The Neighborhood Journal sent out questionnaires to the candidates for Bernalillo County Commissioner in District 5 for the upcoming election on Nov. 8, and both Republican Candidate Judy Young and Democratic Candidate Eric Olives responded to our questions. The following are answers to those from each prospect.
Eric Olivas (D)
Judy Young (R)
Business/career and education background?
Olivas: Owner/Operator of Olivas Enterprises LLC landscaping and plumbing with 5 employees; Licensed Mechanical Contractor and Journeyman Plumber/Pipefitter; served 2 years on the ABQ Civilian Police Oversight Board including service as Board Chair; served 2 years as chair of the Northeast Heights Community Policing Council; Quigley Park Neighborhood Association President; Animal Humane of NM Volunteer. Graduated from Sandia High School. Bachelor’s degree from UNM in Chemistry and Biology, summa cum laude. Masters Degree from UNM in Biology.
Young: Education: Bachelor of Arts in Education, West Texas A & M, Canyon, Texas; MA in Community Program Development, Counseling , Columbia University, NY, NY; Year toward doctorate UNM, Albuquerque, NM
Accomplishments: Wrote the $92 million grant that started the UNM Cancer Research & Treatment Center· Assistant Chief of Police, Phil Chacon, and I initiated the nation’s first publicly funded Domestic Violence Program. Phil Chacon was subsequently killed in the line of duty while protecting victims of domestic violence. Subsequently, every state in the U.S. adopted the Domestic Violence initiative.
· Represented and promoted thousands of businesses in the first Home and Sports Shows at the Albuquerque Convention Center. ·Developed the first prison rehabilitation reform program in Texas.·Retired educator from Texas
Community Involvement: Assistant to House Representative Jason Harper; Albuquerque Homeless Task Force presenting the Homeless Campus Model; Neighborhood Association Board Member; East Gateway Coalition Board Member; Foothills Community Policing Council Board Member; Graduate of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Citizens Academy
Why are you running for county commissioner?
Olivas: As an Albuquerque native I’m passionate about this beautiful place I call home. As a small business owner, I want to ensure that young people in our community enjoy the best opportunities to grow and thrive. With my experience on the Police Oversight Board and Community Policing Council I’m familiar with the issues facing our community around crime and behavioral health. I know that there is so much more our county can do to create and nurture partnerships that will reduce crime and house individuals experiencing homelessness. Lastly, as a Biologist, I understand the existential threat of climate change, especially to our desert community. It’s time the county shows some leadership and crafts a plan to reduce emissions and mitigate the risks of wildfires and droughts. Most of all I’m proud to live in this community and I want to give back through public service in an office that I believe has the ability to impact thousands of lives in a positive way.
Young: My parents were very strong loyal patriots who are both buried in Santa Fe at the Veterans Memorial. My dad was a WW2 hero, and when he returned from the war, he and my mother chose to sacrifice their lives for the good of country by working as an administrator to build dams west of the Mississippi with the Bureau of Reclamation. It was a difficult life in remote areas, and we moved every two years. Their dream was to retire to their native homeland of NM. The decay and deterioration of Albuquerque broke their hearts, and my mother’s dying wish was, “Judy, promise me that you will do everything in your power to restore Albuquerque. I made that promise, and I have kept that promise by doing everything in my power for the betterment of life in Albuquerque without holding a political position. I have learned from experience that those in political power turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the public. They are by fiduciary oath supposed to be public servants, but instead, my experience has proven to me that the politicians make servants out of the public. Secondly, I was approached by community members and asked to run for the position of Bernalillo County Commissioner, District 5.
If elected, what are your top three priorities?
Olivas: 1. Behavioral Health/Crime
2. Economic Opportunity
3. Environmental Protection and Climate Change
Young: 1. Reduce crime. I have worked diligently with the Sheriff’s Department and the organization ‘Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods.’ Working with all law enforcement agencies, we did sweeps on Saturday nights picking felons with outstanding warrants. I wrote recommendations while I was on the Foothills Community Policing Council. By City ordinance, these recommendations had to be followed. While these recommendations were being followed, crime and fentanyl were being significantly reduced. Those recommendations stopped being followed by the current city administration, and now Albuquerque faces a tsunami of crime with El Chapo’s gang, Sinaloa, controlling the streets of Albuquerque (according to the FBI).
2.Implement an effective solution to homelessness. I have been published numerous times on my recommendation of the campus model solution which I submitted to The City while I was on the Homeless Task Force. The binders of critical information that were submitted by this task force were summarily dismissed. My website is youngbernco.com. These publications can be accessed on my website.
3. Infrastructure for water in the East Mountains.
4. Create a business friendly governance to assist and advance business.
What do think the biggest challenge facing the county is and how would you propose to remedy it?
Olivas: Crime is the biggest issue in District 5 and the County. The behavioral health crisis and much of the crime we see are related. I believe that crime and the crisis of homelessness we see also pose the biggest challenge to economic development. In addition to the need for more police and sheriff’s deputies, we need increased crisis triage beds, more shelter capacity, and most of all,substance abuse treatment with wrap-around services that transition into supportive housing. Access to services is key, we need a 24/7 care coordinating hub that can link providers and resources to those seeking care. Most of all none of these efforts can be successful without real and consistent coordination of all of the governments, non-profits, and private entities that share work in this space. This is why I support following the gap analysis and forming a Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Collaborative similar to the water authority.
Young: By law, The Hearth Act, the county must have a comprehensive plan in place for poverty and homelessness. The county has failed in this compliance, and as a result, HUD funds are being used to create “crime ridden projects.”
Housing has been a big issue in the state, particularly Albuquerque. What can the county do to help create and maintain affordable housing?
Olivas: Right now we face a housing crisis in Bernalillo County. Costs of single-family homes and apartments have skyrocketed. First and foremost we need to keep people that are housed but are experiencing difficulty affording that housing in their homes. This means prioritizing emergency rental assistance and other programs to stabilize the housing situation of those on the edge of eviction or foreclosure. Again, access is key so this means coordinating with partners so that individuals and families can go to one centralized hub to find all the resources they need. To increase the supply of housing the county must first ensure that it is coordinating with partners at the state and city level and leveraging this local money at the federal level to bring in the maximum level of non-local dollars. Affordable housing should be incentivized to make it part of any new development so that new development and redevelopment always contain a mix of retail, commercial, market-rate and affordable housing. This also addresses equity issues and makes other incentives like TIDD’s and IRB’s better suited to help developers defray the added costs of affordable housing. Lastly, to incentivize existing landlords to accept vouchers and other housing assistance we must streamline the process for both tenants and landlords and the county should fund a program to guarantee rents and damages will be paid to landlords. This fund and the resulting stability it provides landlords will make vouchers more competitive with market rate rents and make landlords more apt to accept vouchers and other assistance programs.
Young: In counties that properly regulate affordable housing, affordable housing can be a temporary assistance for those seeking to better their lives toward the American dream. For counties that do not properly regulate affordable housing, affordable housing leads to the American nightmare of out-of-control concentration of crime & drugs. Affordable housing under these conditions contributes to decay with a nearly unrecoverable impact to our economy and quality of life.
Regulation of affordable housing means that applicants MUST be properly vetted, and rules must be put in place and followed. For example, numerous reports have indicated that one person contracts with affordable housing and numerous others who are drug dealers and addicts move in, thus terrorizing those who are law abiding tenants. Cases in California have been reported to be so egregious that entire buildings had to be demolished due to meth infestation in the walls and primary construction. Meth infestation is as dangerous as black mold. Individuals who receive affordable housing benefits (earned advantage using public funds) should not only recommended and vetted, but they should continue to be regulated (case worker checks on tenant on a regular basis) for their well being & for the public’s well being. When a county does not have a comprehensive plan, but instead has a non-regulated piece-meal approach (throw mud on the wall & call it good for a texturized finish) everyone (affordable housing tenants, the immediate community, and the community as a whole) suffers untold negative and devastating consequences.
Affordable housing here in Bernalillo County is currently an “the accident going to happen” as the NY projects demonstrated. Why? Because the affordable housing in Bernalillo County is “slap it together” and watch uncontrolled crime and chaos follow. For example, a significant number of murders have been reported at Tramway north of the freeway where massive unregulated affordable housing has been created in the last 3 years by the county.
What do you see for the future of the Tiny Homes project?
Olivas: The Tiny Home project has been disappointing to say the least. I believe all parties had good intentions for the project, but operations were mismanaged. That said, we have a facility with great potential to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community that is underutilized. This means we have a terrific opportunity to turn this project into a success. We have a huge number of unhoused individuals in this community. While the Tiny Home model will not work for everyone, with the large homeless population we have, we can certainly expand outreach efforts to populate the campus and help rehabilitate willing individuals. The bigger lesson we should take from the project is in the perils of not operating in a coordinated environment where all projects are vetted and supported by all partners and are part of a larger plan to address homelessness and its root causes.
Young: Women Taking Back Our Neighborhoods strongly protested this project loudly predicting this current outcome of abject failure. The public outcry was summarily dismissed, and “the politicians” thumbed their noses at the public with a message of “We really do NOT care about what the public thinks is reasonable, effective, economical, etc. When WE (the politicians) decide on what WE decide, it’s OUR way using your hard earned tax dollars.” Tiny Homes project needs to be torn down to erase this glaring neon sign of abject failure of dismissing public outcry against it. Tiny Homes project is only a tribute to “politicians” with their own agenda while forgetting their fiduciary oath as public servants.
Crime is a big concern for many residents. How do you envision the county working with Albuquerque Police in combating high rates, including relationships between APD and the sheriff’s office and county attorney?
Olivas: Crime is a huge and real concern. The Sheriff’s department has been an underutilized resource for several years now due to political infighting. It is important to note that while the Sheriff is an independent elected official, the county commission sets the budget and staffing levels for the office. Given this relationship I believe the commission plays a role in directing resources from the Sheriff to key priorities. I believe the commission should help expand the ranks of the Sheriff’s department with an emphasis on supplementing APD in key areas such as Narcotics investigations, Crimes Against Children, and Traffic enforcement to name a few. I also believe that targeted operations in coordination with APD to target retail theft and warrant roundups would help drive down crime and increase law enforcement presence in our neighborhoods. I would also note the role of the county at the Metropolitan Detention Center and in funding many of the jail diversion programs 2nd Judicial district. These operations must be highly effective in order to support the efforts of law enforcement and ensure swift and certain justice. Lastly, the county can partner with the city to expand the service territory of the new ACS (Albuquerque Community Safety) Department. This service should be available 24/7, county wide to ensure that there is always an option to respond to non-emergency, non-law enforcement related calls with trained social service providers. The county must act as partners with APD and work together to improve this community we all love.
Young: 1. The ability to share information across jurisdictional boundaries is so critical to the law enforcement and information sharing realm. This kind of readily accessible information is, in my view, what is missing from the Bernalillo County-Albuquerque Police Department working relationship. Thus, I will recommend and work to implement the N-DEx system to provide a county and city shared system that will allow Bernalillo County and Albuquerque Police Department to share, search, link and analyze information across jurisdictions. Owned and operated by the FBI, the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) system became operational in 2012. This sharing will be inclusive of all jurisdictions and departments across the United States. Therefore, I will work with the Sheriff’s office to coordinate establishing N-DEx in law enforcement agencies in Ruidoso, Roswell and Carlsbad. There are only three border towns along the New Mexico-Mexico border. Yet, some one million immigrants pass through these border towns and a fair number of those have criminal histories. When they arrive in Albuquerque, they blend in with the transit homeless population. One way that I envision stopping the flow of the criminal element (recognizing that not all immigrants are criminals) to Albuquerque is to implement an accessible and instantly attainable history of unlawful activity by individuals in these border town areas and to be able to track these individuals on their arrival in Bernalillo County/Albuquerque.
2. I will recommend a joint Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department/APD/County Attorney Task Force to meet on a monthly, and on-going basis to produce recommendations to combat crime in monthly publicized reports. Members of the Task Force will be the Bernalillo County Sheriff and the Chief Deputy Sheriff for Bernalillo County; the Albuquerque City Chief of Police; the APD Superintendent; one selected County Commissioner with all commissioners serving on an annual rotating basis; one selected Albuquerque City Councilor with all councilors serving on a rotating basis; and three ad hoc public members with these members changing on an annual basis. A requirement of this Task Force will be that an independent mediator with judicial level experience will attend every meeting with agreement by all attendees that every member/attendee has a ‘listened to’ voice at the table.
3. Significant increase funding for more Sheriff’s deputies and county attorneys.
Do you see a standardizing of communications systems between the county and city departments?
Olivas: Yes! As a small business person I see many areas where we do things that defy logic and basic customer service principals. As a commissioner I’ll be ready to step in to streamline and standardize operations. We operate independently in too many areas and this doesn’t serve the interests of the public. When you call 911, you don’t care who answers or who responds (the city or the county), you just want a system that gets you help right away! In the case of 911 and other emergency services our lack of coordination is actually a life and death issue. In other cases we are wasting taxpayer dollars unnecessarily. We need to move to a more integrated model that prioritizes high quality service delivery.
Young: This sophisticated communication systems program between county and city should have been implemented over a decade ago when this software program became available. Other counties and cities utilized this interfacing communication system and refined it to get the kinks out of it. Implementing this interfacing communication system should be a top priority for Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque.
Understaffing at the Metropolitan Detention Center has made headlines in recent months. What more can or should be done to get the center up to full staff and meet the needs/rights of inmates?
Olivas: The Metropolitan Detention Center is unsafe for our county employees and law enforcement professionals that work in that facility. It is also unsafe for those housed within its walls. We need a well functioning jail to address the crime problems we see in our community. The jail needs to be a tool that our law enforcement and our community can count on to safely house inmates. First and foremost this means treating corrections officers like the law enforcement professionals they are. Much effort has been made to increase the compensation of police but we often forget that corrections professionals often work in a similar environment with the same individuals as police. Right now our corrections officers are paid less than other officers in surrounding communities. Moreover, those same offers can often leave the profession entirely and make more money in other occupations and trades with far lower risks. We also have to reduce the use of forced overtime and other bad employment practices that lead to burnout and poor retention. Lastly, the jail must function as both a treatment and transition center not a warehouse. We need to be preparing individuals inside the jail for their next step and this applies whether they are short stays or long term. Drug treatment services, mental health providers, and job training opportunities need to be readily available at the jail with an emphasis on a clean handoff of incarcerated individuals to community based programs upon release. The bottom line is that this facility is failing and we need a commissioner that is ready to dive in and do what it takes to fix MDC or we will never be able to truly address our crime problems.
Young: Understaffing at MDC has been a serious problem in the past, but this problem is currently exacerbated by the current state of affairs of ALL businesses finding it hard to find employees.I would recommend improved conditions at MDC be secured:
· For employees-$ incentive packages be offered/ training for administration to treat employees with highest regard/ counseling and exercise programs available with on-the-job pay incentive.
· For inmates-Programming (GED, Life Skills, counseling, etc.) for inmates with strict oversight and a follow-up release plan is THE most important step in reducing recidivism as per my direct experience with the penal system. For both employees and inmates strict oversight to prevent drugs and contraband from entering the facility.
How would you work to improve crime reporting to the public?
Olivas: Crime reporting, as with so many other issues, is haphazard and uncoordinated. The City and the County need to record and report crime in a uniform manner. In my time on the Police Oversight Board I became intensely aware of how important crime recording methods and practices are. When agencies change these practices or the policies surrounding them this has a real impact on the community. We need to be fully transparent and accountable to the community. We all know crime is out of hand and instead of working to cook the books, the city and county need to work together to give an accurate picture of what is happening to our community. Only with reliable data can we then begin to address the problems and root causes of crime.
Young: It is clear that FBI and APD crime reporting are not in sync. It appears FBI stats are far more accurate than APD stats. I would seek FBI assistance in improving crime reporting to the public.
How is the county working with the state and city to ensure land and water resources are being governed in a sustainable way?
Olivas: Land use planning and water planning need to be one and the same. The county needs to reform its zoning/planning practices to ensure that land use issues are coupled with water planning and availability. The City and County play a joint role on the ABCWUA and this important relationship also has profound impacts on our land and water. It’s critical that the ABCWUA continue to aggressively plan and model the future needs and resources of our region. It’s also critical that the ABCWUA, City, County, and State collaboration on water and land conservation issues. With issues like the Rio Grande Compact debt to Texas and Colorado River shortages potentially affecting San Juan-Chama supplies, all of our state and local entities need to be aligned with a plan, strategy, and funding to address the challenges that climate change is already causing and will continue to cause into the future. We must prioritize modernizing existing infrastructure and preserving our land and water for future generations.
Young: The county is currently working with the state to ensure land and water are being governed in a sustainable way. Even though the Bernalillo County Commission does not have authority over The Albuquerque, Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, the County Commission can require reports from the Water Utility Authority and make recommendations accordingly. Bernalillo County can enforce water management policies:
1. Enforce landscaping and irrigation requirements of the City and County.
2. Design parks over 20 acres to include vegetation with low water requirements.
3. Study the costs, benefits, and impacts of adjusting water rate to encourage conservation.
4. Revise City and County development regulations to encourage or require recycling and conservation devices in new development.
1. Utilize on-site water detention and infiltration facilities in new development where feasible.
2. Certify compliance with detailed storm runoff plans for new development.
3. Require regular maintenance and removal and sediment and debris from surface water retention and infiltration facilities.
4. Certify compliance with seeding, planting, and/or rip-rap drainage ordinance guidelines.
5. Ensure easements and right-of-way follow drainage ordinance guidelines.
6. Minimize impervious cover in new development.
What can the county do to keep the risk of wildfires to a minimum?
Olivas: Prevention of a catastrophic fire and its lasting effects is far more cost effective than waiting for a fire event and acting afterwards to clean up the damage. The human and economic toll of a large wildfire in Bernalillo County is incalculable. Bernalillo County must act now to grow its fire prevention efforts before it’s too late. We must:
1.Leverage federal and state grant funding and infrastructure money to prioritize investments in fire prevention.
2.Create an active fire prevention program to supplement passive programs like those offered by the SWCD. This program should have dedicated county staff from BCFR to hold outreach events and actively promote fire prevention programs and offer resources to residents, businesses, and property owners.
3.Use a “Firewise” coordinator to coordinate resources and outreach across the county and across county departments as well as between agencies like Soil and Water Conservation districts, BLM, US Forest Service, etc.
4. Expand the use of creative financing mechanisms such as property tax abatement to help property owners afford the cost of clearing/thinning.
5. Expand outreach and incentives to local businesses ie. landscapers, wood haulers, constructions companies etc to increase the pool of labor offering professional thinning services.
6. Make green waste drop-off free for county residents and make free chipper/shredder services available for the public at convenient locations and times.
7. Ensure an equitable distribution of resources for thinning/clearing with a focus on achieving landscape scale forest health and resiliency county-wide.
8. Improve coordination between the USFS, State Forestry, Bernalillo County, the City of Albuquerque, SWCD’s, non-profits, businesses, and residents to thin forests and achieve landscape-scale healthy forests.
9.Improved dead tree removal and weed control (mowing) on County property and rights of way. Excessive weeds become a fire hazard outside of the brief rainy season.
10. Coordinate with local utilities regarding their efforts to ensure power lines are fire safe.
Young: Require prescribed burns be approved and coordinated with the county. Speak to, record, analyze landowners’ input in the surrounding areas before a prescribed burn. Historically, landowners have cried out, “PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS PRESCRIBED BURN TO US!!! PLEASE, PLEASE YOU ARE GOING TO DESTROY OUR RESOURCES AND JEOPARDIZE OUR LIVES AND LIVELIHOOD AS WELL AS WILDLIFE…” These landowners have been met with deaf ears. I recommend that we consider this ‘lesson learned’ because landowners have a sixth sense of wisdom from handed down ancestry. Respect of traditional peoples and landowners voices MUST be prioritized. Entranosa is the main source of water to fight forest fires. The County needs to partner with Entranosa and other water sources to increase water storage, fire hydrants, open lagoons and equipment to better prepare for a longer fire and more volatile fire season.