Over the last several years, Albuquerque’s new District 6 City Councilor Pat Davis has evolved from arresting marijuana users as a police officer to an advocate for the legalization of cannabis. By day, Davis is the executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico, a grass roots progressive advocacy non-profit that works on public policy issues. He was elected last November after longtime District 6 Councilor Rey Garduño retired and gave Davis his endorsement. Davis had an easy confidence working the crowd at a recent Nob Hill neighborhood association meeting where area residents came to hear an update on crime. He is optimistic about his plans for the next few years as a city councilor. He has been at the council table about month; here is what he told Weekly Alibi about his new assignment.
Alibi: At press time, you will have three city council meetings under your belt. How is it going?
Pat Davis: I’m having a ball. But even with all of my years working in the public policy arena, I’m surprised every day by the chance to weigh in on something new.
As a police officer you’ve made arrests and later been arrested for a DWI. How does that help you with the city’s troubled police department?
I wondered, coming in, how much leeway I would have to follow my own questions about our progress on DOJ reform measures and whether one councilor could really assert any influence over the process.
I’ve been able to sit down with Dr. Ginger, the city attorney, police union and police leaders and have real, blunt conversations about the department and our progress. I think my experience has allowed me to sit down and have my questions and suggestions taken seriously in a way that someone without my background wouldn’t have going in.
Talk about the rapid transit line being planned. Many businesses in your district along the proposed route are not in support of it.
I’ve said all along that I’m a big supporter of public transit and it is absolutely clear that we have to update our system. But, I came to this job months after the initial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project was considered and funded by the previous City Council. Central was picked because it is by far the most used transit route and provides the most access to businesses and jobs—exactly the things transit-dependent residents and future residents need from a bus line.
The city reached out to everyone early on but has done little to keep up those conversations going as designs have been updated. To address this, I have set up my own community meetings. At the end of the day, no matter how I vote if we receive the final grant from DC, there are still eight other councilors on the Council who have already voted for the project.
You introduced a Memorial opposing a so-called Religious Freedom bill winding through this year’s legislature. The bill essentially gives businesses the option of not providing goods and services to those who don’t agree with their religious stances. The Memorial is a good start, but what other initiatives will you seek to advance the causes of LGBT residents?
I’d love to see more open LGBT New Mexicans run for office and I think the public climate around this has changed so much over the past decade that it is suddenly possible in more communities than many imagine. I’ve had discussions with other openly gay officials around the state and I think you’ll start seeing more of us recruiting others to run in the elections ahead. I’m watching the new quarter-cent behavioral health services tax to see that it addresses LGBT mental health issues such as partner violence, drug use, bullying and crisis intervention.
Legalizing marijuana is a hot topic for municipalities, especially when it comes to tax revenue. Do you plan on any initiatives on the city level to make that happen?
Yep. I was proud to help lead the decriminalization campaigns in 2013 that led to Santa Fe’s decriminalization ordinance and the introduction of a similar one in Albuquerque. It got a majority vote from the Albuquerque Council but couldn’t get past the mayor’s veto. I’ll bring it back again later this year and we will send it back to the mayor.
What presidential candidate are you supporting?
I’ll be looking for “not Donald Trump” on my ballot. I’ll likely vote for Bernie Sanders on Primary Day. He’s brought a conversation to politics we’ve long needed.
Are you a dog or cat person?
Both. Coming from a farm, I always grew up with weird animals but I’ve always had dogs as pets. But when Chris moved in last year he brought his cat Gus who has totally taken over the neighborhood. So now I’m a cat and dog guy.
Tell Alibi readers something about yourself that will surprise them.
That’s usually the “I used to be a cop” thing because no one thinks a progressive activist would ever come out of that line of work. But now everyone knows that. So, try this:
I went to “Chick-fil-A” university. OK, it’s not actually called that but it is the university that Chick-fil-A sends their employees who work full-time during high school and earn scholarships. It’s called Berry College and is a huge (24,000+ acres) private college in Georgia, where I grew up. Given my political opposition to CFA’s anti-marriage campaigns, most people are surprised I lived for four years next to many of the people who fight about it now.