Empowerment, Fees and the Police
Council reckons with many issues
Ride the bus everywhere you need to go for one week; that was the gauntlet thrown down to the Albuquerque City Council at its regular Oct. 5 meeting. City Councilors quickly worked through a shortened agenda including this challenge and others in a meeting that lasted about two and a half hours.
Double Dare You
Members of the Women’s Circle of Empowerment, a support group for women who are living on the economic margins of society challenged the Council to ride the bus like they do. Homeless advocate Evelyn Kuhn said the current limited bus routes and schedules prevent many women from participating in after-hour work, church, civic and community events. The group challenged the Council to ride the bus to get to and from work, shopping and entertainment for one week to see for themselves the challenges faced by city bus riders.
Councilor Ken Sanchez upped the ante by challenging Mayor Richard Berry and his aides to ride the bus as much as possible for one week. Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said he would meet Councilor Sanchez at the Montaño and Coors bus stop so the pair could ride to work together. “I think it is important that we ride the bus and report back,” Sanchez said.
Councilor Diane Gibson said she rode the bus just about every day this summer for a few weeks after she was involved in an automobile accident. Gibson said she understood the frustration of limited routes and waiting long times for connections.
Councilor Klarissa Peña said she would take the challenge to ride the bus, maybe not everywhere, every day, but more often for sure. Burque bus riders should keep an eye out for city councilors or maybe even the mayor, hitching rides on the public wagons. The Women’s Circle of Empowerment plans on getting back in touch with the Council next month; they’ll talk about their bus riding experiences and maybe come up with other public transport ideas too.
Who would have thought fees would be such a hot topic? There was a little more than an hour of public debate and numerous public comments regarding putting a cap on the fees homeowner associations can charge for documents needed when homes or condominiums are sold. Apparently, prior to this bill, association fees for these necessary documents could range from $90 to $550. The Council approved the measure; now the fees are capped at $200. The disclosure statements are required under the state’s Homeowner Association Act and The New Mexico Condominium Act. Councilors Gibson and Dan Lewis voted against the bill saying it was not the place of the Council to set the cap.
Also tucked in the Council’s agenda was a review of the third 2016 quarterly report regarding expenditures by the Albuquerque Police Department, as such expenses relate to the implementation of the settlement agreement between the city and the US Department of Justice. The report shows the city shoveled out about $2.7 million to comply with the federal order. Nearly $900,000 was paid to Dr. James Ginger, the federal monitor hired to oversee the implementation of the federal agreement. Ginger has not been too kind to the city, saying in his reports that the city’s police department has low accountability generally, and specifically fails to hold officers accountable for excessive use of force.
Another chunk of items totaled about $2.2 million in contract payments to 11 law firms representing the city in a wide variety of litigation matters. The largest chunk went to the law firm of Conklin, Woodcock & Ziegler PC for $450,000 for work on six cases. Another complicated, number-riddled report shows the city paid out $685,200 in litigation settlement money from Jan. 1, 2016 to March 31, 2016.
Ron Casias said the Council deserves a round of applause for getting stop signs put up at Second Street and Silver, near a newly opened Downtown grocery store. Casias is the president of the new Silver Barelas Downtown Neighborhood Association. This new association has ruffled some feathers of longtime Barelas Neighborhood Association members who say they still have a functioning neighborhood association.
Casias says the old Barelas neighborhood group let things lapse so the nearby association changed their name and boundaries to pick up the pieces and give folks more representation. Municipal officials have been looking into the conflict between the two associations, but the city still deserves credit for putting in the stop signs in the area, making the growing area much safer for pedestrians.