On Oct. 21, current Bernalillo County Sheriff and Albuquerque mayoral candidate Manny Gonzales met with students at the University of New Mexico for a “Coffee with the Candidates” event organized by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, talking largely about issues related to crime.
Gonzales has worked in law enforcement for almost 28 years, and champions fighting crime as one of his main goals in his mayoral pursuit. Although many of his takes on major issues align with a standard conservative viewpoint and he has worked alongside former President Donald Trump, Gonzales is a registered Democrat.
During the event, Gonzales said the main issues he would strive to address as mayor would be crime and homelessness, issues that have not improved since he began his service as Bernalillo County sheriff in 2009.
When asked about his plans to aid the unhoused population in the city, Gonzales said that he would strive to create a service that would provide resources to help those individuals, which would include services to help them find things like transitional or affordable housing. However, he said he would not advocate for increased funding for shelters, like the planned Gateway Center, which he said have empty beds; he would help shelters if they were more often full and the need arose. Instead, Gonzales said he would allocate the money toward a technology hub at the University of New Mexico.
“Let's get those (shelter) beds filled, make sure that those people want the help,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales talked about growing up in the South Valley, and said that he and his siblings are successful because they were brought up with good rules and values. Gonzales reiterated that people who are in poverty can still work their way up.
Gonzales also pushed a firm pro-police stance, and said that individuals who are advocating against law enforcement should not be listened to when drafting law enforcement policies.
“You don't want to politicize a police department … You do not let anti-law enforcement activists make policies … You're supposed to make reasonable policies so they can provide a service for you to protect your rights,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said that he would listen to individuals’ concerns as mayor, and said that since being sheriff, he’s strived to work for the community.
Students present at the event asked Gonzales about his thoughts on their ideas for helping the city, such as if he would support safe injection sites or decriminalization efforts to aid unhoused individuals who face addiction. A student brought up Portugal, a nation that has sustained decriminalization efforts, but Gonzales said he isn’t running to be the mayor of Portugal.
“‘If you got rid of all the laws you wouldn't have any crime anymore.’ That's what you're basically saying,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales has a controversial past when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 safety measures, including last December when he said he would not enforce what he views as the state’s unconstitutional restrictions. However, when asked at the event how he would approach the situation as mayor, Gonzales said that while he still believes the regulations are unconstitutional, he never stopped enforcing them.
The final “Coffee with the Candidates” event will be with current Mayor Tim Keller on Oct. 26.
Maddie Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @madelinepukite