'There’s almost this belief that somehow the DOJ will get bored' and go away -- Deanna Archuleta
Gorden Eden Must Go, Mayoral Candidate Says
APD Must Accept Reform Efforts
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Had Deanna Archuleta been mayor in early January when a mere dusting of snow paralyzed Albuquerque for several hours because city crews were slow to respond, heads would have rolled.
“If I were mayor and that had happened, my COO and the folks who are in charge of going out and plowing, they’d all be looking for jobs the next day,” Archuleta said. “Quite frankly, that was … unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable.”
There are other things that Archuleta, the first person to declare her candidacy for this year’s mayoral election, finds unacceptable: the foot-dragging by the city in complying with the U.S. Justice Department’s demands for reform at the Albuquerque Police Department; the barriers the city has put in front of small businesses; and the failure to recognize that the city’s crime problem is directly related to drug addictions.
“We are spending $4.5 million on the DOJ, and that is something the current administration is pretending, it’s almost as if they are putting their heads in the sand and saying, ‘Yeah, we are doing what we are supposed to do.’ But they are not,” Archuleta said.
“I think it’s just, ‘If we hold out long enough, maybe they [the DOJ] will go away.’ There’s almost this belief that somehow the DOJ will get bored.”
To ensure that the city stays on track with its settlement agreement with the feds, Archuleta said she would fire APD Chief Gorden Eden and much of his command staff.
“Yes, I believe that needs to change,” Archuleta said when asked if she would give Eden the boot. “In order to bring the department up, we need to give them [rank-and-file officers] the leadership that they believe in. I have met with both current and former officers, and across the board, everyone tells me they just don’t believe in this administration. They don’t believe in his [Eden’s] leadership. They feel like they need quality leadership.”
Fixing APD will require staffing the department with up to 1,300 officers and returning to community policing, Archuleta added.
Archuleta believes that small businesses will be the key to turning around the area’s economy – an economy that has yet to regain all the jobs it lost during the recession. But Mayor Richard Berry’s administration, which Archuleta said apparently has decided to focus on high-tech startups, has ignored the needs of existing small businesses, she said.
“I’ve lost track of how many small business owners I’ve heard from who are incredibly frustrated,” Archuleta said. “They try to open a new business, or they try to expand their business, and they run into roadblock after roadblock after roadblock. This administration is focused on startups and innovation and the technology companies. And while that shouldn’t be dismissed, you can’t put all your eggs in that basket.”
An example of the roadblocks small businesspeople face in Albuquerque, Archuleta said, is a local firm that makes plastic toy animals for zoos. The company ships around the country, and internationally. Yet, for the past five years it has been unsuccessful in trying to get a loading zone in front of its building.
“This is a manufacturing company that is shipping things out of state and they can’t get a loading zone in front of their building,” Archuleta said. “It’s a small, minority-owned business, and they can’t get it. I don’t know why.”
Archuleta also said that the city can’t rely on “distant heroes,” large, out-of-state firms that economic developers try to recruit. “Previous administrations have looked at these ‘distant heroes’ that are going to come and rescue us and give us all jobs and change our lives, right?” Archuleta said. “Well, they’re a distant hero that may never come.”
For Archuleta, a sociologist, the city’s crime problem won’t be solved until City Hall learns how to deal with and treat people’s addictions.
“If we can’t get that under control, we are not going to get the crime under control,” Archuleta said. “People are committing crimes because they are feeding an addiction. So we need to help them get out from under the addiction. They need rehab, they need jobs and they need a place to love and a future to look forward to.”
Archuleta said she knows how to address the addiction problem because she did it when she was a Bernalillo County commissioner from 2004 to 2009. During her time on the commission, Archuleta worked with hospitals and other organizations to create the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services program, known as MATS, a 28-bed detox center that starts with a three-to-five-day detox program and gets people into longer term detox efforts.
The area’s three major hospitals – Lovelace, Presbyterian and UNMH – agreed to each put $200,000 into the effort because it kept the addicts out of their emergency rooms, Archuleta said. Similar and larger programs are needed.
“You look around and see the poverty, the drug addiction,” Archuleta said. “Those are so interlinked and interfaced with each other. But a lot of folks don’t always understand that it’s a web. If you can’t feed your children you feel horrible about yourself and you slide easily into an addiction issue, which leads you into a crime issue. You have to stop it.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly.