Marianne Dickinson is hands-down the best candidate running for District 7 and might be the best candidate running for any office in this year's municipal election. She's intelligent, savvy and comes with a wealth of experience in community development rooted in Albuquerque for more than 20 years.
District 7, which runs between Lomas and Carlisle in the southwest and Morris and Montgomery in the northeast, needs a councilor that can make sense of the rambling strip malls and big box retailers that dominate its fledgling business sector and the established neighborhoods that line its corridors. It needs someone who will promote incentives to small businesses, promote good public transit and merge the business and private sectors in ways that are in line with community values. The district needs someone who can listen to its constituents and bridge the gap between what neighborhoods really want and what they settle for (hence the recent Wal-Mart controversy covered in last week's "Newscity"). And we think Marianne Dickinson is just the person to do it.
One of the reasons we know that Dickson would be good at the game is because she's already been doing it for two decades. From founding the Nob Hill-Highland Renaissance in 1998, to sitting on the committee for the Mid-Region Council of Governments for 13 years, to participating in public hearings during the Planned Growth Strategy debate, Dickinson has made promoting local businesses, community revitalization, transportation, pedestrian safety and crime prevention her priorities. She is a proponent of the city's centers and corridors initiatives that have languished in recent years, but which promote centralized mixed-use development in all quadrants of the city.
She also has a solid understanding of how city politics work and has a proven record as a government watchdog, working with other community advocates to review city audits and contracts when the Sunport observation deck debacle occurred in Mayor Martin Chavez' first term.
Dickinson understands the needs of small businesses because she owns a small business, No Place Like Home, LLC, which assists seniors with home repair. Because of her business, she is also invested in promoting quality, affordable housing for seniors.
Dickinson is also sensitive to development problems on the Westside, which of course affects all of Albuquerque's water supply and tax base. She correctly believes Albuquerque needs to diversify its economy beyond the construction industry and says we're too reliant on gross receipts from homebuilders. This is not exactly a novel concept, but since the problem has been mostly ignored by City Hall, it's refreshing to hear a candidate addressing the issue.
When it comes to the recent Wal-Mart conflict in her district (the mega-box store will likely plop down in the existing Wyoming Mall location), Dickinson recognizes that the problem could have been avoided if the area was rezoned for a more desirable development, one that represented community interests and increased property values. Instead, the location languished for years without any attempt at rezoning. Now the mega-box retailer whose business strategy is to saturate the local market with low prices and drive other local businesses under is the newest neighbor in an already struggling area. While all other candidates in the race expressed similar sentiments, no one else really expressed the vision or understanding of what needed to happen to prevent Wal-Mart's arrival.
Then there is incumbent City Councilor Sally Mayer. Mayer has received much criticism from some of her constituents, as well as from other councilors and an Alibi columnist who lives in District 7, with claims that she doesn't recognize the needs of the community and that she isn't as present in her district as she should be. Still, she carries with her a fair number of supporters. Mayer believes that the emphasis on her role as councilor should be on "the small stuff," such as fixing malfunctioning traffic lights and facilitating a monthly meeting between her constituents and city officials at the Sheraton Uptown. She's taken heat for Wal-Mart's arrival, but if the zoning allows it, she believes there's nothing anybody can do to stop it. "Personally, I didn't want Wal-Mart, but this is America," she said. "It's not my job to stop it."
However, we believe Mayer's views on how Albuquerque should grow would foster a continued trend toward failure and mediocrity and not lead to the economically invigorated and well-planned city we hope for. Along with Tina Cummins (they're both realtors), she was the only councilor to oppose the Planned Growth Strategy and Impact Fees ordinance. Her less-government approach opposes regulating the real estate industry; however, her biggest initiative in office has been the rewriting of the city's animal ordinance, which has been two years in the making, still isn't complete and calls for radically increased government regulation when it comes to pet care.
Candidate Wayne Johnson is pushing a campaign based on "communication." A self-employed TV commercial designer who builds websites, Johnson is dissatisfied with the job Mayer has done in the district (he said she's not a good "communicator") and aims to strengthen the involvement of neighborhood organizations at City Hall. He also voiced frustration with Mayer's penchant for voting in accordance to Mayor Chavez' wishes, regardless, he said, of how it affects District 7.
Johnson, who's against the Planned Growth Strategy and Impact Fees, comes across as a well-intentioned guy who'd like to "make a difference" in city politics (the line nearly every candidate to ever run for an elected office has spewed), but he doesn't have any original ideas to back him up, especially when pressed about economic revitalization in the district.
The fourth candidate is Ed Glenn, the voice of outrage and thorn in the side of city bureaucracy that we all know and love. Glenn, who lists actor, model, bartender, security worker and real estate broker as some of his occupations, is running for the Council seat, admittedly, because he's "pissed" about the way the Wal-Mart issue was handled by Mayer and thinks she mostly ignored neighborhood concerns. In fact, he calls her Sally M.I.A. and echoes Johnson's claims that she's been a "rubber stamp" for the mayor over the past four years.
Glenn has ideas. His plan is four years on the Council and then the mayor's office. He sees pet projects like the city's new 3-1-1 Contact Center as wasteful; he wants city employees to wear a "time access badge" so the public knows where they are at all working hours. He wants full accounting for the clawback funds returned by Phillips. He called the mayor "a sleazebag who has been marginal on ethics." He says sprawl on the Westside is out of control and supports planned growth and impact fees as "a way to protect our water."
When it comes down to it, although all candidates expressed a genuine desire to help constituents in their district and improve the inner-workings of city government, Dickinson is the one with the winning combination of experience and sensible ideas. She understands the economics of sustainable development, water management and growth management, as well as the politics and policies affecting her constituents.
The Alibi endorses Marianne Dickinson for District 7.