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 V.21 No.43 | October 25 - 31, 2012 

Feature

County Commission

District 1

Salary: $29,569 • Term: Four years • Tasks: Responsible for the county budget (about $212 million this fiscal year), lawmaking, business regulation and zoning in unincorporated areas • District: The West Mesa and the North Valley

Debbie O’Malley (D) Simon Kubiak (R)
She says she gave the decision to toss her hat in the ring a lot of thought before making her bid. O’Malley’s in the middle of her third term on the City Council and would be leaving the position to take up this County Commission seat.

She sees rebuilding the I-25 and Paseo del Norte interchange as one of the biggest issues in this district. She supports the overhaul but thinks it should be the voters who approve using gross receipts tax for the next 25 years to build it.

She’d also like to revitalize the economy in Bernalillo County and says she sees a path to immediate job creation. The county has a number of projects funded by the state or the feds that haven’t yet gotten off the ground, she says. By jumpstarting those, the county will see an economic boost.

Impact fees have not kept up with growth, and it is important to have developers pay their fair share, she says. Albuquerque Public Schools needs to step up and help put in adequate infrastructure when it opens a new school, she argues, and that means charter schools, too.

O’Malley says the North Valley needs to keep its permeable soil, open views and rural character, and that can be accomplished with good sector plans like the one she helped create for the city in that region. (It’s still waiting for final approval.)

Jail overcrowding, perhaps the biggest issue facing the commission, can be addressed by having well-funded alternative programs judges can refer nonviolent and victimless offenders to, she says.

She is not sure giving the Sheriff’s Department a raise to add deputies and run a helicopter was a good idea, she says. That cash bump the commission voted in will come out of the county’s meager budget every year. O’Malley says she’s not clear where the money is going to come from in the future.

She says her opponent is young but seems OK.
He has a bit of a head start in this race since he was appointed in September by Gov. Susana Martinez to fill the commission seat. It was vacated by Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for Congress.

Kubiak says he knows the issues on both sides of the river since he spent his childhood in the North Valley and is raising his family on the Westside. In his estimation, infrastructure and public safety are the most important needs in this district.

On one hand, he supports reducing property tax and impact fees. Yet on the other, he says the Westside is underserved and still needs the basic necessities—and more law enforcement.

Expanding the community custody program for nonviolent and victimless offenders while keeping violent criminals locked up could help reduce the population at the overcrowded jail, he suggests.

He’d like to see the I-25 and Paseo del Norte interchange rebuild be completed in a timely and cost-efficient manner. He’s vocally against the roundabout at the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria, even though that issue falls to the City Council, not the County Commission. (Could be that Kubiak bothered to form an opinion because the roundabout is in his opponent’s Council district.)

As an attorney, he defends people accused of DWI for a living and says the law is adequate for first-time offenders. But those caught driving drunk multiple times should face stricter penalties, he adds. In one of his first votes since being appointed to the commission, he supported allowing the Sheriff’s Department to seize cars upon a second DWI arrest. He also gave the thumbs up to increasing the number of sheriff’s deputies.

Kubiak says he would continue to support substance abuse programs such as MATS and Casa de Milagros.

O’Malley is out of touch with the people of this commission district, he says, because she has only represented east of the Rio Grande thus far in her career.

Overall

Kubiak is a nice enough guy, but he contradicts himself. For instance, as an attorney he defends those accused of DWI yet turns around and says as a county commissioner he would like to see tougher penalties for offenders. He wants to reduce taxes and impact fees but increase services and infrastructure. It almost seems that he’s torn between the Republican party line and his own opinions. He’s held positions with the state’s GOP. It is hard to believe him when he says he will not rubber stamp its agenda. O’Malley is the best candidate for the job. Because of her time on the City Council, she is well-versed on the issues of both sides of the river. She knows how local politics work and how to negotiate as part of a policymaking team. She is conscientious, respected by her colleagues and has the historical knowledge of this district. O’Malley gets a hearty endorsement from the Alibi.

 
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