Meeting in person for the first time in two years, Albuquerque City Councilors took up taking care of the city’s business–well, sort of.

Not In My Arm

There never has been a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees yet the Council voted 5-4 to make sure there will never be a mandate. Councilor Dan Lewis continued his posturing with this measure by saying that this will give city employees peace of mind that they don’t have to make a decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine or lose their jobs. He said this was “a good fit” for frontline workers. It seems he means it is a good fit for those with hands-on the public not to be vaccinated against a highly contagious and deadly virus. 

The hoopla came about when Mayor Tim Keller talked about a” vaccine or test policy” to comply with OSHA rules, but it was not implemented. Councilor Isaac Benton tried to be a peacemaker and introduced a measure that would have required only public safety employees to submit proof of vaccination or negative test results. He withdrew it saying he did not have the support to move forward with it. Those voting against this unnecessary bill said that the city should not give up its ability to regulate its public safety workforce against pandemic situations. Several Councilors who voted in favor of this measure said they think everyone should be vaccinated but support personal choice to be vaccinated or not. High five to Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn who was the only one visible in the council chambers wearing a mask.

Veto This

Mayor Tim Keller used his veto power and won. At the last meeting, the Council passed a bill that revokes what a mayor can do during a public health crisis. This bill limited the mayor’s authority to order places to close, cancel city events and reallocate up to $1 million within the city’s budget. A mayor would only be able to make advisory decisions and recommendations. Councilor Lewis was not able to come up with the six votes to override the veto.

Mayor Keller said in his veto message that the emergency powers allowed the city’s administrations to protect the city’s residents and employees by being able to quickly respond to the pandemic.

It’s worth mentioning the disrespectful way Councilor Lewis addressed Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair during the meeting. It seems Councilor Lewis has an axe to grind with this administration and this disrespect is a disservice to the citizens.

Smoke Here?

It’s no fooling, on April 1 recreational marijuana sales will start. Smoking cannabis in public is illegal under state law. The Albuquerque Clean Indoor Air Act is at issue. This act controls where tobacco is smoked in public. Councilors debated, then deferred, a bill that would possibly allow police officers to enforce this law in regards to marijuana. Councilor Fiebelkorn was the voice of reason saying there is already a state law that makes consuming marijuana in public illegal and therefore no need to duplicate. Councilor Louie Sanchez, who had to remind everyone that he is a retired APD cop, said this was about safety and doing the right thing. He spoke about what would happen if a child, or a police officer, walks by and a puff of marijuana smoke drifts into their face. 

Councilor Klarissa Peña said these types of laws target people of color. She said she wished laws were fair for everybody. Councilor Sanchez went on the defensive and said in his 26 years on the force he never saw any officer do anything to target people of color. Councilor Brook Bassan said she is not a fan of duplicating laws and asked what the urgency was. 

The bill will be back at the April 4 meeting for more debate and posturing.

Quick Hits

-Among the items deferred was a bill to rescind the 1/8th of one percent Hold Harmless Gross Receipts Tax and dedicate 60 percent of the revenues for public safety and 40% used for addressing homelessness.

-Councilors approved establishing an Albuquerque Tourism Marketing District which is a business improvement district aimed at expanding marketing and destination development to support and increase travel tourism for lodging businesses. 

-Two projects received Local Economic Development Act funding. Aspen and Autumn, LLC, a food and beverage distributor, received $750,000 in state LEDA funds and $250,000 from the city’s LEDA funds. Pajarito Power received $275,000 from the state and $25,000 from the city’s LEDA coffer.

-Public comment centered around the plastic bag ban that the Council did away with at the last meeting. Comments were encouraging the Mayor to veto the bill because plastic bags damage the environment in many ways. There were no plastic bags on the agenda this time but maybe the bag veto will be a showdown at the next meeting.

-Four people stepped up to take seats on the city’s boards and commissions. Raven Begay will sit on the Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs; Marc Limmany to the Airport Advisory Board; Jane L. McGuigan to the Cable, Internet and PEG Advisory Board and Christopher Maestas to the Information Services Committee.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a live in-person meeting at 5 pm on April 4. Attend in person or watch it at GOV-TV at or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.