Candidate Q&A: Richard Romero

Richard Romero

5 min read
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Occupation:  Retired Educator

Over 35 years, I have built a career of public service—as an Air Force veteran, teacher, principal, Assistant Superintendent of APS and as a leader of the state Senate. 

Political Experience: I served in the New Mexico Senate for 12 years; four of those as the Senate’s president pro-tempore. I established a record of reaching across ideological divides, forging compromises to get things done and taking down the corrupt when they needed to be taken down. 

1) What’s your plan of action for three major citywide issues?

The three most pressing issues facing the city are crime, the economy and high dropout rates at our high schools. On crime I will redeploy resources to put more officers on the street and get back to community policing. On the economy I will support local business startups and expansion and recruitment of new investment that creates jobs, especially in the green economy. On education, I will create a partnership between the city and APS in which administrators work together on issues like capital planning, campus security and city support for extracurricular activities that help kids succeed in school.   

2) What do you offer that the other candidates don’t?

I have demonstrated my willingness to lay my career on the line and reach out across party and ideological lines to take on the political establishment and make changes that benefit the people of New Mexico. That is what I did when I broke with many members of my party and challenged Manny Aragon’s long standing dominance of the New Mexico Senate. I believe that I have the political independence and personal integrity needed to put the interests of the citizens of Albuquerque ahead of my own career or that of any political party.

3) How can we balance city growth with sustainability?

I do not believe that to accommodate population growth we need a sea of roofs extending to the Rio Puerco. There are a number of ways that we can meet our needs for additional housing and commercial space that do not threaten resources like water, extend our commute times or create traffic congestion and more pollution. We can encourage infill, allow for greater housing densities in appropriate areas, improve our mass transit system and insure that new development pays for itself. I support the principles of the Planned Growth Strategy and impact fees but recognize that it is a tool, not a doctrine.

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

My priority will be to put Albuquerque back to work. I will strongly support measures that encourage the startup and expansion of local small business. I will work with nonprofit economic development groups to connect small businesses to capital and technical assistance. I will make the city’s contracting process friendly to local business. No more appearance of “pay-to-play.” I will work to recruit new investment in high-paid employment, particularly in the green economy. In addition, I will preserve city funding for social services that right now are particularly important for our fellow citizens affected by the economic downturn.

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

I believe the long-term economic viability of our city will depend on a new and more effective system of mass transportation. I favor a multimodal, comprehensive, system that is regional in scope. For the immediate future, the primary mode will be buses. The Rail Runner is a second important piece, and we must continue to develop links between it and other forms of public transit. A modern street railway system will have a role to play in the future. It’s an exciting idea, but at the moment, we have neither the public support nor the financial resources to initiate such a system.

6) What can be done to improve public safety?

Women don’t feel safe. Property crime is hurting small businesses. Gang violence and drug crimes are a serious problem. Eight years of Chavez and crime is out of control. We more officers on patrol, and fewer behind desks. We need to beef up our gang unit from four officers to 20, while aggressively using prevention and intervention programs to keep kids away from gangs and help them integrate out of gangs. We need to implement real community policing. With citizens engaged, we won’t have 1,100 officers, we will have 100,000. Manpower our substations! We need to strengthen drug treatment, gang prevention and other programs that will stop crime before it begins.

7) How will you work with APS to improve education?

City administrators and APS administrators must work together on an ongoing basis to address issues affecting pre-K through 12 education. We need to do a better job of capital planning. We need to make APS schools into community schools, serving the broader community after 3 p.m. and during the summers. We need cooperation between APS and APD to insure that school campuses are secure and crime free. The city must continue to support before- and after-school programs that help kids succeed in learning. The city and APS must continue to cooperate on their highly successful preschool care and education partnership.

8) Do you support a city-funded arena / events complex / hotel Downtown?

The current mayor has so poisoned the well on this issue that any public support for a Downtown arena has almost disappeared. Given the financial condition of the city, moreover, the costs for such a project are well beyond our means to pay them at this time. I remain open to such a project if a sensible plan can be brought forward that has the support of the public and does not require a tax increase or an additional raid on our Capital Improvement Funding, which Mayor Chavez has already put into a deep hole.
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