If you haven’t gotten it yet, we’ll reiterate. Weekly Alibi is committed to providing Burqueños—and a good portion of the state too, but mostly el Norte—with all the news that’s fit to print (as our good friend the Gray Lady might intone).
Editorially we maintain a progressive stance that’s designed to change minds and enchant lives with a modicum of motion forward into a future where we can all live with dignity and joy. In summary we’re progressives who do not preach to the choir as much as we reach out to the world—to say each week and without interruption—“Hey wouldn’t you like to live like the people we bring to life in these pages, free and open-minded, civil yet firm in our commitment to a democracy where you help to make this a better world by just joining in on the super-decent all-day everyday active citizenship party we propose?”
With that sort of overarching agenda, it’s no wonder that we find some Burqueño politicos more to our taste than others. For instance we are still damn grateful and thoroughly encouraged that Tim Keller was elected mayor of this town. We’re also mighty impressed with the current version of Albuquerque’s city council; they’re mostly fit and formidable.
And that positive impression of our burg’s governing board stokes the furnace of memory. We are reminded—and would like to remind you—that councilors in districts 2, 4, 6 and 8 will be facing reelection this year, as per the city charter. One of those public servants, Brad Winter in District 4, has announced that he will not seek reelection. A centrist with conservative governance tendencies, Winter’s been on the council for 20 years. His future absence portends a possible progressive advantage for a council already heavily influenced by Democratic politics.
But more importantly the progressive voices already in the house need to be retained and further encouraged by citizens searching for solutions at every level of leadership and governance. The councilor in District 6, Pat Davis, announced this week that he will indeed seek a second term. Davis has found his center as a voice for the International District, for the city and for the progressive cause too.
He’s the picture of a city councilor to be retained as the progressive agenda advances. After only one term, Davis has sponsored and helped enact legislation designed to make Albuquerque into that place we all want it to be. At the end of the day, individual choices and group effort will be needed to see this progressive vision grow and thrive.
In line with his progressive political values, Davis is also seeking to qualify for public campaign financing from the city. That means to qualify for city-disbursed matching funds he must first secure a series of individual $5 contributions. This year the city made that process more effective by making a previously in-person transaction digital.
With that in mind we met and conversed with the dude early this week at Alibi HQ. This is what he had to say.
Weekly Alibi: Was it pretty much a given that you would seek a second term in District 6?
Pat Davis: The thing I got out of my run for Congress was that I stepped up and opened up that race. We didn’t know who was going to replace Michelle [Lujan Grisham] and that was a an important factor with Trump in the White House. Of course I wanted somebody who would fight. But what I learned from that process was that I really liked being a city councilor. You can get stuff done that you just can’t as a member of congress. I missed—for that year—so many city things I wanted to get involved in. As a city councilor, I think we’ve gotten Albuquerque back on the right track, but we’re not done yet. It will take at least one more term for me to work on things like gun violence, immigration, homelessness and public health reform.
Okay, so let’s start with the problems.
I think that as a new city councilor, I had a hard time trying to figure out how I was supposed to fix all those big picture things. But I figured out—like a lot of people do—that it’s our job to do our part in our neighborhood and then build on that, build on that momentum. And I think that’s what you see Mayor Keller talking about, block by block. In the last couple of years, the mayor and I—and I give the mayor credit for this—we’ve worked from that perspective. When he came into office, he said to me, “show me what’s shovel ready in the International District, I want to catch them up,” a district where he had been the state senator. I told him that we need to show people that we [the city] take pride in our neighborhoods. So we invested $3 million in new sidewalks and streets in the Trumbull neighborhood. We wanted to show the community that we care; that improvement was a big step forward for the neighborhood and for the city’s image as a government that’s engaged with constituents.
Working at the neighborhood level seems to bring progress, right?
Last weekend we did a big park clean up at Phil Chacon Park. We had tons of volunteers and we also planted 100 trees in that neighborhood. We had 100 community volunteers working on that. We also had corporate volunteers from Coca-Cola and other companies, so we also got big organizations to care about a neighborhood that some thought of as lost. So if you can team up with the mayor, if you can engage other councilors and the citizens themselves, you can do what seem like small projects in a very big, effective way. If you look back at the the International District, where we’re challenged with violence and poverty, I’ll tell you that things are better. We’ve put $5 million in public investment into those neighborhoods during my first term in office. There’s a new library, new streets, new street lights. We have more cops in the International District now, too.
Have these sorts of activities inspired others to embrace progressivism at its most basic levels?
Yes. Take the tree project. If you live in a neighborhood where there aren’t any trees anymore, where the sidewalks are all broken—it looks like nobody cares. But Councilor Benton, in his neighborhood, started a new program with Tree New Mexico to begin planting and replacing trees in older neighborhoods.
And that leads to a sense of civic pride which can ultimately translate to less crime and violence?
That’s right, it certainly can. People came out and started working on their block and met their neighbors. And kids at the schools learned how to plant trees and garden. It works. It’s a very small piece, but it was such a success that other neighborhoods in my district wanted to replicate what happened at Phil Chacon Park. We’ve had students at Van Buren Middle School, who live in Councilor Jones’ District, reach out and say they want to do the same thing at their school, in their neighborhood. I think we’re seeing a civic connection where people are looking for good ideas to help enact. This has now turned into the mayor’s latest proposal: to plant 100,000 trees in the city within 10 years.
Are these community-based changes and initiatives reflective of a larger progressive movement forward for the city?
Yes. The things that have the biggest impacts come from the community, and community policing is an example. We have new community response teams, partnerships with the county that for the first time that take social workers out to city parks to work on homelessness instead of just kicking people out. We also decriminalized marijuana. I think there’s opportunities there to say that not everything should be a police problem.
How long is it going to take to make Albuquerque better?
What you are seeing is a rebirth, it’s a new generation of this city in terms of how the city deals with itself. It will be a lengthy transition, but it will happen. We used to say “those are the Environment or Health Departments’ problems,” or “that’s the Street Department’s problem.” Now—and the mayor has done a really good job of this—now we’re saying okay, everyone literally sits around the same table and starts to look at these issues so we can all find a solution. So we can say that the Parks Department mows the grass in the park, but first we’ve got to get Environmental Health to come by and pick up the needles. But in order to stop the needles, we need to engage the county’s behavioral health people to provide psychological and addiction care. So we’re moving the issues back their root causes and not just attacking the symptoms. I know that sounds simple, but it’s not the way government has usually worked. It’s the way government should work.