Today, the Journal announces its primary endorsements for Bernalillo County commission and county assessor. For ongoing coverage that will include candidate Q&As and more endorsements, go to abqjournal.com/election-guide.
Bernalillo County Commission District 1
Democrat, Barbara Baca
Baca brings a wealth of experience in government and a storied family legacy to her bid for a commissioner’s seat.
She is the daughter of former farmer, educator, city councilor, county commissioner, mayoral candidate, conservationist and builder Pat Baca, who spearheaded the city’s open space program. Barbara Baca, 61, has devoted much of her career to natural resource conservation, planning and land management. She serves on the board of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, having retired as Albuquerque’s parks and rec director in 2014.
District 1 includes the North Valley and a large swath of the West Side. Baca is a lifelong resident of the West Side who says she knows the community.
She’s running on a platform of forging better cooperation between the city and county to reduce addiction, homelessness and crime. She says a combined dispatch for city police and sheriff’s deputies could reduce response times, while a combined city-county Community Safety Department could improve and expand the county’s reach with mental and behavioral health programs and facilities.
Baca says the Tiny Homes program for the homeless can work but needs more time and staff. She is an advocate of more competitive pay to address a shortage of corrections officers at the county jail. And though she’s big on protecting natural resources, and making better zoning and land-use decisions to reflect that, she supports the water-intensive marijuana industry as an economic driver.
She would prioritize roadway improvements to support existing neighborhoods but push for long-term regional planning to address infrastructure needs.
Baca faces Erin Muffoletto in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican Michaela Chavez, who is uncontested in the primary.
Bernalillo County Commission District 5
Democrat, Eric Olivas
Olivas wants to use his experiences as a small-business owner, research scientist and engaged member of the community on law enforcement issues to push for key collaborations between Albuquerque and Bernalillo County — primarily with behavioral health, homelessness and crime.
Olivas, 31, is a lifelong resident of the Quigley Park neighborhood. He has a graduate degree in biology from UNM. He worked as a researcher and instructor at UNM as he studied the effects of climate change and drought on piñon forests, but ultimately his professional focus turned to the landscaping business he started as a teen. It now employs five people servicing businesses throughout the Metro area.
He’s also been involved in his neighborhood association, served on the Northeast Heights Community Policing Council and was appointed to the city’s police oversight board, which provided “first-hand knowledge of what’s happening in our public safety sphere and the policy interplay with training and behavioral health.”
His big idea is to establish a regional behavioral health authority. The city and the county “need to work together and stop competing with each other and stop wasting resources,” he says, and current commissioners aren’t “moving the needle” on crime and behavioral health. “We need to get it under control, and we can if we can get everyone on the same page working toward the same goal from the same pot of money.”
Along those lines, he wants to hire more county deputies and dedicate a certain percentage to the Metro area to assist Albuquerque police with “targeted interventions” in traffic, child abuse and narcotics, as well as hire more corrections officers for the Metropolitan Detention Center.
The district — which extends from Uptown into the East Mountains — is currently represented by Democrat Charlene Pyskoty, a mental health therapist who is seeking re-election after her first term. We gave Olivas the edge because of his fresh ideas regarding crime and homelessness; he appears willing to question the status quo. The winner will face the Republican primary winner in the general election.
Bernalillo County Commission District 5
Republican, Wayne Yevoli
As a professional mechanical engineer, Yevoli says he’ll bring a data-collection and solutions-oriented approach to county government.
“We’re always bringing together diverse personalities to reach a conclusion that is good for all involved, whether it be cost, aesthetics or systems maintenance,” he says. “I have a lot of experience working with groups and working through problems to find a solution. Right now the county needs help in this area. We have so many problems that need addressing.”
His priorities are getting more deputies on the streets and collaborating with APD to improve response times, working on a comprehensive development plan that will help recruit top-tier businesses and high-paying jobs to the Metro area, and implementing the recommendations of a “gap analysis” on behavioral health services. The common thread is a familiar one: The county has to work more closely with the city to combine resources and devise more effective solutions.
Yevoli, 62, also wants to help create a pipeline from area high schools to law enforcement to bring upward of 100 more corrections officers and deputies to the payroll. Once crime is more effectively managed, the county will be in a better position to attract and retain jobs, he says.
Yevoli faces Michael Eustice Jr. and Judy Young in the primary. The winner faces the Democratic primary winner.
Bernalillo County Assessor
Democrat, Damian Lara
Perhaps no race in this primary offers more assurance of a qualified candidate getting elected than assessor. Both Democrats vying to replace Tanya Giddings, who is being term-limited out, are public servants with deep roots in the BernCo Assessor’s Office.
But the breadth of Lara’s experience outside the Assessor’s Office is a bonus. He’s a state-certified appraiser and former deputy assessor who stepped away from that job in 2017 to run for Congress. Lara, 44, is a real estate and property tax code attorney who has also worked as the city’s deputy director for economic development, giving him valuable insight into commercial real estate. He’s been the lead staff attorney for the Revenue Stabilization Tax Policy Committee in the state Legislature, again providing a depth of knowledge on how property taxes interplay with economic policy.
As he puts it, he’s the only candidate with experience in economic development, budgets, passing legislation and office procedures in the Assessor’s Office, and he wants to implement a canvassing system that’s more fair to property owners.
Lara faces Stephen A. Sais, who has worked in the Assessor’s Office for the past 18 years and is currently its residential manager. There is no Republican running for the office.
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.