Union contracts, bullying, booze at Los Altos and millions of dollars in spending were the hot topics at the five-hour Dec. 6 regular meeting of the Albuquerque City Council.
A handful of union bosses Zoomed in to express their support for an ordinance amendment that would require the use of Project Labor Agreements on certain public works construction projects that cost at least $10 million that need workers from at least three crafts. PLAs are collective bargaining agreements with labor unions to set terms like wages and benefits. Councilor Brook Bassan said this was a bad bill for local businesses and a good bill for out-of-state bidders. The issue is whether to go union or not when choosing bidders for big-ticket construction projects. Along with the union peeps, there were some business people that stepped up to support the bill. Councilors Pat Davis, Cynthia Borrego and Lan Sena sponsored the bill. Yet, there were those who thought the bill was not in the best interest of the city, saying it gives the edge to out-of-state contractors. Councilors Klarissa Peña, Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson joined the sponsors to pass on a 6 to 3 vote with Councilors Bassan, Don Harris and Trudy Jones holding out.
Councilors went round and round for about 90 minutes debating $110 million dollars worth of projects to fund with the sale of gross receipts tax revenue bonds. The spending package was the idea of Councilors Bassan and Peña after voters defeated a $50 million soccer stadium bond. Councilor Bassan said that voters wrote in what they wanted the money to be spent on, which included things like public safety, homelessness and facilities improvements.
Like the stadium money, there would not be a tax increase, but the wish list would have used up a stash of cash that the city has built up by paying off older bonds. Because this was going to spend gross receipts tax revenue without going to the voters, a supermajority of seven of nine members was needed to move it forward. Councilor Bassan was downright pulpit passionate about this bill. Councilor Peńa backed her up, but the vote went down on a 5 to 4 vote when the rest of the Council said no. Councilor Bassan looked downright bummed and was a bit testy for the rest of the meeting. To their credit, Councilors Bassan and Peña put in a lot of thought, effort and team building to come up with a list of projects to address some of the city’s growing needs. But like Councilor Jones said, we need not spend every penny in our purse.
Boozy Los Altos
Outgoing Councilor Gibson stood strong for her constituents in the mid-heights near Los Altos Park in her resolution to encourage the city to complete the funding for a major renovation to the sprawling 33-acres. The city’s grassy green gem is starting a multi-million renovation project that will eventually add more ball fields, a BMX track, horseshoe courts, a new dog park and a promenade. One reason for the spruce-up is to make the park more attractive for residents and for softball tournaments that bring in visitors. Mayor Tim Keller proposed adding alcohol sales to the mix. Councilor Gibson said her constituents want reassurance that things won’t get all crazy during the peak season. City Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael said that, with new limiting changes, folks won’t be able to bring booze into the park in their coolers anymore. And only sporting events and public events, such as Summerfest, will be able to apply for a special-event permit to serve alcohol. Rael said these two changes alone should give the surrounding neighborhood a sense of security. The measure passed on a 5 to 4 vote with Councilors Harris, Pena, Sena and Borrego not going along with the limiting amendments.
Tidbits, Wish List and Bad Vibes
Legislative priorities were approved for the upcoming legislative session. Some of the nearly 100 wishes the council is sending to Santa Claus via a resolution include: funding to continue mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health services; reducing criminal firearm use; removing marijuana from the public safety employment exclusion; public safety needs such as a Southwest Mesa Public Safety Center; trails, dog parks and shelters; road and roadway improvements; pickleball parks, and the list goes on and on.
Jana Lynne Pfeiffer was appointed to the Environmental Planning Commission. She is the first Native American member of the board, ever. In addition, a couple of other board appointments were made: Beverly A. McMillan to the Human Rights Board and Tony R. Johnson to the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
Things got a little heated between councilors more than once. At one point one of the girls at the table said she wanted to hold a grudge but wasn’t going to—yet her twittering eyebrows said something different. Another tit for tat between a couple of the boys was a bit of a comedic spar at best. Councilors did take a short 15-minute break, but maybe they needed a snack and a nap as well.
Hanging in the air was the foot stomping being done by recently elected City Councilor Louie Sanchez, who last week demanded that the city clerk swear him in immediately. Sanchez contends that, since Councilor Sena was appointed and not elected, he should take over ASAP. There is some confusing language in the City Charter, and Sanchez via his lawyer is taking advantage of it. The council needs to clean up the charter, and Sanchez needs to chill out; he will get his turn at the council table soon enough. No need to be a bully.
The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3pm, Wednesday, Jan. 19. Watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.