“Let the wild rumpus begin!” seems like an appropriate theme for the Jan. 8 regular meeting of the Albuquerque City Council when the governing table got excited.
Councilor Louie Sanchez started the just over an hour of questioning during the Administration Q&A period. He first called up Fire Chief Gene Gallegos to clarify recent hiring decisions. Chief Gallegos gave back appropriate answers in a calm and cool manner.
Then Councilor Sanchez got lit and began his interrogation of Police Chief Harold Medina regarding officer and administration pay, staffing levels and concerns about the Department of Justice consent decree. Councilor Sanchez is a former APD officer who ran his campaign based on crime and police issues. He made sure to remind Chief Medina of this as well.
His concerns seemed to be over the newly negotiated police union contract and staffing numbers. The new contract supposedly makes APD the best-paying department in the region at over $68,000 with incentives up to $5,200 a year. But it does not have the provisions that the community coalition group, APD Forward asked for in order to provide accountability on police reform.
Councilor Trudy Jones took the Zoom stage to say that the number one complaint she gets from people all over the city is that they are afraid to leave their homes due to the street violence and the shoplifters who are pushing carts full of items out of WalMart unchecked. “We as a city are a snowball headed for hell,” Jones said, making this the best quote of the meeting.
Then it was Councilor Brook Bassan’s turn who wanted to know what “boots on the ground” means in terms of the number of officers answering calls, making traffic stops and patrolling parking lots.
Councilor Dan Lewis chimed in saying his number one complaint is people don’t see officers on the roads or driving by when they are home.
Chief Medina was unflustered and passionate as he dodged the bullets and answered by rattling off numbers and other information. If he did not know the answer was quick to say he would get back to the Council. When asked what his goals are, one answer he gave was 1,200 officers on the streets. He said there are 514 officers in field services now. He said some of them are lazy and the good officers want to see those officers gone.
Councilor Klarissa Peña gave kudos to Chief Medina for his detailed, passionate responses that show the department is working hard on the issues.
There was not a whole lot of excitement on the agenda as the approval of amendments to the Civilian Police Oversight ordinance was deferred until the Feb. 23 meeting. This is a hot-potato topic so expect lots of future discussion. There were approvals for money from the city’s Local Economic Development Act Funds Agenda LLC; issuance of $5 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds for Heritage LLC and Agenda LLC; establishment of the city’s priorities to the Intergovernmental Relations Committee; and approval of a grant to control mosquitos.
The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3pm on Weds., Feb. 23 (Due to President’s Day). Watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.