Mayoral Candidate Forums Albuquerque 2021

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9/27 Forum hosted by New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative:
Facebook LINK Downloaded video: LINK

9/28 Forum hosted by the ABQ Chamber of Commerce:
Youtube LINK Downloaded video: LINK

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Question 1: On Black Lives Matter

Can you and will you say Black lives matter? And if you agree, how does your record support this affirmation? And if you do not agree please state your reasons.

 

Tim Keller:

Black lives matter. We have a situation across the country and here in New Mexico of racism and even Anti-Blackness still exists. After listening what can we do in Albuquerque to own up to the challenges brought before us for racial justice. That’s why you saw a number of things come out of our office of equity and inclusion, an office that I created. That office worked with our community and came up with numerous ideas, new curriculum for the police academy. This department is alternative policing and it is a reflection of the courage the community gave me, to do something the administration was already piloting, we said now we are going to be the first city in America that when you call 911 you’re gonna get a third response. A social worker, a trained professional, so that situations are not escalated and also so that our officers can focus on fighting violent crime. 

Manny Gonzales: 

I would say all lives matter. My campaign manager is a Black woman, and successful. When I was in the Marine Corp., my roommates were Black. I have had friends that I consider very close to me over at my home that I love. It has nothing to do with activism. I advocate for people based on my constitutional duties to ensure the most sacred things in their lives, which are their rights, their properties, and their lives. 

Eddy Aragon:

All lives matter, period. We been divided in this country based upon the level of racist implosion here in this country that has been going on. There is no doubt that there are certain elements, certain aspects of things that have happened here in this country. But I think we need to understand as a Republican, I’d like to state that being 4.6% Black. I want you to understand something about all of us being equal and all of us moving forward together as a society what we’ve seen coming out of covid, and I agree with the leader of BLM that the mandates for the vaccine are absolutely racist. 

Question 2: On Policing/Safety 

How would you identify and define safety and what do you identify as the leading underlying factors challenging safety in our communities, specifically in communities of color. Please contextualize your answer based on your understanding of constitutional policing and divergent public outcries. On the one hand, people requesting more policing more law enforcement, on the other hand, people saying defund the police. Where do you sit?

 

Manny Gonzales: 

On the leading underlying factors challenging safety in our communities:                                             

This government is the government of the people. What has happened over the span of my life in Albuquerque is that there is an over-politicizing of policing to a fault. And we need to get to the point where we start making policies that are beneficial to the safety of the people, therefore, removing the politics from public safety. 

 

 Eddy Aragon:

There is no color under the law. If you break the law you get punished under that law. We don’t have that right now. There is preferential treatment to certain categories that are out there. Mayor Keller has enabled a high level of lawlessness here in our community, and to that end we need to re-fund the police. That entire word or phrase should be completely stricken, and not just here but across the country. Crime is running rampant in blue states. I don’t think that crime here in this city disproportionately affects people of color, okay. I don’t think it is one particular group. […]

 

Tim Keller: 

I mean, there are actual definitions of this, but I think in summary, it’s about making sure that everyone has given their constitutional rights.  But the reason why it’s an issue is because of both profiling, uh, and implicit bias, which absolutely happens. And we have to be cognizant of and acknowledge. And it also happens with respect to use of force. I mean, this is one of the reasons why the DOJ is in a. Immunities is exactly because constitutional policing is an issue on both sides, right? And so that’s what we have to continue to adhere to going forward. Now, I want to acknowledge that, to say that constitutional policing is something different, I think is really a statement coming from naivete. I mean, that’s just not what it is like. We’re in a consent decree, and you got to know the definition of constitutional policing.

If you want to be mayor also to say that politics is the number one problem in crime is a complete dis uh, service to both victims and to law enforcement officials. Look, we all know what the number one issue is and it’s addiction and drugs and- closely followed by poverty. And so, you know, even if you agree that politics is a problem, to say that it’s the number one thing I think is just absolutely over the top and completely ignoring the realities of our community.

Now, I also want to mention that. Look, we’ve adequately funded APD, you know, frankly, they were short funding when I came in, we’ve had an officer shortage for some time, but let’s remember what those officers, what that funding means. It means diversion programs. It means violence intervention programs. It also means domestic violence program, it means homicide detectives.

So I actually believe that APD right now is adequately funded. In fact, the issue is hiring in all those areas, but we also have to do things like get social workers and fund all the other kinds of support programs to deal with behavioral health and addiction. And lastly, let me just say safety. 

What is safety? Safety is what each person thinks it is for a woman at night. It’s something different for a person of color when they’re pulled over. It’s something different than a white person. And you’ve got to know the difference between that. If you want to be married―

 

[Moderator] Thank you, candidate Keller, uh, going on to our second question in the public safety.

Question 3: On Albuquerque as a sanctuary city “welcoming community”

This month we saw thousands of Afghan refugees arrive in New Mexico as well as a humanitarian crisis with Haitian refugees at the border of Texas. The City of Albuquerque’s website defines Albuquerque as being a refugee “welcoming city for decades.” What is your plan to support refugees from Afghanistan and Haiti as they settle down here?

 

Manny Gonzales:

We have no authority over the federal mandates of this country. So there’s no way, shape, or form we can we do any type of enforcement. I think in terms of being welcoming to those people that are in places of service like nonprofits and other government entities in the federal government have services, it can provide. I look at it in terms of, uh, there are issues, uh, that we have in terms of, uh, being a sanctuary city, which I would believe could be deemed unconstitutional if as long as they’re not in violation of those, I would be in support of any person that visited this country legally.

 

And so for me, that’s been one of the biggest issues in terms of the drivers of crime. I actually believe sanctuary cities is a, is a policy that is very bigoted and the fact that it pits immigrants against a majority, majority-minority state, which we are, and us eating an economic crumbs from the absolutely worst economy in the country, it creates crime. So I would never advocate for anything like that, but I would always be supportive of immigrants, uh, because we are a country of immigrants.

 

Eddy Aragon:

A plan to take in the refugees I have yet to hear of one, we have yet to understand how we’re going to absorb refugees. We have a homeless population that we can absorb as it is of other mayors and other governors sending homeless people here to our city. I am dead set against a sanctuary city. The non-cooperation of ICE detainers has increased crime, not the immigrants themselves. There’s bad apples, but let me tell you a story about some good immigrants. 

The hardest workings working people amongst us are immigrants who want to do better for themselves. And I’ll tell you the number one group that I see out there that are against sanctuary city and immigrant friendly are the people who did it right? Who came into this country the right way. 

It is of no consequence or on any action of their own that these Haitian immigrants are. We’re sending a clear signal from the White House. Joe Biden has stated that we’re open, and now we’re sending them back. How incredibly cruel is that you imagine making that trip and coming here?

I don’t think that we should encourage these people. We should encourage economic development in those particular countries, Haiti, Mexico, El Salvador. That’s what we have to do. We would be a better neighbor, if we did it. Human trafficking and exploitation is big. My biggest fear would be many of these Haitian immigrants would come here onto our street, and they would get exploited labor paid under the table. Sex trafficking, child trafficking. You might remember there was going to be roughly 1500 that were going to relocate to Glorietta of young able men who were relocating from a Latin American country. So I don’t know of any plan to go ahead and take in refugees. I do know that there are great immigrants here in this country who have worked hard, who provided jobs and who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to become great Americans. And they did it right. There’s a process that’s involved. I don’t think that we should be sending that. We should be encouraging those people to stay home, and we should help those countries, uh, through foreign relations by economic development, increasing trade partnerships, etcetera.

 

Tim Keller:

Well, I think for some of this, especially for those of us who are in office now, this is about working together and this is where, you know, I just, some of the things that I’ve heard, I mean, we have just been let down time and time again by the Sheriff. Look, the reality is when there were child separation issues, and we were fighting to keep, uh, the folks coming through our town fed and taken care of, there was no help from Sheriff Gonzalez.

When we stood trying to stop white supremacists from infiltrating protests about immigration and about Black lives matter, there was no help from BCS. In fact, there was a photo op with the Cowboys for Trump leader after it, this is what we cannot have in Albuquerque division. Championing things that are different than just helping people who helped our soldiers in Afghanistan.

Our city has been doing this for decades. The reason why it’s called the international district, the reason why Highland has 17 languages spoken in it is because Albuquerque opens its arms to refugees. And you’ve got to know the difference between refugees and homeless and unsheltered and immigrants.

 

Question 4: On the economy

According to the census, over the last 10 years, Albuquerque’s population grew by about 3% higher than other parts of our state, but far lower than other major Metro areas in our region. If you can each tell us what needs to happen over the next 10 years to create a boom in private sector jobs, how do you plan to make our city as attractive and vibrant as possible? So that new companies want to locate here. Existing businesses feel supported and want to grow and talented workers want to stay here to work.

 

Manny Gonzalez:

So first and foremost, you have to make Albuquerque a safer place to live. You have to get our arms around crime. A lot of big companies, big tech left California. Recently, they looked at Utah. They looked at Arizona and Texas, but they avoided Albuquerque, New Mexico because it’s a lot similar, like California, very liberal policies like sanctuary cities.

De-funding the police, mismanaging the police department, and having the DOJ. We’ll never get to that where we want to be, unless we make Albuquerque a safer place, and you have the leadership that is going to hold people accountable. And that wants to get through all these parsnips that the city’s experiencing right now.

You have to be determined. You have to be willing to work hard, but more importantly, you have to be willing to surround yourself with the right people that are not political, which is definitely a fault of this current administration to move Albuquerque in the right direction. So we have the services we need, we have the safety we need and when we restore the quality of life. So for me, it really comes down to providing services. And again, whether that comes through consolidation and or contracting out to the Sheriff’s office and otherwise collaborating with other agencies, then I’ll do whatever it takes to make Albuquerque a safer place to live.

 

Eddy Aragon:

A really good question. This is what we have to start talking about. Nothing helps crime rates better than prosperity. We’re seeing that in red states versus blue states, and I think we need to understand that there are some quick things that we can do, quick needs, and I’ve already mentioned them and alluded to them: home builders. Let’s help those industries actually relocate here.

Find land, develop it, uh, here in the city of Albuquerque, as opposed to Rio Rancho, Los Lunas, Bernalillo, all the surrounding areas we need to grow inside. We’ve got to build neighborhoods, streamline approvals, industrial commercial, real estate. There’s no small business space. There’s 0% vacancy. These small businesses need places to operate in the right zoning. I know a little bit of something about that. How about bringing doctors you guys have recently seen, uh, uh, and people move to great places that have great health care, especially those people who are here and have to take care of their parents because we know how expensive long term care is. Let’s bring doctors here and we should be.

Property tax incentives. How about our students, University of New Mexico, despite Mayor Tim Keller’s best chances doing attract people to the public school. The University of New Mexico is actually reduced during his party’s and Manny Gonzalez as party’s shutdown of COVID-19. We’ve lost 5,000 students, mostly to Arizona, some to Texas. And finally, what about our closed restaurants? How important are those? We love our food. We love our culture. We build it right around the kitchen table, right around the cocinas. And here’s what I can tell you. Let’s build them a cloud kitchen and get those people going. Those are the things that we can jumpstart day one and move this economy forward and get people growing Albuquerque once again.

 

Tim Keller:

Well, a couple of things I know we heard that, uh, somehow politicians are part of this and just to acknowledge, at least there’s two of us up here. Whether we like it or not, we’re politicians, uh, the Sheriff’s been elected. He is a Democrat. He’s partisan. He’s no different than any other politician. And I think, also you got to be a leader. The difference is you got to talk about something besides crime. And the reality is that, of course that’s an important component, but you also have to understand what we’ve been through with COVID. And when we were able to, as a city, keep those businesses alive by getting $30 million in small business grants out the door, by doing little things like paying for tents.

And by doing big things like pushing $300 million in construction projects out the door as part of our new deal reconstruction program during COVID, we literally kept businesses afloat. That is what economic development leadership looks like during a pandemic. Now coming out of the pandemic, it’s about doubling down on some things that we have achieved.

We got Netflix to come here. Even during the pandemic, we got NBC universal to come here. We have announced thousands of jobs since my administration came in more than the last administration did in their entire administration. Our economy is actually doing better than all the other economies in the state of New Mexico in terms of unemployment and in terms of growth for major cities. So we’re coming out of this in a much healthier position and it’s because of what we did during the pandemic. And it’s because of that vision going forward.

 

Manny Gonzales:

Yes. So we need to do a lot better job of creating business-friendly policies for business stakeholders, developers, contractors, for citizens that want to grow their businesses. We have to be willing to build the infrastructure to 21st century expectations, whether they’re cloud-based, web-based kiosk based so that people have access to licensing inspections and. Not having to pander to the city bureaucrats to get something done in order to move Albuquerque in the right direction.

We need to change our culture. We need to have political reform. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about. That’s politics at its highest. We need to come together and get the smartest people, because this is a non-partisan race, and you have to be willing to bring both Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Declined To State together so we can move Albuquerque forward and that’s my goal.

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