Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories the Journal will publish on the contested races for the Albuquerque City Council.
Crime and the city’s response dominate a two-way District 7 City Council contest between a first-term incumbent and a challenger who says Albuquerque needs new leadership. Diane Gibson, 65, a Democrat, is finishing her first term on the council. The Detroit native has lived in New Mexico since 1975 and retired from Sandia National Laboratories in 2008.
Her challenger, Eric L. Lucero, 59, is a Republican who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1985 to 1995, and the New Mexico Army National Guard from 2000 to 2013.
The two will face off Oct. 3 for the council seat in District 7, a rectangular Northeast Heights district between Interstate 25 and Eubank Boulevard, and between Montgomery and Lomas boulevards.
Lucero and Gibson both say the city needs to do more to confront crime and increase the number of police officers, but offer different approaches.
“We don’t have enough officers, and the criminals know it,” Lucero said. “We need more cops. We need to be patrolling our city.”
The city needs to prioritize funding for public safety before spending money on projects such as parks, transit and other programs, including economic development and addiction treatment, he said.
“You have to secure your city first, and then you can deal with the opioid crisis, homelessness, joblessness,” he said.
Gibson said the city also needs to expand addiction treatment programs to address the root cause of crime.
“Obviously, we do need more police officers who need to make arrests,” said Gibson, who said at least 1,000 officers are needed. “But everybody who is paying attention in the city of Albuquerque knows that a huge majority of property crimes are fueled by drug addiction.”
Lucero and Gibson both say Albuquerque needs more police officers. Lucero said the city needs new APD leadership and higher salaries for officers.
Officers “are being overworked and underappreciated,” Lucero said. “Real commitment, real money needs to be applied so that we can keep our officers.”
Gibson said the city needs smarter recruiting strategies and skilled recruiters.
“We do need more officers,” Gibson said. “But the reason we’re not getting more officers is because we’re not actively recruiting. We should be out actively recruiting, and we should be doing it on every college campus in the state of New Mexico.”
The two candidates also sparred over an ordinance sponsored by Gibson that would tighten up on purchases by pawn shop owners and gold buyers by creating a three-day waiting period before the seller can receive payment. Gibson said the ordinance will help stop the purchase of stolen property by pawn shops and gold buyers.
“The pawn stores and gold buyers could have regulated themselves,” Gibson said. “They didn’t do it, so now the city has to step in.”
Lucero calls the measure “wrong-headed” because it would hurt businesses and do little to stop thieves, who he said have other ways to fence stolen goods.