Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Mayoral candidate Dan Lewis has been on the Albuquerque City Council for eight years, and during that time he hasn’t been afraid to go against members of his own party – whether it be the mayor or fellow city councilors – or even council leadership.
In 2011, Lewis, a Republican, joined with the council’s four Democrats to pass a resolution directing staff to request a Department of Justice investigation into “whether there have been incidents or patterns of civil rights violations by the Albuquerque Police Department.” The resolution followed a string of APD shootings.
Mayor Richard Berry vetoed the resolution, partly due to procedural issues, but the DOJ launched an investigation anyway.
Two years later, during his first stint as council president, Lewis was one of the first councilors to publicly call for a new APD chief, saying that then-APD Chief Ray Schultz couldn’t change the negative perception of the department.
“I’m proud of every vote, proud of every opportunity to be able to serve my constituents, my district,” Lewis said Tuesday during a televised debate with his opponent, State Auditor Tim Keller.
Lewis considers the Unser extension and the Paseo del Norte-Interstate 25 interchange among his biggest accomplishments on the council.
Up until 2011, there was a 2.5-mile stretch of Unser that hadn’t been built yet stretching south from Paradise. Lewis said that after being elected to the council in 2009, he had a bill sponsored to earmark $5 million to fund the Unser extension. The measure was adopted at his first council meeting.
Working to secure funding for the Paseo and I-25 interchange turned out to be a much more difficult task. State and federal officials scrapped plans for the $360 million interchange project due to a lack of funding.
Lewis lobbied for the Paseo project for two years. In 2012, Albuquerque voters approved a $50 million bond issue after state and federal entities provided $38 million for the project. Bernalillo County voters kicked in an additional $5 million. The scaled-down $93 million project was completed in 2014.
Lewis served as council president in 2013 and 2016. His record as a city councilor has brought him both praise and criticism.
City Councilor Brad Winter, a Republican who has endorsed Lewis in the mayor’s race, said that even when he disagrees with him on a vote he knows that Lewis tries to do the right thing.
“He works with everybody,” Winter said. “He goes across party lines.”
He said Lewis would have a leg up if elected mayor because he knows the city inside and out.
City Councilor Pat Davis, a Democrat who has endorsed Keller, said Lewis is “good at getting capital projects for his district.”
“But Dan has a reputation of being hard to work with and applying a political angle sometimes when it’s just not necessary,” Davis said.
Here’s a look at some of the issues that have come up during the mayoral campaign regarding Lewis’s tenure as a city councilor:
• Both Keller and the Albuquerque Police Officers Association – which has endorsed Keller – have been accusing Lewis of supporting a budget that cut officer positions. The criticism stems from a budget supported by Lewis and approved by the council in 2014 that cut $3.3 million from APD’s budget, resulting in the elimination of 100 police officer positions, which were vacant. The move helped free up money to boost officer pay by 5 percent and set aside $2 million to begin carrying out reforms required by the DOJ. “To say that we cut police officers is just absolutely not true,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I’ve always funded for enough police officers or more police officers than we have.”
• Lewis was one of two city councilors to vote against the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, though early on he did support a broad budget measure that contained funding for that project and others. ART is a $119 million project that will transform Central Avenue into a rapid transit corridor with a nine-mile stretch of bus-only lanes and bus stations.
• Lewis advocated for an $18 million baseball complex on the West Side, near Interstate 40 and 98th Street. The city broke ground on the project earlier this year, and the Berry administration has said that facility was instrumental in Albuquerque’s selection as the site of the 2019 National Senior Games, which could bring in tens of millions of dollars to the Albuquerque economy. Critics have said the money would have been better spent on fixing up Los Altos park and that the West Side complex mainly benefits a large land developer.
• Lewis was absent earlier this year during a council vote reaffirming Albuquerque’s status as an immigrant-friendly city, he missed some council Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee meetings at which votes were taken on the proposed Integrated Development Ordinance, and he was absent during a vote in September 2014 on a measure creating a new civilian police oversight agency independent of the administration and the council.
During the KOAT/Journal debate last month, Keller accused Lewis of taking a “walk” on those important votes, essentially avoiding them to avoid political fallout. Lewis responded that he has never “taken a walk” on a vote, adding that when he misses a council meeting it’s because he has been called away for work or, in one instance, because his son was pitching in the Connie Mack World Series.
“I wanted to get involved in city issues that really make a difference and (to) actually lead,” Lewis has said.
Coming Sunday: The final Journal poll on the runoff election for mayor, which will be held Tuesday