May 10 - 16, 2012 
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Council Watch

En Masse

By Carolyn Carlson

Councilors tackled a long agenda before a full house at their Monday, May 7 meeting. It was standing-room only with more than 100 people signed up to speak about police shootings, public access television and gas station regulation. The Council did not get to a zoning amendment aimed at gas stations [“Fuel to the Fire," May 3-9] or to the Downtown sector plan. Both issues will be taken up at the May 21 meeting.

The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, May 21, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv.

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

Tube Trials

Issue

Quote ... Unquote, Inc. has run public access TV channel 27 for more than 30 years, adding Encantada TV channel 26 in 2009. In October, a committee recommended the channels be given over to uPUBLIC, a young company promising higher production values. A couple of months later, the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board weighed in, saying the city should keep longtime operator QUQ.

Scores of folks have taken to the Council podium to support QUQ in recent weeks. But the city was looking for innovation and something different, according to representatives at the Council meeting. Rick Metz, project coordinator for uPUBLIC, said he hopes people who have shows on public access TV will continue their programs after the changeover.

Council's Take

The Republican majority—Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, Don Harris and Michael Cook—supported uPUBLIC and voted to accept the committee's recommendation to hire the company. The four Democrat councilors—Debbie O'Malley, Ken Sanchez, Rey Garduño and Isaac Benton—sought to keep QUQ.

“I can’t support this contract. I smell a skunk,” Sanchez said. QUQ Executive Director Steve Ranieri said the nonprofit has already challenged the contract in court, alleging the city did not conduct the bidding process ethically. Additionally, State Auditor Hector Balderas has indicated his office will look into how the process was handled. Cook, normally a man of few words, said there was no skunk, and the new company simply outscored the old one.

Reporter's Take

Ramona Martinez from the city’s Purchasing Division vigorously defended the decision, saying the city sought technological improvements for the channels. QUQ could have shown more innovation, she said. The nonprofit's supporters said the city went about the bid process in a shady way.

The best course of action for the Council would have been to address the legal issues, redo the bid and include the public in the decision.

Sea of Blue

Issue

More than 40 uniformed Albuquerque Police Department officers showed up, including some brass and several recently named deputy chiefs and commanders. No reason was given for their presence. The newly promoted officers were not introduced. When Police Chief Ray Schultz left the meeting after the pubic comments were over, the officers stood as if on cue and left in unison.

Council's Take

Garduño called out the chief for snickering during comments made by Cathy Pfefferle, a former APD forensics laboratory employee. Pfefferle addressed the Council about problems at the department’s crime and DNA lab. O’Malley questioned Schultz about Pfefferle’s allegations. Schultz responded to Pfefferle’s comments by saying she was misinformed and that he brought several crime lab people who could talk about her claims. Council President Jones asked Schultz to prepare a written report instead.

Reporter's Take

I wonder if the many officers attended so their quiet yet strong presence would intimidate those criticizing the chief. Problems with the police force is not an us-against-them issue. There are a lot of good men and women in APD, and there are some bad apples. While the public continues to call for help from the U.S. Department of Justice, it is not a good idea to create even more division with a show of force and sarcastic giggling during comments at a public meeting.
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