Crib Notes: July 23, 2015
County Commission Offers Alternative to Berry's Tender Mercies
On Friday, Aug. 29, Mayor Richard J. Berry made history. In his YouTube communiqué debut, Berry became the first Albuquerque mayor to veto an election amendment. According to Berry's statement, R-14-91 contained proposals he couldn't "in good conscience" allow Albuquerque citizens to vote on. Translation: Berry claims his ethics prevented him from permitting us to weigh in at the polls on a) raising sales tax one-eighth of a cent—to fund social services for the addicted, homeless and mentally ill—and b) to reduce criminal penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
R-14-91 also contained ballot initiatives to a) grant the City Council approval authority over the Mayor's hiring of police and fire chiefs, b) change the voter-initiative process to prevent costly special elections and c) a bond proposal to fund "metropolitan redevelopment." In layman's terms, Berry's veto was a political strong-arm tactic to get the City Council to drop the tax increase and penalty reduction initiatives. Otherwise, these other three issues wouldn't get to voters. And it worked. On Wednesday, Sept. 3, the Council compromised (read: caved).
And that, as they say, could have been that. But on Friday, Sept. 5, the Bernalillo County Commission issued a press release calling for voter input on the tax increase and marijuana penalty reduction initiatives that Berry nixed. In the release Commission Chair Debbie O’Malley said, “It’s critical that we hear directly from the people about how to move forward on these two issues that have such a major impact on our community. We need to look for ways to divert people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead. This issue impacts all of us and Bernalillo County residents are ready to talk about solutions.”
In the same release, Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins states, “Better access to mental health services and marijuana penalties are clearly on the minds of Bernalillo County residents. Both of these issues have a significant impact on public safety and county government so it makes sense to give the voters a say in this community discussion.”
The County Commission will convene on Monday, Sept. 8, at 10am to make a final decision on which questions voters will get to address. That's where you come in. O'Malley and Hart-Stebbins want your input on the tax and marijuana penalty initiatives. Based on the overwhelmingly critical responses to Berry's veto video and the veto post on his Facebook page, many of you have something to say. So say it. If the Commission adds these initiatives to the ballot, all Bernalillo County residents—not just city folk—will have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in creating local public policy.
These are difficult times for our city, and we appear to be at a crossroads. It's easy to be cynical. But rather than reposting memes—especially those featuring Mark Twain's belief that voting makes no difference—take a few minutes this weekend to engage your representatives on issues that matter to you. To facilitate that conversation, scroll on for quick links to contact O'Malley and Hart Stebbins. Use your voice. It's more powerful than you know.
Click here to email Debbie O'Malley or call her at (505) 468-7027.
Click here to email Maggie Hart-Stebbins or call her at (505) 468-7108.
Crib Notes: June 26, 2014
County minimum wage ordinance squeaks by
The Bernalillo County Commission has approved a measure boosting the pay of those earning minimum wage in Bernalillo County. County commissioners voted 3 to 2 to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour; workers earning the state’s minimum wage are currently paid $7.50 an hour. The commissioners voted along party lines with three Democrats supporting the measure while Republicans voted against. Workers impacted by the increase will see two 50-cent hourly increases over the next year to earn $8.50 an hour by January 1, 2014.
“Bernalillo County families deserve a fair wage for a hard day’s work,” says Commissioner Art De La Cruz, who sponsored the measure. “I am committed to economic development and creating jobs, as well as livable wages for the workers that are the backbone of many successful companies and businesses here in Bernalillo County.”
But Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who voted against the measure, believes the push for a wage increase was political pandering at its finest.“The only real beneficiaries of this policy are politicians who pander to extreme interest groups and larger businesses that have the ability to survive the arbitrarily imposed costs and benefit once their smaller competitors are forced out of business,” said Johnson.
The new ordinance will apply to about 1,400 businesses in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County outside the city limits, and it's consistent with the wage increase approved by Albuquerque voters. Last November, Albuquerque residents approved a minimum wage ordinance that went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, raising the city’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour.
The increase was met with controversy after Mayor Richard Berry backed City Attorney David Tourek's hesitant stance on stepping in to private sector employer-employee disputes to enforce the increase. More than a week later, Berry's administration changed its tune by filing a lawsuit against a local business refusing to honor the increase.
Tipped employees are also covered by the new county wage ordinance. If a tipped employee’s hourly rate, including tips, doesn't meet the minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. Tipped employees can continue to pool tips under the new ordinance. As with the city's minimum wage ordinance, the county will adjust the wage according to cost of living increase.
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