Copyright © 2021
The race to represent the northwesternmost areas of Albuquerque on the city council is a rare battle between two people who have already had the job and a third candidate who is betting on voters’ desire for a fresh start.
Incumbent District 5 officer Cynthia Borrego is running for a second term but faces the challenge of her predecessor Dan Lewis, who held the office from 2009 to 2017, and political newcomer Phillip Ramirez.
All three candidates identify the infrastructure as a critical need in their area, but believe they are best suited to steer improvements on the West Side.
Borrego said she raised nearly $ 20 million – in both city bonds and US dollars – of the $ 27 million allocated to the expansion of Paseo del Norte west of Kimmick Drive and about half of it, what is needed for the expansion of Our Boulevard. Both projects are in the design stage, she said.
“These are some of the reasons I want to run again because I want to finish what I started,” said Borrego.
However, Lewis argues that advances in West Side infrastructure have become too slow, and touts his experience building the Paseo del Norte interchange and projects like extending the Unser Boulevard between Montaño and Paradise.
“Just like me from 2009 to 2017, infrastructure projects worth over 100 million over the next four years,” he said.
Ramirez, meanwhile, said he had years of experience and perspectives in the construction industry. He said he was used to bargaining, which he believed would be useful in convincing eight other councilors to invest in District 5.
“Why can’t we bargain and get things done annually?” He said.
Borrego, a Democrat, and Lewis, a Republican, run publicly funded campaigns, while Ramirez, a Democrat, relies on private donations.
It’s been four years since Borrego took office – he inherited, as she said, “a bag full of chaos,” which included the ailing Albuquerque Rapid Transit project – and she believes the city is now in one going in a positive direction.
“I think we’re moving to a better place,” she said.
The first-term city council said the city still needs to do more to curb crime, but while Lewis has asked why voters would re-elect incumbents in the face of Albuquerque’s growing challenges, Borrego counters that the problems are not new. She said crime had also increased during Lewis’ tenure on the council.
“It took us a while to get to where we are and I think it will be a while before we get back,” she said, noting that she helped pass budgets to fund additional police officers, and support for the crimes against children unit.
Born in Española, Borrego, 64, has been in Albuquerque since college. A retired urban planner, she now runs her own retail business in Los Ranchos.
She said her career in the city – which included directing the Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency – was an excellent backdrop for her city council work.
“I always tell myself that I see things from a different perspective because I actually helped build Albuquerque,” she said.
As a city councilor, she counts as her largest bill a bill from 2019 that obliges hotels, restaurants and other public accommodation to activate the subtitling function on their televisions or to pay a civil fine.
“For me it was something that gave people equal access,” she said.
Dan Lewis |
Dan Lewis |
Lewis thought he was done with politics four years ago when he decided to run for mayor instead of another tenure on the city council, and then lost the race to Tim Keller.
But the defeat did not completely erase his interest in public office.
“They look around and say, ‘Maybe this is my role. I can help our neighborhood. I can help the west side. I can do better, ‘”said Lewis, who was born in California but has lived in Albuquerque for 25 years.
The former city council said the city has been spiraling for the past four years and that major West Side roads are taking too long to build. He said he had made infrastructure a priority since joining the council in 2009 and would do the same if he was re-elected.
Lewis, 51, said he would also focus on making changes to the Albuquerque Police Department.
“The council plays a pretty crucial role in developing and overseeing APD policy,” he said, adding that it would like to see more field officers and more trips around the city in marked – rather than unmarked – vehicles.
Lewis claims the city has made little progress after the gross income tax hike in 2018 and is critical of a decision to put a new multi-purpose football stadium project as a $ 50 million bond issue on this year’s vote. Lewis – who previously backed similar bonds to fund the West Side baseball complex and other city projects – said he believes based on his experience that after acquiring real estate, infrastructure and more, the stadium will ultimately cost around $ 150 million.
With crime and homelessness on the rise, he said asking voters to support such a project was “absolutely outrageous at the moment”.
Unlike his opponents, Ramirez has never held an elected office.
He thinks it doesn’t matter, and says that people he met on the campaign trail have expressed an interest in change.
What Ramirez, 43, brings to the role is a worker’s life experience.
Ramirez has spent his career in the construction industry and worked for his father’s company. He started out as an apprentice sheet metal and plumber and is now a calculator and project manager.
A father of five who is still working toward his bachelor’s degree, he said that the leadership of the city does not always reflect the working class.
“When I look at the city council, I don’t see secretaries, I don’t see plumbers, I don’t see carpenters, I don’t see restaurant workers,” he said, adding that even policies in support of these populations can suffer if decision-makers don’t have them have the same life experience.
“I want to be the person who says, ‘I’m a skilled worker; I am a blue collar worker who lives in your shoes and is constantly faced with the struggles you face every day, ‘”he said.
Ramirez said his goals in the event of an election include laws requiring project work contracts for large urban development projects, which would mean union involvement and union-level benefits for the people who work in the workplaces.
He said his current service as an appointed member of the state’s Construction Industry Commission had fueled his interest in running for the city council.
“I have the ability to negotiate and work with people firsthand to try to change policy (and) create regulations,” he said.
Questions and Answers Albuquerque City Council, District 5, Cynthia Borrego
Name: Cynthia D. Borrego Political Party: Democrats Age: 64 Education: Master of Public Administration; Bachelor…
September 29, 2021 1:37 PM
Q&A Albuquerque City Council District 5 Dan Lewis
Name: Dan Lewis Political Party: Republicans. The Albuquerque City Council races are non-partisan. Age: 51 Education: …
September 29, 2021 1:26 PM
Q&A Albuquerque District 5 Councilor Phillip Ramirez
Name: Phillip Ramirez Political Party: Democrat Age: 43 Education: I’m working on my Bachelor in Politics …
September 29, 2021 2:14 p.m.