With City Council elections around the corner, incumbent Isaac Benton will not be running for re-election and District 2 will welcome a new councilor to assume the role.
District 2 is the City Center district. It includes Downtown, Old Town, and the valley east of the Rio Grande. District 2 also holds the highest number of homeless shelters of any other district in Albuquerque, according to a map released by The Family and Community Services Department.
A common issue all three candidates share as a focus of their campaigns is how to address the size of the unhoused population in the City.
Currently, Albuquerque’s housing shortage lies between 13,000 and 28,000 units, according to the City’s website. The state as a whole has reported a 48% increase in homelessness in 2023, according to a report from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee earlier this year.
This year’s District 2 election is a three-way race between Joaquin Baca, Loretta Ann Naranjo Lopez and Moises A. Gonzalez.
Loretta Ann Naranjo Lopez
Lopez has worked for the city of Albuquerque for over 20 years – 15 in the City’s Planning Department.
Lopez chose to run in an effort to see a safer community. She plans to address this by building trust in law enforcement through community policing, investing in crime prevention programs and developing parks and recreational facilities, Lopez wrote.
Having worked previously in city housing, Lopez would like to see her district take a more assertive stance when addressing affordable housing.
“I worked on the Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership for eight years, and that was in the ‘90s. At that point, we understood we needed affordable housing … We need to be more assertive on that issue,” Lopez said.
Alongside working as a program manager for the U.S. Forest Service, Baca is a hydrologist on the Rio Grande Conservancy District Board. They are running to see a greener and more environmentally friendly city.
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“We just had the hottest July ever in Albuquerque … There’s things that the city can do to actually help,” Baca said.
To address homelessness, Baca believes there are steps we can take to help those on the streets, beyond just providing shelter.
“Short term, we should allocate some funds and planning … Some behavioral health services, how to get driver’s licenses, just some real basic stuff,” Baca said.
Moises A. Gonzalez
Gonzalez hopes to bring more attention to public transport. He wants to see his district be able to incorporate affordable housing near public transport, allowing residents to spend less in both areas, as stated on his website.
“There are sometimes conflicting desires there (District 2). They should be better represented,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez has worked on various local committees, one most recently being the Complete Streets Ordinance Committee. He is currently the vice-president of the Huning Highland Neighborhood Association.
Gonzalez would also like to see more accessible units available to those who may be struggling with behavioral health and/or addiction. He spoke specifically on the Housing First concept.
“The Housing First idea is that you get people into affordable permanent housing, and once people are in that housing, you’re much more likely to have success in treating substance use issues and in treating mental health issues,” Gonzalez said.
Jaymes Boe is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org