While I personally am going to vote for Pete Dinelli for mayor on October 8, I remain puzzled and disappointed by this election.
Dinelli is strong on badly needed police oversight and leadership restructuring, strong on marriage equality and women’s rights (he was the only candidate to oppose the move to ban abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks), and strong on water conservation and water quality issues, including the potential disaster of the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill.
What disappoints me is that none of those vital issues attracted in-depth coverage by local mainstream media. And if organized and outspoken constituencies formed around those issues, most of us didn’t hear about it because their activities weren’t covered.
Dinelli is the only mayoral candidate to appear cognizant of serious potential water supply issues in Albuquerque not far down the road. But no candidate has really talked about a comprehensive growth policy that takes into account climate change caused drought in the mountain west, and in the Colorado River, Rio Grande, and Pecos River watersheds. How does an arid city connect growth and water conservation? What is the connection between urban sprawl and water wasting? Will a system to give incentives to infill development have a positive impact on water consumption?
I’ve seen no constituencies form around such issues this year.
The high poll ratings for say-nothing and smile-alot Mayor Berry indicate to me that his voter base is composed of business interests wedded to the status quo and large numbers of people who think he’s a nice guy and are relieved he doesn’t bring up unpleasant and troubling issues.
So where are the voting blocks – the natural constituencies if you will --who raise a ruckus during election time about social justice issues, women’s rights, education, early childhood development, environmental pollution, mass transit, and sprawl development?
You could expect the Republicans not to talk about such things, but why not Democrats? What’s happened to the Democratic party when it comes to truly grassroots local elections? Have they bailed? Thinking about how to solve local problems is not a lazy kid’s game. You actually have to do some thinking. You can’t rely on national sources. You have to consult your own people, your own local experts (yes, we have those here), NGOs as well as long time legislative players who’ve seen a lot fighting in the trenches over the years. It wouldn’t hurt if a local Congressperson and some Senators of a Democratic persuasion would weigh in on local issues, or even help form some. After all, they’re going to have to appeal to the same sleepy electorate sooner or later themselves.
The political discourse in Albuquerque this year was formless and incoherent. The Democrats didn’t create a local party platform made up of local issues. And I didn’t see the Dinelli people and the Benton people, for instance, put together mutually supporting campaigns. These elections are nonpartisan in name only, after all.
We’ve conducted a city election in which candidates have been floating along talking slogans and abstractions, dodging issues and smiling a lot, getting a free ride from the mainstream media, including Public Television, and saying nothing in particular about anything specific. And when there is a candidate, like Dinelli, who does stick his neck out, he’s ignored.
We’ve allowed a whole city election season to basically run dry of new ideas right at a time in national and local history when we need new thinking the most. Mayor Berry is a sitting Republican mayor. He has little trouble with the horrendous state of the Albuquerque Police Department. He thinks we should use desalinization to get out of our water problems, which for inland cities is a bonehead idea at best. He supports a ban on late term abortions. He proposes a Disneyfication of the Bosque. For Democrats, he should seem like a sitting duck.
But, according to the polls, owned by the paper that endorsed him, Berry’s going to win in a landslide.
Is it that Democrats just don’t think Albuquerque is a juicy enough plumb to really put up a fight for? Is the Albuquerque Journal and its mimics in TV news, both public and private, are so dominant that nobody can break through with a good idea or two?
The drought continues, the economy is bottom feeding, Albuquerque has no wind in its sails, sharks seem to be circling the ship, and the election of 2013 is the best we could come up with?! I’m hoping against hope we don’t get four more years of this.
(Photo by Mike Tungate)