Today, the Journal announces its endorsements for the one contested race for the Bernalillo County Commission as well as for local bond elections. For more information, including previously published endorsements, candidate Q&As, district maps and news stories as they are published, go to the Albuquerque Journal’s 2020 election guide at ABQJournal.com/election2020.
County Commissioner, District 4
Republican, George “Walt” Benson
Benson, like too many other Bernalillo County residents, knows what it’s like to be a victim of crime. The business executive and small business owner says two of his high-school-age employees were robbed at one of his ice cream shops – the tip jar and one of the employee’s cars was stolen, then recovered with drug paraphernalia in it – and several thousands of dollars of product were lost when thieves broke into the electrical box and stole copper at his other store.
And so Benson understands when voters say crime is their top concern. He understands the impact crime has on the local economy and has committed to working with the sheriff’s department to formulate a budget and training regimen sufficient to fight crime, ensuring, for example, that more than one deputy is trained in investigative fingerprinting.
Benson opposes the county’s current policy that prohibits jail staff from providing information to immigration authorities, which he says creates a large loophole for criminals. “The more law enforcement agencies are allowed to communicate with each other, the more efficient and effective they will be at combating crime,” he said in his Journal Q&A.
Benson says jobs and infrastructure improvements are his other top priorities and that creating jobs will help reduce crime. “People aren’t breaking into stores on the way to work,” he told the Journal.
Benson’s conservative voice on crime and his business perspective will be needed on the commission after its lone Republican, District 4’s Lonnie Talbert, leaves office at the end of the year due to term limits. Benson is the only Republican running for the three county commission seats on the ballot – Districts 2 and 3 are uncontested and will go to the Democrat by default – and his election is needed to keep some political balance on the Democrat-dominated commission.
He faces Democrat Wende Schwingendorf to represent the northern district of Bernalillo County, from the Sandia Mountains to the West Side.
Bernalillo County bonds – For all six
Bernalillo County voters will decide six bonds totaling $40.35 million for community improvement projects. The bonds are job-creators, estimated to support 191 direct and indirect construction jobs, generating $20 million of direct and indirect salaries for area workers, in addition to providing needed long-term infrastructure improvements.
Bond approvals would not result in tax increases, although property taxes would theoretically go down over time if they are defeated. However, their approval would also guarantee an additional $6.55 million in federal matching funds for road construction, storm drainage and utility projects.
County Bond 1 would provide $2.05 million for library books and materials for the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Library system. All library branches would benefit and the bond includes funding to construct a library in the International District.
County Bond 2 would fund $13.45 million of upgrades to county buildings and vehicle fleets, including $4.65 million to ensure ADA compliance at county buildings, an expansion of the animal care facility, a photovoltaic array for Tiny Home Village and renovations to Fire Station 36. The bond would also provide $2 million to replace sheriff’s department and other county vehicles and heavy equipment, $800,000 to construct a parking lot at the former Downtown jail site, $550,000 for a South Valley Economic Development Center food hub, and, unfortunately, $500,000 for road improvements at the ill-conceived West Central/Route 66 Visitors Center.
County Bond 3 would fund $16.8 million of improvements to parks, community centers, aquatic facilities, ball fields and a new aquatics center in the North Valley.
County Bond 4 would provide $4.3 million for road repairs and non-motor vehicle pathways, with $4.3 million in federal and state matching funds.
County Bond 5 would provide $2.25 million for flood damage reduction and storm drainage projects, sewer infrastructure and fiber optic installation. Planned projects include the Alameda Drain Trail, Bridge Boulevard reconstruction, and Rio Bravo, Isleta, Sunset and Sunport boulevards.
County Bond 6 would provide $1 million for the proposed Gateway Center homeless facility and $500,000 for security measures and improvements at the El Centro Senior Housing.
AMAFCA Bond – For
The Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority has a $25 million bond on the ballot for regional infrastructure improvements. While projects like the North Diversion Channel and Ladera Dam are by no means glamorous, the facilities hidden in plain sight are nevertheless essential to flood control.
AMAFCA’s 2020 project schedule includes construction of the Hubbell Dam Expansion, the Ladera Dam 5 Diversion, Black Mesa Storm Drain Phase V, and D5 Dam. Also included are a continuation of master-planning efforts, such as the Alameda Drain Hydraulic Study, North Valley Drainage Management Plan, North Camino Arroyo Drainage Management Plan, and the Karsten Area Restudy.
AMAFCA’s project schedules are developed with the city of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, New Mexico Department of Transportation, University of New Mexico, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pueblo of Sandia, and the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.
Although the Albuquerque metropolitan area only receives about 9.5 inches of rain per year, the resulting runoff carries large amounts of sediment, trash and debris with it. AMAFCA is responsible for flood control and the installation of facilities that improve the quality of storm water prior to it entering the Rio Grande. As with the county bonds, this will generate jobs, boost economic activity and continue to invest in our critical public facilities.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.