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. This blog article is an endorsement of candidates running in City Council Districts 2, 6 and 8. It also contains guest columns by the 3 candidates. No endorsement is made in the City Council District 4 race in that neither candidate has articulated a clear vision for the district with the candidates now preoccupied with allegations of voter fraud that have yet to be proven.
The candidates who have qualified for the ballot and public financing are the following:
DISTRICT 2 (DOWNTOWN, OLD TOWN, PARTS OF THE NORTH VALLEY AND WEST SIDE)
- Joaquin Baca, Progressive Democrat: Water rights program manager at the U.S. Forest Service, member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, President of the ABQCore neighborhood association. (Qualified for $40,000 public financing.)
- Loretta Naranjo Lopez, Moderate Democrat: Retired city planner and current President of the Santa Barbara and Martineztweon neighborhood Association Neighborhood Association and former Board of Directors member of NM Public Employees Retirement Association. (Qualified for $40,000 public financing.)
- Moises A. Gonzalez (Independent): Documentary filmmaker, former teacher and community activist. (Privately financed candidate.)
DISTRICT 4 (NORTHEAST HEIGHTS)
- Brook Bassan, Conservative Republican: Incumbent City Councilor and a stay-at-home mom. (Qualified for $40,262in public financing.)
- Abby Foster, Progressive Democrat: Small business owner, attorney and mediator who practices adult guardianship law. (Privately financed candidate and according to most recent finanace report has raised $77,900.)
DISTRICT 6 (NOB HILL, INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT)
- Jeff Hoehn,Progressive Democrat: Executive director of Cuidando Los Niños. (Privately financed candidate.)
- Abel Otero,Progressive Democrat: Owner and operator of Fonzy’s barbershop. (Qualified for $40,000.00 public financing.)
- Kristin Greene,Progressive Democrat: Tattoo artist and Burlesque dancer. (Qualified for $40,000.00 public financing.)
- Nichole Rogers,Progressive Democrat: Office manager and independent contractor for Primerica Financial Services. (Qualified for $40,000.00 public financing.)
DISTRICT 8 (NORTHEAST HEIGHTS AND FOOTHILLS)
- Dan Champine,Conservative Republican: A retired police officer and current mortgage lender. (Qualified for $44,577.00 public financing.)
- Idalia Lechuga-Tena,Moderate Democrat: Vice president of Meals on Wheels of New Mexico former NM House representative for District 21. (Qualified for $44,577.00 public financing.)
The link to the City Clerk’s website listing the candidates is here:
CANDIDATE GUEST COLUMNS WITH ENDORSEMENTS
The following individual candidates are recommended to voters as the best candidates to support and to vote for on November 7 in their respective Districts:
DISTRICT 2 (DOWNTOWN, OLD TOWN, PARTS OF THE NORTH VALLEY AND WEST SIDE)
Loretta Naranjo Lopez is a retired city employee and a 15-year veteran of Albuquerque’s City Planning Department involved housing code enforcement. She is also a former member of the Public Employees Retirement Association Board of Directors. She is the current President of the Martinez Town Santa Barbara Neighborhood Association. She has lived in her district 63 years, she is Albuquerque native, and a 6th generation Martinez from Martineztown.
Naranjo Lopez opposed much of Mayor Tim Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” which was a “multifaceted initiative” where Keller called for drastic changes to the city’s zoning laws known as the Integrated Development Ordinance to favor developers in order to add 5,000 new housing units across the city by 2025 above and beyond what private industry normally creates. The “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” included the city council agreeing to allow city sanctioned “Safe Outdoor Spaces” for the homeless, with 2 encampments of 50 allowed in each council district, and allowing the construction of casitas and duplexes as a permissive use on a all existing housing in the city. Naranjo Lopez successfully spearheaded opposition to a Safe Outdoor Space that was to be allowed on city owned property.
Naranjo Lopez says the 3 biggest issue facing District 2 are public safety, homelessness, and quality health care. To address public safety, she proposes a policy mandating increased police hiring and comprehensive training in de-escalation and community policing. To combat homelessness and the housing crisis, she proposes implementing affordable housing initiatives, increasing funding for homeless shelters, and collaborating with community organizations to provide support services. Additionally, she advocates for funding affordable housing and a new facility on the West Side to house and provide essential services to the homeless.
Naranjo Lopez believes that access to quality health care is a fundamental right, and it is imperative that we prioritize this issue. If elected she is committed to advocate for increased funding for health care facilities and programs, particularly in underserved areas of District 2. By ensuring equitable access to health care services, she believes we can improve the overall well-being of residents and reduce the burden on emergency services.
VOTE LORETTA NARANJO LOPEZ NOVEMBER 7 FOR CITY COUNCILOR DISTRICT 2
LORETTA NARANJO LOPEZ GUEST OPINION COLUMN
On October 17, the Albuquerque Journal published the following guest opinion column by Loretta Naranjo Lopez:
HEADLINE: Homelessness Requires Compassionate And Holistic Approach
“As a City Council candidate for District 2, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve the residents of the Heart District and contribute to the growth and prosperity of our beautiful city. With years of experience working closely with the city, particularly in the zoning department, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges and opportunities that lie before us.
Today, I am excited to share my vision for a brighter future for Albuquerque.
First and foremost, my campaign is centered around the people of our district. Their voices, concerns, and aspirations drive my commitment to creating positive change. Homelessness remains a pressing issue, one that demands our immediate attention.
I firmly believe that a compassionate and holistic approach is essential, which includes providing access to affordable housing, mental health services and job opportunities. By collaborating with community organizations and leveraging public-private partnerships, we can address the root causes of homelessness and ensure that everyone in our district has a safe and stable place to call home.
Public safety is another vital aspect of our shared well-being. Our community deserves to feel secure, and I am committed to working closely with law enforcement agencies, local organizations, and residents to enhance public safety measures. By promoting community policing initiatives, fostering trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and investing in prevention programs, we can create a safer environment for all.
Access to quality health care is a fundamental right, and it is imperative that we prioritize this issue. I will advocate for increased funding for health care facilities and programs, particularly in underserved areas of our district. By ensuring equitable access to health care services, we can improve the overall well-being of our residents and reduce the burden on emergency services.
Furthermore, protecting and preserving our environment is not only crucial for our health but also for the long-term sustainability of our city. I will work tirelessly to promote clean energy initiatives, support local businesses that prioritize sustainability, and advocate for stricter environmental regulations. By investing in renewable energy and promoting responsible urban development, we can create a healthier future for our children and generations to come.
I consider myself a moderate who values a balanced and thoughtful approach to decision-making. I believe in thoroughly studying the issues at hand, engaging with stakeholders, and considering multiple perspectives before making informed decisions. Collaboration and open dialogue are essential to effective governance, and I pledge to be accessible and responsive to the concerns of our residents.
Albuquerque, with its rich cultural heritage and diverse communities, has immense potential for growth and progress. However, we can only tap into this potential by working together. I am dedicated to being a strong advocate for our district, listening to your voices, and tirelessly working toward the betterment of our community.
I humbly request your support and encourage you to join me in building a stronger Albuquerque. Together, we can create a future that we are proud to call our own, where every resident thrives and our city shines as a beacon of opportunity. …”
DISTRICT 6 (NOB HILL, INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT)
Progressive Democrat Jeff Hoehn has a Master of Public Administration from the University of New Mexico, he is married to Charlotte Itoh and the couple have one child. He has lived in the district 21 years. He is the executive director of Cuidando Los Niños, a shelter and school for homeless children. He has identified crime and homelessness as his top concerns for District 6.
Hoehn’s approach to the homeless would differ significantly from Mayor Keller’s large shelters at the Gateway Center and Westside Emergency Housing Center. To combat homelessness and the housing crisis in the city, he would fund smaller, population-specific shelters that are attractive and safe for those who want help. He agrees that the Albuquerque Community Safety Department should be a proactive force that is on the streets every day, all day actively encountering individuals who are homeless so that they accept help or choose to relocate.
Hoehn advocates short-term mobile APD command units in high crime areas. He advocates for a dedicated team of police officers that can embed with the community, build trust and make the area unfriendly to criminal activity. His crime proposals lean heavily on police and policing technology to get that done. Hoehn told the League of Woman Voters this:
“I advocate instituting short-term APD mobile command units in high crime areas. … We must be strategic so that officers can spend their time preventing and addressing crime. Technology such as speed cameras has a role to play also.”
VOTE JEFF HOEHN NOVEMBER 7 FOR CITY COUNCILOR DISTRICT 6.
GUEST OPINION COLUMN BY CANDIDATE JEFF HOEHN
City Council candidate Jeff Hoehn submitted the following guest column published on www.PeteDinelli.com on September 11:
“We all love Albuquerque. We are all choosing to live here.
I am Jeff Hoehn, and I am running for City Council for District 6. I have lived in District 6 for over 20 years. I am Executive Director of Cuidando Los Niños, a nonprofit working to end homelessness, and I am President of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association Board of Directors. My commitment to Albuquerque and to District 6 are proven in my work and volunteering.
District 6 is a large and diverse district stretching from Eubank to the east, I-25 to the west, Lomas to the north and Gibson to the south as well as Mesa del Sol. It holds so much potential, yet it bears a significant share of the problems that are holding our city back. The time for effective and genuine progressive leadership is now, for District 6 and for Albuquerque.
We find ourselves at a crossroads with respect to the future of our city. Albuquerque has so much opportunity and promise, but it is not being realized. More than five years ago, we entrusted the future of our city to our Mayor, Tim Keller. We trusted him to lead, and to make a real difference on major issues including homelessness and crime. This is why we elected him.
The Mayor has had more than enough time to effect the change that we all voted for. I do agree with many of the mayor’s policies, and I too am a Democrat. But I am independent of the party line, and I am independent of the Mayor. I hold deeply to the values of the Democratic party but question the strategies this administration has developed. A City Councilor must put people first, offering practical and realistic approaches that are achievable rather than seeking political gain.
Now that Pat Davis has decided not to run for another term, we have a unique opportunity to vote for leadership and to effect change. My love for this city has motivated me to run for office for the first time. My background, experience and leadership qualities set me apart from every other candidate in this race.
The son of a union construction worker, I worked my way through college as a student at UNM. I worked in kitchens to support myself, working my way up from dishwasher to prep cook, line cook and then kitchen manager and chef. Inspired to a career change after starting a family with my wife Charlotte, I once again worked my way through school, working full time at a nonprofit, while earning a Master of Public Administration. This degree has given me a broad base of knowledge about public policy, leadership, budgeting and much more.
I have put these skills to work for the betterment of our community, first as Executive Director of the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation, and for the past five years, as Executive Director of Cuidando los Niños. Cuidando is a pillar of our community of which we can all be proud. It is a five star preschool and day shelter for families experiencing homelessness. For the past five years, I have seen the struggle and heartbreak these families endure, living on the edge of homelessness. But I have also seen the way that compassionate assistance and support can change lives. Cuidando now has a diversity of programs and assistance available to the families it serves, from housing assistance to a food program to transportation for the kids.
In fact, Cuidando has grown exponentially under my leadership. The budget has gone from $800,000 to $3,750,000 per year. We have grown the number of staff from 16 to almost 40, and increased pay and benefits for all employees. The number of homeless families served went from 40 a year to 225 a year. That is real community impact. This is all to say that I have the needed experience and leadership, and I am prepared for this job on day one.
Having thought about these issues for many years, I have policy positions that I intend to build coalitions around with residents and the City Council.
With respect to homelessness, the Mayor’s legacy is an enormous homeless shelter the neighborhood did not want and that many people experiencing homelessness will not use. As we all know, it has been hugely expensive. It cost $15 million to acquire the site, and another $7 million has been spent getting it up and running. Yet it is not up and running even now. And the ambitions for its scope have been dramatically scaled back, the Mayor having announced that it will serve just 50 women when it opens. In yet another example of the City’s haplessness, we are facing a fine of more than three-quarters of a million dollars for the asbestos debacle. I know that we can do better.
I believe that smaller, population-specific homeless shelters will be much more appealing to those experiencing homelessness. These can offer targeted wraparound services to their populations, and they will place a much lighter burden, if any on neighborhoods. We need to have compassion alongside pragmatism guiding our homelessness policy. We need to put real solutions before politics.
The mayor’s strategy on homelessness seems to stop at housing. Yet more housing alone will not solve homelessness. Our focus must be on preventing homelessness before it begins. For example, a robust eviction prevention program that helps pay rent or a bill will prevent people from becoming homeless for very low cost. The city should also consider compassionate, safe environments for those who choose to sleep outdoors. A successful example of this exists in Las Cruces. We simply can’t be afraid to do what is right, and what has been proven to work elsewhere.
With respect to crime, we must interrupt the cycles of crime and place much more focus on mental health and addiction treatment. We need to target the underlying drivers of crime. As a social scientist by training, I know that this can make an appreciable difference. We also need a functional justice system, and I applaud District Attorney Sam Bregman’s efforts to increase prosecutions and more importantly the efficiency and effectiveness of prosecutions.
It is true that the city needs far more police officers. But we need well trained, dedicated officers who will engage in constitutional policing. We need to get out from under the DOJ consent decree but do so with integrity. Real culture change in APD is still needed. While rebuilding the culture to attract police officers, we must be strategic so that officers are maximizing their time spent preventing and addressing crime. For example, I advocate short-term mobile APD command units in high crime areas. A dedicated team of officers can embed with the community, build trust and make the area unfriendly to criminal activity. I also know that ‘curb and gutter’ improvements in underserved areas of the city – such things as getting street lights working, building parks, adding trees and making sure basic city services are functioning – can have an impact on both crime and economic development. Everyone in our city deserves a clean and safe neighborhood.
We must demand economic development in the International District. This area has been ignored for too long by politician after politician. As City Councilor I will ask every other Councilor to spend time with me in the International District. Then, I will work with City Council on developing a comprehensive plan for the International District that is informed by residents and business owners and not by policy makers from above.
It’s time to put people above politics. This is why I am the change we need on the City Council. Elect a proven leader in November. We can do better. Vote Jeff for District 6.
Visit jeff4d6.com to learn more about me and my specific policy proposals.”
DISTRICT 8 (NORTHEAST HEIGHTS AND FOOTHILLS)
Moderate Democrat Idalia Lechuga-Tena is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a B.A. Economics and B.A. Political science with a concentration in International politics. She is a naturalized citizen and has published academic research about immigration. She speaks 4 languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian.
She worked for Mayor Marty Chavez directly out of the Mayors office and she is now self-employed and is married. She has served as an New Mexico State Representative for the SE Heights International Neighborhood District after nominated and selected by the Bernalillo County Commission. She has been extensively involved with the District 8 Neighborhood Coalition having served as the chairperson and the areas Community Policing Council. Lechuga-Tena has lived in the Northeast Heights most of her adult life but moved into her husband’s home when the couple got married five years ago.
Lechuga-Tena essentially secured all of her qualifying nominating petition signatures and qualifying donations on her own by going “door to door” for months talking to voters and answering questions. She had little or no assistance from others nor Democratic party officials when she gathered nominating signatures and the $5 qualifying donations to secure public financing.
VOTE IDALIA LECHUGA-TENA NOVEMBER 7 FOR CITY COUNCILOR DISTRICT 8.
On October 20 the Albquerquerqu Journal published the following guest column submitted by Idalia Lechuga-Tena:
HEADLINE: Bold Solution Needed To Remedy Albuquerque’s Woes
“The plague of crime, fentanyl, addiction and homelessness is everywhere. We need bold solutions.
Too many have suffered violence, break-ins and crime of every sort. Every city agency, law enforcement official and community group needs to work together with our state partners to fix our city. The problem is a tall order. That is why I decided to run for City Council.
I am a former state legislator, and International Ambassador for Global Peace. I lead the Community Policing Council and attended the Citizens Police Academy. I have fought food insecurity on the front lines as vice president of Meals on Wheels New Mexico. I serve on the board of the Glenwood Hills Neighborhood Association and District 8 Coalition. I am an immigrant, small businesswoman, a proud product of Albuquerque Public Schools, graduated from UNM, and speak four languages.
My bold solution for addressing the plague of fentanyl, addiction and homelessness is to bring to Albuquerque a diversion program used successfully in Miami-Dade County. It will address unmet needs and reduce recidivism. It is a one-stop shop for addiction and psychiatric services for unhoused people with acute mental illnesses who are in the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it. We cannot incarcerate our way out of mental illness or drug addiction.
Drug addiction is responsible for 80% of our crimes. Our system and jail are overloaded with people who are untreated. Our district attorney, public defenders, and behavioral health court judges agree that a diversion program is a method to reduce crime and homeless.
We will have a $3.5 billion surplus at the next N.M. legislative session. I plan to advocate and get some of that money and start Phase 1. We need all hands on deck.
I hear the victims and families clearly. We need change.
Our families need to feel safer. Our streets need to be safer. I want 1,600 officers and a stronger police presence in every community. We should support police and first responders with better pay.
We need to comply with and end the DOJ consent decree. It is costing too much money, and that money needs to be diverted to our community’s problems, not DOJ’s pocket. We need to close the “revolving door” in the court system and fix a broken criminal justice system by working with the N.M. Legislature.
I will work tirelessly with every small business to reduce red tape at City Hall. I want to have a yearly workforce development conference for every large employer in Albuquerque and New Mexico so we can prepare our children for jobs that will pay them well and keep them here instead of leaving the state.
I am open to your advice and guidance. I do not like extremism. I like common sense. If you live in District 8, I respectfully ask for your vote. Let’s take Albuquerque back.”
DISTRICT 4 (NORTHEAST HEIGHTS) – NO RECOMMENDATION
Conservative Republican Brook Bassan of District 4 in the Northeast Heights is the only incumbent running for reelection. She has qualified for public financing and was given $40,262 in public financing to run her campaign.
Progressive Democrat Abby Foster is looking to unseat the first-term councilor and restore the Democratic Party’s supermajority. Foster is a privately finance candidate and according to her most recent finance report has raised $77,900. Foster has gone so far as to boast about all her endorsements at debates from Democratic Party elected officials even though the district is considered a Republican stronghold by politcal observers.
Abby Foster in the last 9 days of the campaign is alleging that Brook Bassan has engaged in “voter fraud” when Bassans’ city policy analyst Dawn Marie Emilio changed her voter registration to Bassan’s home address in order to support her re-election campaign. According to an ethics complaint that will be filed by a District 4 resident on October 30, Emilio changed her voter registration in April and on June 6, 2023, city records show she signed Councilor Bussan’s District 4 nominating petition for her reelection campaign and contributed $5 towards her public financing effort.
Bassan has denied all wrong doing. Emilio for her part has said she has lived in District 4 on and off for years, even before working for City Councilor Brook Bassan. Emilio previously worked for Councilor Brad Winter who was replaced by Bassan. According to Emilio, Bassan opened her home to her for personal reasons she did not care to disclose and she moved in for a significant period of time. Ultimlately, it’s the registered voters intent of residency that will be dispositive of the issue and not intent to commit fraud by the candidate.
It’s unknown if the ethics complaint is being generated by a pollical operative and supporter of Foster at the direction of the Foster campaign and as a last ditch effort to derail the candidacy of Bassan. From all reports, there was no wide spread voter fraud as implied by Foster but the ethics complaint will only be resolved until weeks after the election. Voters need to decide if their support of either candidate is affected by the last-minute accusations.
No recommendation is made of either of the two candidates given the similarities both candidates exhibited on the issues during a September 20 debate with the only real difference between the two being their party affiliation of Republican versus Democrat.
Below are the candidates with links to their Albuquerque Journal questionnaire:
Brook Bassan, Conservative Republican: Incumbent City Councilor and a stay-at-home mom. (Qualified for $40,262in public financing.)
Abby Foster, Progressive Democrat: Small business owner, attorney and mediator who practices adult guardianship law. (Privately financed candidate.)
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
There is little doubt that the November 7 municipal election will reshape the Albuquerque City Council to an extent with 4 of the 9 seats to be decided. Technically, city races are nonpartisan as mandated by the New Mexico Constitution. Notwithstanding candidates for city council and for Mayor are always identified by the media with their party affiliations. The political parties always get involved with the races as do elected officials with endorsements. The upcoming election will determine if the partisan balance of the council remains the same, stays only slightly left leaning, or becomes even more conservative.
The city is facing any number of problems that are bringing it to its knees. Those problems include exceptionally high violent crime and murder rates, the city’s increasing homeless numbers, lack of mental health care programs and little economic development.
The city cannot afford city councilors who makes promises and offers only eternal hope for better times that result in broken campaign promises. What is needed are city elected officials who actually know what they are doing, who will make the hard decisions without an eye on their next election, not make decisions only to placate their base and please only those who voted for them.
The candidates Loretta Naranjo Lopez for District 2, Jeff Hoehn for District 6 and Idalia Lechuga-Tena for District 8 represent the type of leadership the city needs now for the city’s future.
The link to a related blog article is here:
Update On November 7, 2023 ABQ City Council Races; One Candidate Drops Out After Exposed For Falsehoods; Voter Fraud Alleged In District 4 With One Registration; Candidates Identify Biggest Issues And Solutions Facing Districts; Mayor Tim Keller Operatives Helping 3 Council Candidates To Insure His Influence Over City Council For His Politcal Agenda As He Plans To Run For Third Term In 2025