Listen: The person who reported this story got up at 8am to write about city politics. It doesn’t really matter what his name really is, let’s just say he likes to write about this town, its history as well as its present and future.
On the way to grab a hot cuppa joe, our reporter drove slowly and with some gravitas down Tingley Boulevard, headed toward Central Avenue. In the opposite lane, a street sweeper had traffic tied up in a knot. August March looked up just in time to see a black late-model Volkswagen in the wrong lane, approaching him at high speed. He pulled over just in time to see the man in the dark coupe zoom by with a his arm out the window, dangling a big shiny cuete in a big meaty fist.
At the corner of Central and Tingley, the journalist saw an old colleague of his, once a famous local sculptor—with a piece in Bart Prince’s yard—reduced to homelessness and mental illness, struggling, stretching and squawking about conspiracies in the bright icy morning.
There were no police or sheriff’s deputies to be seen in that area, where a big bridge spans a little river. As our Alibi reporter pulled onto the main drag of Dirt City, he finally spied an APD vehicle at the corner of Central and Rio Grande, where numerous other homeless people were gathered seeking spare change.
The policeman got behind August March’s brand new car and began to follow closely. Inside the cockpit, the reporter wished like hell that the cop would pull him over so he could tell him what he saw, wave around at the city and declare with no undue amount of exasperation, “Why aren’t you doing something about that?!”
Of course the policeman did not pull him over and a song about a paranoid android began playing on Sirius XM Radio instead. Because he could not ask the policeman what was up, he returned home with a haul from El Rey del Hamburguesas. He began to eat and write, hoping that one of the people he interviewed for this article on the city runoff elections would indeed step forward and help end the lawlessness which seems to cruelly grip this city within its crushing hands.
Albuquerque clearly has a problem with crime and homelessness. Although city leaders continue to address these complex problems, those problems still spread like a cancerous growth through the healthy body of our city.
As this illness takes its toll, complications begin to occur. At this week’s City Council meeting, city leaders debated crime statistics here in town. After crowing about substantial reductions in crime during a midyear report, it was very recently discovered that the data on which said report was based had to be revised because the numbers were inaccurate, sometimes by quite a bit.
According to the city’s paper of record, short staffing in the APD records department and a software glitch led to the reporting of numbers that showed less of a decrease in crime than was initially reported. Some of the numbers previously reported have changed drastically.
As we approach the runoff election, we continue to support District 2 City Councilor Isaac Benton in his efforts to find a solution to these problems. District 4 challenger Ane Romero has our endorsement as well, so we asked her to chime in, pre-runoff, as well. Although we reached out to the campaign of the other District 2 challenger, Brook Bassan, Weekly Alibi has yet to hear back from the candidate who is backed by Republicans like Jay McCleskey and contrarian donkeys like the inimitable Jeff Apodaca. Most importantly, we reached out to District 2 challenger Zack Quintero to get his take on things.
We hope that they all read what follows, not just to acknowledge our support or to take a look at what the other side has to say, but to begin a dialogue that will hopefully move the city past the sad and violent chapter we now seem to be residing within.
Quintero is challenging Isaac Benton for the District 2 City Council seat. District 2, as we’ve reported before, comprises a large swath of land in the city that includes Downtown, Barelas, the University of Mexico’s main campus and portions of the North Valley.
Quintero is a native New Mexican, from Mesilla in the south of the state. He’s a young Democrat, intensely grounded in finding solutions for the people of this state, whom he considers his brothers and sisters.
We didn’t interview Quintero for the general election and continue to endorse the incumbent, Isaac Benton. But no matter the outcome of this classic contest, it’s clear after our brief conversation that Quintero has a voice that is bound to be heard in city and state politics, whether now or in the not too distant future.
We asked Quintero to speak to the issues of crime and homelessness in The Duke City and this is what he told us about crime in the city, the statistics that were recently reported and then revised and the growing problem of homelessness.
“There’s a marked difference between a 33 percent decline [in crime] and a 7 percent decline. I’m feeling that our neighborhoods and our communities are being ignored on the issues of homelessness and public safety. Specifically, what they’re [citizens] are hoping to see is a residential burglary unit; making sure that we have a strong recruitment program within place at APD; and that they actually recruit from the community. By actually having officers that are from these neighborhoods ... they can find effective partnerships.”
Asked if he is in favor of an increased emphasis on community policing, the challenger replied, “When you have true community policing, citizens will know their officers on a first name basis and be comfortable confiding in them and building relationships with others like them.”
On the issue of homelessness, Quintero feels, that much like the crime problem, solutions can be found by attacking the root issues and engaging the communities most affected, telling Weekly Alibi that, “Where we’ve really missed the ball is in terms of aligning our data with our resources. We need to have measures in place every three months to see who is receiving care and who isn’t, what their status is today, from behavioral health to addiction.”
On crime and homelessness, Benton has always taken the lead in citywide efforts to expand community policing and reduce gun violence. The incumbent councilor recently sponsored a “red flag” resolution in the Council chambers. The resolution was designed to urge the state to remove guns from dangerous felons and known civil violators.
Further, Benton has supported the Department of Justice intervention into APD, helped establish a “Downtown Safety Zone” and worked with the Council to establish and maintain a Behavioral Health Task Force to investigate underlying issues that may help propagate violence and homelessness in the city.
Of these efforts, Benton, whom we heartily endorsed as the incumbent in District 2, told Weekly Alibi that his concern for the city and his search for solutions should continue because “we need strong and experienced leaders familiar with the needs of our community. I have fought for progressive policies involving gun safety to bring about change that benefits our neighborhoods and families.”
Ultimately we’ll conquer crime, said Benton, who added, “Today, APD has excellent top leadership. Our city police force is being successfully rebuilt with hundreds of well-paid officers. We are rebuilding crime prevention information technology. We are finally committed to true community policing, a 2-way street of regular contact between beat officers, and residents confident to report criminal activity.”
District 4 candidate Ane Romero faces a strong headwind in her electoral battle with political newcomer and former Republican party sympathizer Brook Bassan. Bassan has received major backing from elephantine bigwigs like Jay McCleskey and former Susana Martinez political appointee turned City Councilor Brad Winter. Despite this, Romero has fought a good fight, capitalizing on her expertise as a leader in the field of community mental health to address the top issues facing our city. Romero is definitely our choice for District 4.
Asked to respond to our query regarding lawlessness and desperation in the city, Romero responded, “We must focus resources on identifying and apprehending violent and repeat offenders and work to expand addiction and behavioral health programs. Talking about real solutions to crime has been the focus of my campaign.”
After all these words have been considered, after all the chips fall in the coming runoff election for City Council Districts 2 and 4, we still must ask ourselves, as we asked each candidate—as well as the policeman who chose to follow a law abiding citizen down the street without stopping him while real crime and desperation were blooming all around them—“Why aren’t you doing something about this?!”