Colón calls himself the 'happy warrior' – an homage to the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey
Crime, the Economy, Education all Interlinked, Candidate says
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
For Brian Colón, the mayor’s race is personal and a chance for him to give back to a community that he says has given him so much in such a short time.
Colón’s parents bought him to New Mexico from the Bronx as an infant, and for many of his years he lived in Section 8 housing in Los Lunas. Because of New Mexico’s social safety nets, Colón has risen out of poverty and has become a lawyer, entrepreneur and a political figure. Nine months ago, he and his wife, Aleli, sent their son, Rafael, to Georgetown University on a President’s Scholarship.
“For me, it’s very personal,” Colón said of his run for Albuquerque’s mayor’s office. “I’m looking at it through the lens of someone who was the first in his family to go to college. I was the beneficiary of several government assistance programs. I’m the first in my family to break the cycle of poverty, and as a result of that, my son is someone who will never know those government assistance programs.
“I didn’t fall through the cracks because a lot of organizations and a lot of individuals stood in the gap. I truly feel a debt of gratitude to this community.”
Colón said there are three main issues for his campaign: crime, the economy and education. All three are interlinked, he said, and the way to solve them will be by business people, educators and law enforcement officials to work together.
Colón calls himself the “happy warrior” – an homage to the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey – and believes he can bring diverse groups together to solve those problems.
“I have been to about 30 neighborhood association and coalition meetings, and the No. 1 issue is public safety,” he said. “We used to be able to talk in Albuquerque about knowing somebody who had been the victim of property crime. Now you know what we say? Either I have been a victim of property crime or someone in my immediate family has been a victim of property crime.”
To help reduce crime, Colón said he’d get the police department up to 1,100 officers, work on reducing poverty, getting better treatment for people with mental illnesses and get law enforcement officials to work together.
“We have to make sure that the district attorney, the police department and the court system are working more closely together,” Colón said. “The recidivism rates are high and through the roof. The roof is on fire, and no one is bringing a fire hose. You have to have communication between all the stakeholders.
“For me, it’s getting the right people around the table. There are a lot of things we can agree on. We tend to start from the outside and about issues that push people away from the table. I like to start on areas that we agree on.”
Unlike at least three other mayoral candidates, Colón said he wouldn’t immediately fire APD Chief Gorden Eden.
“On day one [as mayor], that is the first meeting I have [with Eden]. Anyone who has devoted themselves to public service deserves to have a sit-down with their new boss,” Colon said. “To get political points by saying his head is on the chopping block is not my approach. That’s not to say that I can see any conversation where it ends well, but he deserves that professional courtesy.”
Colón said all public officials, from the mayor to city councilors, need to be held accountable for public education. The issue is too important to be left to just the Albuquerque Public Schools and that he will appoint a chief education officer to deal with APS, he said.
“Historically, mayors have always gotten a pass when it comes to education. If there’s a problem with education, they’ve said that’s not in their sandbox,” Colón said. “But when you’ve got 80,000 to 100,000 students relying on APS, it is inappropriate for the mayor to walk away.
“If as a mayor I’m not deeply involved with the education and delivery system, I’m not doing my job.”
Colón said he will spread the good news about Albuquerque, its businesses and its residents.
“It’s about me being the best ambassador the city has ever had,” Colón said. “It’s about being able to tell the world that we are one of the most dynamic, diverse, culturally enriched places in America. When we tell our story and tell it well, we enjoy success. I’m tired of being at the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of the good ones.”
And finally, Colón said he won’t hide from residents or from city councilors.
“I am committed to attending City Council meetings. There is a seat at the end of the table for the mayor, and I’m going to be in it. If a councilor says, ‘This is the mayor’s project,’ I’m going to stand beside them so they can direct questions to me.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly.