To say Albuquerque has a form of “nonpartisan” municipal government is a farce when it comes to reality and how the mayor acts and the City Council really works and votes.
The New Mexico Constitution provides that all municipal elections be nonpartisan, and that is why it is in our City Charter and not because the framers thought it was a great idea.
Albuquerque’s municipal elections are held in odd-number years, and voter turnouts are miserably low like four years ago when voter turnout was 19 percent of registered voters.
It is important that Albuquerque city councilors cooperate with each other and the mayor, as I did when I was on the City Council, but there are indeed limits to cooperation.
As a city councilor, I worked and cooperated with the entire city council and mayor when it came to issues like passage of the quality-of-life tax, passage of the vehicle emissions program and the creation of the Independent Council Office to review citizen complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department and the creation of the Internal Audit Department.
However, there is a significant difference between cooperating and working with other elected officials from the opposite party and being hypocritical and going against your own basic political philosophy of what you believe to be true and what you stand for as an elected official.
What I am sick of are Democrats trying to act and talk like Republicans, and Republicans trying to act like Democrats, especially after they get elected to positions like mayor and City Council and arguing that they are being “nonpartisan.”
City issues many times are partisan, such as minimum wage, the mandatory sick-leave initiative, public-financed elections, late-term abortions, equal pay for women, sanctuary city and marriage equality.
I was criticized for running as a Democrat for mayor and told by many Democratic Party officials they would not help because the race was nonpartisan.
The Republican Party has been extremely involved in Albuquerque’s nonpartisan elections. For the last eight years, we have had the most partisan mayor in Albuquerque history, especially when the Republicans controlled the City Council by a 6-3 margin four years ago.
During his time in office, Mayor Richard Berry appointed numerous Republican political operatives to six-figure-plus salaried positions with contacts to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and adviser Jay McCleskey, and good examples include Republicans Darren White appointed Chief Public Safety Officer, Rob Perry appointed Chief Administrative Officer and Gorden Eden appointed APD Chief.
When Berry had the chance to appoint two city councilors to vacancies in predominantly Democrat seats, he chose to appoint two Republicans who later lost to Democrats.
For a supposedly nonpartisan race, Berry’s 2013 contributors list was top-heavy with prominent Republican donors and players including the Republican National Committee.
The Republican Party is again getting involved in this year’s mayor’s race by filing a complaint to investigate the only Democrat who qualified for public financing.
The press, especially the Albuquerque Journal, likes to point out party affiliations of candidates running for municipal office, even though the races are supposed to be nonpartisan. The first question that the Albuquerque Journal asks in their candidate questionnaire is: What party affiliation are you?
What I have also seen over the years, and am seeing today, are candidates, both Democrat and Republican, who are downplaying their party affiliation when running for municipal office to get votes and donations only to show their true colors once elected.
This happens especially in council districts where voters are predominantly from the opposite party.
The New Mexico Legislature needs to allow municipal elections to be conducted in the same year as federal and state elections and make them partisan to enhance voter turnout.
We need to be honest with our municipal elections and allow the city clerk to print ballots with party affiliation of candidates for mayor and City Council.