Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on April 9 in the New Mexico News Port, under the headline, “Working Together to Preserve a Community,” written by Nichole Harwood. This is part of our project to help connect the Daily Lobo audience to more members of our community.
Historic Nob Hill has been a staple of Albuquerque since Central Avenue became part of Route 66 in 1937 and prides itself on its historical buildings and its many locally owned businesses.
The community has worked together for years to balance its goals for historical preservation while still enriching its economy through the income of new businesses.
The current dynamic of Nob Hill may, however, be changing shortly, as Albuquerque City Councilman for the Nob Hill Area is running for Congress.
Now in his third year representing District Six, Davis has earned community praise for helping area residents and merchants work through recent issues.
Davis links community to city government
“When we’ve received complaints in my office from residents,” Davis said, “my principle is to empower our neighborhood associations to be sort of the first place those ideas get vetted in the community.”
Before starting as councilman at the end of 2015, Davis served as a police officer.
Davis was immediately charged with resolving issues arising from the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project — a dedicated electric bus line constructed along Central Avenue, with boarding stations in the middle of the street.
Davis heard many complaints from individuals that most of the input they provided weren’t included in the final plans for ART. One concern in particular was that the project bypassed the international district where a high proportion of residents rely on public transportation, he said.
This prompted Davis to sit down and negotiate a deal with then-mayor Richard J Berry. They agreed to add an extra station in the international district.
Additionally, Davis would come up with money out of his city council district discretionary fund to provide parking spaces and sidewalks that got left out of the plan, Davis said.
While Davis was not involved in approving the original ART project, he said it was important that he became a voice for people that felt excluded from the planning and give help them suggest changes they felt were needed, he said.
Davis said he tries to reach out to his community in a variety of ways including an email to 6,000 people mostly within his district to give monthly updates on bills coming through the city council.
“More or less it means I start my day at 6 o’clock in the morning going through a dozen or so emails and voicemails from people who need everything from a stop sign got knocked down all the way up to someone who had a problem with the police department overnight and wants somebody to step in and be an advocate for them,” Davis said.
Campaigns around marijuana decriminalization and civilian police oversight are what made Davis run for city council in the first place, and these issues are what Davis is still trying to push forward as he is now running for Congress, he said.
“Finding somebody that knows the City of Albuquerque and our challenges and can help us move forward with the right solutions is just the right person for Congress and so I’m trying to put my hat in there as a city councilman and candidate,” Davis said.
Cities are more important than ever in terms of making progress for working families here locally and on big issues like climate change and immigration on the federal level, Davis said.
“What we’ve seen is members of Congress working on a local level, mayors and city councilors are getting the most done for their people even when Congress is still broken,” he said.
If elected to Congress, Davis would still have one year left to his term as a city councilman and so Mayor Tim Keller would get to appoint an individual for the last year of his term, Davis said.
There would be a regular election the following year in 2019, he said.
Member of the Business Community Works to add new ideas to his community
Davis’s work has not gone unappreciated. Kurt A. Oelsner, a local business owner of Chocolate Dude, a candy store and coffee shop, and citizen of Nob Hill, credits Davis with going above and beyond the call of duty by weighing in on the ART controversy.
Oelsner who is also involved deeply in the Nob Hill community as president of a grassroots collaborative, created to bring the vision of the National Main Street Program and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to Albuquerque’s Nob Hill District noted that Davis could have hidden from the community but did not.
“He could have not made himself available, but he stuck his neck out there and opened himself up to a lot of course questions,” Oelsner said. “I would say he even opened himself up to unreasonable attacks on behalf of some people and I commend him for doing that.”
Oelsner has been a small business owner in Nob Hill for five years and wanted to add value to the Nob Hill shopping experience by providing something that Nob Hill didn’t have.
“I wanted to provide something for the residence, the neighborhood. A place where families could take their kids and they could have fun,” Oelsner said.
As a business owner, Oelsner said the government has interacted with him in a reasonable way but that he emphasized that his business and its success is his responsibility.
As a business owner Oelsner would like for the business community to come together and work together to solve their problems as he doesn’t really see an effort independently to solve current problems, he said.
“Really my observation is business owners are tending to act independently and it would really be a great thing if the business owners could organize,” he said.
This Oelsner said would give the business community a more powerful voice in regard to going to the city and trying to get the city to help with addressing any issues businesses have.
“When it comes to Nob Hill I think Nob Hill is the only true pedestrian shopping area in New Mexico and it’s a jewel that I believe has kind of been neglected,” he said. “I would like to see it get attention.”
Nob Hill Community Association sees value in preserving historical significance to their community
Adrian N. Carver President of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association agrees that the business community is a vibrant part of the neighborhood noting that business owners have joined and served on the board of directors for the association in the past.
“We have a major commercial district that sets our neighborhood apart and it’s an important part of living in Nob Hill,” Carver said, “and so the neighborhood association has always had a pretty great relationship with the business community and through any of the struggles we’ve had over the past ten years — the recession, ART — we’ve always partnered with the business community to try to support them because its an important part of the neighborhood.”
Carver has lived in Nob Hill for over ten years and has served on the board for the neighborhood association about half that time, during which he has worked through multiple issues with businesses and local government.
“Most of the ways we do that is through preserving the historic character of the neighborhood through things like zoning codes and making sure that when there is development and when folks want to make changes to properties we’re helping to maintain the rules that we have all agreed to,” he said.
Maintaining these rules and fighting for them played a large part in the work the association did with the Counselor Davis’ office this year when the Integrated Development Ordinance did not fully transfer protections enacted by the zoning laws fought for in 2007.
“There was a risk that many of the historic buildings and some of the character of the merchant district were at jeopardy,” Carver said.
This was due to building heights and Carver said his association was able to work with the councilor’s office to secure those protections through an amendment process.
“There have been many opportunities where we have worked very closely with Councilman Davis,” he said.
The association has a pretty reciprocal relationship with their counselor, Carver said.
“If the counselor needs something, we’re ready to have that conversation and vice versa,” he said.
With the current councilor running for Congress Carver urges those looking to replace him to understand the challenges in representing a diverse neighborhood.
“It’s important in council districts for somebody to work hard to be representative of the whole district and be willing to share, experience and reach out to everyday people,” Carver said.
Apart from her role as culture editor at the Daily Lobo, Nichole Harwood is also an editor at the News Port. She can be contacted on Twitter @Nolidoli1.