Albuquerque City Council Keeps Up During COVID

My, my how time flies. Albuquerque City Councilors were busy bees keeping the city going through September, then they slid into a busy October.

Do You Remember the 21st Day of September?

Oops, got distracted by that old Earth, Wind and Fire song. Well, on that night a few weeks ago in 2020, the City Council knocked down two out of three bills targeting gun control. Council President Pat Davis was one sponsor of those bills. The bill that made it through that night was making it a crime to make shooting threats against any public building such as schools, stores and government offices. The other two bills—one which would have made it a misdemeanor to not lock up your gun and the other was making it illegal to bring guns on city property-failed.

Councilors also approved an extra $10 million in coronavirus relief money to make micro grants to small businesses impacted by the pandemic. For more information log on to cabq.gov, but get on it quickly if you want some of this relief money for yourself. The last time these types of grants were offered, about 1,400 businesses applied for 150 grants.

Then Along Came October

City Councilors addressed a half-full agenda at their Oct. 5 regular meeting where one of the interesting items included a presentation by Albuquerque Police Department Interim Police Chief Harold Medina. Medina gave a fast-talking staffing report that was hard to follow, but the gist of the presentation was there has been a steady increase in police department staffing since 2017.

Some of the high points caught during the presentation include: there are currently 985 sworn officers; 92 or so cadets in the pipeline to be on board by the end of the year; 132 officers are eligible to retire. In some of the specific departments there are 10 homicide detectives, six armed robbery, eight missing persons, nine in sex crimes and five in child abuse. Councilor Trudy Jones asked Chief Medina how many officers were out on the streets in patrol cars answering calls for service. Medina said he did not have the exact number but on average there are 32 officers available during high call times and six to eight officers at low call time. “That was helpful but troubling,” Councilor Jones said.

Cops Bling Compromise

Councilors passed a bill limiting the bling, or equipment, the Albuquerque Police Department can get from the United States military. This version comes after a much-stricter version sponsored by Council President Pat Davis and Councilor Lan Sena that failed earlier this year. This bill sponsored by Councilors Klarissa Peña, Cynthia Borrego and Brook Bassan specified exact things such as armored vehicles, grenade launchers and certain firearms are no-nos, but office equipment and other things not used in the act of war are okay.

Some Councilors felt it was an ideological issue of getting weapons of war for the police department. Councillor Isaac Benton said this bill was better than nothing. Councilors Sena and Davis voted for the bill but had a sour grape or two in their teacups. “I don’t have the votes to do it my way, so I will do it this way,” Councilor Davis said.

Vacay Rentals

Councillors unanimously approved legislation requiring short-term rentals (like those run through Airbnb) to obtain a city license, follow occupancy limits and provide the city with the name and phone number of a representative who can be available 24/7 to handle complaints.

The bill came out from a task force that has been working on this legislation for about two years. It does not address how many vacation rentals can be in any one neighborhood, as that is a touchy subject.

The bill creates an initial $120 license fee with a $90 annual renewal. Vacay rental owners must play nice and follow all applicable city ordinances and post “good neighbor agreements” letting guests know how many people can crash there and all the other rules. The ordinance also restricts parties of no more than double the overnight occupancy, or no more than 20 people. And the gatherings must end by 10pm so residents living nearby don’t have to call the cops.

Gotta Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

It takes a special person to serve on volunteer boards and commissions during normal times. It is even more difficult to serve in this capacity during the times of COVID changes, so extra kudos to these Albuquerque residents who are stepping up and speaking up: Judith A. Goering, Conor Stavoy and Mary K. Hefferon to the Veterans and Military Affairs Advisory Board; Hallee K. Nguyen, Tsiporah Nephesh and Adriano Lujan (Kells) to the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board; Lauren Meiklejohn to the Joint Air Quality Board; C. Jack Emmons to the Accountability in Government Oversight Committee; Bernard R. Toon to the Personnel Board; Daniel Jensen to the Greater Albuquerque Cycling Advisory Committee; Leigh Sellari to the Greater Albuquerque Recreational Trails Committee; Christopher Ortiz to the EMS Providers Advisory Committee; John R. Castillo to the Personnel Board; Julie Henss to the Library Advisory Board; Twyla McComb to the Open Space Advisory Board and Carlos Lucero to the Albuquerque Energy Council.

There are lots of ways to be a part of the community; check out all the boards and commissions at cabq.gov, and maybe one will spark your interest.

Future Fires

Councilors deferred some hot topics: proposed two cents a gallon gasoline tax that will be sent to the voters will be heard at the Nov. 2 meeting; the Pawnbrokers Ordinance update will be heard at the Oct. 19 meeting; a bill urging Congress to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail and several nuisance abatement issues will also be heard at the Nov. 2 meeting.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for 5pm Oct. 19. Watch it at GOV TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16.

The Paper. is published by Good Trouble, LLLP, which is owned by Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis and Abby Lewis. All coverage of and editorial decision-making on the City Council is done independently of the publisher.