Immediately after meeting with Ane Romero and her campaign manager on Sunday morning, I rushed back to mi chante to do a little research on City Council District 4, the locus of this candidate’s current campaign.
Though I’d spoken about the district in the past—in fact jumbling some data about the place’s psychogeography, which I later learned from a trusted source wasn’t so off the mark—the fact is I know a heck a lot about Burque.
But here is something that I did not know until this weekend: Sandia Heights (which I had presumed to be part of District 4) is in fact an unincorporated area of Bernalillo County, represented by Lonnie Talbot on the County Commission. I’m starting to get it now, but the area just West of there—and North past Paseo Del Norte, too—is all part of District 4.
The area has a much different feel to it than the rest of Burque, inasmuch as it is solidly suburban, yet still includes the hugely successful and architecturally pleasing business and industrial park created by the publishers of the Albuquerque Journal in the early ’80s and stretching along Jefferson Avenue and sparsely populated outskirts like those north of Jefferson and Alameda.
For the past 20 years, that entire realm has been represented by Brad Winter, a local politician and educator with his own Wikipedia page, which says, by the way, that his district has become “a Republican stronghold.” That may have been true in the past but it doesn’t look like it will hold fast for this year’s Council election on Nov. 5.
For one thing, Winter, an acolyte and one time political appointee of la Tejana, isn’t running for reelection.
The second thing is a big one, though. The Republicans didn’t throw a big name or a known politico, ni nada, into this race. Instead, representing elephants everywhere, District 4 has Brook Bassan, a political neophyte with no policy or governance background, bound to a race where she may very well be overshadowed by a highly motivated, progressively minded Democrat.
We know that the election has been offered to the public as “nonpartisan” but the truth is that members of the Berry administration and one still-serving member of the council (Winter) did much to politicize the council as the lapdogs of la Tejana and her Svengali, Jay McCleskey.
In order to move the city along in a progressive matter, citizens must seriously consider voting Republicans out of office at every opportunity. That party is clearly responsible for much of the dysfunction inherited by both Mayor Keller and Governor Lujan Grisham. We must also remember that the GOP is the party of Trump.
With that in mind, we met with wunderkind politico Ane Romero about her bid to claim District 4 for forward-thinking citizens in the city of Albuquerque.
Weekly Alibi: Let’s start generally and move toward specifics.
Ane Romero: Okay. I am the daughter of educators. Both of my parents are public school teachers. My mom also taught at Highlands University. My husband’s a teacher, too. I’m a 14th-generation New Mexican. I really view myself as a changemaker. Growing up, my parents always instilled a sense of responsibility in us, a responsibility to give back to your community. That is what really helped me start on my path. I’ve worked at the national and international level trying to get a better handle on behavioral health, developing programs along the way.
That’s really interesting, considering that Albuquerque has recently had to confront some issues, like crime, homelessness and drug addiction, that hinge on behavioral health and behavioral health programs. How will you bring your expertise on the subject to bear on the City Council and on the city?
Actually, that is the foundation of why I am running. I would be the only person on the City Council that has that sort of expertise, working directly with those populations [homeless and/or drug addicted]. One of the key programs I’d like to initiate through the city is a partnership with the City and APS to implement a mental health in schools program. We can’t just keep focusing on the back end, when people are in crisis, when folks are getting incarcerated, when they can’t have access to services. We also have to be looking at preventative measures, work that can be done to avert a crisis.
What sort of background do you have on these sorts of subjects?
When I was in college in 2005, I wrote a piece of legislation for the New Mexico Senate, Joint Memorial 61, which was about suicide prevention. It successfully passed the state legislature. It garnered national attention. That led to my work in Washington, DC, overseeing the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, which I did for about 9 years. I got to work on some of the most impactful mental health legislation in the history of the US. So given all that experience, I want to bring that to our city. I want to make Albuquerque the flagship city for how to handle behavioral health and consequentially, how to reduce crime.
What sort of specific legislation would you bring before the Council?
One of the things I want to implement is a “no wrong door policy.” What that means is it is designed for individuals who get caught up in the system. We have to ensure that there’s a pathway they can be diverted to. If an individual is arrested, we have to have a clear understanding of their needs, of what type of services and resources are available. We have to be able to send such individuals to appropriate placements. No one should have to wait in jail because they’re poor or mentally ill. But violent criminals shouldn’t be released either; we still need to determine what services and resources we can provide them. As it is, people enter the system, exit and then are back in within hours.
What else would you like to see done on the mental health front?
As a city, we need to gain a better understanding of the resources in our community. We have to be able to get that message about resources out to citizens all over the city. The one question I often ask people is, “If someone you know was in crisis at this moment, where would you turn for help?”
What do you do in a situation like that? It sounds very stressful. I don’t know where I’d turn for help.
Exactly. Folks don’t have a good idea of what to do when someone is having a mental health crisis. You need to get them help, but how and with whom? We need to communicate and work together to make better outcomes possible. When I came back, I did some of my own research and found that some [behavioral health and/or homeless] organizations that were across the street from each other weren’t communicating.
I talked with Councilor Benton about that. He says it’s been an ongoing process to get that going and maintain it.
In 2016, I started one of the main mental health events in the city. I brought about 30 organizations together to foster communication and mutual growth. These groups started working together, started organizing along the same lines. As a City Councilor, I’d like to help build community. We’ve really gotten to a place where folks don’t know their neighbors. The best way to address violence and crime is to diminish the bad things that are happening in our city by building connectedness. If you know and value your neighbor, you’re going to watch out for them.
That’s great. We feel like building community is an essential goal of progressivism and we’re glad you are in tune with that. Are there specific issues in District 4 that you are planning to address?
I love where we live! It’s made up of individuals from so many different backgrounds. We have a lot of seniors, some who have retired from the labs and have lived in the community for decades. It’s an area that has seen huge growth since the 1980s. Some of the key issues have to do with streets and roads and parks, as well. I also see crime as a key concern.
How do you feel about community policing?
I’m a member of the Northeast Community Policing Council. In that capacity, I’ve gone on a ride along with APD to get a good sense of what’s happening. I’m the type of person who wants to get to the root of the problem. I dive in to look at the whole issue. There has been a rise in property crime among seniors in the district. The best way to fight that is through building community, though community policing efforts. That’s what we’re doing with the policing council. We work directly with APD and members of the community—together. I already have a productive relationship with Commander [Joseph] Burke (APD Northeast Heights Command), I plan to bring that [positivity] to the Council.