Saturday, September 30, 2023

City Council Watch: Lame Ducks Float Along

Council Kicks Selling Booze at a City Park Down the Road and Deals With Big City Settlements


Ever heard of a lame duck? The one that quacks along yet doesn’t get a whole lot done? Well, the current Albuquerque City Council was a bit like a flock of lame ducks as they waded through city business at the Nov. 15 meeting. The council flock did get some things done, but duck watchers could sense some ruffled feathers.

Quack Quack

The recent election booted two incumbents and left two seats up in the air waiting for a Dec. 7 run-off election. Council President Cynthia Borrego lost to Republican Dan Lewis, who held the seat before Borrego. Councilor Lan Sena was given her walking papers by conservative Democrat and former cop Louie Sanchez. The other two seats will see a District 7 run-off between Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn and Republican Lori Lee Robertson. District 9 will see Democrat Robert C. Grilley Jr. and Republican Rene Grout compete for the seat. This will change the dynamics at the table, for sure.

Booze or No Booze

Los Altos Park is starting a multi-million dollar renovation that will eventually add more ball fields, a BMX pump track, horseshoe courts, a new dog park and a promenade. The idea is to make the 33-acre park more attractive for residents and for softball tournaments. Mayor Tim Keller would like to add alcohol sales. The park would be one of a few city parks where alcohol is permissible, although alcohol is allowed at other parks for special events. Outgoing Councilor Diane Gibson put up a good fight to keep the park dry, but councilors deferred the bill. Councilor Peña said she wanted more information from sports organizers and other stakeholders before making a decision. She said large events often serve alcohol, and she doesn’t want to see all this money being put into the park to bring in softball tournaments and not be able to utilize it in the manner it is intended to be used. The measure will more than likely pass at the next meeting. Until then, cheers! 

118th Street Blues

No reason to be afraid of the boogeyman, Santolina. Councilor Klarissa Peña had to battle to get a resolution passed to encourage the state Department of Transportation to establish improvements along 118th Street from Ladera to Senator Dennis Chavez Boulevard along with interchange improvements at I-40 and 118th St. And to form a partnership with Bernalillo County to develop 118th Street.

Councilors Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson sounded a bit like curmudgeons when they cast shade on the resolution, saying this was a lot to digest and a big move for the city. 

Benton was especially grumpy about the idea and said the majority of this project is in the county and was not a citywide priority, so he tried to amend it to only be a priority of council Districts 1 and 3. He said this will encourage unhindered Westside growth, “You build it and they will come, and what will they build, we don’t know.”

Peña countered eloquently saying that she respected her colleagues' opposing views. “It is unfortunate that Santolina is being used as the boogeyman,” she said. “We have the opportunity to do this right.” She also pointed out that now is the time to identify major infrastructure projects with the national infrastructure bill passing and freeing up lots of money. Santolina is a development on the southwest mesa that could, if fully built out, house a 95,000-person development and use more than 10 million gallons of water a day.

The measure passed on a 5 to 4 vote with Councilors Benton, Gibson, Davis and Jones being the naysayers.

Big Legal Settlements

Accidents on city sidewalks, clashes with cops, crashes with city buses and even an Inspection of Public Records Act settlement are some of the items on two litigation reports. The two reports were tucked in the Consent Agenda, which means a whole bunch of items that get passed without discussion. The two reports covered Jan.1 to June 30. Here is a sampling of what the city paid out: $3,200 for the IPRA violation; $650,000 for a wrongful death of a child being hit by a car while crossing the street; $50,000 for a crash between a bicycle rider and a city bus; $40,000 for a motor vehicle accident with a police car; $75,000 for a city bus versus pedestrian crash; $725,000 for another city bus and car crash that resulted in death; $18,000 for a bicycle accident on a city sidewalk; $90,000 for a car crash with a police car; $10,000 for a civil rights violation by police; $75,000 for an assault by a police officer and $17,500 for another car crash with a police car. These are some of the cases that settled. The reports also list the cases that were dismissed.

New Board Appointees

Some civic-minded folks got appointed or reappointed to some of the city’s boards and commissions: Jesse Payne Jr. and Jeremy Holder to the Veterans and Military Affairs Advisory Board; Julie Radoslovich to the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Advisory Board; Camilla Feibelman to the Water Protection Advisory Board; Emilie De Angelis and Woody Duncan to the Arts Board and Jana Lynne Pfeiffer to the Environmental Planning Commission.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3pm, Monday Dec. 6. Watch it at GOV-TV at or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.


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