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Six candidates vying for District 2 council seat

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories on the contested races for the Albuquerque City Council in the Nov. 5 election.


Four years ago, the race to represent Downtown on the Albuquerque City Council was a one-man show: Isaac Benton ran unopposed to keep his seat in District 2.

Today there are six candidates for the same job.

In the largest City Council race since 2003 – when now-U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich was first elected to the municipal board – incumbent Benton is facing five challengers for the right to serve a district that includes Downtown, Old Town and parts of the University of New Mexico and North Valley, a community that all candidates agree is struggling with crime and homelessness.

The field includes four people making their first run at public office – three of them 30 or younger – and a community activist who previously served as a city councilor in Idaho.

Isaac Benton

Isaac Benton

Benton, 68, has been in office since 2005. An architect who grew up in Puerto Rico but moved to Albuquerque in his mid-20s, Benton says he wants to remain on the council to follow through on issues he cares about, noting that as a representative he has pushed for workforce housing projects, the purchase of the Rail Yards, “urban vitality” initiatives like the historic El Vado Motel redevelopment, and walkability initiatives.

“We’ve accomplished a lot” in 14 years, he said. “I think my record stands for itself. I’d like to be able to continue with some of the projects we’ve started.”

Benton said the mushrooming homeless population is among the top concerns he hears from District 2 constituents and acknowledges the city has not effectively handled it, saying, “I’ve yet to see a city that has.”

He said the city is “on the right track” with the plan to move its emergency shelter services from the far West Side to a more centralized replacement that would also serve as a place for first responders to take those it might otherwise drive to the emergency room or jail.

While some of his opponents are urging a faster exit from the Albuquerque Police Department’s existing agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice as a way to reduce crime, Benton views the decree as a positive turning point for the city.

“I think it’s resulted in a better trained force,” he said. “It probably did drive some people out of the force, and the force was reduced during that period when we were going through the initial stages of that settlement, but I think we have a much better department as a result.”

Robert Blanquera Nelson

Robert Blanquera Nelson

Nelson, a 39-year-old Wells Park resident and Filipino immigrant, has spent most of his career in the nonprofit sector, including work with children and with the homeless community. He was with Heading Home – which runs several local programs, including the city’s West Side emergency shelter – at its founding and currently consults nonprofit agencies through his job at The Grants Collective.

But it was his work as a community organizer that spurred his interest in running his first campaign for public office, citing what he considers the city’s inadequate outreach during the creation of the Integrated Development Ordinance.

“We need to redefine what a city councilor does and we also need to really look at how we can engage our community much more effectively than we’ve done in the past,” he said, lamenting that nearly two years after its passage, the city has yet to make the IDO available in Spanish.

He has cited a new city public health department as one of his chief objectives, saying it would foster a bigger-picture view of pressing issues like homelessness and crime and better collaboration among agencies and noting that there are presently four different waiting lists for those looking for housing in the community.

“Cleaning up that bureaucracy from a public health standpoint helps us systematically get people more quickly into housing and … making sure we coordinate more adeptly with community health organizations, along with nonprofit organizations,” he said.

Zack Quintero

Zack Quintero

Quintero, a 28-year-old legal analyst and native New Mexican, said that seeing family members experience wage theft during his Mesilla upbringing helped lead him to public service, saying “I saw what injustice does first-hand.”

He said he wants more young New Mexicans to find opportunities that allow them to stay and work in their home state, noting that he worked on a program during a previous job with the city of Santa Fe that paired college students with public, private and nonprofit sector internships in the capital city.

“I think we need to bring some energy back into local government,” he said. He suggests the city align with the University of New Mexico, the local chambers of commerce and other partners to ensure the thousands of jobs that will become open locally in the coming years, due primarily to retirements, are filled by area talent.

With degrees in economics and law, Quintero said he brings a different perspective on the issues of crime and homelessness, which he said the City Council has not focused on enough in recent years.

“It felt like we prioritized a lot of our spending toward major infrastructure projects and not really maintaining a community policing presence and being innovative with the way we use technology to locate gun-related crimes or crack down on domestic violence,” he said.

Joseph Griego

Joseph Griego

A small business owner, Griego, 29, is a lifelong North Valley resident who can trace his family history in District 2 back generations and said he sees too many people his age fleeing over concerns about crime and education.

“A lot of people in my generation don’t want to raise their families in Albuquerque,” he said.

He said he is making his first bid for public office to “bridge the gap” – or several gaps – between District 2’s history and its future, the government and the public, and elected officials and the police department.

Griego has spent his life in public safety, starting as a teenage lifeguard, subsequently working for the Bosque Farms Police Department and currently teaching CPR and other lifesaving skills through his own company.

A board member for Heading Home, he said the city has to look beyond an emergency shelter to combat its homelessness epidemic and focus on keeping people from reaching that point.

“I don’t have the (perfect) answer, but I do have the willingness to collaborate with others’ ideas in the community,” he said.

Steven Baca

Steven Baca

The son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff, Baca, 30, is currently a freelance process server and skip tracer. A North Valley native, he has lived within the district – including Downtown – his whole life and said he felt compelled to seek his first elected office out of fear the community is becoming a “third world country” and is a vocal critic of the current leadership. He called local elected officials “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime” on his campaign Facebook page and has questioned the fiscal choices of Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council.

Baca contends the city has done little to effectively combat the homelessness crisis, which he said is intermingled with crime and best attacked from that perspective.

“You kind of have to handle it from a criminal justice perspective – crack down on the low-level crimes that the homeless community is doing; have officers do warrant pickups, crack down on those very small crimes like drug abuse. … A lot of the people (who are homeless) are addicted to drugs; you need to get those people into the court system so they can be forced to go to rehab,” he said.

Connie Vigil

Connie Vigil

A Wells Park resident who once served as a city councilor in a town outside Boise, Idaho, Vigil, 62, has more recently turned her attention to community organizing and a group she founded, the Greater Albuquerque Small Business Alliance.

“I feel I could have a better voice, particularly for our neighborhood, Wells Park,” Vigil said. “We’re really, really struggling with this homelessness vagrancy and trash issue in our neighborhood. It’s shot several businesses down. It’s prevented a lot of the newer businesses from doing as well as they could and we’re really not getting the support we need.”

Albuquerque City Council District 2

The self-described “semi-retired” teacher has publicly advocated for an alternative solution to the city’s homelessness crisis that would include a large campus in a remote area that would provide housing and social services, though she has more recently proposed locating it on what is now privately owned land on Second Street near the Bernalillo County Animal Care Services shelter. She also wants the community to create new long-term residential treatment centers to serve those with addictions.

“I feel like I have the time right now to dedicate to solving a lot of these major issues that I think are really at a breaking point in Albuquerque,” she said.


District 2 City Council candidate bios, questionnaires

Steven Baca

POLITICAL PARTY: No comment.

PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque

AGE: 30

EDUCATION: Associate’s degree in psychology, certificate in criminal investigations from Santa Fe Community College (2016).

OCCUPATION: Freelance process server/skip-tracer since 2012.

FAMILY: Jacqueline Valdez, girlfriend of 7 years.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Political Convention 2016 Alternate Delegate, district captain for the non-partisan group Convention of States Action.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Obtaining my associate’s degree and certificate to further my career goals, while graduating under the National Society of Leadership and Success.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Obtaining every single signature to get on the ballot for City Council by myself. I wanted to see if it was possible, and it is.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: Crack down on public order crimes like trespassing, drug use, and camping on public property. If offenders don’t have a place to go, then a city shelter should be offered, but offenders can’t camp in city parks.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: End the McClendon Settlement Agreement, which would give APD Officers the to ability arrest for all misdemeanor crimes. The Department of Justice Settlement agreement needs to be ended or renegotiated to allow Police Officers to do their job.

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: No, the city should not pass a paid sick leave ordinance. Voters already decided this issue in 2017.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: Lowering Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax to lowest level in the state, which makes the cost of doing business in Albuquerque manageable.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: Focus on business friendly policies, such as low taxes, which will create more jobs. Make the business licensing and zoning process quick, efficient, and free.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: As of right now, the city’s IDO is fair. It’s a new ordinance, so if needs arise, changes should be made accordingly.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: Repairing streets and sidewalks in older areas. We need to put an end to unneeded government projects: i.e. Albuquerque Rapid Transit, $30,000 crosswalks, $20,000 toilets, $53,000 statues, and corporate welfare.

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

A: I would never support a tax increase under any circumstances. There can always be cuts, like not giving millions to corporations such as NBC Universal, or spending money on illegal aliens.

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

A: Absolutely not.

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: I liked that Mayor Keller is an Albuquerque cheerleader and encourages advertisement and visits to our city. His biggest misstep is not fighting crime and failing to give APD the tools to do their job.

Q: What one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: Ending crime and giving our Police Department its teeth back.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: No, but to be honest, I have a few speeding tickets, all of which were deferred or dismissed.


 

Isaac Benton

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 68

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1973) and bachelor’s in architecture (1974) from the Rhode Island School of Design; studied liberal arts and sciences at Emory University (1969-1971)

OCCUPATION: full-time Albuquerque City Councilor; previously architect (retired)

FAMILY: Wife Elaine, two children

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: City Councilor since 2005; City Council president, (2017 and 2009); Committee of the Whole Chair (2016); Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee (2005-present, current chair); Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Board (2006-2008, Vice-chair 2008 and 2006); Metropolitan Transportation Board (2006-present, chair 2016-17); Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board (2006-present, chair 2009-11); Mid-Region Council of Governments Board (2006-present); Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Commission (2009-present, chair 2012); Alvarado Transportation Center Task Force; Railyards Advisory Board; Visit ABQ Executive Board.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: My colleagues inducted me into to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in recognition of my career in social architecture, leadership within the Institute and service to the community.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Serving the great people and neighborhoods of our very unique and historic district.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: Strengthen collaborative behavioral health and addiction prevention. Construct “triage” centers with emergency on-site shelter and services. Increase partnerships for scattered-site supportive housing. Improve the coordinated systems approach, starting with collecting better data on Albuquerque’s homeless.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: Embrace community policing and bike patrols. Reduce gun violence, banning firearms in city facilities. Increase a Police Service Aide “pipeline” for the Police Academy. Encourage citizen neighborhood watches, crime reporting, participation in Community Policing Councils.

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: Yes. As a former small business employer, I know that flexible schedules and a humane understanding of employees’ family needs, like paid sick leave, are absolutely necessary to large and small business success.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: Having spearheaded the original purchase of the Railyards, I’m excited about city partnership therewith CNM’s film institute. A redeveloping Railyards will spur tourism, jobs, new housing and small businesses for our center city and district.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: Build walkable urbanism, quality public spaces and streets, affordable housing, transit, the creative arts economy and our great “sense of place.” Our Downtown, central historic neighborhoods, and the commercial corridors that serve them are key.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: Annual updates to the IDO are mandated, with localized public planning processes built into the framework. I’m facilitating that process, with an emphasis on protecting historic neighborhoods left behind during Albuquerque’s rapid growth and industrialization.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: District 2 has our oldest infrastructure. The needs are complex and challenging. Through bonding and federal grants, we need modern streets, modern storm infrastructure, restored tree canopy, transit and walkability that serve neighborhoods and businesses.

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

I would support a “sunsetting” tax increase for a serious known public need such as safety, or for economic investment where high return on investment and public benefits can be demonstrated.

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

A: No. The city extravagantly funded supposed “sports tourism” like softball fields on the far Westside with limited tourist appeal/payback. I support the Mayor’s proposal to fund a soccer stadium through existing funds and partnerships.

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: Under the Mayor’s leadership in partnership with Council, we’re rebuilding APD including critical investments in community policing. An early misstep was reversing Downtown walkability improvements, a misunderstanding of an existing city policy that was corrected.

Q: What one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: Preparing for climate change to make our city resilient and liveable for future generations. This includes stronger building energy codes, focused energy conservation, reforestation, renewable energy, alternative transportation options, storm drainage, water and local agriculture.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: No.


 

Joseph Griego

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 29

EDUCATION: Valley High School and Rio Rancho High School, attended Fresno State University, CNM, and Trident University.

OCCUPATION: Owner of Caretactics CPR since 2012

FAMILY: Single, two children

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: U.S. Navy (2008-2011), former police officer with Bosque Farms Police Department and emergency medical technician.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Becoming a small business owner right here in Albuquerque.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Of course being a father to two children.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: Serving as a Board Member of Heading Home we will continue to work with the City of Albuquerque … bringing together business leaders, medical professionals, and advocates to develop real solutions to our growing homeless populations.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: The Department of Justice oversight is causing many officers (to not want to become) a member of our police force. Begin the process of negotiating the exit of the DOJ. We need to recruit officers who can work within the (DOJ) framework.

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: The voters have spoken on this and voted it down. While I support paid sick leave, I believe we need … a common sense approach and agree … the county’s ordinance doesn’t quite meet the standard needed.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: Infrastructure. We need to make infrastructure our number one priority. We need to increase funding for LEDA (Local Economic Development Act) and also create incentives for local businesses to bid and win small projects such as curb and façade.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: My generation wants to see someone like me working in a position of City Councilor, first thing we can do is elect me to District 2.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: I think the IDO is a great starting point for us … to determine how we want to grow. We need to be better listeners to businesses and allow for flexibility for staff to help them be successful.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: Roads, lighting, and parks. New Mexico will have a billion dollars in new revenue this year. Infrastructure needs to be our number one priority and ask of the New Mexico Legislature and Governor.

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

A: We desperately need transparency of our city budget. If it was comparable across the entire city and was truly dedicated to what it was for.

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

A: I would support tax incentives for a public private partnership to build a soccer stadium.

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: The Mayor has been dealing with a hard situation left by the previous administration so being analytical of the problems and methodically addressing them is his strength. I don’t believe his administration has made many missteps but him endorsing candidates in this race is one.

Q: What one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: If elected I will increase accessibility to Early Childhood Education in District 2. I will rebuild our community centers and parks. I will improve our infrastructure. If I do not … I will not seek another term.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: I was charged with assault in 2017. Case was dismissed.


 

Robert Blanquera Nelson

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 39

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in psychology, bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of New Mexico (2003).

OCCUPATION: Nonprofit manager with The Grants Collective for three years; previously owner of RRN Consulting.

FAMILY: Lisa Nelson, no children

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Chair, Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund Committee, City of Albuquerque (2017-present).

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2011, I helped found Albuquerque Heading Home, a community wide initiative to place the most chronically and medically vulnerable homeless in permanent affordable housing. I was a member of their Core Vision Team.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: In 2017, I co-founded Young Asian Americans of Albuquerque, a community group dedicated to building community with Pan-Asian American youth.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: First, we must create our first Public Health Department to address the root causes of homelessness. Next, prioritize solutions that vulnerable communities need, such as more affordable housing and access to drug use rehabilitation.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: Creating a community-based Blue Ribbon Commission on public safety, allowing for new and better solutions, such as hiring Police Service Aides as a way to reduce the cost of onboarding new officers.

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: Yes, I would support continually improving the ordinance and policy to make it easier for small businesses to afford. I would also support applying for grant funding for small businesses during a transition period.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: First, making Albuquerque the top city in the country to start a small business by reducing red tape and increasing small business support resources like micro-loans. Second, closing equity gaps to create an inclusive economy.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: As a city, we have foster industries that are conducive to the creative interests of recent graduates. That means being business-friendly to growing creative industries like tech, renewables, and film.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: Make the zoning process simpler and less restrictive for property owners. I would also work with community stakeholders to streamline zoning overall and make Albuquerque more attractive to the industries we want.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: The most critical infrastructure our city needs is financial infrastructure. We need more access to large amounts of capital for the kinds of projects that will turn our city into a hub.

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

A: No need to raise taxes when we have the opportunity to bring new money through federal grants and national investments. We will stop wasting money when the community is engaged in developing the solution.

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

A: No, because we can find better ways to pay for it.

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: Creating the Office of Equity and Inclusion was the most innovative thing the Keller administration has done, and his biggest missed opportunity is not addressing crime and homelessness at the root.

Q: What’s one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: The biggest priority is public health because the cycle of systemic poverty, homelessness, and crime are all public health issues. That means instituting our City’s first public health department and addressing our systemic issues.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: No.


 

Zackary Quintero

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 28

EDUCATION: Juris Doctorate of Law, University of New Mexico School of Law (2019), Bachelor’s degree in economics and bachelor’s degree in government, New Mexico State University (2014).

OCCUPATION: Legal analyst with Roybal Mack and Cordova Law since 2019, Law clerk with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (2017-2018); City economist/economic development specialist with the city of Santa Fe (2014-2016).

FAMILY: None.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Former president of the statewide Young Democrats of New Mexico, former city economist, former Foreign Service Fellow.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I built and managed a statewide portal to connect graduates to jobs in New Mexico in order to keep our talent here. I also drafted and managed workforce contracts and investments between the city and the creative arts sector.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I served on the law review of UNM and wrote about how we need to prepare for climate change shifts that will affect our environment.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: We need to pass the bond for a homeless center and provide wrap-around services that connect people to mental health and addiction resources. This has not been a priority for council in over five years.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: We need to establish a residential burglary unit team within APD and invest in shot detection systems that help our officers triangulate gun related crimes.

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: I support paid sick leave and would want to see what businesses and workers within the city limits can provide and afford in order to make a fair and thoughtful decision.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: Connect 5,000 graduates to jobs in health care, tech, education, government, and the creative arts through a coordinated jobs plan. Promote a stronger local spend rule within city contracts and LEDA (Local Economic Development Act ) funds.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: The median age of our city is 38. This is not reflected in any office within our city. Having an intergenerational Council shows opportunity is possible and that we are inclusive and geared towards the future.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: Many neighborhoods lost protections they once had. The IDO calls for the city to review 12 community planning areas over five years, we need to invest in planning personal to cut that to two years.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: Although the city doesn’t govern APS schools, the city can and should work with the water utility authority to remove lead and update water lines that service our schools.

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

A: We’re anticipating an increase in revenue once we start taxing online purchases in two years and we just passed a tax increase. If critical services are not being met, I would support a tax increase.

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

There are other ways we should be utilizing taxpayer dollars right now, and there are other sources of revenue that we can look at for paying for a soccer stadium.

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: Best move has been prioritizing public safety after the previous administration and council cut public safety. His misstep is not moving fast on his promise to help business grow by an increment of 1.

Q: What one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: I would focus on core parts of public health and public safety. That would involve fully funding community policing and health care options that help us alleviate homelessness, behavioral health, and addiction.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: I was charged with trespassing on NMSU property in the desert when I was 16. I was building an Indiana Jones-themed zip line. Government didn’t agree with my use of land. Charges were dropped.


 

Connie Vigil

POLITICAL PARTY: Declined to say.

AGE: 62

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in technical communications from New Mexico State University (1988); bachelor of science degree from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (1980); completed fellowship work toward a master’s degree in microbiology from the University of New Mexico.

OCCUPATION: President of the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance since 2018; K-12 science, English and substitute teacher (2015-2019); life insurance agent (2007-2016), Habitat for Humanity executive director (2003-2005).

FAMILY: One child.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Wells Park Neighborhood Association Board (April 2019-present); founder Albuquerque Roundtable Discussion Group (2013-2014); city council and school board representative in Star, Idaho (1996-1998).

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Procurement of federal grant for a community center. Assisted in first pediatric bone marrow transplant in VT. Built three homes in two years with hundreds of volunteers from three states. Beating an incumbent!

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: My amazing son Gabriel received a full scholarship, state symphony win two years, golf team and captain from eighth through 12th grade. I ran a half marathon in 3 hours at age 50 after back injury.

Q: What specific steps do you think the city should take to address the homelessness crisis?

A: Work with federal and state legislators to create long-term residential treatment centers for mentally ill and drug addicted, co-fund transitional housing/job campus, hold state and Bernalillo County accountable for tax received for behavioral health.

Q: Besides hiring more officers, what do you think the council could do to improve public safety?

A: Drug addiction fuels 99% of crime! Albuquerque lacks narcotics agents, leaving drug sales rampant! I would increase agents, and help APD enforce laws against violence, vandalism, theft, and public camping. Citizen safety is #1!

Q: Do you think the city should pass a paid sick leave mandate? If so, would you support the paid leave ordinance passed by the Bernalillo County Commission or what changes would you propose?

A: Albuquerque voters said no. I would work with state legislators to pass laws like Oregon’s, so federal tax credits could help smaller businesses comply. I support equitable and uniform leave laws for all New Mexicans.

Q: What is your top idea for boosting the city’s economy?

A: The path to economic success is a safe, and crime-free city! The steps: 1) stop drug sales, vandalism, theft and violent crime; 2) create addiction/mental treatment centers; 3) increased drug courts, and community service sentencing.

Q: What can the city do to keep — and attract — more young people?

A: Stop crime/create a safe environment to do business. Also, give tax incentives for long-term companies to stay and new companies to come to Albuquerque! Incentivize local recruitment from New Mexico universities.

Q: What, if any, changes would you like to see to the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance?

A: The IDO must align with pre-existing sector plans. I recommend a major review, simplification, and alignment with neighborhood plans. Also, mandatory resident/business input with sign notification on site for on any neighborhood development going forward.

Q: What is the greatest infrastructure need the city faces and how would you fund its resolution?

A: Maintenance of sidewalks, bike paths, streets and street lighting are the four top needs. Funding should be covered with existing taxes by ending frivolous spending on PR campaigns, and Civic Center slides!

Q: Under what circumstances, if any, would you support a tax increase?

A: None. The Mayor promised no new taxes. I recommend an audit on executive spending and moratorium on raises to top employees and campaign funding while we have a major crime issues, and failing infrastructure!

Q: Would you support a tax increase to build a soccer stadium in Albuquerque?

A: No. It’s best done with private funding once the team, and revenue stream is better established, and the Sunport Road extension is complete. I fully support and congratulate NM United for their outstanding accomplishments!

Q: What has been Mayor Tim Keller’s best move so far and what do you think has been his administration’s biggest misstep?

A: Tabling bus transfer station in North Valley. Lack of knowledgeable staff or long-term plan to stop crime, and solve the homeless influx to improve quality of life issues and business success in Albuquerque.

Q: What one issue would you like to focus on as a councilor the next four years?

A: Creating a solution to homelessness and associated drug and mental health issues and crime. This issue will be the #1 tipping point to Albuquerque improving and flourishing or collapsing as Portland, Ore., has.

Q: Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

A: No.

Q: Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: No.

 

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