District 6 is lucky. It has a track record of excellent councilors. Hess Yntema, one of Albuquerque’s all-time favorites, filled the seat for more than a decade. When he left four years ago, the position was filled by “movie star Martin” Heinrich, who has come to be another city favorite. Heinrich has garnered such a large fan base in his district and in Albuquerque that he’s decided to pull a “Heinrich maneuver” (you have no idea how long we’ve been waiting to use that term) and run for Congressional District One against incumbent Heather Wilson. That little move leaves his Council seat wide open, and now several outstanding candidates have entered the ring to take his place.
Like we said, District 6 is lucky. District 9 doesn’t even get a choice as to who its next councilor is because only one person is running. The other districts at least have races, but they still don’t compare to District 6, which has four savvy, knowledgeable and articulate candidates willing to work full-time for a relatively thankless job at less than $10,000 a year. All four would make good councilors. Three would be excellent—but, forced to choose, we did come out with a favorite, who we think would be best of all.
Rey Garduño has been living in District 6 in the same house for 33 years. During that time, he’s owned two local businesses and worked with a host of organizations (Common Cause New Mexico, CNM, the Spina Bifada Association, the Kiwanis Club, the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, the SouthWest Organizing Project, All Faiths Receiving Homes, more than 20 years working with APS and UNM Hospitals, etc.), exemplifying a long history of social activism. In fact, when we were going through archived issues for our anniversary a couple weeks ago, we found a picture of Garduño getting his eyes washed out after being sprayed with mace at the infamous 2003 peace march.
Garduño has a string of progressive ideas he’d like to see implemented in his district and in the city. He wants to revitalize some of the area’s more blighted neighborhoods, such as East Trumbull and La Mesa. But he wants to do so in a way that takes residents’ desires into account instead of pushing some cookie-cutter solution on the problem. He wants to explore practical ways of expanding our transportation service, such as with an excellent idea to use small, fuel-efficient, van-like buses (“collectivos”) that can go through neighborhoods where normal buses can’t. That, in addition to expanding arterial bus routes, could gradually increase ridership numbers until the city is ready for light rail and trolleys. Other cities like Portland have followed a similar model.
Garduño was also the only candidate who recognized that certain developments shouldn’t be allowed to build if we don’t have the water to support them. As he said, “We can’t promise water to anyone who wants it.” Garduño is focused on using what we have as wisely and efficiently as possible without relying on outside and unreliable sources of water to save us. Yet Garduño is by no means anti-development and believes in investing in smart projects, such as infill and redevelopment.
He has made a couple of mistakes in his past. He’s been criticized for using his UNM e-mail address to send out a campaign-related letter. He admits that, in hindsight, he shouldn’t have used it. But in his defense, he’s allowed personal use of the address for life as a retired UNM employee. Ultimately, the whole ordeal was a misunderstanding. He’s also gotten a lot of flack for not stating on his Albuquerque Journal questionnaire that he had been charged with shoplifting nearly 20 years ago. After hearing his explanation, the incident sounds innocent enough. He was at a department store picking up a few things before closing and, on his way out the door, stopped to look at a cell phone. He says he walked out the door without realizing he was still holding it. For the mistake he had to take three courses in petty larceny, which he thought would expunge the citation from his record. This is why he didn’t claim the event on his questionnaire. Still, Garduño takes full responsibility for his actions. We can’t really ask anything more of him.
Kevin Wilson is another great candidate with a high level of community involvement, both past and present. He’s the owner of Addicted to Comics and the now-closed American Tribal Trading Co. He’s been extremely active with the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association in his 20 years in the area, now serving as director. He’s worked closely with the Council and various subcommittees on the Sector Development Plan that was recently completed. He was part of a merchants group that worked to bring in a local police substation and raise money for Nob Hill’s first APD bike patrol. He’s also thoughtful, knowledgeable, articulate, passionate and the kind of guy who makes choices based on issues and not the party he belongs to. (Wilson is a Republican, but the sane moderate variety.)
Wilson also has a list of great ideas, including a speeding abatement hotline to help curb speeders in residential neighborhoods, expanding the bike patrol beyond Nob Hill and continuing to work on getting crosswalks for the retail corridor. He wants to promote infill development, work on water conservation, increase public transportation and bring solar farms to power the city.
Our one concern with Wilson is that he’s Nob Hill-centric. He says he wants to expand Nob Hill’s successes to other parts of the district, but we worry that his concentration would remain in the area, to the detriment of other neighborhoods that need it more. Still, Wilson would make a great councilor, and he’s an enormous asset to his community.
Joanie Griffin would be yet another fine choice for the Council. She's the owner of ad agency Griffin and Associates and the operator of local dating service It’s Just Lunch. She’s also an active volunteer with the community and has worked with more organizations in her 24 years in Albuquerque than we have room to mention.
During her campaign, she’s been bombarded with some unfair accusations, the primary one being that she switched her party from Republican to Democrat shortly before running in order to have a better chance at winning in a progressive district. It’s true that she switched, but she says she was also previously registered as a Democrat, has donated to Democratic as well as Republican campaigns and has worked for a number of Democratic politicians, including Mayor Martin Chavez in his 2005 re-election bid. It is this last job, working as Chavez’ press secretary, that has led some to question whether Griffin is truly independent and whether she’d act as a blanket vote for the mayor if elected. She assures us this is not the case, and on the most part we believe her, but it’s still something to take into consideration.
Griffin is a fixture in the Albuquerque community and has proven that she can not only work with people across the board, but do it enthusiastically, innovatively and in a way that gets results. She has a number of zany ideas that we love, most of all a proposal to start a city-run ATM card called Albuquerque Buques that credits people with real money when they do things like switch to low-flow toilets. She also expresses interest in the issues mentioned by other candidates: public safety, water conservation and transportation.
The final candidate in this race is Blair Kaufman, a CNM governing board member and principal at Chapparal Elementary. He’s the one candidate who didn’t use public financing, although he says he wanted to use it but started too late. Because of this his campaign funds are low, which gives him a distinct disadvantage in the race.
Kaufman also touts much of the same issues as the other candidates—water limitations, building on the Westside, transportation, infill development. He seems knowledgeable about many of these issues but doesn’t offer specific solutions to address them. However, he is articulate, thoughtful and educated. He has experience working in an elected position and finding common ground with others. We think Kaufman would be a good councilor if elected, but the other three would be better.
Ultimately, in a race full of great possibilities, we think Rey Garduño has the experience, attitude, passion and ideas to make an outstanding city councilor. We give him our full endorsement.