Doubling down is what the Albuquerque City Council did to the city’s proposed budget at its May 17 regular meeting. During the three-hour-plus meeting, Councilors did a number of things: approving the fiscal year 2023 spending plan, giving $5 million in economic development funds, giving Police Oversight Board members more time to get trained and overriding a Mayor’s Veto. They also approved some funding for Planned Parenthood.
Slap Some Bucks Down
Councilors on a 7-2 vote approved an $857 million general fund budget that goes into effect July 1. This is about a 20% increase over last year. There were a baker’s dozen amendments to the Mayor’s budget that increased the total of $7 million to $15 million for homeless housing help. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has made housing the homeless a priority. His first steps are getting our unhoused neighbors off the streets, out of the parks and into sustainable shelter.
The budget passed but it was not without a bit of drama-llama action. The meeting’s heroine was Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn. With her Amendment 13, she got $250,000 for Planned Parenthood moved into the budget as a council sponsorship. Councilor Dan Lewis voted for it, then it appeared it took a bit for him to realize what he voted for. The Council went on its dinner break, then a reconsideration of the vote was made by Councilors Lewis and Grout came back and Lewis seemed to be a bit sheepish, eyes down while saying he was looking at another amendment the first time around, then changed his vote from a yay to a nay. Councilor Lewis was joined by Councilors Renee Grout and Louie Sanchez in voting down funding to an organization that provides critical reproductive care for citizens of all ages and economics, not just the hot button issue of abortion services.
There is some slush money in the city’s coffers to the tune of $100 million. Councilor Brook Bassan seems to have taken the lead in the council’s budget process. Other juicy tidbits include the Council doing the double down with the tiny 2% raise that was proposed and upping it by 3% to make it an annual 5% raise; Police department rakes it in with a total of about $251 million; the Animal Welfare Department $15.7 million; the beautiful ABQ BioPark $17.8; Public Libraries $14.7; Transit Department gets $23.2 to run the bus system; and our fire and emergency services department will get about $107 million to save us from ourselves. There is quite a bit of useful information in the Burque budget. Get some popcorn and check out where some of your tax dollars go at https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/budget/annual-budget .
- Councilors gave $500,000 million in city Local Economic Development Funds and the state Economic Development Department invested a cool $5 million to Curia, an Albuquerque medical and biotech research, development and manufacturing firm that partners with pharmaceutical and other biotechnology companies. Sounds important.
- Giving Civilian Police Oversight Board members more time to complete the lengthy Civilian Police Academy Training that is required to sit on the board was approved. This is a good thing as members have often stated how difficult it is to complete the training in the allotted time.
- Boundaries were established for the Menaul Metropolitan Redevelopment Area. By designating areas as MRA’s, or blighted, funding and support is made more easily accessible for redevelopment out of its blighted condition. Think the Sawmill and Wells Park areas with their renewed vitality.
- Councilor Sanchez grilled Police Chief Harold Medina about how many “boots are on the ground” and other questions about the police department. Here are the stats that Chief Medina rattled off: As of April 2022 there were 511 sworn police officers. By substation Foothills-75; Northeast 92; Southeast 95; Valley 91, Northwest 70; Southwest 71 and 19 in the Crisis Intervention Team. Chief Medina said there have been 25 resignations and 23 retirements so far this year. And we the citizens of Burque have committed about 44 homicides. Councilor Sanchez asked that these numbers be presented to the Council at each meeting. Chief Medina said that they are working on generating such reports.
- A motion to override the Mayor’s veto of some changes to the neighborhood association ordinance.
We at The Paper. like to acknowledge those who step up to serve on the city’s many boards and commissions. These are key for gathering public input and participation in local government. This week there is a special shout out to Hon. Ted C. Baca, retired Second Judicial District Judge who served 15 years on the bench and has volunteered for three two-year terms on the city’s labor management board. Judge Baca is joined this week by Clark Simpson to the Albuquerque Energy Council, Andrea G. Calderon to the Indicators Progress Commission; Dr. LaTesha Watson to the Position of Superintendent of Police Reform; Emir A. Dini to the Human Rights Board; Amanda Chino-Zamora and Mark Reynolds to the Information Services Committee.
The next meeting of the City Council is set for a live, in-person meeting at 5pm May 26 if needed otherwise, on June 6. Attend in person or watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.