Albuquerque City Councilors faced some touchy subjects at their March 7 regular meeting. Trucks, buses and trash were on the table along with taking city administrators to task about the scathing report issued by the US Department of Justice regarding the lack of progress being made by the city’s police department in complying with the court mandated consent decree.
Councilors grilled City Attorney Jessica Hernandez and Police Chief Gorden Eden about the independent monitor’s report that called out Hernandez directly for her “delay, do little and deflect” tactics, and noted dealing with her was “a little rougher than most.” Councilor Pat Davis, himself a former police officer, asked Chief Eden “who was in charge of fixing the police department.” Eden appropriately replied that he was accountable. The chit-chat got stern when Councilors on both sides of the political aisle demanded reassurance from city legal beagles that the criticism in Ginger’s report will be addressed. “I understand how serious this concern is,” Hernandez said. She said she was not aware until the report came out that Ginger had a problem with her, and that she is willing to work to resolve the issues with Ginger. The mandated changes are part of a settlement with the DOJ after the agency found that the city’s police department had a pattern of violating people’s rights.
A request by the city for a zone change to add a solid waste transfer station at the intersection of Edith and Comanche in the city’s mid-North Valley, will head back to the Environmental Planning Commission for further review. City Councilors unanimously, and without comment, accepted the Land Use Hearing Officer’s recommendation that the city’s planning commission take another look at the plan. The transfer station will allow trucks to unload at that location and not have to go out to the West Mesa landfill. Opponents say adding a solid waste transfer station will be noisy, dangerous, unhealthy for area residents and could possibly drop area property values. City officials say the new transfer station is needed to handle the large amount of solid waste city residents generate. The city says the addition of a mid-city transfer station would be indoors, have air filters and will save the city $75 million over the next 20 years, while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The zone change will be back in front of the Council when the EPC has finished its review.
Two measures were introduced regarding the proposed ABQ Rapid Transit plan. They were not discussed but are set to be discussed at the March 21 meeting. Councilors Ken Sanchez (D) and Don Harris (R) joined together to propose a bill that will ask for the Council to approve accepting federal monies and starting the project. Councilors Brad Winter (R) and Sanchez introduced a measure to allow residents and businesses along the proposed route to organize a transit advisory board. Councilor Dan Lewis (R) had said he will introduce a measure opposing the proposed ART route but it was not ready to be introduced. Recent public meetings have become unruly to the point of shouting, interrupting and face-to-face confrontations between Councilors, city administrators and residents. It seems no one at City Hall wants to look at alternate routes such as Lomas for the transportation route that could go from Old Town to the state fair grounds and malls, be welcomed by the businesses along the route, not add congestion into already cramped space, and actually spur development rather than deter development; the current proposal is obviously divisive despite bi-partisan Council support.
Little Bit Closer
City Councilors passed a bill that allows food trucks to park a little closer to brick and mortar restaurants. Currently food trucks have to maintain a 100-foot buffer all the time. The measure allows food trucks to move to within 75 feet when the restaurants are closed. Food trucks are popular and are often parked near the many micro breweries in Nob Hill and Downtown, especially on weekends when the bars are hopping and many surrounding restaurants are closed. If you are curious about what our local food trucks have to offer, check them out on Wednesdays in the parking lot of Talin Market located at Central and Louisiana.
Councilors amended the Huning Highland Sector Development Plan to allow for micro breweries to set up shop. Councilor Isaac Benton said residents in the area asked for the change so they can be part of the growing micro beer and wine development in the city. Albuquerque is becoming nationally known for its number and quality of microbreweries. New Mexico is known for its long history of winemaking as well.
Random Quotes from the Public Comments Portion of the Meeting:
“I am here to ask for transparency.”
“ART is just another rip-off for the taxpayer.”
“Albuquerque and Israel have much to offer each other.”
“We respectfully ask the City Council to terminate the sister city relationship with Rehovot, Israel until Israel ceases their human rights violations.”
“You can’t throw a newspaper into solitary confinement, not in this country.”
“I constantly collect wisdom every day in order to live it.”
“They are not killing Mexicans up in your neighborhood and they are not killing Negroes in your neighborhood either.”