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District 4 council candidates have different approaches to city policy

Brook Bassan

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Voters in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights still don’t know what happens after Winter is gone – Brad Winter, that is.

The race to succeed the five-term District 4 Albuquerque city councilor remains unsettled as none of the three candidates vying for the job received the requisite 50% of votes to win the seat outright during the Regular Local Election earlier this month.

But the top two finishers now bound for a Dec. 10 runoff – Brook Bassan and Ane C. Romero – each see the Nov. 5 results as promising for their candidacies.

Ane C. Romero

Bassan, the lone Republican in the race, led the field with 49% of the vote. She said that showed “I have the majority of the support out there by a significant amount.” Romero, meanwhile, said she was pleased to have received 42% of the vote. She and fellow Democrat Athena Christodoulou – who did not qualify for the runoff – combined to win a little more than half the district’s vote.

“Historically, it’s been a conservative district, and I feel like the results of the election really showed it’s a shifting district,” she said.

Winter, one of just three Republicans on the nine-member City Council, is retiring at the end of 2019 after 20 years representing a district that stretches north from Montgomery NE and includes much of the area between Eubank to the east and the Village of Los Ranchos to the west.

He has endorsed Bassan, a 39-year-old mother of four and self-described “household CEO.”

Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, has backed Romero, 38, who works as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s deputy legislative director.

The candidates come to the race with different views on many issues, from whether the city should require businesses to offer paid sick leave (Bassan opposes a mandate; Romero supports it) to how they would address crime.

Bassan said the city could combat the violent crime problem by setting a new tone when it comes to lesser offenses. The city’s McClendon settlement agreement discourages the Albuquerque Police Department from arresting for certain nonviolent misdemeanors, but Bassan said that lets “criminals know they’re in charge.”

She said the city needs to embrace assistance from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and others like the New Mexico State Police who do not follow such agreements.

Romero, however, says devoting resources to combating minor offenses is not the best option and that police should put the most energy behind apprehending violent and repeat offenders.

She says reducing crime requires “broader vision,” and she is advocating for preventive programming at the youth level, as well as policies that address mental health and drug addiction.

The candidates’ opposing views on immigration policy have also become an issue in the race.

The City Council last year approved a resolution strengthening the city’s “immigrant-friendly” status, prohibiting the city from asking about anyone’s citizenship or using city resources to aid in enforcement of federal immigration law. It passed on party lines, 6-3, with all three Republicans opposed. Keller subsequently signed it.

Bassan’s campaign ads criticize “sanctuary city” policies. Bassan said she wants local authorities to collaborate with federal immigration authorities, checking the citizenship of those they arrest for other crimes and reporting those who are undocumented to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“I believe before anyone is released from jail, a thorough background check, including status of citizenship, should be conducted to discover if they are wanted by any other law enforcement agency or here illegally. This should not be limited to only those who have been convicted of a crime,” she told the Journal.

Bernalillo County, not the city, operates the local jail and county officials have similarly voted to not ask about citizenship status. But Bassan said that the city used to allow ICE into its Prisoner Transport Center to screen people but that current policy prevents “this common-sense procedure.”

Romero said she supports the city’s immigrant-friendly resolution, calling it a “matter of public safety.”

Local officers “are not federal immigration officers – and should focus on fighting crime,” she told the Journal. “When immigrants believe our local police are de facto immigration officers, they will not go to them in cases of emergencies, report crimes they have been witness to or victims of. When immigrants are scared to go to the police and report crimes, that means criminals roam free and we are all less safe and at risk. Anyone who commits a crime must be held accountable – regardless of a person’s country of origin – and that’s always been the case.”

Bassan and Romero have criticized each other throughout the campaign. Romero has repeatedly highlighted Bassan’s history of changing political parties – most recently changing from Democrat to Republican while seeking support to publicly finance her City Council campaign earlier this year – while Bassan questioned whether Romero was running for office while on work time.

Romero, who said she would have to leave her job with Lujan Grisham if elected, said she has taken unpaid leave for campaigning.

Bassan, meanwhile, said she has changed political parties so she could vote in closed primaries.


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.


 

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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