Editorial: Journal picks for the ABQ City Council - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Journal picks for the ABQ City Council

Today the Journal Editorial Board continues its endorsements in the Nov. 2 municipal election with its picks for contested Albuquerque City Council seats.

This year odd-numbered seats are on the ballot. Klarissa Peña does not have a challenger for her District 3 seat, so that leaves voters in Districts 1, 5, 7 and 9 to decide who will join Peña and fellow Councilors Isaac Benton (2), Brook Bassan (4), Pat Davis (6) and Trudy Jones (8) to craft legislation, set budget priorities and provide a robust check and balance to the mayoral administration that moves our city forward in a smart way.

And in the estimation of Editorial Board members, that has not happened in recent years.

We believe our city is at a crossroads. Violent crime continues to rise, as does homelessness. Businesses are struggling and people, especially young people, are leaving. While the pandemic delivered a body blow to communities across our state, nation and world, we do not buy the excuse that things are this bad everywhere. For example, El Paso has recorded less than half of our 90 homicides this year.

Members of the Editorial Board interviewed every candidate who responded to our multiple invites to schedule an endorsement interview. We also factored in Journal reporters’ in-depth coverage of the races and the candidate’s Q&As to determine who we believe will help our city get on a positive trajectory.


Louie Sanchez

Sanchez was born and raised in District 1, roughly west of the river and bounded by Central on the south and Montaño on the north. He graduated from Lavaland Elementary, John Adams Middle and West Mesa High schools, and served 25 years on the Albuquerque Police Department force. He owns two Allstate Insurance offices, one that fronts on Central Avenue. His deep community ties and business investment in the district are reminiscent of the late Councilor Ken Sanchez, who represented District 1 for four terms and died unexpectedly in 2020.

Louie Sanchez is running against Lan Sena, who was appointed to the seat by Mayor Tim Keller when Ken Sanchez died.

Louie Sanchez says Job No. 1 is crime, and he would move to “get cops on streets” by expanding the police academy and lateral transfers, would conduct exit interviews to pinpoint why officers are leaving, demand someone pick up the phone at 911 (he sat on hold for 10 minutes as a woman was beaten outside his office, hanging up when she and the assailant left) and push the city to enforce laws “at the lowest level across the board” from criminal trespass to drug trafficking and prostitution. Serving 25 years in law enforcement gives him a valuable perspective to add to the council mix.

He says many don’t realize our homeless population is victimized by crime and the lack of enforcement, and he supports a Gateway Center as long as there are strict rules as well as resources to triage the unhouseds’ needs – otherwise few will utilize it.

Sanchez says we need an exit strategy to get out from under the Department of Justice settlement agreement, that we need to comply with constitutional policing but support our officers and not put them or the community in danger. He supports the proposed stadium as long as the soccer team has skin in the game and residents are not displaced.

Most importantly, Sanchez promises to be a check on mayoral power for his district and the city, to “call anyone out” and to effect positive change. “I could have gone anywhere. I chose home (and am) invested in the community.”


Dan Lewis

Dan Lewis served two terms on the council representing residents roughly west of the river from Montaño north to the city limits. He left to run for mayor against Tim Keller four years ago, and says he is ready to return to city government because he and his wife raised their two children here and for 25 years “the West Side (has been) our home. I can make it better. We need a strong voice or the West Side gets the short end of the stick.”

The current District 5 City Councilor is Cynthia Borrego, who is seeking reelection.

In his previous experience on the council, Lewis was an outspoken advocate for his constituents and often asked hard questions of the administration.

Lewis points to large infrastructure investments during his time on council including the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange rebuild, the Unser extension, West Side widening and the Albuquerque Sports Complex. He says he “loves to work on big projects” but you have to champion them to see them through. On his short list? The multigenerational center and pool planned for Cibola Loop that’s been “on the back-burner” for years.

Lewis is also focused on fighting crime, has had his own vehicle burglarized twice in three months, and wants APD to arrest people for “every crime, loitering to homicide” so criminals don’t have a field day because police don’t respond. He wants to “send DOJ back to DC” while holding the brass accountable. He doesn’t believe “a building” (the Gateway Center) will do anything to address homelessness and says the proposed soccer stadium is a political deal between team owners and the mayor and believes the actual costs will be much higher than advertised.

He says “city government can actually work” and “the city of Albuquerque has more money than it’s ever had (with the higher city GRT plus federal money), and yet more homicides, crime and homelessness than every before. It’s not a money problem. … It’s a leadership problem.”


Lori Robertson

Diane Gibson has represented District 7 – roughly I-25 east to Eubank and Lomas north to Montgomery – since 2012 and is not seeking reelection. Lori Robertson has raised four children in the district, has a commercial real estate business, sits on the board of a homeless shelter for teens and wants to restore common sense to the City Council.

She questions how the city allocated $14 million for the Gateway Center homeless shelter without a plan and fears without an “ecosystem of change” it will be a “pretty Band-Aid.” She wants laws uniformly enforced, fair consequences, and programming and services so those struggling are treated with compassion, criminals are arrested and property owners aren’t bearing the brunt of inaction.

Crime is also on Robertson’s priority list, and she did a 10-hour ride-along with APD to see firsthand what officers are facing. She was shocked when the officers she was with said they could do nothing about a man throwing Molotov cocktails at a neighbor’s home. She says she would work to change the anti-cop narrative, support good officers and weed out the few bad apples, and work to get the city out from under the DOJ while complying with reforms.

Robertson also supports development and wants to change the current “hostile business environment.” And she says she believes councilors can “meet in the middle and work together, stay true to (our) uniqueness but work together for a better community.”


Byron Powdrell

Don Harris has represented District 9 – roughly Eubank east to the Sandias and Menaul to south of Central – since 2005 and is not seeking reelection. Byron Powdrell is taking another run at the seat after an unsuccessful try four years ago.

Powdrell is of that Powdrell family – the barbecue icons – and has lived in D9 for 40 years. He has a low-power radio station in his home in the Eastridge neighborhood. He also installs television/radio/security systems in homes and businesses. His top priorities are addressing crime and homelessness and making his district the bustling retail jewel it was when he was growing up.

Powdrell says this starts with having opportunities for youth – from Head Start programs to dance parties – and structure. He was co-chair of a community policing council for APD’s Foothills Area Command and says he worked to minimize racing on Eubank and remove the disturbing/oft-vandalized recycling bins at the Manzano Mesa community center. Now he wants to take that experience and tackle the crime, addiction and unsheltered problems in the district.

He says he would get groups funded through the county’s behavioral health tax out to meet the unsheltered where they are as well as try to help people before they wind up on the street. He would work to get more officers on the street so criminals aren’t given carte blanche, grow the ranks of female and minority officers, get bonuses to keep experienced officers from leaving, and fight for updated, working equipment. On a recent ride-along he says he learned both bomb robots were broken. And he proposes 911 operators be more responsive to callers, a “Blue Alert” like the Amber and health alerts to let people know when a gun crime is in progress, and focusing on renegotiating the federal monitor’s pay and getting officers out from under the DOJ settlement agreement cloud.

“I will work for D9 and the city,” he says. “I’m outspoken. I will raise the bar. Like a pilot I’ve got to work with the ground crew – the people I serve.”

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.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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