Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories the Journal will publish on the contested races for the Albuquerque City Council.
A first-term incumbent with a business and community service background will square off Oct. 3 against a U.S. Navy veteran for the District 3 Albuquerque City Council seat.
Councilor Klarissa Peña, 50, a Democrat, points to community works undertaken during her tenure intended to benefit neighborhoods in the West Central area, and her early support of a tax dedicated to behavioral health services.
Her challenger is Christopher Sedillo, 54, a Democrat who served in the Navy from 1981 to 2007, who said the city needs greater emphasis on public safety and aggressive police reforms under new Albuquerque Police Department leadership.
District 3 encompasses Southwest Albuquerque south of Central Avenue.
“Crime in the city has just gotten out of control,” Sedillo said. City and APD leadership must act more aggressively to implement reforms under the city’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, and more equitable pay and treatment for police officers would help the city recruit officers and reach a force of 1,000 officers, he said.
“It’s a leadership problem at APD right now,” he said. “Instead of being transparent, they try to hide stuff.”
Albuquerque also needs to increase West Side employment and provide housing for low-income families, possibly by rehabilitating foreclosed houses, Sedillo said.
“I want to listen to the people in my district and not just corporate interests, or do sweetheart development deals that lead to sprawl and traffic,” he said.
Peña has worked since 2003 for Youth Development Inc., a nonprofit service organization for children and families, most recently as vice president for community and government relations. She wants a second term to complete community projects started during her first term, she said.
Peña said she helped secure $50 million worth of projects for the district, including a new library at Central and Unser, a new fire station, a neon 66 arch and a Route 66 Visitor Center on West Central.
“We have the longest stretch of the historic Route 66, and we have never really capitalized on that, and I think it’s about time we do,” she said.
Peña also said she has worked with families of 11 women and an unborn child found buried on the West Mesa in 2009 to secure $350,000 in city funds to build a permanent memorial to the murder victims.
She identified crime as the No. 1 problem facing District 3 and called for new leadership at APD, but she credits APD’s Southwest Area Command for its close relationship with the community.
The city’s officers “need to mirror the community” with more Hispanic, Native American and African-American officers, Peña said.
She also contends that changes in police recruiting could help APD reach a full complement of 1,000 officers. In particular, APD needs to abandon its policy of rejecting applicants who acknowledge having used illegal drugs, including marijuana, she said.