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 V.16 No.37 | September 13 - 19, 2007 

Council Watch

Move ’Em Out the Chute

Councilors plowed through a crowded agenda at the Sept. 5 meeting. An administration bill upping fines for illegal use of disabled parking spaces passed unanimously. Councilor Michael Cadigan's bill restoring a four-way stop sign and a lower speed limit at the intersection of Rainbow Blvd. and Ventana Village Rd. also passed unanimously.

Councilors Martin Heinrich and Isaac Benton's bill purchasing open space in the East Mountains passed unanimously, partly because the state added $1.5 million dollars to the city's $500,000 for the 420-acre parcel.

The Albuquerque Archaeological Ordinance, which Heinrich worked on for two years with archaeologists and developers, passed unanimously. The bill regulates management of building sites likely to contain significant artifacts more than 75 years old. Speaking of Albuquerque's rich history, Heinrich said, "This city deserves an archaeology ordinance if any city does."

Send your comments about the City Council to laura@alibi.com.

Correction: In the previous column, “Council Watch” misspelled the name of Asst. City Attorney Kevin Curran.

Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Don't Work the Refs

A long deferred bill from Councilor Brad Winter establishes an Independent Office of Hearings. One complaint about automatic red-light cameras was that the city both issued tickets and often served as judge when people demanded a hearing. Hearing officers for tickets and other civil offenses will now be city employees but independent of the administration.
Councilor Sally Mayer said a hearing office was needed even more since disabled parking space offenses were now civil offenses, but she wanted a financial analysis. Council Senior Policy Analyst Bruce Thompson said the number of hearing officers would remain the same but some would be moved out from under the administration. The bill passed 7-1, Councilor Craig Loy opposed, Cadigan excused. Amidst the perennial "I huff, I puff, on crime I'm tuff" bills, it's nice to see one that reinforces due process by strengthening the separation of powers instead of by imposing more layers of complication. Another Winter bill streamlining citizens' requests for public records, with the burden of proof for denial or delay on the city, passed unanimously.
Facial Recognition Software

Councilor Ken Sanchez' Anti-Gang Ordinance makes it a violation of the ordinance to be convicted of committing any of 27 gang-related serious crimes or crimes involving a "substantial risk" of using physical force against another.

A companion bill requires anyone over 18 who is convicted of violating the Anti-Gang Ordinance to register for two years with APD, furnishing current name, aliases, birth date, addresses, social security, vehicles and type of employment. APD will post the names, along with gang member photographs, on the Internet.

The laws are based on California anti-gang bills. According to APD Chief Ray Schultz, Albuquerque has 200 gangs with 7,800 members, and New Mexico is the only state in the Southwest that doesn't have anti-gang legislation. Gang members' names are removed from the registry if they complete a city gang intervention program.
Schultz and APD gang specialist Lt. Rob Smith called the registry another tool for police and a way to make gang life more uncomfortable and unpleasant. Smith said the California program was a "huge, huge success." Benton asked how people would be prosecuted for violating the ordinance. Smith said through the District Attorney's office. Bruce Thompson said the D.A. didn't have the authority. Shultz said APD itself could prosecute individuals. Councilor Don Harris, a lawyer, said prosecution was a gray area and asked for deferral.

Albino Garcia, executive director of La Plazita Institute, which works on broad-based gang intervention, said the registry could help police but that it was dangerous to make the information public. Garcia said the bill put neighbors and snitches in jeopardy, as well as listed gang members. Sanchez said, "They're gunning down each other now." The bills passed unanimously.
Yeah, nail the bad guys--just make "the tools" constitutional and effective. Unfortunately, City Attorney Bob White and the bill's author, Greg Wheeler, were absent, and Councilor Michael Cadigan, an attorney, arrived from Alamogordo soon after the vote on the bills. A little more legal vetting might have clarified some of the bills' murky, barely constitutional areas dealing with prosecution and proving gang connections in the original convictions. Regarding difficulties in prosecution, in a phone interview Cadigan said state laws already carried enhanced penalties for gang-related murders.

Actual statistics on the effectiveness of similar California programs would have been helpful to the debate, as well as information about the results of other Albuquerque programs aimed at public shaming by posting photos of sex offenders and drunk drivers.
Tour de Burque

Late in the evening, councilors heard Cadigan's bill establishing connected bike boulevards. The bike routes would run east along Mountain from Gabaldon to 14
th Street, south on 14th Street to Silver, and east on Silver to San Mateo.
Ben Savoca, president of BikeABQ and one of several cyclists who spoke, said the bike boulevards did not restrict cars and were good for motorists, cyclists, merchants and pedestrians. The bill passed 6-2, Mayer and Loy opposed, O'Malley excused. Sounds like a cheap and easy way for getting more people out of private vehicles and reducing the present danger of cycling on racetrack-speed streets. Also, the bike routes connect, but do not duplicate other public transportation modes.
 
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