On March 24, District 2 Democrat Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton announced that he will not seek a 5th term this year to the Albuquerque City Council. City Council District 2 is the Downtown, Old Town and part of the North Valley area of the city. Benton is the third sitting councilor who will not be seeking another term at the end of the year.
On November 14, it was reported that Democrat Pat Davis (Nob Hill/International District) and Republican Trudy Jones (Northeast Heights) will not be seeking another term. Incumbent Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan has yet to announce that she is seeking a second term but is expected to run. Bassan is expected to have opposition.
The 4 even numbered city council districts will be on the November 7, 2023 municipal election ballot and the remaining 5 odd number city council seats are not up until 2025.
Links to quoted news sources material are here:
REVIEWING THEIR RECORDS
Now that City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones have made it official that they are not seeking another term on the city council, review of their records is in order.
ISSAC BENTON CITY COUNCIL RECORD
Councilor Benton, age 71, was first elected in 2005 to represent the former District 3 City Council District that existed before redistricting occurred 10 years ago. Benton has resided in the Downtown area for 48 years. Benton is presently the councilor for what is now District 2 which includes Downtown, Old Town and part of the North Valley and now encompasses some neighborhoods just west of the Rio Grande between Central and Interstate 40 as a result of the 2022 redistricting.
Benton is a progressive Democrat and a retired architect. In his 18 years on the city council, he has focused on issues like sustainability and affordable housing. He was a major proponent of the controversial ART Bus project down Central which was Republican Mayor Richard Berry’s $120 million legacy project. He successfully proposed tripling the city’s commitment to energy conservation and renewable energy projects by designating 3% of the city’s biennial infrastructure bond programs for such uses. He also co-sponsored legislation that created the city’s Workforce Housing Trust Fund, which has helped fund about 1,000 affordable housing units since 2007. Benton also sponsored various redevelopment projects in his district, including the city’s purchase of the historic Rail Yards and reimagining of the El Vado Motel on Central Avenue the city bought.
Throughout his 18 years on the City Council, Benton has been interested in zoning issues and has tried to combat what he calls “suburban sprawl.” Keeping in line with that interest, Councilor Benton is currently co-sponsoring, along with Republican Trudy Jones, major zoning changes to the Integrated Development Ordinace (IDO). Mayor Tim Keller is pushing the zoning changes as part of his Housing Forward Plan a to boost Albuquerque’s housing stock by “infill” development in all residential zoned areas of the city. The legislation would make it easier to turn commercial properties into residential units, would allow more density in single-family home neighborhoods via duplexes and secondary 750 foot dwelling units known as “casitas.” Benton said he wants to see the zoning changes allowing duplexes and casitas through before he leaves office.
REPUBLCAN TRUDY JONES
Republican Trudy Jones, now 73, was first elected to the City Council in October 2007 to represent District 8, Albuquerque’s Far Northeast Heights and Foothills. She has been elected 4 times to the council and will complete 16 years of service in 2023. She is a retired real estate agent and said she was drawn in 2007 to the public service element of the council. She said her focus since becoming a city councilor has been improving public facilities in her district and said she is especially proud of the investments in parks and roads.
As a city councilor and as a realtor, it was not at all surprising that her primary interest was in land-use planning and zoning matters. She was the co-sponsor of the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance, which in 2017 replaced the city’s old zoning code, and chairing the city’s Land Use, Planning & Zoning committee for the past three years. She was a staunch supporter of the disastrous ART Bus project down the center of Central. This past year she voted to support “Safe Outdoor Spaces” which are government sanctioned tent encampments for the homeless and “motel conversions” which will allow the city to purchase motels to be converted to long-term low-income housing. Jones said she wants to shepherd various infrastructure projects to the finish line before leaving office.
DEMOCRAT PAT DAVIS
Democrat Pat Davis, now 45, was first elected to the City Council in 2015 to represent represents District 6 succeeding City Councilor Rey Garduno. District 6 encompasses the International District, Mesa Del Sol, Nob Hill, Southeast Heights, and the University of New Mexico. In 2019 Davis was elected to serve a second term.
Davis is a former Washington D.C. police officer. He came to New Mexico soon after being involved with a police officer shooting where he shot an African American man twice in the shoulder who was fleeing from Davis at a “traffic stop”. Davis was sued in Washington, DC over the shooting and he relocated to Albuquerque and became a UNM Campus Police officer.
When Davis relocated to New Mexico he became a “progressive Democrat” saying his Republican conservative philosophy had changed, especially with respect to law enforcement, and saying he had done a few things as a police officer he was not “proud of”. In 2016, the then first term city councilor Pat Davis ran for the United States Congress to replace then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham who decided to run for Governor. Davis withdrew from the congressional race when he polled at 3%.
Davis is considered the leading progressives on the city council and worked on the city’s early solar energy initiatives and co-sponsored legislation that strengthened the city’s immigrant-friendly status, and another bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana years before the state legalized recreational cannabis. Once elected to the city council, Davis became a staunch supporter of the disastrous ART Bus Project, Republican Mayor Berry’s $120 million legacy project, refused to place it on the ballot and voted repeatedly to fund the project that ultimately destroyed the character of Route 66.
BENTON, DAVIS AND JONES FAILED AT APD POLICE OVERSIGHT
The Albuquerque City Council plays a crucial oversight role of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) including controlling its budget. Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis and Republican Trudy Jones did nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms mandated by the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) after the Department of Justice found a “culture of aggression” and “excessive use of deadly force by APD.” All 3 never challenged the Mayor Berry Administration nor the Mayor Keller Administration or the APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.
Each time the Federal Court appointed Monitor presented his critical reports of APD to the City Council, Benton, Davis and Jones remained silent. All 3 declined to demand accountability from Mayors Berry and Keller and hold the APD command staff responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms. All 3 never attended a single one of the federal court hearings on the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) and the 16 Federal monitors report hearings.
MOST EGREGEOUS VOTES
The most egregious votes by Democrats City Councilor Isaac Benton and Pat Davis and Republican Trudy Jones was that they voted for the final adoption of the ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan in 2017, now called the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) which is now having long term impact on our neighborhoods and favors developers. The so called progressive Democrats Benton and Davis turned their backs on their own constituents and historical areas of the city by giving developers free rein to do what they wanted to do in those areas of the city. Benton in particular pushed backed at all objections made to him by his own progressive constituents on allowing casitas and encouraging high density development.
It was in 2015 that former Mayor Richard Berry during his second term started the rewrite process of the city’s comprehensive zoning code and comprehensive plan to rewrite the city’s entire zoning code. It was initially referred to as the ABC-Z comprehensive plan and later renamed the Integrated Development Ordinance (ID0) once it was passed. In 2015, there were sixty (60) sector development plans which governed new development in specific neighborhoods. Forty (40) of the development plans had their own “distinct zoning guidelines” that were designed to protect many historical areas of the city. Simply put, the IDO is and has always been an abomination that favors developers and the city’s construction and development industry.
The 2017 zoning rewrite was a rush job. It took a mere 2 years to rewrite the entire zoning code and it emerged as the Integrated Development Ordinance. The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character.
Another egregious vote by Benton, Davis and Jones that also involved the Integrated Development Ordinance happened last August when all 3 voted for allow 2 Safe Outdoor Spaces in each of the 9 City Council Districts. A “Safe Outdoor Space” is a city sanction lot, or a portion of a lot, developed to provide designated spaces for occupancy by tents, recreational vehicles, and/or light vehicles for the homeless. The Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) now allows Safe Outdoor Space tent camps of up to 40 spots for tents and a total of 50 residents. Neighborhood associations and private property owners strongly protested such government sponsored tent encampments as being a viable solution to the city’s homeless crisis. The city provides upwards of $60 million a year for shelter and services to the homeless and 24/7 city sanctioned homeless tent encampments are contrary to the city’s housing first program.
CITIZEN’S SALARY COMMISSION RECOMMENDS INCREASING CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR’S SALARIES BY 87%
On March 24, it was reported that the Citizens Independent Salary Commission responsible for making recommendations for compensating city elected officials voted to recommend increasing the pay of city councilors by 87%. If approved, city councilor pay would go from the present $33,600 to $62,843 a year. The City Council president would get an equivalent increase going from $35,860 to $66,928 a year. The commission also voted to increase the mayor’s salary going from $132,500 to $146,081 a year.
The committee’s decision making process included a series of surveys and questioning Mayor Tim Keller and all 9 current city councilors and the public. The questionnaire sought to gauge workload, expectations and if the current salary reflected the job responsibilities and whether it might present an economic barrier for people who want to run for office.
The commission reported it wanted to ensure “fair and reasonable” pay for the city’s elected officials that accounts for their time and effort and comparing them to peer cities. The salary analysis included reviews of El Paso, Texas, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Tucson, Arizona.
Mayor Keller in his survey said he worked an average of 70 hours per week. He described the mayor’s job as “appropriately compensated,” but noted that it pays less than dozens of other positions in Albuquerque municipal government. The positions in city government Keller is referring to are unclassified at will positions such as Department Directors that Keller appoints and pays between $160,000 and $200,000 a year. Most Albuquerque department directors make $157,518 annually, and other administrator salaries top $170,000 with the City Chief Administrative Officer paid $200,000. Those positions are at will positions and their pay is negotiated at the time of hire with the Mayor.
Not all councilors responded to the survey. The 6 who did respond reported that at least 28 hours a week are needed to “adequately” fulfill their responsibilities but that their position needs full-time attention.
The public was fairly split on what elected officials should be paid. Among 182 survey respondents, 37% answered that the City Council salary should remain $33,660, but 36% thought councilors should make less and 26% said they should earn more. Wirh regards to the mayor, 48% said the position should earn less, 34% thought it was good as it is now, and 18% felt the job deserved a higher salary.
The commission wanted to establish salaries “likely to attract competent and effective candidates to serve in public office and that enhances the opportunity for every eligible citizen to serve, regardless of their financial circumstance. … why would someone be Mayor if they could be CAO (chief administrative officer), which pays almost double
One opinion expressed was that the Albuquerque’s current councilor salary might prevent people from running for a seat, since the position is often too demanding to hold another job but does not pay enough to survive on.
Salary Commission Chair Kent Hickman said this when announcing the recommendations:
“The Commission considered a variety of data, including historical compensation received by the Mayor and City Councilors, comparative pay and forms of government among similar cities, the managerial complexity of elected officials’ labor, as well as changes in the cost of living and median household income.”
The Citizens Independent Salary Commission voted on the salary changes during an early March meeting. The new pay scale if approved by the City Council would take effect only after the 2023 and 2025 municipal elections meaning in 2024 for the candidates who win the council District 2, 4, 6, and 8 elections this fall and in 2026 for those who prevail in the 2025 election for Mayor and the other five council seats.
The link to the quoted news source is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
After the 2021 municipal election, the city council went from a 6 -3 Democrat Majority with the loss of Democrat Cynthia Borrego to Republican Dan Lewis and it became a 5-4 Democrat majority, but the ideology split is 5 conservatives to 3 progressives and one moderate. The breakdown by name is as follows:
District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Pat Davis
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn
District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Conservative Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Trudy Jones
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout
Although the City Council is currently split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez has often allied himself with Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones and Brook Bassan allowing them to approve or kill measures on a 5-4 vote but being unable to override Mayor Tim Keller’ veto’s with the required 6 votes. Republican Brook Bassan is expected to run for a second term and she is expected to have conservative Republican opposition. With progressives Pat Davis and Isaac Benton’s departures at the end of the year, the balance of power could shift further to the right if their replacements are more moderate to conservative giving Keller more headaches in passing his progressive agenda.
CALLING ON ALL CANIDATES
The regular 2023 municipal election to elect city councilors for City Council Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8 will be held on November 7, 2023. The City Clerk has already posted on its city web page the election calendar and information for all candidates. The 2023 Regular Local Election Calendar for candidates begins on April 30 with an “exploratory period” to allow candidates to organize and collect “seed money” donations and ends on June 4. The petition and qualifying contribution period begins on June 5 and ends on July 10, 2023.
ELIGIBILITY: In order to become a candidate, a person must be registered to vote in, and physically reside in, the district they seek to represent by August 9, 2023. Any changes to voter registration must be effective on August 9, 2023. How a name appears on ballots cannot be changed at the time of candidate filing.
NOMINATING PETTIONS: A candidate for City Council must collect 500 signatures from registered voters within the district the candidate wishes to represent. The City Clerk’s Office encourages candidates to collect more petitions signatures than required. Though signatures collected on the website will be validated as registered voters, signatures collected on paper forms will need to be verified as registered voters in the candidate’s district by the City Clerk’s Office once you submit them. Because individuals don’t always know their registration status, it’s possible that a number of the signatures you collect may not count towards the total required. A Council Candidate may collect petition signatures from 8:00am on June 5 through 5:00pm on July 10.
Candidates for City Council can be either publicly financed or privately financed.
PUBLIC FINANCING: Candidates can qualify city public financing by securing $5 qualifying donations from registered who live in the district. The public finance candidate must agree to a cap and agree that is all they can spend. Candidates are required to collect qualifying contributions from 1% of the registered voters in the district they wish to represent. The number changes based on the district a candidate is running in. City public financing can be between $40,000 to $50,000 depending on the 1% of registered voters in the District. City Council candidates may collect qualifying contributions from 8:00am on June 5 through 5:00pm on July 10.
PRIVATE FINANCING: There is no cap on what a privately finance candidate can spend on their campaigns. A privately financed candidate may give themselves an unlimited amount of money to spend on their campaigns. However, another individual may only donate up to a certain amount. For a City Council candidate, an individual may only donate up to $1,683.00.
MEASURE FINANCE COMMITTEE: A Measure Finance Committee is a political committee, person or group that supports or opposes a candidate or ballot measure within the City of Albuquerque. Measure Finance Committees must register with the City Clerk, regardless of the group’s registration as a PAC with another governmental entity. Measure Finance Committees must also file financial statements at the same times that candidates report. Measure Finance Committees are not bound by the individual contribution limits and business bans like candidates. However, a Measure Finance Committee that supports or opposes a measure and receives aggregate contributions in excess of 30% of the Mayor’s salary from one individual or entity, must incorporate the donor’s name into the name of the committee. For 2023 Measure Finance Committees, that threshold number is: $39,750.00.
The links to the city clerk’s web pages are here: