The Local Election Act (LEA) was passed by the New Mexico Legislature in 2018. The Local Election Act provides for consolidated local elections to be conducted in New Mexico.
The upcoming November 5, 2019 election will be the first consolidated elections for the City of Albuquerque, which will include City Council elections and capital improvement bonds, the Villages of Tijeras and Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Public School Board, CNM, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control District and the Ciudad Soil and Water Conservation Board. Voters will get one ballot for the races that pertain to them when they go to vote based on their voter registration.
ALBUQUERQUE CITY COUNCIL RACES
There are 4 Albuquerque City Council races that will be on the November 5, ballot:
City Council District 2 is the city-center district encompassing downtown, old town, parts of the University of New Mexico and the entire valley east of the river and is heavily Hispanic. District 2 incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton has 5 opponents who qualified for the ballot seeking to replace him. The candidates are: Steve Baca (D), Joseph Griego (D), Robert Raymond Blanquera Nelson (D), Zack Quintero, (D) and Connie Vigil, (I).
City Council District 4 is Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights District now represented by Republican Brad Winter who is not running for another term. District 4 has candidates who qualified for the ballot and running to replace Brad Winter. Those candidates are: Athena Ann Christodoulou, Democrat Ane C. Romero and Republican Brook L. Bassan
City Council District 6, Albuquerque’s Southeast Heights encompassing the University of New Mexico, Nob Hill and the International District Hill and the International District. District 6 is represented by Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis and he has one opponent and she is Democrat Gina Naomi Dennis who is an attorney, neighborhood activists and who was a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 to the Democratic National Convention.
City Council District 8 is Albuquerque’s District 8, Far Northeast Heights and Foothills represented by Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones who is running for another term on the council. Jones has one challenger and she is Democrat S. Maurreen Skowran who qualified for public financing. Trudy Jones has elected to finance her campaign with private financing and has never sought public financing of her campaigns.
QUESTIONS AND ISSUES
All too often, city council races are ignored by many voters and the campaigns do not really heat up until the very last month of the campaign. Most city council races are won with direct voter contact and candidates going “door to door” looking for support and votes. With this in mind below are areas of concern and a few questions that could be addressed at candidate forums and when a candidates go door to door:
The City Council has 3-gun control ordinances now pending:
One ordinance bans all guns on “any city structure, building, or office space which is owned, leased or otherwise occupied by the City for purposes of hosting the public, or conducting business with the public”. The proposed ordinance would include City Hall, all parks, libraries, and any place the City Council, city commissions or elected officials are holding an open meeting. The Mayor has issued and executive order banning guns on municipal property.
The second would require gun owners to keep their firearms locked up when outside of their immediate possession and control. The proposed laws would require people in Albuquerque to keep their guns locked in a safe at home or with a secure device in the car when they are not with them.
The third would make it illegal to threaten mass violence in Albuquerque, including over social media.
1. What is your position on all 3 pending ordinances and how would you vote?
2. Do you feel the Albuquerque City Council should enact gun control legislation seeing that exclusive authority on gun control is given to the New Mexico legislature and municipalities are barred by the New Mexico constitutions from enacting such legislation?
LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
In the event the New Mexico legislature enacts legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, do you feel municipalities should still have the option to opt out of allowing it in the community or have zoning authority over businesses who sell recreational marijuana?
APD AND CRIME:
1.The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including approving its budget. What oversight role do you believe the Albuquerque City Council should play when it come to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD)?
2. What is your position on the APD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and mandated reforms?
3. Should the City seek to renegotiate or set aside the terms and conditions of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and if so why?
4. Should the City Council by ordinance create a Department of Public Safety with the appointment of a Chief Public Safety Officer to assume management and control of the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Emergency Operations Center and the 911 emergency operations call center?
5. Should the function of Internal Affairs be removed from APD and “civilianized” under the City Office of Inspector General, the Internal Audit Department and the City Human Resources Department?
6. What are your plans for increasing APD staffing levels and what should those staffing levels be?
7. Should APD staffing be “work load” based or “population” based?
8. How do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can enhance civilian oversight of APD and the implementation of the Department of Justice mandated reforms?
9. Since 2010, there have been 41 police officer involved shootings and the city has paid out $60 million to settle deadly force and excessive use of force cases, with all settlements negotiated by the City Attorney’s office and the Mayor’s Office . Do you feel the City Council should have representation on the City Risk Management Committee that approves settlements or have ultimate and final authority to approve settlements?
10. Should the City return to a “no settlement” policy involving alleged police misconduct cases and require a trial on the merits or a damages jury trial?
11. What are your plans or solutions to bringing down high property and violent crime rates in your district and Albuquerque and does your plan include community-based policing?
12. Should APD personnel or APD resources be used in any manner to enforce federal immigration laws and assist federal immigration authorities?
13. Should the City of Albuquerque consolidate law enforcement and fire services with Bernalillo County and create a single agency under one governing authority?
14. Should the City Council reinstate the “red light camera” program where civil traffic citations are issued to combat and reduce red light violations and intersection traffic accidents?
THE ALBUQUERQUE ECONOMY:
1.What strategy or policies should the Albuquerque City Council implement to bring new industries, corporations and jobs to Albuquerque?
2. Albuquerque’s major growth industries include health care, transportation, manufacturing, retail and tourism with an emerging film industry. What should the City Council do to help or enhance or grow these industries?
3. To what extent should the Albuquerque City Council use tax increment districts, industrial revenue bonds and income bonds to spur Albuquerque’s economy?
5. What financial incentives do you feel the city can or should offer and provide to the private sector to attract new industry and jobs to Albuquerque, and should the Albuquerque City Council implement a policy that includes start-up grants or loans with “claw back” provisions?
6. What sort of private and public partnership agreements or programs should the City Council promote to spur economic development?
7. What sort of major projects or facilities, such as a multi-purpose arena or event center, if any, should the City Council consider to spur economic development or downtown redevelop? Should such a project be placed upon the ballot for voter approval?
8. What programs can the City Council implement to better coordinate its economic development with the University of New Mexico and the Community College of New Mexico (CNM) to insure an adequately trained workforce for new employers locating to Albuquerque?
9. Are you in favor of the enactment of a gross receipt tax or property tax dedicated strictly to economic development, programs or construction projects to revitalize Albuquerque that would be enacted by the City Council or be voter approved?
11. What programs can the Albuquerque City Council enact to implement to insure better cooperation with Sandia Labs and the transfer of technology information for economic development?
CITY PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT:
1. On June 16, 2014, the Albuquerque City Council by a unanimous vote of 9 to 0 approved and adopted R-14-23 entitled “Railyards Master Development Plan and Site Development Plan” for the rail yards. The 3 separate development proposals are being considered: low density development, medium density development and a high-density development. One financial report projects $50 million will be needed for the low-density development, $55 million preparation work for the medium density and $80 million for high density development. What is your position on the Railyards redevelopment?
2. What is your position on the two-year rewrite of the City’s comprehensive plan known as ABC-Z project now known as the integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) which is an attempt to bring “clarity and predictability” to the development regulations and to attract more “private sector investment”? Many sector development plans designed to protect the historical nature of neighborhood have now been repealed by IDO and ctitics of the IDO plan claim it is “gentrification” made official policy of the city and that it has reduced neighborhood input on zoning and development.
3. What do you feel the Albuquerque City Council can do to promote “infill development” and would it include the City acquiring property to be sold to developers and the formation of public/private partnerships?
4. What do you feel the City Council can do to address vacant residential and commercial properties that have been declared “substandard” by city zoning and unfit for occupancy?
5. Should the City of Albuquerque seek the repeal by the New Mexico legislature of laws that prohibits City and City Council resolutions annexation of property without county approval?
6. What is your position on City and County consolidation for all government services, including zoning and development?
7. What plan do you propose to deal with abandoned and vacant properties that have become magnets for crime?
8. The installation of “roundabouts” is being considered in a number of areas of the city. Do you feel roundabout are a viable traffic control option?
CAMPAIGN PUBLIC FINANCE REFORM
1. If you did not participate in the city campaign finance system to receive funding to run your campaign, why not?
2. Do feel that the city’s campaign finance laws should be repealed?
3. Are you in favor of the “Dollars for Democracy” program where city voting residents would be given “city vouchers” of upwards of $25 that voters can give to candidates for office and the candidates can redeem the vouchers with the city?
4. Currently, only 6 weeks are allowed to collect $5.00 qualifying donations for public financing. Do you feel that the city campaign finance laws should be changed to allow upwards of 4 months to collect the $5.00 qualifying donations?
5. Do you feel candidates should be allowed to collect 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?
1. Should the City of Albuquerque have representation or be included on the Albuquerque School board, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents and the Community College of New Mexico Board?
2. What should the City do, if anything, to help reduce high school dropout rates?
3. Should the City of Albuquerque advocate to the New Mexico legislature increasing funding for early child care development programs and intervention programs with increased funding from the permanent fund?
4. What education resources should or can the City make available to the Albuquerque school system?
1. What should be done to reduce the homeless population in Albuquerque in your District?
2. What services should the City provide to the homeless and the poor if any?
3. Should the City continue to support the “coming home” program?
4. What is your position on the funding and locating “Tiny Home” housing to be offered to the homeless within city limits as what is being done by the county?
5. Should the city be more involved with the county in providing mental health care facilities and programs?
6. Do you feel a zoning “cap” should be placed on the number of homeless shelters in each city council district?
7. Are you in favor of centralized or decentralized services and health care for the homeless?
8. Are you in favor of the city’s proposal for the construction of a homeless shelter and the enactment of the bonds for the project that will house upwards of 350 homeless?
9. The city’s panhandler ordinance was struck down by the federal court as a violation of first amendment rights. What do you feel needs or can to be done to curb and reduce panhandling?
PROJECT PLANNING AND FUNDING:
1.The Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project (ART) is a $129 million-dollar project including $69 million Federal Transportation (FTA) grant. Should ART project be abandoned, the bus platforms removed and Central restored to its orginal traffic flow?
2.Do you feel that all increases in gross receipts taxes should be voter approved?
3. The City Council has approved over $63 million dollars over the past two years to build “pickle ball” courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing voters and using revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects. Do you feel revenue bonds is an appropriate funding mechanism for large capital improvement projects?
1.. What is your position on the City’s “catch and release” program for feral cat’s that upon being caught by the city’s Animal Welfare Department, they are spade or neutered and then released?
2. What would you do to promote dog and cat adoptions or should the city euthanize all animals after a thirty (30) day hold?
3. What is your familiarity with the HEART ordinance and do you feel it is too restrictive and should it be amended or repealed?
1. What is your position on the mandatory sick leave initiative mandating private businesses, no matter the size of the business, to pay sick leave to employees?
2. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office enforce the increase in the minimum wage enacted by voters?
3. Should the City Council by resolution instruct the City Attorney’s office to enforce the mandatory sick leave initiative if it is enacted?
4. Are you in favor of increasing public financing for Mayoral and City Council candidates or should Albuquerque’s public finance laws be repealed by the City Council?
5. Do you feel changes to the city public finance laws should be made expanding the time frame to collect contributions and making it easier for candidates for Mayor and City Council to qualify for public finance?
6. Do you intend to ask for or rely upon your political party affiliation to promote your candidacy for City Council?
7. Should major capital improvement projects such as the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project (ART), be placed on the ballot for voter approval and should there be a specified amount before a public vote is required?
8. The City Council has enacted a resolution making it an “Immigrant friendly” city. Should Albuquerque be a “sanctuary city?”
9.Should the issue of Albuquerque becoming a “sanctuary city” be placed on the ballot for voter approval?
10. All municipal elections in the State of New Mexico are supposed to be none partisan. Notwithstanding, should the City Clerk be required to disclose party affiliation of candidates running for municipal office on the ballot?
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Each City Council District has approximately 75,000 residents. Historically, only 2,000 to 4,000 votes are cast in each City Council District. Low voter turnout in city elections with any luck will be a thing of the past with the municipal elections moved from October to November and with the consolidated election ballot.
Each vote can and does make a difference. Voters should demand and expect more from candidates than fake smiles, slick campaign flyers, and no solutions and no ideas. Our City needs more than promises of better economic times and lower crime rates for Albuquerque.
Voters need to demand answers and find out what candidates really stand for and what they intend to do once elected. Unless you vote, real change can never occur and if you do not vote you have no business complaining about the condition of our city.
Please vote on Tuesday, November 5 and get involved.