It’s just like the headline says.
One week after a municipal election that saw a 20 percent increase over voter turnout for the Feb. 2019 APS spending election, citizens will have more opportunities to express their voices in the months to come. Just 8 percent of registered voters participated in the 2015 municipal election.
This year 24 percent of citizen voters in Bernalillo County submitted a ballot in a municipal election that covered four City Council districts, three CNM Governing Board districts, numerous city and scholastic spending proposals, a tax question and two proposed amendments to the electoral public finance law currently in effect in Burque.
As memories of that last citizens’ referendum fade into the next news cycle—one that is surely to be dominated by political news as the Trump administration heads toward impeachment in a Presidential election year—2020 is slowly coming into focus.
We’ll be sure to keep you tuned in on what’s to come; in the meantime, here’s a look at outcomes, 2019 style.
The Council maintained and sustained its progressive bent with the easy-peasy re-election of District 6 City Councilor Pat Davis. In Districts 2 and 4, however, the outcome was not as clear a path for candidates endorsed by bigwigs in the Democratic Party.
Incumbent Isaac Benton received twice as many votes as his nearest competitor, Zack Quintero, but he didn’t quite hit the 50 percent requirement to win outright. The other candidates in that race fared poorly; hard work and perpetual door-knocking barely got Robert Blanquera Nelson to the 15 percent mark, for instance, while Connie Vigil faded into the also-ran category with just 11 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, in District 4, a three-way race—with two over 40 percent vote-getters and one 10 percenter—will also go into another round, a decisive runoff that happens in just a few weeks, on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Ane Romero, the self-declared Democrat, has a great ground game while her ostensibly non-partisan but Republican-leaning (endorsed by both Jay McCleskey and Jeff Apodaca, which says something) opponent, Brook Bassan, has the funding from non-associated PACs that are desperate to keep the district red.
Trudy Jones escaped with another win under her belt, but her opponent, Maurreen Skowran, put up a noble fight in a district that is grappling with demographic change. Skowran garnered almost 44 percent of the vote, a more than respectable showing for her first campaign. Jones, who was privately financed, had a war chest that enabled her to hold off the best of opponents.
All 10 of the general obligation bond proposals floated into reality after this election, albeit by widely varying percentages. This indicates that some projects are more likely to be approved by voters than others. Low on the ratio between “yea” or “nay,” the municipal redevelopment bond—which will provide funds for the Railyards redevelopment among other things—won with just 58 percent supporting the measure; the same was true for the public transportation bond, which will come into being with only 58 percent voter approval.
On the other hand, nearly 78 percent of voters said yes to more money for street repair and upgrades as well as for public safety facility development; 76 percent voted for money to be set aside for storm sewer improvements.
Voters also approved spending more than $21 million on community projects that include a central homeless shelter and services facility. We’ve already heard the arguments that a centralized homeless center—that isn’t miles from the metro area—would be a benefit to all citizens of Albuquerque and would provide our most fragile citizens with opportunities to turn things around for themselves and their families.
It’s perplexing to hear neighborhood organizations arguing that such a center would destroy the fabric of their neighborhood. Some have even called for smaller, regional facilities (which would only increase bureaucracy and make the management of such sites complicated at best). Solving the problem of location, now that the funding has been approved by voters, must include voices from all areas of the cultural spectrum.
A solid majority of Albuquerque citizens—65 percent—voted to continue the one-quarter of one percent transportation gross receipts tax. This tax, which will result in millions of dollars going into city coffers, is for road infrastructure improvements to include Americans with Disabilities Act requirements as well as money for bikeways and public transit.
The continuance of the Public School Capital Improvent Tax, a 2 mill levy, was approved by voters by a wide margin. When this tax was proposed as a 4 mill levy in a separate election held last February, it was roundly rejected by the 4 percent of voters who cast a ballot. This tax money will be used for capital improvements of school buildings, facilities and equipment. Yea!
Two important questions about the form and content of municipal elections were examined during this past cycle. The first proposal asked voters to update the Open and Ethical Elections Code by approving an increase in the amount of seed money that a publicly financed candidate can collect as well as raising campaign financing contribution funds for publicly financed mayoral candidates. Voters approved; 58 percent said yes to the changes, while 42 percent said no.
The other proposal, Proposition 2, was about a thing called Democracy Dollars. That’s where voters are tasked with supporting the publicly financed candidate of their choice with city-produced $25 coupons. Poorly understood by voters used to having things a very certain way but nonetheless explained in clear simple language by the measure’s many advocates, Democracy Dollars did not fare well at the many election centers scattered through The Duke City. Only about 48 percent of voters said yes, while more than 51 percent registered a no vote.
Oh, and of course Virginia Trujillo dispatched her opponent in the CNM District 6 contest. She’s the epitome of an informed, progressive Democrat. We know how to pick them and fervently hope—as the next election looms, just over yonder—that you do too.