Tears, passion, posturing and a packed agenda filled the Dec. 20 meeting of the Albuquerque City Council. This was the last meeting of the year and the final meeting for four of the Councilors.
Nearly half of the councilors are leaving, so there was nearly an hour of heartfelt kudos and often teary eyed goodbyes. There was even an appearance from Mayor Tim Keller, to say thank you for their service.
Those leaving are Councilors Diane Gibson, who served for eight years, and Don Harris, who racked up 16 years. Both decided not to seek reelection again. Also packing up are Councilors Lan Sena, who was appointed in March 2020, and current Council President Cynthia Borrego, with four years at the government table. These two had a little more emotional time as they lost their bids for reelection. Some councilors seemed to fight the tears while paying tribute. Most of the four receiving those accolades were emotional as well while saying goodbye to their stints as public servants. All were thankful to be able to serve the constituents of their districts. We say ditto on the thank yous for taking on the job of serving the public, it ain’t easy making sausage as they say.
The Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Department has an official leader. Interim Chief Gene Gallegos was unanimously appointed in April 2021 when Chief Paul Dow retired. Chief Gallegos is a graduate of West Mesa High School and has been with the fire and rescue department since 2000. He has been a key figure in the department’s training and pandemic response and in public health requirements when businesses began to open up. Good luck, and thank you to all of the fire and rescue folks who show up to save us day after day.
Outgoing Councilor Gibson got ruffled with Mayor Tim Keller’s veto of a resolution passed at the last meeting limiting the sale of alcoholic beverages at Los Altos Park to only permitted events. Mayor Keller wants to sell alcoholic beverages during softball tournaments, public gatherings and other events—not just limited to permitted events. But the veto didn’t say it was about the booze limitations but about a security building. It failed on a 5 to 4 vote, so that means the veto stands, saying in a nutshell that the council overreached its authority to determine the location of a building when experts such as city planning peeps and architects will do these tasks. The mayor pulled rank but in an odd kinda way seemingly to spank the council a bit.
Bucks For Open Space
On a squeaky vote of 5 to 4, the council approved basically dissolving the nearly 40-year-old Open Space Trust Fund. The legislation says the city can use the approximately $12 million dollars in principal. The existing ordinance says the city can use the trust fund’s interest and investment income but cannot touch the principal. The new bill says that the bulk or 75 percent will be spent on the West Side. The Open Space Trust Fund was created to support land preservation in perpetuity. The bill bypassed the Open Space Advisory Board, so they sent a letter asking the council to cool their jets and send the bill though the committee process for review. They said the changes were being rushed due to political expediency rather than truly improving the fund. Seems like a fair assessment and a fair request; but according to the Open Space chairwoman Twyla McComb, the board’s input and discussion has been ignored for the larger part of a year and a half. Councilor Benton summed it up when he said this was not the way to go about momentous changes to a 40-year-old fund.
Hate No More
At the urging of outgoing Councilor Lan Sena, the council denounced stigmatization of and racism against Asian-American Pacific Islander immigrants and healthcare workers and identified partnerships and programs that the city can commit to supporting. There are nearly 15 directives in the resolution, such as the city denouncing the hateful xenophobia that has risen up during the COVID-19 pandemic against AAPI immigrants and especially healthcare workers. It should not take legislation to make people behave decently to those trying to help. Get it together ‘Burquenos.
Once the council got rolling, they cleared a wad of business during the nearly five-and-a-half-hour meeting. Here is what went down:
- Approved the issuance of $8.5 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds for Hope Christian Academy to refinance existing loans.
- Codified the Mayor’s Language Access executive order to develop Language Access Plan and to make government services more accessible to all people in Albuquerque regardless of their ability to read English.
- Approved appropriations for the 2021 General Obligation Bond Projects that were approved during the recent Nov. 2 municipal election.
- Approved the Transit Department’s Equity Analysis for the Zero Fare Pilot to occur in 2022.
- Gave the okay to spend $600,000 in Federal funds for an intelligent traffic signal project along Louisiana Boulevard. Wonder if this will make drivers more intelligent too?
- Stephen Pilon was appointed to the Transit Advisory Board, Juan B. Montoya to the Labor Management Board, Samia Assed to the Human Rights Board and Cynthia Serna to the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Thanks for stepping up.
- There was some subtle posturing going on at the meeting with Councilor Brook Basson showing some assertiveness and exuberance at the table. Could she be vying to be in the running for council president when they take their seats in January? Tune in next month.
The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3 pm, Wednesday, Jan. 19. Watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.