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Fellow Democrat challenging incumbent city councilor in District 6

One of Albuquerque’s most liberal elected officials is facing opposition in his bid to stay on the City Council, and the challenge is not coming from the right.

Pat Davis

First-term District 6 Councilor Pat Davis is facing fellow Democrat Gina Naomi Dennis in the race to represent an area that includes Nob Hill and the International District.

Davis, a police officer turned activist, and Dennis, a lawyer and community organizer, both support paid sick leave for workers. Davis has proposed legislation requiring it.

In a city struggling with crime and homelessness, both say it makes sense to offer services such as counseling directly in parks where homeless people are already congregating.

Dennis said her decision to run for City Council was significantly influenced by the “failures” of Albuquerque Rapid Transit. The transportation project — which has yet to begin service — reconfigured Central Avenue, changed traffic patterns and has been blamed for hurting businesses along the route.

Gina Naomi Dennis

Dennis, a onetime intern for former President Bill Clinton who previously practiced law in Washington, D.C., said the city should pursue financial relief from the federal government because it provided much of the ART funding. Her objectives include getting Small Business Administration money to “restore and re-incubate” small businesses, potentially moving the bus lanes from the middle to the side of the road, and finding a new use for the existing stations.

“This is definitely not a gutting,” said Dennis, who said she ultimately wants to see ART running. “It’s simply a way of making things more feasible, so you can turn left again and will put the bus lanes where they should be so that it’s safer.”

Davis — who joined the council months after it approved sending Mayor Richard Berry’s ART proposal to the Federal Transit Administration — said he has already taken several steps to protect the corridor.

Davis said he passed legislation in 2017 to put $500,000 of his district money toward changes, but the previous administration did not follow through.

“But at least in Nob Hill, I’ve lived up to the promise by bringing back the 30 deleted parking spaces, widening sidewalks that were promised but never done, and now bringing back the crosswalk,” Davis said, adding that he’s worked to fix issues related to ART “piece by piece.”

He said he thinks the council should have been more involved early in the ART process. In fact, he said, the council should play a more prominent role overall.

“I want to see the City Council be more proactive and more engaging in the issues of the city,” said Davis, who has sponsored or co-sponsored some of the most talked-about legislation tackled by the council.

That includes the plastic bag ban and a $250,000 allocation to aid asylum-seekers, both of which passed this year. He more recently introduced three gun-related bills, including one that would prohibit guns at City Hall and other city properties and one that requires gun owners to keep firearms locked up and secured when unattended.

Albuquerque City Council District 6

“My voters not only allow me to do that, but they kind of expect me to be on the lead of (progressive issues),” Davis said, describing District 6 as the most progressive in the city.

Dennis, who moved to Albuquerque four years ago to practice tribal law, said she has immersed herself in the District 6 community and gathered public input on the area’s challenges and goals. She is not currently employed as an attorney, saying she has since January focused full-time on community activism and her campaign, and would be a full-time city councilor if elected.

“The most extraordinary experience I have ever had was doing the volunteer work, 20 to 25 hours a week as the president of the coalition of neighborhood associations,” she said of her recent two-year stint as District 6 Coalition president. “That’s because I was able to use all of my education and all of my work experience within a community-based level.”


District 6 City Council candidate bios, questionnaires

Pat Davis

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 41

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in criminal justice from New Mexico State University (2009); certificate in criminal justice education from the FBI National Academy/University of Virginia (2006); bachelor’s degree in political science from Berry College (2000)

OCCUPATION: City councilor since 2015; formerly executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico (2011-2015); special programs officer with the Office of the District Attorney (2009-2011); police lieutenant with the University of New Mexico (2005-2009)

FAMILY: Partner, Christopher

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: City Councilor since 2015; chair of Governor’s Marijuana Legalization Work Group since 2019; member of the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (2016-2018)

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: As a progressive activist coming to Council, some feared I couldn’t work with opponents to accomplish our agenda. I’m proud to have led my colleagues making us immigrant friendly, a solar leader, and smarter on policing.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: Growing up gay during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I was scared to be me. Now, as one of New Mexico’s few openly gay electeds, I get to help other LGBTQ youth see their own opportunity.

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

A: Last year, we spent $8M to house more than 800 homeless. Next: Fund outreach services on par with APD so we decriminalize homelessness and provide services in our parks and neighborhoods instead of just Downtown.

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

A: Albuquerque should take the lead on gun violence, targeting repeat offenders quickly with new detectives to follow up on shootings and gun thefts, while also passing gun laws to prevent gun violence in public places.

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: Everyone gets sick and some need to care for parents or children. That’s why I introduced legislation providing sick leave to every worker. I hope a new council will pass a version of in 2020.

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

A: In our last budget, I fought other councilors’ efforts cutting the Mayor’s $1 million local job training program. We should help local companies grow from 5 to 10 employees and expand CNM job skill training.

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

A: Albuquerque added 3,600 millennials with degrees in the past few years, in part by investing in Downtown and Nob Hill, capitalizing on our strengths, affordability, new tech like scooters and events like SOMOs.

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

A: I’ve already proposed making liquor sales conditional, giving neighborhoods a voice in decisions. I also proposed electronic notices to neighborhoods and online plan reviews by the public to make our development transparent to residents.

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

A: With $400M in ADA sidewalk and street repairs, mostly in older neighborhoods like ours, I oppose sprawling new development. I helped add millions to our bond package for Southeast area streetlights, sidewalks and streets.

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

A: I supported the new 3/8th-cent tax, but only after passing my amendment requiring that 60% or more be used for public safety, so no future mayor could divert it for pet projects.

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

A: No. I sponsored the Mayor’s current sports tourism facility funding because it uses existing funds and public-private partnerships to create facilities without increasing 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: Best: Together, we’ve taken Councilor Benton and my 25% solar plan to 100% by 2030. Misstep: Early economic development fights with Council. Since then, we’ve worked together funding $1M for local business growth and scored Netflix, NBC.

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

A: We are on the right track, lowering crime and hiring 200 more officers, but must do more on homelessness. We should fund community-based homeless workers providing case management services in parks and streets, not just Downtown.

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: Yes. I pled guilty to DWI in 2013. It’s a big part of why I have worked so much to invest in treatment and diversion programs, helping others avoid repeating my mistakes.


 

Gina Naomi Dennis

POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 41

EDUCATION: Master of business administration from American University (2005); Juris doctor law degree from American University (2003); Bachelor’s degree from Spelman College (2000); studied Mandarin Chinese at the Kunming College of Eastern Language in China (2015); studied constitutional law in post-apartheid era at Rhodes University in South Africa (1998)

OCCUPATION: Attorney (federal regulatory law, tribal law) since 2004, most recently for Stetson Law Offices in Albuquerque; president of the District 6 Coalition (2017-present); community organizer (2015-2017); CEO/owner and green building specialist, LEED AP, with Relerience (2009-2017)

FAMILY: Single, no children. I love my family, my parents, my twin brother Gary, my brother Gregory, and my nieces Sidney and Genevieve.

POLITICAL/GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE: Represented seven tribal-Pueblo governments in New Mexico as an attorney (2017-2019); National Delegate from New Mexico for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, DNC (2016); trade mission to South Sudan Africa regarding a national renewable energy policy plan, met with the South Sudanese National Minister of Electricity, Dams, Irrigation, and Water Resources, the National Minister of Defense, and the South Sudanese Vice President’s Office, (2013); trade Mission to Brazil, collaborated with the U.S. Department of Commerce for LEED green building meetings (2011); represented the government of Cameroon as an attorney (2007-2008); White House intern for President Bill Clinton (1999)

MAJOR PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: When I was President of the District 6 Coalition of 17 Neighborhood Associations, we saved dozens of jobs at Whittier Elementary School and Hawthorne Elementary School by helping those two Albuquerque public schools stay open.

MAJOR PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT: I am a native English speaker and I also speak Mandarin-Chinese and Spanish.

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

A: Address the underlying issues of homelessness, which are addiction and mental health. Have a robust outreach and treatment model that addresses addiction and mental health, and gets people up and out of homelessness.

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

A: Eighty to 85% of crimes are committed while someone is high or trying to get high. Let’s reduce our opioid addiction rate so that we can reduce our crime rate.

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, an actual paid sick leave (which isn’t a tax) and will benefit both the families and the individuals. A healthy workforce is a better revenue model for our businesses.

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

A: Follow public input from our small businesses and residents by addressing the failures of ART, such as the many, many problems caused by ART and the over 100 businesses crushed by ART.

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

A: We have many young people; we need to do better by serving our young people with a good education and good jobs. Our young people will stay here if it’s a safe, healthy, thriving community.

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

A: The IDO blocks due process by removing neighborhood input. Let’s bring back the public input and empower our neighborhoods.

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

A: Get federal funding to address failures of ART, such as the over 100 businesses crushed by ART, excessive speeding and crashes on Lead, Coal, and Copper, and non-ADA compliant infrastructure and sidewalks.

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

A: It depends on the situation, our City budget, and the public input that we receive from our constituents.

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

A: We love soccer; however, we’re in the water right now because of the failed ART project and the high crime.

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: created an Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Biggest misstep: neglecting our ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) disability issues related to infrastructure and sidewalks.

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

A: A safe, healthy, thriving community:

-Community Safety: Address addiction and homelessness.

-Get federal funding to address harm from the failed ART project and adjust the flawed design, and federal funding to bring our businesses 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.

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