'We do have crime because we are poverty stricken, because we’re dependent on government handouts' - Stella Padilla
Padilla says the public should vote on what to do with ART
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
For Stella Padilla, there’s only one way to end what she says is the corruption at City Hall, reduce Albuquerque’s crime rate, fix the police department and get the economy growing again.
And that’s by getting down and dirty with those she says have caused the problems and pulling no punches.
“If you want to make a difference, you have to jump into the pit of snakes, and hopefully you’ll come out the best,” Padilla said as she started her mayoral campaign. “You can’t make a difference standing out there complaining like I did all along. You’re outnumbered.
“It pains me to say this, but there is not one city councilor that is mayoral material, not one. I can’t think of one that you could say they have done good for the city [or] they have represented the people and actually listened to their constituents. It pains me to say it because we’re talking about our whole City Council.”
Padilla, a retired Old Town resident, decided three months ago to run for mayor, saying it was her experience in trying to kill Mayor Richard Berry’s $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project that convinced her of the futility of going to City Council meetings and trying to fight the system from the outside. Councilors and Berry ignored what was, and remains, significant public opposition to ART, Padilla said.
Prior to March 2016 when she got involved with ART, Padilla hadn’t been politically active.
“I decided to run three months ago when I saw that nothing was happening on ART,” she said. “The court said they didn’t care, and I saw that the person causing all of this and that has control of the situation is the mayor. The only way to do this is to go to the top.”
Padilla will focus her campaign on ART, crime, poverty, the police department, transparency in government, water, the massive Santolina development on the West Side and the economy.
She said the public should vote on what to do with ART once Berry is out of office. She said that she would give Police Chief Gorden Eden an ultimatum to comply with the U.S. Department of Justice reform demands or leave.
“We would have to take a vote and find out what do we do with ART,” Padilla said. “Put Route 66 back in? Put our trees back in? Get double lanes back?”
Padilla also said she doesn’t have confidence in James Ginger, the independent monitor in APD’s reform effort. “I think we’re enriching Ginger because he gets paid a million dollars a year, and right now we’re not even at 20 percent compliance,” Padilla said.
Eden isn’t doing a good job either, she said. “We definitely need a police chief that is going to oversee the police department, because this one isn’t,” Padilla said. “I would give him an ultimatum. We are either going to comply with the DOJ, and if he can’t do it, then he gets a pink slip.”
For Padilla, the city’s soaring crime rate is directly related to its economy, which has yet to regain all the jobs lost during the recession. “They say we’re all crime ridden and poverty stricken. Well, let’s put that in the right context,” she said.
“We do have crime because we are poverty stricken, because we’re dependent on government handouts to keep our city from failing,” she said. “The crime rate is terrifying. Every time you go out, every day you hear of a dead body.”
So how would Padilla bring about that prosperity?
“I have intentions of traveling and going to wherever they have lots of manufacturing jobs, San Diego and California, they already have lots of factory jobs, and if you offer them something to come here and open up a factory and hire 4,000 employees, and you can get more than one, there is hope,” she said.
Padilla’s answer to many of the city’s problems is to transparency at City Hall.
“We’re going to make government transparent; right now they’re not transparent,” she said. “Councilors don’t do anything for their constituents. We were on our knees begging and pleading with them about ART. We’ve told each one of them what they’re not doing, then why don’t they get a pink slip?
“I’m not going to say that in four years I’m going to change Albuquerque and that we’ll be prosperous; that’s not going to happen. It’ll probably take three terms to actually get to where Albuquerque is livable again,” Padilla continued. “If I make us the fifth worst in the nation instead of first, to me that will be like a miracle.”
Padilla summed up her candidacy this way: “People don’t trust politicians because they [politicians] are getting enriched,” Padilla said. “And we’re left holding the bag and paying more taxes. I am determined to make this a livable, prosperous city for the future.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly.
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