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Three candidates running to succeed Brad Winter in District 4

For the first time in 20 years, District 4 in Northeast Albuquerque will have a new representative on the City Council.

Brad Winter — elected by the district on five occasions — is stepping aside at the end of the year, and three candidates are angling to succeed him.

They include a longtime behavioral health advocate who now works in Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, Ane Romero; and two political newcomers: Brook Bassan, an Albuquerque native and PTA president, and retiree Athena Christodoulou, a U.S. Navy veteran.

Brook Bassan

Brook Bassan

Bassan is president of the parent teacher association at her kids’ elementary school and on the board of her neighborhood association — involvement she said got people asking her to think bigger.

The 39-year-old Albuquerque native and self-described “household CEO” said it was friends who suggested she run for City Council.

“I thought they were joking — then they came back several months later and said the same thing again with more friends,” she said.

Bassan credits her experience with smaller organizations for preparing her to sit on the council, saying she is used to representing a wide range of interests.

The reigning New Mexico “Mother of the Year” — a designation bestowed by American Mothers Inc. — Bassan said the city must keep expanding its youth programming and family-centric activities, and said crime is still a major concern in her district.

She favors a “proactive” approach to public safety, saying she wants police to enforce all laws, not just the big ones. Since federal settlements encourage the Albuquerque Police Department not to arrest for certain nonviolent misdemeanors, Bassan said she supports collaborations with other agencies, such as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police.

“I think the criminals are learning they could get away with a lot more, and things are escalating,” she said.

Though city races are nonpartisan, as Bassan was in May gathering signatures and contributions to support her public financing bid, she decided to change her political registration from Democrat to Republican.

“I thought it was going to be quite hypocritical for me to stay registered as a Democrat when really I have more conservative values,” she said.

Athena Ann Christodoulou

Athena Ann Christodoulou

Christodoulou, a 57-year-old retiree who was once an engineer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, has never run for public office but said she has felt increasingly compelled to get involved.

She cites the federal government’s 2018 report on the effects of climate change as the driving force in her fledgling political career.

“As a scientist and engineer, I know we need to act on climate crisis,” she said, adding that she is concerned about the federal government’s efforts in that regard. “I wanted to focus where I could actually make a difference, and that’s on the local level, which is where it needs to start and where it needs to happen.”

She said local government needs to “lead the way” through measures such as zoning mechanisms — she suggests requiring new apartment buildings to have outdoor outlets so people could charge electric vehicles — but also by increasing bus services, and working toward more bikeable and walkable streets.

A mother of three who has seen her sons leave Albuquerque for opportunities elsewhere, she said she is also interested in making the city more attractive to young people. That means doing what it can to improve education — she supports continued increases to after-school and summer programming — and making the city safer to better keep and recruit businesses. Christodoulou said she supports boosting the police service aide ranks and community policing efforts.

“I want to help the city keep the best and brightest,” she said.

Ane Romero

Ane Romero

Romero, 38, has spent her career working on behavioral health policy, something she attributes to losing a friend to suicide when she was 13.

“I made a commitment then that I was going to really work on this issue to address suicide,” said the northern New Mexico native.

In college at New Mexico Highlands University, Romero started a suicide prevention program. She went on to serve as a youth spokesperson for the National Crisis Hotline and worked on mental health-related legislation at the national level.

Following an unsuccessful bid for the New Mexico Legislature in 2016, Romero said she returned to drafting policy and now works as a deputy legislative director for Gov. Lujan Grisham.

Albuquerque City Council District 4

But she said she decided to run for City Council after the overdose death of a young man she had befriended outside a coffee shop, someone she said she saw “fall through the cracks” as he pursued treatment and housing.

“I decided to run because I feel like if we don’t have experts who are leading this work, we’re not going to see the change that needs to be made,” said Romero, who has also studied behavioral health initiatives in Italy and Spain, and said she wants to implement some of their policies.

She supports assessing those who are in jail or social services programs to determine what would best serve them — criminals should be in jail, she said, but others might benefit from diversion to other resources. She also wants workforce training in the jail, so “when people are released, they have adequate skills and a way to do a job.”


District 2 City Council candidate bios, questionnaires

Brook Bassan

POLITICAL PARTY: Republican

AGE: 39

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, ITT Technical Institute, 2007

OCCUPATION: Household CEO since 2008; Nor Este Neighborhood Association board member since 2017; North Star Parent Teacher Association president since 2018; NM Parent Teacher Association financial officer since 2019; intern with United States Probation & Parole (2006-2007); waitress at Season’s Rotisserie Grill 2005-2007.

FAMILY: Husband, Uri Bassan, and four children.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Intern with United States Probation & Parole (2006-2007).

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: It is a privilege to have Councilor (Brad) Winter’s endorsement after directly working with him and my neighbors to add traffic calming measures increasing pedestrian and cyclist safety on streets near our houses and elementary school.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am honored to represent all New Mexico mothers as the 2019 NM Mother of the Year awarded by American Mothers Inc. Duties include promoting awareness and advocating for all mothers in our state.

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

A: The city should build a new homeless shelter that doesn’t just warehouse people. It must be a full service, multidisciplinary health care facility that includes drug treatment, social services, and job training.

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

A: As the candidate endorsed by Albuquerque Police Officers Association, I will support strict enforcement of all laws. Criminals must know there will be consequences including jail time that is not a revolving door.

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. Small business mandates and regulations should be minimized as much as possible. The sick leave ordinance passed by the County has already resulted in a proposed amendment, indicating the bill was not thoroughly vetted. (Editor’s note: Amendments passed Oct. 15.)

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

A: Increasing consumer spending is key. We must aggressively use tax incentives to attract high paying jobs and expand our partnerships with UNM and CNM to ensure a trained labor force exists to staff those industries.

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

A: Access to after school programs, abundant sports activities, early childhood education and ensuring training and education for high paying, competitive jobs will entice people to move to our beautiful, diverse and safe city.

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

A: The IDO should be amended to tailor density consistent with the existing property sites and allow for more community input by establishing a quasi-judicial board comprised of both municipal department officials and public citizens.

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

A: Albuquerque streets suffer from lack of maintenance. Potholes and uneven roadway surfaces continually cause damage to our vehicles. Our municipal transportation budget should be spent on basic street repairs and improvements.

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

A: Taxes should never be increased unless approved by the voters. We must prioritize our current municipal budget on expenditures proven to reduce crime and increase quality of life.

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

A: Building a local soccer stadium will help Albuquerque develop economically and make us a world class city. If a tax increase is necessary, it should be approved by voters and not imposed by City Council.

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: Incrementally growing the size of APD and greater collaboration with State Police have been the mayor’s best achievements. His biggest mistake was raising the gross receipt tax after Candidate Keller promised he would not.

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

A: A meaningful reduction in Albuquerque’s crime epidemic will promote our city’s prosperity. We should utilize an all-of-the-above approach and implement proven harm reduction strategies to address the consequences of drug addiction and homelessness.

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.


 

Athena Ann Christodoulou

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 57

EDUCATION: Professional Science Master’s degree from the University of New Mexico (2012); Master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Central Florida (1994); Bachelor’s of civil engineering (1983).

OCCUPATION: Retired; Consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar in your Community Challenge (2017-18); Airbnb hostess (2013-2018); stay-at-home parent (1987-2016); Navy engineer (1982-2005); restaurateur (2004-2007)

FAMILY: Husband, Christos Christodoulou; three adult sons.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Albuquerque Energy Council chair (2017-2019); Consultant/coach for U.S. Department of Energy Solar in your Community Challenge (2017-18); Navy reserves engineer, retired commander (1982-2005).

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Attain and maintain engineering designator in Navy reserves: Had to achieve environmental engineering masters, passed oral boards covering ship design, construction, and systems, updated technical knowledge, and traveled nationally and internationally.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Led the winning team in the 2012 UNM technology business plan competition as a student at UNM despite cancer, relationship reconstruction, family obligations and an inability to speak. Accomplished through God’s grace and watchfulness.

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

A: More behavioral health outreach; more City-sponsored low-income housing for seniors; secure parking lots with bathroom facilities; a Habitat for Humanity-type home program; requirements for some rent-controlled units in larger apartment buildings.

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

A: Continue developing community policing and working on CASA. Establish police service aides citywide. Push the digital neighborhood watch (real-time crime center registration of private exterior surveillance cameras).

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: Amended: Extend the “new business exemption” to 24 months then ratchet up annual accrued hours at the same rate as implementation (24, 40, 56). Limit to employers with more than 50 employees.

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

A: Stop bagging and start bragging. We turn it on at Balloon Fiesta and events like the Senior games. Good feelings will inspire more investment and businesses. I love my adopted city!

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

A: Tech transfer is one of my expertises, but unless we begin truly rewarding excellence while still maintaining relationships, we will continue to have many stars born here, but probably not stay here.

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

A: It has many technical changes and amendments already underway, but ensuring the public has a say in their neighborhood development is key. It currently gives too much control to the DRB (Development Review Board) with little EPC (Environmental Planning Commission) oversight.

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

A: My district wants their promised public pool. A county/APS/GO bond collaboration could bring that to fruition within 4 years. In addition, make Central Avenue a free wi-fi zone to offset ART damage.

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

A: If it were needed to keep our citizens safe and we couldn’t find other ways to tighten our belts to release the necessary funds.

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

A: Soccer, by far, is the most beloved sport in this city. Somehow UNM and the city need to collaborate to support that love and the need for a pro-level sport.

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: Good: Focus on City unity and branding to help people feel good about ABQ. Misstep: Calling diesel or natural gas a “clean” fuel.

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

A: Our children’s future. We have an opportunity to respond to a critical environmental situation. I will develop a plan to create an atmosphere that fosters the right new tech and community to inspire Albuquerque stardom.

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 drunk driving, any misdemeanor or felony in New Mexico or any other state?

A: No.


 

Ane C. Romero

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 38

EDUCATION: Master’s Degree in Public Affairs (2011) and Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with Law Emphasis, Minor in English (2005), both from New Mexico Highlands University.

OCCUPATION: Deputy Legislative Director for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham since 2019; Policy director for Center Civic Policy (2017-2019); field representative for Sen. Martin Heinrich (2014-2016); senior legislative aide for Congressional Mental Health Caucus for U.S. Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (2007-2014).

FAMILY: husband, Ryan Force.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Member of the Northeast Community Policing Council since 2017; member of the University of New Mexico Masters in Public Policy Advisory Board (2019); member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Policy Council since 2017; board member for the Albuquerque Center for Hope and Recovery, since 2016; Bernalillo County Democrats Care chair (2017-2018); Traveled to Italy and Spain to meet with officials from the Departments of Mental Health (2013 and 2015); National Youth Advocate for Mental Health Parity (sponsored by Sen. Pete Domenici and Congressman Patrick Kennedy) (2005).

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Having led the work that established the formal designation of May as National Mental Health Awareness Month, declared under President Obama, and recognized across all 50 states in 2012.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Working directly with General Peter Chiarelli, 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, on efforts to address suicide rates among service members, which led to significant policy changes within the Department of Defense.

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

A: Start with a plan to eradicate homelessness among veterans, as other cities have done. Build the proposed 24/7 emergency shelter as a critical stop-gap where services are coordinated and permanent housing is the goal.

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

A: Invest in technology using data to identify criminal patterns and repeat offenders; improve lighting in neighborhoods, shopping centers; increase neighborhood watch programs; create a one-stop shop for substance abuse to reduce drug-related criminal behavior.

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 the county’s current ordinance as a starting point. Businesses need consistency in city and county requirements and law. There should be protections for workers who are sick to get earned time-off.

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

A: I support an increased investment in the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA). LEDA’s closing funds brought us Netflix, NBC Universal, and Advance Network Management, a high-wage informational technology company located in District 4.

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

A: Decrease crime, diversify our job market, better pay and job opportunities for wage growth, safer community to live and raise a family, and expand outdoor economy options.

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

A: Neighborhoods should be able to maintain their existing distance and density rules. More opportunities must be made to include community input. I will work with all involved to ensure these changes happen.

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

A: We need to prioritize our capital budget to address public safety. In regards to District 4 infrastructure needs, I would also focus continued investment at the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center.

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

A: I do not see a need to increase taxes. The city’s economy is headed in the right direction which will result in increased GRT, and the state is running large surpluses.

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

A: I won’t support a tax increase for a soccer stadium. However, I am supportive of the Mayor’s initiative to build a multi-sports complex through the process of refinancing existing bonds, which will not increase taxes.

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: Accomplishments: building up APD, adding more than 100 officers, and securing Netflix. Missteps: the administration’s lack of communication with neighborhoods regarding an idea for a spur line to reduce Balloon Fiesta traffic.

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

A: Crime. We must address the root causes of crime by expanding behavioral health and drug treatment services, increasing access to pre-K, and creating new jobs.

A: 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: In 2013, I was cited for speeding in Virginia. The citation was initially sent to the wrong address. Once the error was realized, I immediately paid the ticket and issue was resolved. (This was my first and only speeding ticket.)

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