Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Editor’s note: Today the Journal continues its election coverage with a look at candidates in the crowded District 7 City Council race.
Voters in Albuquerque City Council District 7 face a choice of six diverse candidates this year to succeed Diane Gibson, who announced in April that she would not seek a third term.
Gibson won her first term in a runoff in 2013 and then cruised to reelection in 2017.
District 7 is a rectangular district in the near Northeast Heights bounded between Interstate 25 and Eubank and by Montgomery and Lomas.
A candidate must win 50% or more of the vote to win the Nov. 2 election. If no candidate wins outright, the two top vote-getters will face off in a Dec. 7 runoff.
Emilie De Angelis
De Angelis, 46, is an Albuquerque native who has devoted her 25-year career fundraising for art, culture and education nonprofits. She founded Sarafina Consulting in 2016 as a fundraising consultant for nonprofits in New Mexico and nationally. Previously, she lived in Chicago for 18 years where she raised money for cultural organizations including the Art Institute of Chicago and Steppenwolf Theater Company.
De Angelis said she was motivated to act when her son began doing lockdown drills at school, prompting her to lead a state chapter of Moms Demand Action, an advocacy group that helped win passage of two New Mexico gun control laws.
“As part of my Moms Demand Action work, I learned a lot of nonlegislative things that work, particularly in urban environments, to reduce all forms of violence,” she said.
Cities can take measures to prevent retaliatory violence, either in the emergency room or on the street, De Angelis said. She also favors increased funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, affordable housing and other social programs as a means to reduce homelessness and curb violence.
A Grants native, Fiebelkorn, 51, has lived in District 7 for 20 years and owns eSolved Inc., an environmental and business consulting firm.
An environmental economist, Fiebelkorn has worked with the City of Albuquerque on a variety of energy-conservation projects, including retrofitting homes in low-income neighborhoods and updating the city’s Energy Conservation Code to improve energy efficiency for new buildings.
She also works with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, a nonprofit that develops positions in consultation with the city and other stakeholders on energy and transportation cases before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission.
Fiebelkorn said she has worked with the City Council on a variety of projects and believes she can accomplish more as a member.
“I have seen how the City Council works,” she said. “I know how impactful projects can be. As a city councilor, I think we can really push the envelope on progressive policies that really help the people of Albuquerque.”
Fiebelkorn also founded Positive Links, a nonprofit that educates first responders and the public about the connection between animal abuse and human violence.
“We know that 76% of the time, if someone is abusing an animal, they are also abusing a child or a partner or an elder in their home,” she said.
Kellerman, 37, is a co-founder of Lavu Inc., an iPad point-of-sale company, and other Albuquerque-based technology companies. He cites lack of opportunity and affordable housing as the chief problems facing the city.
“I really feel an inclusive economy is the foundation of what makes us ready for the future in Albuquerque and makes it possible to have an equal recovery, or at least start to reduce some the inequality and poverty in the city.”
Kellerman also is co-founder and chief operating officer of Uteeni, an online business and services directory based in Southeast Asia. Most recently, he co-founded Quotient Labs, an Albuquerque based data analytics firm.
Kellerman said he wants to bring his background in data science into city government. Data collection can improve decision making in areas such as homelessness, public safety and economic development, he said.
“I believe in using data to track what is working and what is not,” he said. “It also shows us, if we set a specific goal, are we moving the numbers toward that goal.”
Too many people in Albuquerque have been priced out of the housing market, he said. Out-of-state buyers should be required to pay into an “impact fund” to help local buyers.
A retired civil-rights attorney, Montoya, 63, devoted his legal career in the 1980s and 1990s to the service of people with HIV-AIDS. An HIV-positive man himself, Montoya started a legal program at the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C. and the HIV Legal Clinic at the District of Columbia School of Law.
Today, Montoya is the co-owner of two Albuquerque-based real estate management companies, ABQSEA Partners LLC and Barbary Lane. He also co-owns Madness Motors, a classic vehicle restoration shop.
He returned to his native Albuquerque 12 years ago and found his hometown had grown into a city “with some big city problems,” he said.
“I want to do my best to help the city I love be the best it can be,” Montoya said. “That means lowering crime rates. That means helping the unsheltered. That means making this a very livable, walkable, sustainable city.”
The City Council needs to increase funding for the Community Safety Department, allowing police to hand off nonviolent offenders to social workers, freeing up police officers to handle priority calls, he said.
Montoya also wants to make the Gateway Center a full-service facility for homeless people and “a model for other centers around the city.”
Robertson, 48, is a real estate agent and lifelong resident of District 7. Her career has focused on commercial real estate since 2011 when she joined Colliers International, a commercial real estate firm.
Robertson said she was motivated to run for City Council by the experiences of her family.
“I see my grown children who are raising children in District 7 wanting to move away because they don’t want to raise children in this city,” she said. “So I’m trying to stand up for our families and make a better Albuquerque.”
A former president and founder of the nonprofit Sandia High School Football Boosters, Robertson said reducing crime and improving education is the key to improving Albuquerque’s economy.
Robertson said she wants to see an “exit strategy” for the U.S. Department of Justice settlement agreement and believes that the Albuquerque Police Department has corrected its problems.
“We need to keep our eyes open for the bad eggs, but we need to move forward in a positive direction by supporting our police officers, not knocking them down,” she said.
Longtime community activist Valdez, 70, said the two major problems facing the city are police reform and homelessness. As executive director of Vecinos United, a community activist group, Valdez said he has 30 years experience working for effective civilian police oversight.
The city’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency board, formed in 2014, has struggled to exercise authority over the Albuquerque Police Department, Valdez said. He doesn’t believe other candidates in the race are equipped to tackle the problem.
“It takes somebody with experience to know where it’s broken, and then you can fix it,” Valdez said. The city’s settlement agreement with the Department of Justice should remain in place until real reforms are enacted, he said.
The city also has a “moral obligation” to provide permanent housing for people who are chronically homeless either because of mental or physical disabilities, and cannot work, he said.
For homeless people who can work, the city should provide affordable housing and charge rent based on a sliding scale according to the resident’s income.