keller was the only candidate in 2017 election that qualified for public finance. The Keller campaign collected over 3,000 qualifying cash donations of $5 to the City of Albuquerque from registered voters over a six-week period. Once qualified, the Keller for Mayor campaign was given a total of $506,254 in public financing, which included the first election and then the runoff. As a condition to receiving public financing from the City, Tim Keller agreed to a spending cap not to exceed the amount given and agree not to raise and spend any more cash to finance his campaign.

Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller supporters realized that more would be needed to elect Keller and formed three (3) measured finance committees that either raised money directly to spend on his behalf or indirectly spent money and supported Keller’s candidacy for Mayor financially.

ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by a former campaign consultant for Mr. Keller when he ran successfully for New Mexico State Senate. $67,000 was raised and spent by the Firefighters political action committee known as ABQFIREPAC for Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Keller’s behalf.

$1,358,254 was spent on Tim Keller’s successful campaign for Mayor. ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward + $67,000 ABQFIREPAC + $122,000 ABQ Working Families = $1,358,254.)

It should not come as any surprise that Tim Keller endorsed “Democracy Dollars” in that it is likely he will be running for re-election in 2021 using the same formula that won him the 2017 election which is to seek public finance, accept help from measured finance committee’s, and his 2021 re election campaign will want to take advantage of a new funding source.

TRUTH CHECKING THE DEMOCRACY DOLLARS “FAQS”

“Democracy Dollars” campaign has set up a “web page” and a FACEBOOK page to promote the ballot initiative. The web page can be found here https://www.burquebucks.org/ . The web page has a section entitled “FAQS” listing a series of questions and answers to how “Democracy for Dollars” will work.

Following a listing of the “FAQS” questions and answers prepared by Democracy Dollars published on the web page followed by a TRUTH CHECK of the statements:

DEMOCRACY DOLLART FAQ QUESTION: “HOW DO THEY WORK?
Democracy Dollars are simple. Each coupon is good for a $25 contribution to a candidate you choose. Just give the coupon to the candidate you support, or fill it in and mail it back to the Clerk. No one else can use your coupon—it’s custom made just for you!”

TRUTH CHECK: This is nothing but a presumption. The only truth is that each coupon is worth $25. The truth is there are no rules, and no regulations on the program have been written and there is nothing contained in the wording of the ballot measure.

DEMOCRACY DOLLART FAQ QUESTION: “HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT?
“There are no new taxes involved. The City sets aside about $500,000 a year for public financing, but currently, this money mostly goes unused because it was set aside for the now defunct “matching funds” part of the program. Democracy Dollars will be funded by the $3,000,000 surplus that has built up in the Open and Ethical Elections Fund and the annual allocations already in place.”

TRUTH CHECK: This representation is true only in part, but is at best misleading or false. Although there are no new taxes involved, the funding for Democracy Dollars will come out of the city’s general fund budget. The general fund is gross receipts tax funds which is used to pay for essential services. There is no $3 million dollar surplus of matching funds as asserted. That is not how city financing works. At the end of each fiscal year, all money allocated by the city council and spent on specific programs reverts back to the general fund. When the “matching funds” for runoffs was set aside by the courts, the account was deemed no longer necessary and eliminated

DEMOCRACY DOLLAR FAQ QUESTION “WHO GETS TO USE THEM?
This program will be as inclusive as possible—just like elections should be! Registered voters will get coupons in the mail automatically. Eligible residents who aren’t registered get their coupons by applying to the City Clerk.”

TRUTH CHECK: With Democracy Dollars, all qualified residents, not just registered voters, would be mailed the vouchers without determining if they are still residents or are deceased. Residents can also apply for the vouchers. There is no clarification if United States citizenship is required to be given the voucher. There is no clarification as to the minimum age requirement of a resident to qualify for the $25 voucher. The estimated 2019 population of Albuquerque is 558,000. With no age qualification, or citizenship qualification, the cost of the “Dollars for Democracy” would be approximately $13,950,000 (558,000 X $25 = $13,950,000.)

http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/albuquerque-population/

The issuance of $25 vouchers to all city “registered voters” will result in a financial liability far above and beyond what is already in the city budget for publicly financed candidates. To print and implement a voucher system for registered voters will result in a minimum financial exposure to the city of $9 million dollars. (360,000 registered voters X $25 voucher = $9 million).

DEMOCRACY DOLLART FAQ QUESTION: “WHAT CANDIDATES ARE ELIGIBLE?
Only the candidates who have qualified to use the public financing program can redeem Democracy Dollars .”

TRUTH CHECK: This is misleading at the very least or just plain false. As a condition to receiving public financing from the City, a public financed candidate must agree in writing to a spending cap not to exceed the amount given to them and agree not to raise and spend any more cash to finance their campaign. Candidates who qualify and agree to public finance will not be able to redeem the voucher because they are capped on what they can spend and are prohibited from soliciting and accepting donations after qualifying for public finance. According to “Democracy Dollars”, to accept Democracy Dollars, candidates must qualify for the public financing program collecting $5 qualifying donations.” But that is not all that is required under the city public finance law.

DEMOCRACY DOLLAR FAQ QUESTION: “WHAT’S TO PREVENT FRAUD OR ABUSE?
Candidates using Democracy Dollars can only spend them on campaign activities as defined by City code. They report every dollar they raise and spend, so the City Clerk and the public can see where their money is going. Democracy Dollars will be capped at the same level as the initial amounts publicly financed candidates can receive.”

TRUTH CHECK: This argument is misleading. There are no rules or regulations on how Democracy Dollars can be spent. Candidate may report every dollar they raise and spend, but that does not mean it is being done properly and it can only be challenged after the fact, and in all likely after an election. Mayor candidates who qualify for public finance agree to a spending cap and are prohibited from soliciting donations and financial help from anyone else.

NEW MEXICO “ANTI DONATION CLAUSE”

Absent from all information being distributed by “Democracy Dollars” to promote the ballot measure is any mention of the New Mexico Anti Donation clause and why Democracy Dollars does not violate the New Mexico constitution.

The New Mexico Constitution strictly prohibits donations to individuals by governmental entities. The provision provides in pertinent part:

“Neither the state nor any county, school district or municipality, except as otherwise provided in this constitution, shall directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation … .” (N.M. Const. art. IX, § 14.)

Advocates for “Democracy for Dollars” cite the success of such programs in other states and municipalities such as Seattle, Washington. This is a bogus argument in that it does not take into account New Mexico’s anti-donation clause.

It is highly likely that in the event that the “Dollars for Democracy” passes, it will be challenged in court as a violation of the New Mexico Anti Donation clause in the New Mexico constitution. The language of art. IX, Section 14, is very clear when it states “neither the state nor any county, … or municipality … shall directly or indirectly … make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation ” The “Democracy Dollars” $25 vouchers are clearly a donation and aide to people given to them to give to another. This is the very type of activity the anti-donation clause was designed to prohibit. Yet if Democracy for Dollars is enacted, the city will have to defend the program in court.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is very difficult to ignore the absolute hypocrisy of the supporters and promoters of “Democracy Dollars” when they engage in the very conduct they condemn and supposedly deplore. The campaign finance report reflects that promoters and supporters have contributed large amounts of cash as well as in-kind contributions to influence the city election and voters.

Democracy Dollars is a $25 voucher system funded by city taxpayers, but there is not a single small donor donation of $25 listed for it. What you have is a single donation of $80,000 from one donor. There are 10 in-kind donations including in kind donations of $4,244, $3,709, 3,250, $2,248. A whopping one in-kind donation of $20,912 is listed as having been made by a Colorado corporation advocating campaign finance reform with the purpose of the donation to make phone calls to registered voters.

Democracy Dollars voucher system sets up a public finance system that can be very easily abused and undermined by any nefarious candidate or measured finance committees to solicit the vouchers. Enforcement to prevent violations of campaign finance laws will also be a major hurdle and costly to the city.

WARPED INTERPRETATION OF DEMOCRACY

The “Democracy Dollars” system is touted as a “voucher” system to allow the city to donate $25-dollar redeemable vouchers to all “qualified” city residents who are less fortunate to make money donations on their own to a candidate of their choosing like those who can afford to make donations on their own. This is a somewhat warped interpretation of democracy. It equates political donations as the only meaningful way to participate in the election political process.

Democracy Dollars also does not take into account those circumstances where a person wants to donate to 2 or more candidates which is often the case with people who want to “hedge” their bets on a winner. Those who cannot afford to make political donations can and usually do get very involved with campaigns and volunteer time and “sweat equity” to campaigns on a grass root level. The hallmark of city elections is “door to door” campaigns to ask for a vote and support, not just money.

A real unintended consequence of “Democracy Dollars” will be to add yet another difficult layer of campaign solicitation effort by candidates on top of an already very cumbersome process to collect $5.00 qualifying donations that sets up most candidates for failure. Candidates will be soliciting not only the $5.00 donations but the $25 city issued coupons that are in reality a city subsidized contribution being called a “block grant” from taxpayers.

It is very misleading to call citizens who are not able to make monetary contribution under the present system to be referred to as “small donors” when giving their $25 voucher to a candidate and when the funding source for the voucher is the city general fund and the taxpayer.

MEASURED FINANCE COMMITTEES

Measure finance committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits like candidates. When it comes to ballot initiatives, such as Democracy Dollars, any Measure Finance Committee can be formed supporting or opposing any ballot initiative and raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to produce and distribute information. Any Measure Finance Committee can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and can produce misleading or negative information if they want. There are absolutely no regulations or limitations what can be produced and disseminated by measured fiance committees, even if false or misleading.

The fact that Measure Finance Committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits like candidates is what makes them a major threat to warping and influencing our municipal elections and the outcome of those elections.

“DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR” MATCH NEEDED

Albuquerque’s public finance laws are way too difficult to qualify for public financing in that in the very last 2 Mayor elections, only 2 candidates out of 19 candidates actually qualified for public financing. The “Democracy for Dollars” plan has absolutely no impact on the effects of measured finance committees and the unlimited amount of money they can raise and spend on behalf or even against a candidate or ballot measure.

It is going to take a hell of a lot more than a voucher system and significantly more changes to put public financing directly in the hands of voters, especially with the existence of Citizens United in order to level the political donation playing field.

The “Democracy Dollars” are really “free vouchers” provided by the city to voters in an apparent attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to the city that are now required to secure public financing. Free vouchers defeat the intent and purpose of public finance campaigns.

CONCLUSION

Every effort should be made to make Albuquerque’s public financing laws for municipal elections to legally provide for a “dollar for dollar” match to privately raised funds by candidates, thereby providing a real level playing field.

The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is destroying our democracy. Many highly qualified candidates for office all too often do not bother to run because of the inability or difficulty raising the necessary money to run.

Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process. Money spent becomes equated with the final vote. Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome of an election.

“Democracy for Dollars” is a pathetic attempt to supplement the $5.00 qualifying donations to secure public finance from the city. The voucher system will be funded by financing from the general fund, so there is nothing free about it. To say that Democracy Dollars will encourage more people to register and vote is a real stretch of the political imagination.

Albuquerque municipal elections need campaign finance reform and enforcement and not just another pool or trough of money candidates can drink from.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 2 “DEMOCRACY DOLLARS”
___________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

On January 2, 2018, a blog article with recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election code laws was published:

Following is a listing of the recommendations:
1. Allow four (4) months and two (2) weeks, from January 1 to May 15, to collected both the qualifying donations and petition signatures, and private campaign donation collection.
2. Allow the collection of the qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country.
3. Once the allowed number of qualifying donations is collected, the public financing would be made immediately available, but not allowed to be spent until starting May 15.
4. Permit campaign spending for both publicly financed and privately financed candidates only from May 15 to the October election day.
5. Return to candidates for their use in their campaign any qualifying donations the candidate has collected when the candidate fails to secure the required number of qualifying donations to get the public financing.
6. Mandate the City Clerk to issue debit card or credit card collection devices to collect the qualifying donations and to issue receipts and eliminate the mandatory use of “paper receipts”.
7. Increase from $1.00 to $2.50 per registered voter the amount of public financing, which will be approximately $900,000, and allow for incremental increases of 10% every election cycle keeping up with inflation.
8. Allow for additional matching public financing available for run offs at the rate of $1.25 per registered voter, or $450,000.
9. Albuquerque should make every effort to make municipal elections partisan elections to be held along with State and Federal elections by seeking a constitutional amendment from the legislature to be voted upon by the public.
10. Any money raised and spent by measured finance committees on behalf a candidate should be required to first be applied to reimburse the City for any taxpayer money advanced to a public finance candidate or deducted from a publicly financed candidates account and returned to the city.
11. City of Albuquerque campaign reporting and finance ordinances and regulations need to define with absolute clarity that strictly prohibit the coordination of expenditures and campaign activities with measured finance committees and individual candidate’s campaigns in municipal elections.
12. A mandatory schedule of fines and penalties for violations of the code of ethics and campaign practices act should be enacted by the City Council.

You can read the complete blog article here:

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

Vote NO On Proposition 1 Updating Public Finance; Changes Not Public Finance Reform But Increases Taxpayer Money Trough For Politicians

The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque. The ballot is very lengthy and will include 4 City Council races, $127 million in city general obligation (GO) improvement bonds, continuation of a city road tax, the Albuquerque Public School Board election, a ballot measure for a continuation of a tax levy for APS school maintenance, and the CNM governing board.

The ballot also includes a “Proposition 1” which ostensibly deals with updating the city’s public finance ordinance but in reality, increases the amount given to candidates forMayor.
This blog article is an examination and analysis of Proposition 1.

PROPOSITION 1 BALLOT LANGUAGE

This ballot question is worded as follows:

“Shall the City of Albuquerque adopt the following amendments to update the language of the Open and Ethical Elections Code, which provides for public financing of City candidates: clarify the use of in-kind contributions, increase how much seed money a candidate can collect, provide definitions for “election cycle” and “candidate,” require candidates to follow public financing contribution limits for one year before asking for public funds, increase funds for publicly financed mayoral candidates and set a minimum distribution for council candidates in districts with fewer than 40,000 registered voters, enforce City Clerk’s administrative rules, and allow the City Council to amend the Open and Ethical Elections Code by ordinance with a vote of a majority plus two of the entire membership of the Council?”

A yes vote is a vote in favor of making changes to the city’s public financing program for candidates, including:

Increasing the amount of seed money that a candidate can get from one person from $100 to $250;
Increasing the amount of seed money that a candidate can give himself or herself from $500 to $2,500;
Increasing the public funds for participating mayoral candidates from $1.00 to $1.75 per registered city voter; and
Increasing the public funds for participating mayoral candidates in run-off elections from $0.33 to $0.60 per registered city voter.
A no vote is a vote against this measure, thereby keeping the existing public financing laws.

https://www.cabq.gov/vote/documents/r-165enacted.pdf

DISCUSSION

Proposition 1 clarifies and tightens up the definitions around what constitutes an in-kind donation. In the 2017 mayoral election, many irregularities occurred with “in kind” donations that resulted in ethics complaints against Mayor candidate Tim Keller where cash donations were called “in kind” donations. It was Keller’s longtime political consultant Alan Packman that argued that “cash donations” to the 2017 Keller campaign were “in kind donations”, something the Ethics Board rejected outright and admonished the Keller Campaign with no penalty. After the election, Keller hired Packman to work for the city at the 311-call center and Packman is paid upwards of $85,000 a year and reports directly to Keller.

The biggest change to the public finance law under Proposition 1 is to dramatically increase the amount of city general fund and taxpayer money will be given to mayoral candidates. The current public finance system in place today requires candidates to collect $5 qualifying donation from register voters after which qualified mayoral candidates are given $1 per registered city voter. In the 2017 Mayors race, the amount of public finance was $380,000. Under Proposition 1, the amount would increase from $1.00 to $1.75 per voter, which means public fiancé will go from $380,000 to $665,000 in public finance paid by the city to candidates for Mayor.

TIM KELLER’S $1.35 MILLION 2017 CAMPAIGN FOR MAYOR

In 2017, there were originally 16 candidates for Mayor, with only 8 candidates who secured the number of qualifying nominating signatures to be placed on the ballot. Under the election code ordinance, all candidates for Mayor were given three months to collect nominating petition signatures from registered voters, and only six (6) weeks to secure the 3,000 required number of $5.00 qualifying donations for public finance.

Tim Keller was the only candidate in 2017 election that qualified for public finance. The Keller campaign collected over 3,000 qualifying cash donations of $5 to the City of Albuquerque from registered voters over a six-week period. Once qualified, the Keller for Mayor campaign was given a total of $506,254 in public financing, which included the first election and then the runoff. As a condition to receiving public financing from the City, Tim Keller agreed to a spending cap not to exceed the amount given and agree not to raise and spend any more cash to finance his campaign.

Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, Keller supporters realized that more would be needed to elect Keller and formed three (3) measured finance committees that either raised money directly to spend on his behalf or indirectly spent money and supported Keller’s candidacy for Mayor financially.

ABQ Forward Together was a measured finance committee that was formed specifically to raise money to promote Tim Keller for Mayor. The measured finance committee raised over $663,000 for Keller. ABQ Forward Together was chaired by a former campaign consultant for Mr. Keller when he ran successfully for New Mexico State Senate. $67,000 was raised and spent by the Firefighters political action committee known as ABQFIREPAC for Keller. $122,000 was raised and spent by ABQ Working Families on Keller’s behalf.

$1,358,254 was spent on Tim Keller’s successful campaign for Mayor. ($506,254 public finance money + $663,000 ABQ Forward + $67,000 ABQFIREPAC + $122,000 ABQ Working Families = $1,358,254.)

OTHER 2017 CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR

There was no other candidate for Mayor in 2017 that had measured finance committees that raised and spent money on their behalf. Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis, who made it into the runoff with Tim Keller, raised more than $847,000 combined in cash contributions for the October election and the November Mayoral runoff election. Democrat Brian Colón raised and spent nearly $824,000 for his unsuccessful mayoral run. Republican Wayne Johnson privately raised and spent approximately $250,000. Republican Ricardo Chavez finance his own campaign by contributing and loaning his campaign $1 million dollars, but when he dropped out of the race, all of the money was repaid to him after he spent approximately $200,000. The remaining three (3) candidates for Mayor raised and spent less than $50,000 combined after failing to qualify for public financing.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Albuquerque’s public finance laws are way too difficult to qualify for public financing by candidates for Mayor. In the last 2 Mayor elections, only 2 candidates out of 19 candidates for Mayor qualified for public financing. In 2013, there was only one candidate for Mayor that qualified for public finance with two others that attempted to qualify and the incumbent choosing private finance. In 2017, there were originally 16 candidate running for Mayor, 8 qualified for the ballot, and only one qualified for public finance.

Proposition 1 is the result of a task force formed to review and make recommendation to the City’s Public Finance Law. The task force failed to recommend real updates to the city’s public finance laws. Democratic Albuquerque City Councilors Pat Davis and Diane Gibson served on the task force to overhaul Albuquerque’s public finance laws. Both Pat Davis and Diane Gibson refused to advocate meaningful changes to our public finance laws making it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance. Gibson said “it’s supposed to be hard to qualify and it keeps out people who are not serious candidates”, as if Gibson should ever be the one to decide who are serious candidates. She has been a disaster as a City Councilor. (For recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election laws that are in order see the below postscript to this article and related blog articles).

Proposition 1 does not overhaul Albuquerque’s public finance laws in any meaningful way. It does not make it easier for candidates to qualify for public finance. The only major change is that it increases the amount of money candidates get in public finance 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. It is not at all clear how increasing the amount of money given to qualifying candidates for mayor actually benefit voters or make elections fairer.

Absent in Proposition 1 are any changes to the rules and regulations governing measured finance committees. Measured finance committees are still allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money and spend it to promote their chosen candidate. In the 2017 Mayoral election, Tim Keller was the only publicly financed candidate and was given $506,254 in public finance by the city to run his campaign. Notwithstanding being a public finance candidate, $1,358,254 was actually spent on Tim Keller’s successful campaign for Mayor which included $506,254 public finance money and another $852,000 raised and spent from three measured finance committees raised to get Keller elected Mayor.

Every effort should be made to make Albuquerque’s public financing laws for municipal elections to legally provide for a “dollar for dollar” match to privately raised funds by candidates, thereby providing a real level playing field.

The influence of big money in elections allowed by the US Supreme Court decision in Citizens United is destroying our democracy. Many highly qualified candidates for office all too often do not bother to run because of the inability or difficulty raising the necessary money to run.

Political campaign fundraising and big money influence are warping our election process. Money spent becomes equated with the final vote. Money drives the message, affects voter turnout and ultimately the outcome of an election.

For recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election laws see the below postscript to this article and there related blog article.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 1 “AMENDMENTS TO UPDATE THE LANGUAGE OF THE OPEN AND ETHICAL ELECTIONS CODE”

*************************************************************************************

POST SCRIPT:

Following are recommendations for changes to the City’s public finance and election code laws published on January 2, 2018:

1. Allow four (4) months and two (2) weeks, from January 1 to May 15, to collected both the qualifying donations and petition signatures, and private campaign donation collection.
2. Allow the collection of the qualifying donations from anyone who wants, and not just residents or registered voters of Albuquerque. Privately finance candidates now can collect donations from anyone they want and anywhere in the State and Country.
3. Once the allowed number of qualifying donations is collected, the public financing would be made immediately available, but not allowed to be spent until starting May 15.
4. Permit campaign spending for both publicly financed and privately financed candidates only from May 15 to the October election day.
5. Return to candidates for their use in their campaign any qualifying donations the candidate has collected when the candidate fails to secure the required number of qualifying donations to get the public financing.
6. Mandate the City Clerk to issue debit card or credit card collection devices to collect the qualifying donations and to issue receipts and eliminate the mandatory use of “paper receipts”.
7. Increase from $1.00 to $2.50 per registered voter the amount of public financing, which will be approximately $900,000, and allow for incremental increases of 10% every election cycle keeping up with inflation.
8. Allow for additional matching public financing available for run offs at the rate of $1.25 per registered voter, or $450,000.
9. Albuquerque should make every effort to make municipal elections partisan elections to be held along with State and Federal elections by seeking a constitutional amendment from the legislature to be voted upon by the public.
10. Any money raised and spent by measured finance committees on behalf a candidate should be required to first be applied to reimburse the City for any taxpayer money advanced to a public finance candidate or deducted from a publicly financed candidates account and returned to the city.
11. City of Albuquerque campaign reporting and finance ordinances and regulations need to define with absolute clarity that strictly prohibit the coordination of expenditures and campaign activities with measured finance committees and individual candidate’s campaigns in municipal elections.
12. A mandatory schedule of fines and penalties for violations of the code of ethics and campaign practices act should be enacted by the City Council.
You can read the complete blog article here:

2018 YEAR TO REFORM CITY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS

Make Qualifying For Public Finance Easier, Regulate Measured Finance Commitees Or Risk Having Another $1.3 Million Race For Mayor