Council Chooses Watchdog, Allows Pets on Bus
Brief meeting is productive
Albuquerque City Councilors didn’t waste any time dealing with the April 18 regular meeting agenda. After deferrals and postponements, Councilors got their job done in under three hours, even with Councilor Brad Winter absent.
The Council postponed putting four proposed questions on the November ballot. In general, the ballot questions address fair and ethical campaigns including one to increase the amount of public financing from about $1 per vote to about $2 a vote. Candidates can choose the capped public campaign money or choose to raise their own campaign funds. Councilor Don Harris sponsored that bill, saying whether a candidate chooses to raise his own money or take the public money, the amounts spent should be roughly the same.
New Top Watchdog
David T. Harper was chosen to be the new Inspector General by the Council to take on the tough job of sniffing out fraud, waste and other bad behaviors at City Hall. Harper beat out two other applicants—retired Air Force Col. Joseph Grasso and former prosecutor Robin Hammer. Harper is not new to the job of being a government watchdog. He retired from the Air Force where he investigated fraud and other money funny business. “My passion has been protecting the public trust,” Harper said. He said he conducted a major fraud investigation at Kirtland Air Force base about 15 years ago. The Inspector General does not report to the mayor or the Council but reports directly to a five-member Accountability in Government Oversight Committee. Albuquerque has not had a permanent IG for several years since the last one, Neftali Carrasquillo, resigned, claiming he was not being allowed to do his job.
Bus Riding Buddies
Companion animals are now allowed to ride the city buses, at no additional charge. This allows car-less folks with pets to be able to get to and from veterinary appointments. The six-month pilot project requires cat and dog handlers to have control of the animal at all times. The critters are not allowed to sit in a seat. Cats must be in a crate, dogs can ride the bus in a crate or with a leash and muzzle. And it kind of goes without saying that any messes must be cleaned up immediately. Our furry friends can ride any time during the weekends but only between 9am and 4pm and after 6:30pm on weekdays. “This is a good try at something useful,” Councilor Trudy Jones said.
Councilors doubled the amount of a contract with the law firm that advises the Police Oversight Board. Mayor Richard Berry asked for the increase because the high number of pending cases against the police department requires more work. Peifer, Hanson and Mullins, P.A., will get a bump from $75,000 to $150,000.
Councilors postponed amending Angel’s Law, the city’s dangerous dog ordinance which would allow for the immediate seizure by the City of dogs that attack and kill without provocation.
It is budget time at City Hall. Mayor Berry has proposed a $524 million fiscal year 2016-2017 budget. This is up more than $14 million from last year. Expect to hear lots of public comment, Council discussion and other chitchat over how to tax and spend city money.