Beginning at the hyper-local level as the president of her neighborhood association and continuing through her work as an appointed official in the Obama administration, this candidate has worked on projects whose diversity ultimately speak to municipal improvement. With initiatives like the development of the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services Center and county budget-benefiting legislation already under her belt, it seems only natural that mayor would be next on the accomplished former federal official’s list.
Archuleta met with Weekly Alibi last week to discuss her bid for mayor. During the conversation, it became clear that her objectives—matched with a genuine concern for constituents and a general disdain of political priorities in favor of progressive, public-benefiting policies—drive her quest to be our city’s next leader. While her broad, no-nonsense approach to governance may come as a shock to some in the world of politics, her views provide a fresh perspective, a balancing force as it were, amidst a contest filled with candidates whose views are startlingly similar across the political spectrum.
In particular, Archuleta’s view on crime—she’s a trained sociologist, by the way—may give citizens a new perspective on the problem’s roots and its probable solutions.
As with other interviews in this series, the whole interview is available on video, online. What follows comprises the beginning of our hour-long conversation with Deanna Archuleta, a discussion that twisted and turned quickly, covering a plethora of issues and ideas.
Weekly Alibi: Why are you running for mayor?
Deanna Archuleta: I love this city, and I love this community. It's my community, and I love living here.
I'll tell you a little bit about my background: You know I'm a mom, I raised my two kids here—I have two adult sons. With my husband, we have the joy of having two additional sons. I was PTA president, I was a neighborhood association president. I went on to run successfully—
So, I had an environmental background as well as a local elected background. First, I was asked to be on the Obama transition team, which is a highly coveted position, as you can imagine. You sort of get air-dropped into an agency for eight weeks to figure out what's going to happen in the first 100 days. After that, I was asked to stay. I had no plan of staying ... there's only so many times you can tell the White House “no.” The breadth of my experience at [the Department of the] Interior was quite large.
Anyway, I've been home for about five years, and I found myself getting really frustrated with the choices that were happening at the city level … I'll tell you, I was lucky enough to be born into a family of activists. My grandfather always had a saying, “If you don't like how something's running, then it's your job to get in there and change it.”
It sounds like you've had a wealth of positive experience at the federal level as a policy maker and administrator. What sort of success have you had at the local level?
The oversight of water [resources] and development was critical to the work that I did. In addition to that [federal experience], as a commissioner, I created MATS, the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Center, here in Albuquerque, which we created as an alternative to incarceration. We made sure all the steps were in place, that there was a continuum of care. Folks would come in, going through detox. There was medical management of that detox process. They would then go into Turquoise Lodge, where I worked carefully with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, when she was [N.M. State] secretary of health to move that facility inside the same location. We then had a third step, a third tier of the program: providing long-term housing … Different individuals need different amounts of time to successfully get a handle on their addiction … I'm very proud that we were able to create that program.
For me and for the way I see this as a sociologist—I'm not an attorney, that[science] has really been my background. That's really useful for stepping back and looking at the world through a different lens. When the county first took over the jail, we'd encounter individuals who had this amazing intellect, but it was misdirected because of lack of opportunity throughout their lives. Maybe they had a difficult childhood, there were parenting issues, there were a number of things that never lined up well for these folks. These were oftentimes folks who would [consequently] go down a road of drugs and alcohol. Often, they were trying to suppress trauma, and given a different dynamic, wouldn't make such choices. Being able to get mental health treatment, that is powerful and useful … If you can make sure that folks get treatment, and use treatment as an alternative to incarceration, we will do better by our community.
But it's not just the treatment, I want to make that clear. It's really a continuum. Detox is not enough. We've seen that … we need to get a handle on the addiction issue. Albuquerque is ranked number four for crime, according to FBI statistics. But it's property crime, and that ties right back into the addiction issue. A highly significant number of those criminals are trying to get their next fix … If we can't get those people the treatment they need, not just treatment but job production too—because if you can't feed your kids, the feeling of guilt starts to eat people away—then the addiction [and crime] issues slide in there again.
How is it possible to provide living-wage jobs and make sure that candidates for those jobs are functional?
There are programs … that teach job trades—that start with soft skills, actually teaching folks “you have to be at work from 8-5”—that teach interview skills, money management skills. We need to make sure such programs are part of that continuum of care [I propose]. Part of that is getting jobs, creating jobs. Local businesses are the anchor in New Mexico, are the anchor in this country. That said, local small businesses have had a challenging time getting through zoning and planning at the city level … We need to streamline that [process]. We need to look critically through [bureaucratic processes]. If they are not useful anymore, we need to let them go. We need to make sure that all the policies in place are still useful for us, as a community. The other piece of that is we often look for that distant hero to come and save us, oftentimes they say that about a business. I'm not against that, by any means … but business needs to give back to the community, that should be the purpose of IRBs and other tax incentives [designed to bring big business to Burque].