By Jean Bernstein

Nov 21, 2023


I have been asked by a number of people to share my observations about the 2023 Council race. I’ve always made a point of staying out of partisan politics but in recent years I have become very worried about the future of our Albuquerque.

It is clear our local leaders are no longer elected by the citizens of this city or state. For example, in the recent District 6 City Council race only 22% of eligible voters came out. Very few people attended the live forums. I doubt many people read the candidates’ position statements or investigated their past jobs and performances. Many people in the district did not know there was a Council race or a runoff.

Why are people in this city so apathetic? I believe a major reason is that most people, no matter their backgrounds, economic levels, or party affiliations are demoralized – they feel their votes do not matter, that nothing really changes.  They are right because when leaders know that no one is paying attention, they are empowered to do whatever they want.  Recent examples are Democrat Tim Keller’s Gateway Center and Republican Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit. Gateway’s good intentions are far from realized; its actual expenditures will rise far above its original budget; and its servicing capacity will fall far short of the original promise. ART cost $50 Million OVER its original budget, construction closed Central for 12 months, and destroyed at least 110 local businesses. Buses are mostly empty, annual operational costs are over $11 million dollars and only a few of the development projects that were to accompany ART materialized. Mayors’ pet projects have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, never delivered (or will deliver) their promises, and will never be reviewed or assessed as to their effectiveness. 

Jean Bernstein | provided

Who really elects our future leaders? I think the big political machines that deliver the money and marketing hold the real power, no matter what party they represent. This year’s District 6 race is between two Democrats, a David and Goliath story. “Goliath” is the Democratic money machine that has put tremendous muscle into the candidate, Nichole Rogers, who, by her own admission is proud of “failing forward”. Mountains of verified evidence are accumulating about Rogers’ mishandling of regulatory filings, city grants, and private donations for her now-defunct Welstand Foundation. There is much more coming to light about Rogers’ personal financial history, but that’s for the news channels. 

Yet, the National Democratic organizations, unions, and the Keller Administration machine continue to push their endorsement of this questionable individual. I ask – why wasn’t this candidate properly vetted by them BEFORE placing her in a race for an important position requiring 100% trustworthiness? Wouldn’t they have conducted a background check of an applicant for a government job before hiring? Does this machine even care if Rogers has a record of bad financial dealings? 

“David” is Jeff Hoehn, who is a well-known nonprofit leader with a good track record. He has served on his neighborhood board and other community projects. He is well-versed in City policies and issues, especially homelessness. He is wet behind the ears as a political contender yet still did a decent job of fundraising entirely on his own with a group of devoted neighborhood helpers. He has gained an impressive amount of grassroots support which continues to grow. Oddly enough, this competent, homegrown local guy is the underdog, finding himself pitted against his own political party! He is struggling against the Democratic money marketing machine.

I can guess why these huge entities are intent on controlling the results of District 6’s little election in our small city. A bi-partisan City Council will not rubber stamp pet projects, it will demand accountability and evaluate projects’ performances. Both projects I mentioned above were enormously UNPOPULAR with constituents, yet our mayors pushed them through anyway. A politically balanced council will care what the citizens of their districts really want. 

Our faith in our system is really what is at stake here. This national money is infecting our elections, weakening, and sickening our entire country. Local elections should stay local, and issues and candidate character should be driving votes, not slick Tic Toc ads. Candidates and communities must be left to run their own campaigns, raise their own money, and to let their citizens decide which candidates best serve the interests of their entire communities. This is the story of District 6 and many more like it. We citizens deserve at least this much.

Jean Bernstein and her husband, Mark, created Flying Star Cafes (originally Double Rainbow) exactly 36 years ago in what was then the run-down Nob Hill District. As ardent believers in Albuquerque’s potential and the power of small businesses to raise up their local economies, we have continued to invest in our businesses and support our amazing community.