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 V.18 No.39 | September 24 - 30, 2009 
Don Harris
Don Harris

Feature

District 9: Southeast Heights

The Alibi endorses: Don Harris

In his first term, Don Harris did a lot of good for people in his district who aren't the noisiest or most powerful. His predecessors "kissed the ring of Four Hills," as Harris puts it, and didn't do much else. Keeping Four Hills happy might be all it takes to secure a Council seat in District 9, but Harris tackled more.

He's the primary force behind an East Central redevelopment plan that should help bring a new identity to an underdeveloped sliver of Albuquerque. The plan puts strict guidelines on which types of businesses can set up there (no more porn shops and junkyards). Harris wants to create incentives for more technology-based and family-friendly businesses to move in. Eventually, Harris says he'd like to make the area as attractive as Nob Hill or Downtown.

The Jeanne Bellamah Community Center on 11516 Summer NE got a new computer lab, meeting room and exercise area thanks to $1.8 million secured by Harris. He wrangled the dough to renovate parks, found land for a new fire station and got $1 million to preserve the Tijeras Arroyo. All of these resources went to the less-wealthy areas of Harris' district. "You have to focus on the people who have needs," Harris says. "You provide things for people in the foothills and answer e-mails and things like that, but you also pay attention to the people that might not be at your door all the time."

Harris angered a vocal faction of his district when he went against a speed bump proposal popular among some in Four Hills. He also frustrated residents in the Singing Arrow neighborhood after he pushed for a study to determine the feasibility of a road east of Eubank and south of Central. Harris' detractors collected hundreds of signatures to force a recall election. The effort to get rid of Harris was ultimately unsuccessful, as recall election results strongly favored the still-sitting councilor.

We disagree with Harris on some issues. He says he doesn't believe in penalizing people who use far more water during the summer than in the winter (as it stands, people are charged extra when their water usage exceeds their winter average). He also doesn’t think it’s a good idea to try to change the culture of huge lawns in Albuquerque. He's against green building codes, which would require more eco-friendly structures. He wants to lower impact fees for new construction, which could make it harder for the city to build infrastructure since it’s partly paid for by those fees.

When the Council splits along right- and left-wing lines, Harris usually sides with the conservatives. Even so, he's achieved significant accomplishments for his district and has a clear understanding of his constituents' needs. Harris has fought for neighborhoods in his district that aren’t the wealthiest and are therefore usually underserved. He sees all the members of his community, not just the ones with fat bank accounts. We hope Harris continues this trend if he’s elected for a second term. And we happily give him our endorsement.

In his interview, challenger David Barbour offered a dearth of specifics when it came to his plans to improve this district. He says public transportation should be improved and buses should run later. But he opposes the quarter-cent tax that would provide at least some funding to make that a reality. (Harris supports the tax.)

Barbour says he wants to rebuild our economy and "Main Street" but doesn't offer many plans for how to do so.

He suggests the city should look into hiring a landscape architect to visit neighborhoods that use a lot of water and show residents ways to conserve. It could work, but that's going to be one busy landscape architect.

Barbour's goals are admirable. He wants a city that uses less water, relies more on quality public transit and builds greener buildings. He just doesn’t provide an adequate road map for how to get there.

David V. Barbour

Age: 62

Occupation: Retired Software Engineer

Political Experience: Helped on many campaigns; ran for school board in 2004 in California; served on many nonprofit boards including my housing coop, an $800,000 per year corporation

District: 9

1) What's your plan of action for three major issues in your district?

A. Eastern Gateway Sector Plan should be intelligently, efficiently and promptly implemented. Don Harris’ building moratorium along Central has meant that Central is in worse shape than it was four years ago.

B. Public safety has gotten significantly worse in District 9. Crimes against property in particular are on the rise. We need better coordination and more police in this district.

C. Residents in District 9 want a councilor who will listen and pay attention to their needs. I will work full time to fulfill these needs.

2) What's your take on three major citywide issues?

Public transportation: We need a system we can depend upon. This should be fully funded whether or not the quarter-cent transportation tax passes.

Water usage and purity: All models show an extended drought for the Southwest. We must conserve and institute strict standards for purity, and use gray water where we can. I would like to see a program which provides rainwater collectors to residents.

Transparency: We need better accounting for how city money is spent. The process should be transparent. In particular, money raised from publicly approved sales tax increases should be spent the way the measure was advertised.

3) How can we balance city growth with sustainability?

We need infill not sprawl. Growth must not outstrip water supplies, which are dwindling. Existing buildings should be retrofitted and new construction should conform to modern standards for building efficiency. We should work with our sister cities to develop comprehensive plans to restrict out-of-control sprawl.

4) What will you do to help residents in your district who are struggling with the economic downturn?

I support workforce development to provide long-term training for good jobs with a living wage. We must insure that most spending is kept local so all of our residents will benefit.

5) What's your take on public transportation, and do you support modern rail?

My first issue has always been to improve public transportation. Resident must be able to depend on public transportation to get them where they need to go at all hours. There are some problems with management which must be fixed. Light rail is the most efficient way to move people by far, but is expensive. Trackless trolleys (electric buses utilizing overhead wires) may be a less expensive way to conserve fossil fuels. The needs of residents, not tourists, is the first concern.

6) What can be done to improve public safety?

A city our size should probably have about 1,500 police officers. We currently have 1,100. We should increase the size of our police force. We should also have programs for addiction treatment and mental health services as originally proposed for the quarter-cent public safety tax. These programs have proven effective in reducing crime.

 

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