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District 8 council race: Analyst vs. incumbent

A three-term incumbent who calls herself a “voice of fiscal responsibility” in local government and a political newcomer challenging the status quo are squaring off for the District 8 seat on the Albuquerque City Council.

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Albuquerque City Councilor Trudy Jones

Trudy Jones, a former commercial real estate broker who has represented the far Northeast Heights district since 2007, is facing her first challenger in eight years in Maurreen Skowran. Skowran, a data analyst with University of New Mexico Geospatial and Population Studies, is seeking public office for the first time.

Jones and Skowran come to the race with some similar objectives — like improving public safety — but with decidedly different perspectives.

Jones, a Republican, says the city could reduce crime by “eliminating the sanctuary city policy” for undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes. Skowran, a Democrat, supports a new public health policy that would use peer supporters to help those with the “highest risk of behaving violently” as they pursue education, addiction treatment and employment.

“Crime is really out of control, and I think we need some new solutions,” Skowran said, adding the “Cure Violence” model she proposes has shown success in other cities around the U.S. and could attract grant funding.

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Albuquerque City Council District 8 candidate Maurreen Skowran

The city has been boosting budgets for police and fire, in part because of a 2018 gross receipts tax increase co-sponsored by Jones, approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Tim Keller.

Jones voted to require that at least 60% of the tax increase revenue go to public safety, but now says she would prefer even stricter guidelines because she is uncomfortable with how some proceeds are spent. She declined to provide specifics, but Jones has at times publicly clashed with Keller’s administration and accuses the Democratic mayor of reckless spending.

Map of Albuquerque City Council District 8

“I ran for office the first time to make the city better, and one of the number one things you have to do to make the city better is use the taxpayers’ money wisely,” said Jones, who specifically cites as problematic a council-approved $250,000 appropriation earlier this year to support asylum seekers coming through Albuquerque.

“I am as empathetic as anyone for people in need, but our tax money should go to support our citizens and our needy first,” she said.

Skowran, however, said she does not object to the $250,000 allocation. She said it made more sense than not offering help and potentially leaving the migrants — who were at the time being dropped off in Albuquerque by federal officials — to fend for themselves on the Albuquerque streets.

Having spent 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps and now working as a data analyst, Skowran said she thinks she would bring a different type of leadership and thinking to the council.

“I think I’d take an analytical approach and research issues,” she said. “I wouldn’t necessarily take the first thing that comes to mind or sounds good.”


District 8 City Council candidate bios, questionnaires

Trudy Jones

POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

AGE: 70

EDUCATION: High school diploma

OCCUPATION: City councilor; previously worked in commercial real estate (1980-2010)

FAMILY: Husband, John M. Henderson III, two daughters

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: City councilor since 2007

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Being elected to the council after a career as a local business leader. I am proud of my record supporting police and fire, improving our quality of life and standing up for fiscal responsibility.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Marriage to my husband John and helping raise his two daughters, and giving back to this city, which has made so much possible for me.

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

We must get at the root of the problem by dealing with issues such as drug addiction, lack of education and job training. I sponsored the Pedestrian Safety Ordinance to help eliminate dangerous pedestrian/vehicle situations.

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

I am the only candidate in this race who supports eliminating the Sanctuary City policy for illegal immigrants who have committed crimes. The Council must also provide APD with all the tools they need to be successful in the field.

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?

I am opposed to this massive government regulation that would force local, small businesses out of business and make it more difficult to attract companies from outside New Mexico to locate here.

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

We must create a more business-friendly environment with less red tape and low taxes. Albuquerque must be competitive with other cities, or companies will simply move to more business-friendly locations, which is happening now.

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

We all want our children and grandchildren to stay in New Mexico to raise their families. That requires more career opportunities and a higher quality of life — better jobs and less crime.

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

This ordinance is designed to be fluid and responsive to the needs of citizens. I support the current structure, where it is reviewed annually and changes are driven by citizens, neighborhood associations and small businesses.

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

I believe our greatest infrastructure need is maintaining our roads and streets. We need to expand our busy major roads and repair and repave our neighborhood streets.

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

I do not believe there is any need for a tax increase.

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

I would oppose a tax increase to build a soccer stadium.

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

I support Mayor Keller’s selection of Chief Mike Geier to lead APD and for the willingness to work with City Council to provide funding and increase benefits for police. … Mayor Keller’s biggest misstep has been reckless spending.

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

Public safety is the top issue. We must protect our neighborhoods from crime, rather than protecting criminals from consequences. That means hiring more police and standing behind them. I’m honored to have the endorsement of the Albuquerque Police Officers.

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

No.

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

No.

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?

No.


 

Maurreen Skowran

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 56

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of New Mexico (2017); Associate degree in geographic information technology from Central New Mexico Community College (2013)

OCCUPATION: Data analyst with University of New Mexico Geospatial and Population Studies since 2016; previously a student technical specialist/student GIS technician; copy editor at the Albuquerque Journal (2009-14)

FAMILY: Wife, Sandra Nemeth

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: U.S. Marine Corps (1980-92). Served in presidential helicopter squadron.

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Investigated fatal methadone overdoses in North Carolina, exposing its dangers in treating pain and addiction. The drug’s low cost had increased its use as a painkiller, although it wasn’t well understood or well monitored.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Moved to Albuquerque to help my father — an Air Force veteran — successfully overcome lung cancer. His renewed health (and encouragement) spurred me to get a college degree and begin a new chapter in my life.

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

Building a campus with a shelter and services on site is a good beginning but doesn’t address a major source of homelessness. I would propose affordable housing set-asides for hard-working families who are at risk.

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

Stemming the source of crime, with a program like the Cure Violence public health model, which has succeeded in a number of cities. It uses conflict mediation and help with employment, education and drug treatment.

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?

I support five days of annual sick leave after 90 days of employment, pro-rated for part-time employees. I am open to phasing this in over a couple of years, as the county ordinance specifies.

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

Reviewing local small business programs and incubators for effectiveness in growing the economy, supporting programs with a record of success, and providing tactical incentives for growth that have been proven to work in other cities.

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

Create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in growing industries, maintain affordable housing, expand pre-K programs, improve K -12 public education, further develop parks, and create pockets of local businesses that appeal to younger people.

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

The IDO did a good job of updating land-use regulations. I don’t foresee immediate major changes. Requirements to update the IDO annually and analyze community planning areas every five years will help us keep current.

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

Maintaining existing infrastructure so that the city does not fall behind and incur more-costly repairs is my immediate concern. I would ask for a proactive maintenance schedule, building those costs into the budget now.

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

Albuquerque is poised for growth. A tax increase would not only dampen that potential, but put a disproportionate burden on those in lower income brackets. I prefer to increase tax revenues through economic growth.

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

I don’t support subsidizing sports arenas. Subsidies are highly likely to provide more profits to the team owners, but they aren’t guaranteed to provide enough economic benefits to cover the cost to the taxpayer.

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

Increasing public safety staffing, including police officers and support personnel, is the mayor’s best move. However, the increase in salary for top-level city officials without an equal concern for rank-and-file city workers is a misstep.

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

Reducing crime in District 8: analyzing where and when crime occurs, ensuring the district is staffed with enough officers, and assessing whether measures such as better lighting would reduce crime in some areas.

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

No.

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

No.

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?

No.


Nov. 5 ballot

• 3 APS School Board seats

• 3 CNM board seats

• $84 million general obligation bonds for CNM

• $190 million mill levy for APS

• $100 million general obligation bonds for APS

• $128.5 million in general obligation bonds for the city of Albuquerque

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