On Nov. 7, voters will choose between four City Council candidates to represent District 6, the University of New Mexico’s district.
The candidates – Abel Otero, Jeff Hoehn, Kristin Greene and Nichole Rogers – are vying for the seat incumbent Pat Davis has held since 2016.
Rogers decided to run because she felt no one on the City council represented her or the 68% of people of color living in District 6, she said.
If elected, she would focus on poverty.
“We talk a lot about economic development for our business owners, but we don’t talk about economic development for average people who need just a little help to get a leg up,” Rogers said.
Tackling poverty, Rogers said, would help solve other issues such as inaccessible mental health care, retail crime and homelessness.
Part of her plan includes a basic income pilot. This would target those in District 6 who are most vulnerable to poverty – especially single mothers enrolled in higher education, Rogers said.
“Research shows if we take care of our women, it actually ripple-effects into the entire community,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the basic income pilot would help UNM students cover on or off-campus housing costs.
Additionally, Rogers hopes to incentivize young people to become homeowners. She wants to provide $40,000 down payments to students, people of color and people of low socioeconomic status. Then, they can purchase property and build generational wealth, Rogers said.
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Rogers works as a financial planner. She currently serves as the chair of the City’s Gun Violence Task Force.
“I understand what it’s like to navigate systems, and I’m the best (candidate) to help other people navigate systems – systems of education, systems of healthcare, systems of government. I’m the only one that has all that experience,” Rogers said.
As a city councilor, Greene would focus primarily on economic development and reinvestment. She wants to create safer neighborhoods which will help solve many of her concerns for District 6, she said.
“I believe that economic reinvestment – especially on our commercial corridors like San Mateo and Route 66 – will be key to kneecapping the crime, poverty and homelessness that are spawned by an unhealthy economy,” Greene said.
Economic reinvestment, Greene said, will create job opportunities for students, which will lead to more competitive wages. If elected, she hopes to make infrastructure improvements that encourage students to stay in Albuquerque after college, she said.
Greene said she wants to implement green space in District 6 – citing examples in other cities where it has led to decreased crime. She also spoke about its environmental benefits.
“If we’re going to be making real strides toward getting our city in a better environmental space, we need to start looking at things such as tree cover and green space. We need to shore up our transportation; we need to shore up our infrastructure,” Greene said.
Greene is also a board member of the Elder Homestead Neighborhood Association, serving as the Homelessness Solutions Chair and Neighborhood Beautification Coordinator.
“I think what sets me apart is I have been involved in the community of my own volition, not as part and parcel of my job and because I’ve been receiving a paycheck,” Greene said. “I’ve been here doing the work, leading from within.”
Hoehn said he would strive to improve crime and homelessness. He also wants to reform policing policies and address city cleanliness, according to his campaign website.
“Having a clean and safe city is the prerequisite for all future success,” Hoehn said.
Hoehn said he would work to increase cooperation between the Albuquerque Community Safety department – a group of trained mental health professionals who respond to non-violent, non-medical 911 calls – and APD.
This would include installing mobile command units near high-crime areas, increasing technology-based APD enforcement and increasing speed enforcement.
Hoehn is the Executive Director of nonprofit Cuidando Los Niños, which provides resources for families experiencing homelessness. He said he thinks ACS should respond to reports regarding nonviolent unhoused individuals.
“If someone is homeless and they’re not dangerous, then we should not have a police officer responding to that call. It’s the wrong tool for the job,” Hoehn said.
Hoehn also said he wants to increase funding for substance abuse and behavioral health, as well as prevent shoplifting by providing free essential goods to the community such as undergarments and hygiene products.
Hoehn said he hopes to improve the safety of UNM student housing, which often exists in high-crime areas.
“We need to make sure that our students are safe first and foremost,” Hoehn said. “Every student at UNM deserves that.”
Abel Otero is a barber shop owner who emphasizes his unique perspective and understanding of crime, homelessness and housing affordability.
“I don’t look like your typical politician; I’ve suffered from addiction, been homeless and even incarcerated,” Otero wrote in an op-ed for the Albuquerque Journal. He did not respond to the Daily Lobo’s request for comment.
Otero advocates for community safety, access to mental health services and addressing homelessness.
At his job, Otero wrote that he has listened to members of the community who have concerns about housing and crime.
“My opponents don’t have the understanding of these issues to effectively solve them,” he wrote to the Albuquerque Journal.
Otero believes in utilizing ACS over increasing police presence to address crime, according to his op-ed.
He said he doesn’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach to addressing homelessness. His proposed solutions include supporting preventative measures, investing in mobile centers for mental health and using short-term housing solutions for people in crisis.
Though Otero said he has been incarcerated, no records show that he has served time, according to the Albuquerque Journal. He said he doesn’t know why these records can’t be found, but did not retract his statement about his incarceration.
“This community deserves leadership with lived experiences that reflect our major challenges and the vision to solve them,” he wrote. “I’m running for City Council because this city has never heard a voice like mine.”
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @llilyalexander
Lauren Lifke is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lauren_lifke
Lauren Lifke is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo.
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted on Twitter @llilyalexander