Were the mayoral election held today and not at the end of next year, Mayor Martin Chavez would not be re-elected no matter how much money he raises and spends. Given the field of interested candidates (Marty, former D.A. Bob Schwartz, City Councilor Eric Griego, and State Sen. Linda Lopez to name some) odds are Schwartz would leave his post as Gov. Bill Richardson's crime guru and take up residence on the 11th floor of City Hall.
But in politics, a lot can happen in a year and a half. Howard Dean literally lost the Democrat nomination in the month before the Iowa caucuses. So, because I enjoy political speculation the way some sports fans enjoy hypothesizing on a team's chance of making the Final Four, the following is what Marty could do to help his own re-election. Take it with a grain of salt, however. In 2005 I'll support a Republican—if we can find a good one.
First, don't pose for the Oñate Memorial. This one really ought to be a no-brainer; it just smells of hubris. And think of the campaign ad Eli Lee at Soltari can cook up with it. Not only that, but it accentuates a certain level of elitism many city residents suspect you posses. My advice? Designate a city worker or community volunteer to pose in your place. Hold a press conference and thank them for their service to the city. Emphasize that the contributions and heritage of Hispanic Americans belong to an entire people—not just the ones with political power.
Second, find new leadership for APD. Nothing against APD Chief Gil Gallegos (he's a fellow Cowboys fan) but retirement beckons. The recent stories about missing evidence, lawsuits by war protestors, unanswered 911 calls, low officer morale, the head of the police union camped out in protest on Civic Plaza, etc. ... hinder your ability to look like an effective crime fighter or the man to inspire Albuquerque's finest. Unless you're planning on luring David Siebers back to Albuquerque, the public safety issue is a wash for you.
Third, stop with all the new spending proposals. The "String of Pearls" railcar linking Albuquerque's cultural attractions has a price tag of $90 million. The downtown arena comes in at $50 million. Light rail or Bus Rapid Transit (by the way, which is it?) will cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions. We all have our albatrosses to wear—mine is a Coke can and yours is the Observation Deck. The knock on you after your last term was that you were a spendthrift with the public treasury and it cost you the governor's office. Sponsoring multiple, big-ticket public works projects makes as much political sense for you as becoming the spokesperson for Captain Morgan does for me.
Fourth, focus on waste and inefficiency at City Hall. Because of your stance on Paseo, the liberal/environmentalist vote for you is gone—Nob Hill, the University area and much of Downtown simply will not vote for you. Remember, you singled out Martin Heinrich as a bad guy for the City Council and he won.
In addition to your Westside base, you'll have to pick up votes in the Northeast Heights which, for a Democrat, is a challenge. The one thing Heights voters respond to though is someone taking on City Hall waste. Remember the $87.20 lube, oil and filter? Go find more of them. We know they exist. And kick some bureaucratic butt while you're at it. Make government work!
Fifth, become the "Smart Growth" mayor. The political dynamics of Albuquerque have changed. People across the spectrum are unhappy with how Albuquerque has grown. Instead of all the command and control weirdness we saw in the original Planned Growth Strategy, add a different twist: Make use of the free market.
And fight to get the water utility back. How can the city manage growth with very limited input on its own water works? Besides, voters know Albuquerque was screwed by some Santa Fe insiders—they'll respect you for standing up and fighting a battle over principle.
Sixth, cut your media exposure in half. This one's tough. Trust me, I know. But it looks like you're governing by press conference. I'm not saying you should go completely dark in the media, but take every other day off.
Seventh, the Griego dilemma. No matter how appeasing you and your administration are, Eric Griego will run for mayor. And while his winning is a real long shot, he can garner enough votes to quash any hope you have for re-election. My advice: Challenge him. While he might be a stand-up version of Jim Baca, the basic political philosophy and temperament are there nonetheless.
Well ... the advice is free, just like the paper it's printed in. If things don't work out in 2005 maybe we can put a radio talk show together and spend our day discussing the administration of Mayor Schwartz.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.