Interestingly, the field in our “nonpartisan” mayoral election has produced candidates who fall into two distinct camps — progressive and conservative. Since there will likely be two “winners” this time around, the Journal is endorsing two candidates — one from each camp.
All eight candidates have attributes that can help the city, from 22-year-old Gus Pedrotty’s fresh ideas to Tim Keller’s experience as state auditor to Wayne Johnson’s years on the Bernalillo County Commission. We urge them all to continue working to improve the Duke City. But one candidate rises to the top from each camp.
Progressive Brian Colón
Long before last week’s Journal Poll showed the top concern among city residents is crime, Brian Colón had developed a comprehensive plan to address it. And realizing the close ties between the high crime rate and the city’s former No. 1 concerns — scarce jobs and an anemic economy — he also developed an impressive economic development strategy.
Both show that Colón not only has a handle on this city’s problems; he’s got solid ideas for solving them.
He’s pledged to increase the Albuquerque Police Department’s ranks from the current 850 to 1,200 within 30 months, if elected. That’s an ambitious goal he plans to reach by aggressive recruiting and more frequent police academies. He says a new police chief will answer directly to the mayor and will be “100 percent committed” to implementing the reforms mandated by the city’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice.
The 47-year-old attorney, who grew up working at his parents’ Bosque Farms Flea Market and living in subsidized housing, also understands that the fundamental causes of crime — including poverty, poor education, drug addiction and mental illness — must also be addressed. His plans call for job creation through economic development, public-private partnerships to deal with addicted and mentally ill residents, better education of police officers to deal with mentally ill individuals, closer relationships with drug, DWI and other specialty courts, and creating the post of “chief education officer” to serve as a liaison with Albuquerque Public Schools, UNM and CNM.
Colón has shown himself to be among the most business-friendly candidates in the race. He says he will review the city’s current economic development plans and develop a Business, Technology, Culture, Arts and Entertainment Cross-Functional Development Team to spearhead new projects (hopefully with a much shorter title).
He plans to work closely with APS, UNM and CNM to ensure they’re turning out the skilled workforce businesses need.
As for infrastructure, he hopes to build a strategically located events center to host concerts, sports and entertainment events.
And Colón’s lengthy list of volunteer work, ranging from Big Brothers Big Sisters to the KiMo Theater Advisory Board, shows a deep commitment to his city, county and state. His presence on so many community boards has also enabled him to forge relationships with groups and individuals across the spectrum — from business to community to education.
“Not only am I the hardest-working candidate out there; I’ll be the hardest-working mayor,” he says, promising to attend every City Council meeting. “I’m tireless. I’m passionate about this opportunity, and no one is going to outwork me to get it.” His track record supports the claim.
There are two caveats to our endorsement of Colón. When he was chairman of the state Democratic Party back in 2008, the state caucus was a train wreck. Many voters had to wait hours to vote, some polling locations ran out of ballots and New Mexico didn’t have complete results of the caucus until nine days afterward. It was a huge embarrassment for the party and the state. But instead of looking for a scapegoat, Colón admitted he messed up by using an all-volunteer group to run the caucus and took his lumps. He says he learned from that experience and became a better leader, and planner, because of it. That speaks highly of his character.
We’re also cognizant that Colón has been a supporter of the controversial Healthy Workforce Ordinance, a poorly crafted, job-killing ballot initiative. But he admits that as written it has serious flaws. If it passes, he expects it will be challenged in court and is committed to crafting a new ordinance that balances the needs of workers and employers alike.
If you’re looking for a progressive, yet business-friendly, voice to lead the city, Brian Colón is your man.
Conservative Dan Lewis
Among the conservatives hoping to become Albuquerque’s next mayor, Dan Lewis has offered several intriguing ideas to move the Duke City forward.
He has also shown that his positions are based more on what he believes is the correct path than on partisanship. Albuquerque’s municipal elections are nonpartisan, but the City Council often votes as though they aren’t. Lewis has sometimes bucked that trend, clashing with fellow Republican Mayor Richard Berry on key issues, ranging from the challenges facing the Albuquerque Police Department to the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
Lewis, an ordained Baptist minister, may not have been the first city councilor to realize that, with 24 shootings by APD officers over a four-year period, the department had a problem with excessive force. But he was the first to recommend that the U.S. Department of Justice look into the inordinate number of police-involved shootings. The subsequent DOJ investigation found APD did, indeed, have a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression.” Now that the city is under a DOJ settlement agreement that outlines numerous police reforms, Lewis is an obvious choice to see those reforms through in a timely fashion.
He was the sole councilor to vote against the ART, but now that it’s here, he says, city officials need to ensure its success.
Meanwhile, the city, county, University of New Mexico and private businesses are staking the city’s economic future on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit that starts, and grows, local businesses — which seems to be Lewis’ forte. Since moving to Albuquerque two decades ago, he founded a West Side church and two small businesses, Rio Grande Rustics and Rio Grande Foam. Starting all three, literally from the ground up, satisfied what he calls his “entrepreneurial spirit” and taught him a lot “about being an entrepreneur. You learn about how to start something from nothing and build it. It’s a lot of solving problems.” He’s currently vice president of Desert Fuels, a wholesale fuel supplier, and president of Desert Fuels Transport LLC., a division he started.
Lewis’ approach to addressing the city’s crime rate parallels that of Colón and some of the other candidates, but with an important distinction: Lewis says his administration would develop a “scorecard” for local judges so voters can gauge their decisions on releasing or holding violent repeat offenders awaiting trial. He says such a scorecard could help voters decide which judges to retain. That idea alone might be worth voting for Lewis.
Lewis also supports splitting up Albuquerque Public Schools into smaller school districts that are more efficient and more accountable to the parents of the children they teach. “We have a massive failing school system at APS,” Lewis says. He’s right. A recent report by the New Mexico Public Education Department says only 27 percent of APS students can read, and only 19.7 percent can do math, at grade level. And while the Mayor’s Office is not in charge of the school district, Lewis would be in a position to work with the appropriate stakeholders to get smaller, more accountable districts.
While Lewis says all workers deserve protected leave time, the proposed Healthy Workforce Ordinance “isn’t the way to do it.” The draconian measure, if approved, will need major revisions to “fill in gaps without destroying local businesses.”
Lewis, who’s been on City Council since 2009, is a solid conservative mayoral candidate.
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.