District 5 can fairly be described as the northwest quadrant of Albuquerque. The area, unfortunately, is a testament to the American dream gone fatally wrong in the form of sprawl, inept urban planning and transportation gridlock.
Schools on the Westside are overflowing with no sensible design to ameliorate the problem. The recently opened Taylor Ranch Community Center had to turn away 200 kids who applied for its summer program due to overcrowding. It takes the average resident 90 minutes to complete the short Downtown commute during rush hour.
Perhaps the only real hope for Westside traffic, pollution and infrastructure woes might be for the area to collapse of its own weight and be built again in some saner image. But like it or not, District 5's problems are everyone's problems. So in the entire city's best interest, there needs to be strong, informed leadership in District 5—a councilor who understands the issues and actually believes the problems are fixable (and we don't mean seceding from Albuquerque and becoming Carraroville). You have two choices: Incumbent City Councilor Michael Cadigan or challenger Betty Valdez.
Valdez is a native Westsider with 25 years experience in mortgage banking, most recently as a deputy director at Fannie Mae. She serves as chairwoman of the urban revitalization committee at the Central New Mexico Homebuilders Association. She's actively involved with Habitat for Humanity in Valencia County, Navajo Nation housing, Green Building Alliance and a member of the Santa Fe Community Housing board. In other words, she knows a thing or two about affordable housing and the real estate market.
Valdez lives in Taylor Ranch near her daughter and grandkids. She has an amiable, respectful disposition and would not be a combative personality. Unfortunately, she doesn't offer any viable ideas or solutions for Westside problems. For example, when asked if Mayor Chavez had done a good job serving the Westside, she said, "I don't really know." She had no comment on how the city should deal with New Mexico Utiltities, a private water company operating in her district. Her interest in public service seems genuine, though, and it would be nice to see her pursue public office in the future after she's better informed on the issues.
Incumbent Michael Cadigan, on the other hand, has worked tirelessly on behalf of a constituency that will forever have plenty to whine about. He spearheaded the passage of the Planned Growth Strategy and Impact Fees ordinance. He's worked to create mixed-use zoning on the Westside, which in theory encourages economic development. He's worked with his neighborhoods to plan community centers and roads. Cadigan concedes progress has been "governmentally slow." But that's not from a lack of effort on his part.
An attorney, Cadigan is hands-down the best legal brain on the Council. He often catches phrasing in bills that contradicts the City Charter, existing laws or the state or national constitutions. He's usually right when an argument develops over the legal finer points. True, he has become selective of late in what he chooses to be right about—usually to shoot down any legislation that the mayor opposes.
However, he's one of the most able councilors and one who seems to have a good working knowledge of land use, construction and education issues.
Odds are, Cadigan's constituents would hang him from the nearest Golden Arches if he did not make every effort to get more roads of every variety on the Westside. However, it doesn't take a new urbanist to understand that the short-term solution of building roads to serve existing neighborhoods inevitably facilitates the building of new subdivisions, making the long-term sustainability of the Westside ever more precarious. Cadigan has worked admirably to reconcile these problems without losing hope in the system.
Above all, Cadigan understands the imminent disaster approaching with New Mexico Utilities, a private company owning Westside water rights that also supplies water to southern Rio Rancho. District 5 residents need him, at this point, more than he needs their whining. You'd do well to keep him. Alibi endorses Michael Cadigan for District 5.
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