Alibi V.20 No.42 • Oct 20-26, 2011 

Council Watch

33 Percent Backs the 99%

Councilor Rey Garduño made it known that he supports Albuquerque’s demonstrators and the philosophy behind the worldwide protests.

“I was elected by the people not the banks,” he said. “It is amazing how this movement has grown. We need to lift it up because they are speaking for all of us.”

He presented a proclamation at the Monday, Oct. 17 meeting declaring that the Council recognizes “We are the 99%, and we stand with the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

Amalia Montoya told the Council she is a home- and business-owner who is putting kids through college. “I am in the 99 percent. Look at me,” she said. “See me. The revolution is coming.” Montoya helped organize the Saturday, Oct. 1 march [“Burque Occupied,” Oct. 6-12].

Only two other councilors joined Garduño in putting their name on the proclamation: Isaac Benton and Ken Sanchez. That means one-third—or about 33 percent of the Council—supports the movement. The other six councilors did not comment on their reasons for refusing to sign the symbolic measure.

Garduño said he wanted to commend the University of New Mexico and the Albuquerque Police Department for the way they’ve handled the protesters.

“I’ve been there every day, and the police have made sure they [the demonstrators] are safe,” Garduño said. “APD is doing the right thing.”

The next Council meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall.

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Speak, but Quickly

Council President Don Harris announced he would no longer allow those signed up to speak during public comment to give their two minutes to another speaker. Two people tried to do just that, offering retired APD Sgt. Paul Heh their two minutes so he could have a total of six. He attended the meeting to present the findings of a 2009 report from nationally known police expert Neal Trautman that is critical of APD. Harris shut Heh down after his 120 seconds and refused to let him finish his presentation. There was no written notice of changes to the rules regarding public comment.
Sanchez called Harris out for his seemingly arbitrary decision to stop speakers and for the lack of notice. Sanchez said the Council should let people share their time and allow folks to speak their minds. The two councilors went back and forth on the record. A vote was proposed to allow Heh time to finish talking about the Trautman report. Harris and the other four Republicans voted against allowing Heh to finish, while Sanchez and the other three Democrats voted in favor of hearing him out. The back-and-forth took way longer than four minutes of Council time. While councils do not technically have to hear public comment at their meetings, it is a very good idea to let the public speak. The solution here seems obvious: craft some rules in writing and deliver advance notice so everyone knows what to expect. But no governing body should make up rules on the spot. It gives the appearance that those in charge are trying stop a speaker because they don’t like the content of the comments.

Harris obtained the usual Republican votes, overriding the four Democrats, and the former APD sergeant was not allowed to raise issues from the study. The public should be tired of this voting bloc. Councils are traditionally nonpartisan and should conduct city business in nonpartisan ways.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Up for approval was an ordinance establishing new standards for electronic signs citywide. It bans their use along Alameda, Griegos, Rio Grande and Tramway. Mayor Richard Berry vetoed an earlier, more restrictive version. Berry released a statement saying he will sign this bill.
Benton sponsored the bill and said he would have liked stronger and broader restrictions. But knowing the mayor was ready with a veto pen, Benton presented it with a compromise built in. The Council voted 7 to 2 to approve the new measure, with Sanchez and Garduño voting against it. Sanchez, who represents a Westside district, said he wanted to ban electronic billboard signs along the entire Coors corridor. This is a reasonable compromise. While city dwellers will never have views free of signs and billboards, it is good that there are some measures in place to minimize the imposition of commercials into your commute. Drivers will have to be extra careful not to be distracted by the blinking, colorful, lighted signs that will be popping up.
Money Dreams

Late in the meeting, Councilors tackled what to do with the $3 million in funding originally set aside for Berry’s ABQ the Plan. Earlier this month, citizens voted down a bond issue that tied money for a multisport complex to cash for the Paseo del Norte interchange rebuild.

One side of the Council wanted to save or put the money back into city operations, the other into Paseo.
A Berry-approved plan to put the money into Paseo passed while the other measure died. And, of course, the Council showed its partisan colors again. The conservative majority pushed the mayor’s plan through. Berry said in a statement he is pleased and that putting the $3 million into Paseo will give the state incentive to get the project started. The money should have been put back into the city’s coffers for future use simply because the voters already rejected this idea. Plus, why would the state care if the city waves $3 million or $50 million in its face? The interchange construction project will cost way more than that. The $3 million seed money could have gone toward shoring up pay loss and jobs for city workers.