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Editorial: Journal endorsements for Albuquerque City Council

DISTRICT 1 – Ken Sanchez

You’d be hard pressed to find anyone with the depth of knowledge of the West Side that Ken Sanchez has. He has represented residents south of Montaño and north of Central since 2005. That record, preceded by eight years on the Bernalillo County Commission, explains why he was unopposed in the past two city elections.

This year he is opposed – and by a candidate with plenty of strengths. But Sanchez has been a moderate and reasonable voice, and his experience is important.

Sanchez grew up in his district, has worked in the area his entire adult life and continues running the accounting firm his parents started in 1963. He understands the challenges and needs of his constituents, as evidenced by focusing his campaign on the dire need to address the high crime rate.

He says he’ll keep working to add another 350 officers to the police department, and retain longevity pay and retention bonuses to keep the cops already on the force. Properly staffed, he says, the Albuquerque Police Department can return to community policing, with cops in neighborhoods they patrol. And he’ll urge a new chief to recruit locally.

Sanchez says we need to re-invest in our city, including with a Downtown event center that attracts tourism and conventions. And though he has supported the job-killing Healthy Workforce Ordinance, he understands the need to challenge the constitutionality of some provisions, and his record of working with all parties means he can help craft a sick leave policy that works for businesses and employees.

DISTRICT 3 – Christopher Sedillo

U.S. Navy veteran Christopher Sedillo is new to politics, but has a vision for District 3, south of Central, and his city.

Like every candidate, he sees reducing the city’s crime rate as objective No. 1 and, while he agrees the Albuquerque Police Department needs new leadership and additional officers, he also understands the need to attack the root causes of much of the city’s crime – poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness.

Sedillo says city officials and APD leadership need to be more aggressive in implementing the reforms outlined in the city’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, and more equitable in pay and treatment of police officers. Once that happens, he says, recruiting quality candidates who become well-trained officers will be less problematic.

Sedillo says he’ll work to bring more jobs to his district, improve street maintenance, push for more affordable housing for first-time home buyers on the West Side and ensure residents have a voice in government.

And unlike the incumbent, Sedillo does not support the Healthy Workforce Ordinance, which he says will exacerbate the city’s second-highest-in-the-nation unemployment rate by adding one more burden for small businesses to bear.

DISTRICT 5 – Robert Aragon

A politically astute attorney who knows the intricacies of budgeting and public finance, Robert Aragon is the strongest candidate to represent far northwest Albuquerque.

The former state representative has been a member of the state Board of Finance since 2011, and has served on transition teams for both Republican and Democratic governors.

That means Aragon knows how government, its factions and its budgets do – and don’t – work. He says the city must prioritize funding for the Albuquerque Police Department so it can expand its ranks and begin attacking the burgeoning crime rate, and pay needs to improve for officers on the force one to five years because that’s when other agencies hire them away. He’s also in favor of retired officers returning.

Aragon says the city and county need to better coordinate services for the mentally ill, who make up an inordinate number of the homeless, addicted and criminal elements.

If elected, he says he will: take no publicly financed junkets; schedule monthly open-door meetings with constituents; run for no more than two terms; push to break up the underperforming Albuquerque Public Schools district; use existing tools to make the best of the ART transit project (which he calls an example of politicians building on the backs of taxpayers); and keep an open mind. And he opposes the Healthy Workforce Ordinance because it exempts unions, ties the hands of future councils, and will force businesses to cut jobs and employee hours.

DISTRICT 7 – Eric Lucero

U.S. Army veteran Eric Lucero promises to bring a more conservative approach to the issues facing the Northeast Heights district – from Interstate 25 to Eubank and Montgomery to Lomas boulevards – he hopes to represent.

He supports the “broken window” theory for addressing crime, and his priority as councilor would be hiring more police officers and putting them on the streets. “You have to secure your city first, and then you can deal with the opioid crisis, homelessness, joblessness,” he says.

Adequately funding the police department could mean cutting back temporarily on other city projects like parks and transit. He’d even consider an additional “public safety tax” to address crime. “We don’t have enough officers and the criminals know it,” Lucero says.

Unlike the incumbent, Lucero opposes the Healthy Workforce Ordinance because it isn’t “business friendly” and would further harm the already depressed labor market.

DISTRICT 9 – Don Harris

Attorney Don Harris, who has represented District 9 since 2005, says a fourth term would allow him to tend to some unfinished business for his constituents – residents of the far Southeast Heights east of Eubank and south of Menaul, including the Four Hills area. That starts with boosting the number of city police officers to 1,200 from the current 850. Because his district’s Singing Arrow neighborhood has among the highest violent crime rates in the city, he understands the urgency of doing so.

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

He says the only tax increase he would consider would be dedicated to expanding APD, paying cops better and improving recruitment. He adds the city must ensure the ART bus project delivers long-term benefits that make adjacent areas vibrant and competitive, and the Healthy Workforce Ordinance would significantly harm the local economy and hamper its already sluggish recovery from the recession.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.