Sunday, June 4, 2023

City Council Watch: Top Cops, Robots and Los Poblanos

Albuquerque City Councilors Say Yes to Robots and Lavender and Squash the Rumor Mill


Smacking down false social media rumors piqued some drama during the March 15 Albuquerque City Council meeting. This along with disinfecting robots, more lavender and approval of a new, yet familiar, top cop took the stage during the marathon five-hour meeting.

Brass Up

Councilors unanimously approved current Interim Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina to stay on as the top cop. Chief Medina is the first Hispanic to be appointed as chief since 2001.

The drama came about when Councilor Brook Bassan asked the administration about rumors swirling on social media concerning Medina interfering with a situation involving his son. Not only did Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair smack down the false rumors being spread on social media by disgruntled employees, but Chief Medina took the Zoom stage himself to face the false allegations from almost two years ago. Chief Medina said he was not present at the 2019 domestic violence incident where his son was the victim. He said his son called police for an escort to move some of his belongings from his abuser’s house. During the escort, officers became aware that Medina’s son had a couple of outstanding misdemeanor warrants. Medina said his son took care of the warrants just like anyone else, without his dad’s involvement. Chief Medina was on the verge of tears when talking about how his son, who he said is openly gay, has had to move out of state in order to not be revictimized by not only his abuser, but by the false rumors and how the system failed him.

Councilors, including Bassan, apologized that his private business had to be aired in public. Then councilors applauded Chief Medina for his courage and integrity to face the false rumors and bat them down like mosquitos.

Interim Brass Eye

Sylvester Stanley was introduced as the interim superintendent of police reform. This position will focus on keeping the department in compliance with the Court Approved Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. It will oversee the problematic Internal Affairs Department, which includes officer discipline, and will also oversee the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy. One of the councilors said it is not easy to police the police who police the police. Stanley retired from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department in 2018 and recently left the Isleta Police Department to take on this challenge. Nair said the city will do a nationwide search to fill this position permanently.

Sweet Smells To Come

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, located in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, will be getting some help from the City of Albuquerque to move its artisan lavender production to the heart of Downtown. The historic inn and farm remains in Los Ranchos. This will allow the company to consolidate their production. The company will add 24 full-time jobs over the next five years that will pay between $14 and $48 an hour. Councilors approved $250,000 in state Local Economic Development Act funding along with $25,000 from city coffers. Los Poblanos will invest about $2.3 million for the proposed expansion to a local production facility along Fourth Street and Kinley Avenue. This will include at least 5,000 feet of warehouse space, food storage, an area to allow the lavender growers to expand their culinary team and launch a craft spirits business. More lavender scones and splashes are in our future. Brothers Matt and Jay Rembe thanked the city, state and council for the support.

Tidy Robots

Downtown has another boost coming. Build with Robots, an Albuquerque startup, got $360,000 in LEDA funding to be able to move into a nearly 9,000 square foot facility just east of the Convention Center at Commercial and Marquette. The company makes small robots that are used for autonomous cleaning and disinfection of buildings. It also makes “cobots” or collaborative robots. These are customized mechanical arms that can be used for some industrial or commercial tasks. As part of the agreement, Build with Robots will add 24 full-time employees by the end of 2021 and a total of at least 170 full-time by 2029. The positions are said to be highly technical, such as engineers, researchers and manufacturing. The positions will pay an average of $86,000, with a minimum salary of about $70,000. There are no city dollars in this package; the city is only acting as the fiscal agent. One of the representatives from the company was so moved, he got choked up at the end. It will be interesting to watch this local company grow.

Helpers and Quick Hits

*Three citizens were appointed to city boards and commissions: Alexis Mena to the Biological Park Board; Kristina Caffrey to the Ethics Board and Sarah Sampsel to the Indicators Progress Commission.

*Councilors approved the sale of some general obligation bonds to the cha-ching sound of about $42 million. This money will go toward the approved 2019-2027 Decade Plan. Project includes public safety, community centers, parks, libraries, public transportation, cultural amenities, affordable housing and other projects.

*A measure to move excess parking violation monies to the Metropolitan Redevelopment Fund failed, again. Councilor Bassan said there was actually no excess money in the parking violation fund and asked why do this now? City representatives said they wanted to do this now so that when there is excess money the city can use it.

*Councilors approved a moratorium and a stay on parts of the Integrated Development Ordinance. The moratorium is on administrative approvals of maximum fence and wall height waivers. The stay is connected to final decisions made by the Planning Department.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a Zoom meeting at 3pm, Monday, April 5. Watch it at GOV-TV at or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel. 


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