Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Council Watch: Bassan Back-off


Union contracts, asbestos answers, threats against a city councilor and a new Main Street designation were the enticing topics at the short two-hour Sept. 6 regular Albuquerque City Council meeting.

Union Flex

Seemingly in honor of Labor Day, councilors approved collective bargaining agreements with the local police and prisoner transport unions.

The 50-page police union contract outlines the details and protections of working as a union police officer. The contract was already signed by Albuquerque Police Officers’ AssociationPresident Shaun Willoughby and reviewed by the city’s legal department before ever making it to the council table. Those important worker bees were notably absent from the meeting.

The new three-year contract shows police will get a pay increase of 5 percent effective upon signing. Then on July 1, 2024 there will be at least a 4 percent increase through 2026 . For example, the salary schedule shows a rank and file officer would make $34.53 an hour for the first four years of employment, then $35.72 for the next nine years and $37.51 after 15 years of policing the city. Sergeants will make a minimum of $41.67 and Lieutenant $47.63. Then there is the extra pay for special skills such as motorcycle, horse, search and rescue, swat K-9, speaking multiple languages and other speciality training.

The 47 pages of the prisoner transport officer contract gives those workers a 3.5 percent increase upon signing with a minimum of 3 percent for subsequent contract years. Incoming transport officers can expect $24.82 an hour with other perks such as longevity pay and bilingual pay.

Both contracts include steps to be taken for conflict resolution, discipline and other employment issues. The two contracts were passed unanimously without significant discussion or public comment. These contracts are extensive and took collaboration, which is no small feat.

Asbestos Answers

Councilor Renee Grout questioned the administration about the recent million dollar plus fine leveled against the city and the contractor working on the massive Gateway Center project. About 4,000 square feet of the more than 35,000 square foot homeless service hub project were found to have asbestos and inspectors found the area was improperly handled by workers for nearly a year, according to an New Mexico Occupational and Safety Act report.

Councilor Grout grilled the administration, asking if any of the workers were hurt by the exposure. Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael said no claims were filed and that no workers have taken up the city’s offer of health monitoring or other support so far. Rael went on to put on his big boy pants and owned up to mistakes made by both the city and the contractor in managing portions of the project. He said the city has some disagreements with the report and will be appealing some of the findings. The matter will be handled by the city’s Risk Management Department.

Rael said he spoke to the state ‘s Environment Department and they are willing to work with the city to handle its portion of the fine by doing some public education on asbestos.

Rael noted the significantly large size of the project and said it will take some time but the center will eventually be able to accommodate at least 1,000 people a night. . He also said that some homeless citizens don’t want to go to a shelter facility or refuse services altogether and they have the right to do that.

There’s plenty of data to prove Rael correct in that some of our homeless citizens avoid the shelter life for a number of reasons. We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind readers of the seemingly abandoned idea of mini-shelters that offer a little more autonomy than a sea of cots, especially since we’re weeks away from winter blowing in

Mile High District

Councilors passed a resolution making a portion of the San Pedro historic commercial zone more attractive to the midtown stretch of businesses. This designates more than a mile of San Pedro as a Main Street project, which makes the swath eligible for $20,000 to get started at spiffing it up to make it more attractive to both walkers and shoppers of the many unique local businesses along the route. This project is also being sponsored by the Revitalize San Pedro Partnership. See, we sometimes can have nice things, when folks come together with a shared goal of preserving the unique micro-communities our metro area has to offer.

Be Nice

Councilor Brook Bassan had an emotional time when she pulled a piece of cannabis legislation from any future consideration. Councilor Bassan very passionately said that threats were leveled against her and her staff after she recently announced she was introducing a proposal to limit the growing of cannabis to indoor closed rooms or greenhouses, not outside. She said the bill was in response to some of her constituents who are uncomfortable with neighbors growing the often pungent plant in their respective backyards. With her voice cracking, Councilor Bassan said people were mean, rude and made threats that could be potential hate crimes. It’s unclear exactly what the callers said or how their comments elevated to hate crimes, but we know from experience how nasty these brave warriors can get when there’s a keyboard or phone to shield them. If Burqeños can’t stop being jerks, even to sometimes out of touch councilors, when trying to get their opinions on the record maybe we can’t have nice things. Hey jerks, you kiss your mom with that mouth?

The next regular meeting is set for 5pm September 18. For more information on all things Albuquerque city government such as upcoming election information, agendas, supporting documents and video meeting links go to


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