The first meeting of the 25th Albuquerque City Council took just under 18 minutes to elect officers. The meeting was short and quiet but it seems there is quite an undercurrent going on.
It wasn’t a slam dunk but a win nevertheless for Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton in his bid for Council President at its Jan. 10 special meeting. Second place winner Councilor Dan Lewis was voted in as Vice President and Councilor Brook Bassan as chairman of the Committee of the Whole. This committee consists of all of the city council members sitting in a deliberative manner as members of a committee with informal rules.
Joining current Councilors Issac Benton, Brook Bassan, Klarissa Peña, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones are newbie Councilors Renee Grout, Dan Lewis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Louie Sanchez.
Must feel like deja vú to Councilor Dan Lewis who has been around this government block. He was elected to the council table in 2009 and 2013. Then he ran for mayor but he lost to Mayor Tim Keller in the 2017 election. He has said he will be proposing legislation to limit the powers of the mayor. Sounds a little like sour grapes. He has introduced several other bills that will be heard at the Jan. 19 meeting. He is proposing to repeal the city-wide mandate to require vaccines for employers of 100 or more folks. Sounds unhealthy especially with Covid-19 mutating like a bunny rabbit.
He also wants to repeal the ⅜ of 1 percent tax that is intended to go towards policing and other public safety initiatives. This is not a big tax and the city needs the money to go towards public safety. Lewis says the citizens need it in their pocket yet it is doubtful that anyone even notices the pennies spent. Lewis is on a roll and introduced another pending resolution that asks the administration to renegotiate the DOJ’s oversight of the city’s police department. That is not something the Council should tamper with–better to focus on how to support the department to fulfill its mandate. Albuquerque still has the second highest number of police shootings. Only Las Vegas, Nevada, beats us.
Councilor Louie Sanchez is a retired police officer. He appears intent to focus on policing issues and homelessness. He is especially interested in getting the Department of Justice out of the police department, more funding for the police department and ways to help our homeless neighbors. Can’t do that without the gross receipts tax that Councilor Lewis wants to do away with.
Councilor Renee Grout might be a bit more of a wild card. Councilor Grout’s strong Christian views need to stay off the table. Rumor has it that she wants to do away with the moment of silence and replace it with a Christian prayer. Moments of silence allow individuals to follow their own beliefs, not others.
Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn has a strong background in economics and energy issues which will be a help at the Council table. She has been an active volunteer for various city and other organizations. Therefore, she knows a little bit about how government works and should be a tempering force on the Council.
You’re In The Big League Now
At the swearing-in ceremony, Mayor Tim Keller gave a peppy speech but also reminded everyone that they are government servants and politicians. Good advice and a good reminder that they represent all of their constituents, not just the ones who think like them.
The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3 pm on Wed., Jan. 19. Watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.