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Another Yawner Of A Mayoral Forum

Another Yawner Of A Mayoral Forum

The audience was more concerned about whether candidates oppose tax increases that will affect their profit margins.

BY PETE DINELLI

Talk about one big yawn of a mayoral forum and a lost opportunity for the mayoral candidates to really differentiate themselves from the pack. Seven of the eight candidates took part in the “Business, Real Estate, Construction” ABQ mayoral candidate forum, with about 500 business leaders in attendance.

Based on the Albuquerque Journal’s report on the event, it was another big waste of time. It was disappointing because the candidates didn’t challenge the audience and the questions weren’t geared toward getting detailed answers about how to grow the economy.

None of the candidates challenged the business community to show more leadership and be more committed to improving our economy, to bring down unemployment rates and poverty rates and help improve our education system.

Not one candidate told the audience that the business community has become part of the problem and not the solution to turning our economy around. The business community has more concern about maintaining the status quo, protecting profit margins and maintaining membership levels.

None of the candidates asked the audience for help in developing a strong economic development initiative with a partnership with the city and the business community.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE AND THEIR MOTIVES

Given the make-up of the audience, why the forum was billed and reported on the way it was and not as the National Association of Commerce and Industry (NAIOP) forum is a mystery.

The forum was also moderated by Albuquerque Journal Senior Editor Kent Waltz. The Albuquerque Journal is owned by the Albuquerque Publishing company, which has major investments in the real estate development community and the Journal Center.

The forum audience was predominately business owners, real estate developers and investors, construction industry firms and architects who do business and have contracts with the city, and bid on major city construction contracts.

Over the last eight years, NAIOP, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the business community in general have been big cheerleaders, almost without question or fault, for the current administration.

All these business organizations oppose tax increases, city government regulations and any increases in the minimum wage, and champion right-to-work laws.

What’s not surprising is that candidates were asked about their views on tax increases, what could be done to improve public schools and the mandatory sick leave ordinance  all topics for candidates who knew what the audience wanted to hear.

Nothing was reported on the candidate’s positions on the three most critical issues facing Albuquerque or how they would solve those problems: the police department, soaring crime rates and turning our economy around.

You would think the business community would be demanding answers about how to turn our economy around, attract new businesses and industries and fix our unemployment rate. Instead, the audience was more concerned about whether candidates oppose tax increases that will affect their profit margins, or an educational system that mayor has absolutely no control over.

The audience was more interested in having candidates discuss the mandatory sick leave initiative that will be on the Oct. 3 ballot for a public vote and, if passed, will affect their profit margins. The only thing the candidates can really say about the mandatory sick leave ordinance is whether they’ll vote “yes” or “no”, but nothing can happen until the public votes on the initiative.

Democrats Brian Colón, Tim Keller and Gus Pedrotty and Independent Susan Wheeler-Deichsel voiced support for the mandatory sick leave ordinance. Republicans Dan Lewis and Wayne Johnson and Independent Michelle Garcia Holmes oppose the mandatory sick leave ordinance.

None of the candidates who support the mandatory sick leave initiative had the stomach to make any commitment to enforce it as mayor, knowing that would displease the audience and the Albuquerque Journal.

Republican Wayne Johnson took the opportunity to make a snarky remark about the mandatory sick leave ordinance, saying: “It won’t make our workforce healthier, it will make them more unemployed,” and many had a good laugh.

Johnson is the Bernalillo County Commissioner who voted against putting the measure on the November 2016 ballot, as requested by the City Council, and who attended court hearings to keep it off the ballot so he could be seen by the business coalition, who filed suit to oppose the measure, no doubt in anticipation of seeking donations for his mayoral campaign.

Garcia Holmes when out of her way to say: “This will actually be a devastating thing to our city … I want you to know I am 100 percent against this ordinance. It will be a business killer.”

So, what is Garcia Holmes as mayor going to do if voters enact the ordinance?

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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