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Pair challenge incumbent in District 9 race

A three-term incumbent faces two challengers, including a community radio station manager and a U.S. Air Force veteran in City Council District 9 in Southeast Albuquerque.

Councilor Don Harris, a Republican, said he has unfinished business that includes increasing salaries for police officers and security funding for a new fire station and a community center in District 9.

Byron Powdrell, 50, a Democrat and general manager of a home-based, low-power community radio station, said his decision to run for office was prompted by what he described as disappointing personal interactions with city officials.

Paul Ryan McKenney, 34, a Libertarian, is a stay-at-home dad and veteran who said the city needs to make public safety a budget priority and install new APD leadership that will implement the city’s consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Harris said a fourth term would allow him to continue to advocate for higher salaries for police, which he calls the key to increasing APD staff levels to a required 1,200 officers.

“The compensation isn’t sufficient to get the officers that we need,” Harris said. More officers are the key to reducing crime, he said.

“People don’t feel safe,” he said. “They’re worried about the reputation of the city.” Property crime is creeping into formerly safe neighborhoods, he said. “We need to treat it as an urgent situation that needs to be addressed.”

Harris also wants to secure an additional $1 million to move Fire Station 12 to Juan Tabo Hills to cut long response times for residents there and in Four Hills.

McKenney said the city should consider cutting services, such as golf courses, to increase police salaries and boost the number of officers to at least 1,100.

“Public safety is the main purpose of government,” McKenney said. “We need to look through the budget and say, what items are not necessary.”

He opposes business regulation, including the city’s minimum wage that he said put Albuquerque business at a disadvantage.

“We shouldn’t put any requirements on any business that aren’t already imposed by the federal or state governments,” he said.

McKenney said he served more than six years in the U.S. Air Force, including one tour in Iraq. A former cook and construction worker, McKenney said he is working on an online degree in business from Eastern New Mexico University.

Powdrell also lists public safety as the No. 1 issue facing District 9, but he said personal experiences with city officials motivated him to run for the City Council.

Powdrell said he supports a city-run Head Start program in which his children participated. The program is “excellent,” but suffers from lack of interest by city leaders, which hurts enrollment, he contends.

“It was such a fight with the city to make this program work,” he said.

Powdrell also said he was rebuffed by city officials when he sought permission for his radio station to broadcast city-sponsored events, including Route 66 Summerfest. The city works only with a large media company, he said, to the detriment of small stations like his.

Powdrell started his home-based low-power radio station, 99.9 KMGG-LP, The Beat, in 2014 to provide black urban programming to an Albuquerque metro-area audience, he told the Journal in 2015.

Powdrell also said he was detained, but not arrested, by Albuquerque police earlier this year when he and his brother attempted to stop thieves who were stealing a car.

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