Q&A: Senate District 21 Candidate Athena Ann Christodoulou
- NAME: Athena Ann Christodoulou
- POLITICAL PARTY: Democratic
- OCCUPATION: Technology Entrepreneur
- CITY OF RESIDENCE: Albuquerque
- RELEVANT EXPERIENCE: Small business owner; clean energy advocate with the NM Solar Energy Association
- EDUCATION: Professional Science Masters (UNM, 2012); MS Environmental Engineer (UCF,1994); BS Civil Engineer (NCSU, 1983)
- CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: athenaForNM.org
What steps should the Legislature take to ensure New Mexico has a balanced budget amid falling oil prices and an economic downturn prompted by the coronavirus outbreak?
Each area of spending needs to be reviewed to determine where decreases are appropriate. Across the board cuts are irresponsible. Simultaneously, new funding sources need to be found without raising taxes on the poor or middle class. Cooperation among state, federal, county, and local governments is essential.
What more, if anything, should the Legislature do to address a court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students?
Children are our future. Let’s ensure good education and care begins early. This means engaging the parents right after a child’s birth, providing universal preschool, and creating a robust public education system focused on the basics and STEAM. Teachers, parents, and students need to be included in the decision-making processes.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its gross receipts tax code?
The NM GRT might need a major overhaul or replaced altogether with a different state revenue system. We will have new leadership in the Senate Finances committee next year. We need to end many loopholes, as well as double and triple taxation to ensure NM’s tax system is more equitable.
Do you support or oppose legalizing recreational marijuana use in New Mexico and taxing its sales?
Legalizing marijuana for recreational use for “economic reasons” raises many other issues. With so much alcohol abuse in our state already, I would take a clear and honest look at Colorado’s experiences before considering. Unless the country legalizes it, our current situation, approved for medical use, seems to be working.
Do you believe changes should be made to the emergency powers held by a governor during a pandemic or other time of crisis. If so, do you believe such powers should be expanded or reduced and in what specific ways?
No, our governor did an excellent job creating private-public coalitions, a universal COVID-19 healthcare system, and evidenced-based mandates. When everyone followed the mandates, shared, donated, and contributed across racial, ethnic, political and socio-economic boundaries we, New Mexicans, met and defeated an insidious enemy virus. NM became an island of hope.
Do you support or oppose repealing a long-dormant 1969 state law that outlaws abortion, except in limited circumstances?
Having had two miscarriages, the word, “abortion,” saddens me. I see it often used as a trigger to distract from more pressing issues. Even though it is personal and requires great thought and prayer to decide, we should at least match the federal laws on this matter.
Do you support or oppose enacting a new state law that would allow police officers and other public officials to be sued individually by abolishing the defense of qualified immunity?
Our leaders and public defenders need to be held to the same letter of the law as the citizens they are here to protect and serve. Once the line is crossed, where will it stop? Lawlessness, oligarchy, and rule by force. Do we have legislator immunity in the Constitution?
In recent years, New Mexico has steadily increased spending on early childhood programs, such as home visiting, prekindergarten and child care assistance, and created a new early childhood trust fund. Do you support or oppose a constitutional amendment that would withdraw more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to increase funding for early childhood services?
I support an amendment to permit use of Land Grant Funds for early childhood services. Our lands, children’s health, and future were sacrificed to build that fund. It should be used for the future. The future is our children and a clean energy economy. Invest with the end in mind.
What changes, if any, should New Mexico make to its election laws and primary system? Do you support or oppose opening the state’s primary elections to voters who aren’t affiliated with either major political party?
Our current election laws and primary system work, but our Secretary of State is in a better position to make recommendations. As to opening up the primaries, I would rather see ranked choice voting in the general election.
Would you support a merit-based evaluation system to determine how the state spends its capital outlay funding? Should each legislator be required to disclose which projects he or she funded?
Yes, and yes.
New Mexico is highly reliant on the oil and natural gas industries to generate revenue to fund state programs, as evidenced by recent oil boom and bust cycles. What steps should the state take to diversify its economy and revenue base?
Would you support or oppose a moratorium on fracking? And should the state impose additional renewable energy mandates as a way to address climate change concerns?
This issue is complicated since it significantly impacts NM’s economy. However, considering the poor financial, worker safety, and environmental conditions surrounding the current fracking industry, a “pause and reflect” is highly appropriate. Let’s work on reducing fossil fuel emissions from transportation and heating, as well, for a big impact.
What steps should the Legislature take to address crime and improve public safety?
A combination of funding and responsibility. Our state, county, and local law enforcement departments need to be fully funded, including collaborative technology. And they must also be accountable. Better training, more community policing and stringent oversight will increase public safety and benefit residents and law enforcement officers.
Do you support or oppose the public’s right to inspect footage taken by cameras worn by law enforcement officers? Under what circumstances, if any, should police video be withheld from the public?
We need to consult our judicial arm here. Trial lawyers, judges, and DAs would understand the ramifications better. At minimum, restrictions should apply where minors are involved, the identity of a sexual assault victim would be revealed, and if it puts witnesses at risk of reprisal.
Members of New Mexico’s business community contend some state laws and regulations need changing so the state can better compete with Texas and Arizona when it comes to attracting companies. What steps do you believe should be taken to improve New Mexico’s economic competitiveness?
As a small business owner, I can relate. Businesses stay for various reasons, including a ready workforce, good schools, safe neighborhoods, good health care, and balanced lifestyle. NM needs to improve its infrastructure, including roads and broadband, its government processes, and the collaboration among these stakeholders, especially labor and business owners.
1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?
2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?
3. 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? If so, explain.