By Heather Balas, New Mexico First President and Executive Director
Many Albuquerque residents do not feel safe, and data supports their worries. The city’s property and violent crime rates have increased dramatically, with the number of robberies, murders and auto thefts doubling in the last three years.
On Sept. 15, over 100 Albuquerque residents came together at four city community centers to discuss public safety concerns they wanted the city’s eight mayoral candidates to address. Those issues were subsequently addressed in a televised town hall debate focused on public safety – an issue that has replaced the economy as the top concern among Albuquerque residents, according to a recent Albuquerque Journal poll.
Most of the time, messages in elections are influenced most by two entities: campaigns through social media or election ads and then through the news media. But for this debate, Albuquerque residents took control of the message, and one by one, stood up to ask the candidates smart, thoughtful questions.
Many of the people’s questions were addressed during the debate, but time prevented the community from hearing them all. To honor the work of the town hall participants and further a healthy nonpartisan dialogue in the race for mayor, we share the main issues Albuquerque residents identified.
- Mental health and addiction as public safety issues – access to treatment, drug diversion programs, support for homeless, recidivism of those with addiction.
- Law enforcement – administration and hiring of chief of police, training, retention, increasing number of police officers, use of Crisis Intervention Team programs, community policing, establishing better trust-based relationships between the community and law enforcement.
- Community pride and ownership – support for neighborhoods to look and feel safe, neighborhood beautification.
- Theft reduction – vehicle theft, home burglaries.
- Gun violence reduction, gun safety and unauthorized gun possession.
- Cultural and economic divides – how to bridge divides, improving education, job creation, after-school programs, adult literacy, diversity training, position on sanctuary cities.
- City government accountability and coordination – effective use of resources, administration results are measurable and regularly communicated to the public, improved cooperation between city, school district and county.
- Political process – mayoral candidates representing a party rather than a nonpartisan election.
We invite the candidates to answer these questions and for all Albuquerque residents to continue to work together, ask smart questions and provide our elected officials with thoughtful solutions for the good of our city.
The Sept. 15 town hall debate was a partnership between New Mexico First and NBC television affiliate KOB-Channel 4. New Mexico First is a nonpartisan organization that engages people in policy and enables action. It conducts independent research and deliberation on education, health care, the economy, natural resources and good government. More information at www.nmfirst.org.