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 Mar 16 - 22, 2017 
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Council Watch

Planning, Gender Equality and Forensics

Council meeting productive, progressive

By Carolyn Carlson

A controversial proposed city planning document, gender equality pay and timely rape kit processing were the key topics at the March 6 regular Albuquerque City Council meeting. A packed house of concerned citizens spent their two cents catching up on the comprehensive plan, equality requirements and forensics as the five hour plus meeting proceeded.

A New Plan

After more than a couple hours of public comments on the proposed Albuquerque/Bernalillo Comprehensive Plan, City Councilors postponed a decision until the March 20 meeting to allow for more discussion. The plan, called the ABC to Z project, has been in the works for a couple of years. Several historic, ethnically diverse neighborhood association representatives have said there was not enough outreach and inclusion during the planning process. City planner Mikaela Renz-Whitmore said that, among other ways of getting the word out, more than 100 public meetings were held, thereby assuring the Council that adequate public review was held. City planners have said the city’s current comprehensive plan is out of date and the proposed plan will give protection and a fair voice to every neighborhood. About half the folks taking the podium asked for a postponement of at least a year to give adequate time for the historic neighborhoods time to understand and make suggestions to the hefty document.

Equal is Equal

Councilors unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s purchasing ordinance that requires companies who want to qualify for a city-sponsored vendor preference designation to reduce their male/female wage gap to 7 percent. Currently companies can qualify by showing they pay women within 10 percent of what they pay men for comparable jobs. City contractors must turn in pay equity reports to meet the standard. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 should have taken care of the matter but women today still make about 21 percent less than men in similar jobs. In 2015, Albuquerque was the first city in the nation to pass the Gender Pay Equity Ordinance. Councilor Diane Gibson said this is a good incentive for those doing business with the city to pay their employees equal and fair wages. According Mayor Berry, who approves of this measure, about 59 city vendors have qualified—with a gender pay gap of less than 10 percent—but he thinks they can do better.

Timed Priority

Councilors approved a resolution that sets a timeline of three months to process new incoming sexual assault kits. Here is a glitch: The policy will not go into effect until the police department’s crime lab has at least 10 full-time analysts, or by October 2018, whichever comes first. The Albuquerque area has an accumulation of more than 3,900 unprocessed rape kits going back decades. City leaders are trying to piece together funding from federal and state sources to handle the backlog, while keeping up with current cases. The city says there are currently six full-time analysts and a seventh poised to be hired. They hope to fill an additional three positions after the upcoming July 1 budget kicks in. Connie Monahan, from the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs said she understands that this is reality but she is disappointed that current victims could still wait a year or more for results.

Sidewalk Shade

Councilor Pat Davis tried to get Nob Hill sidewalks widened—as supposedly promised by the administration as part of the ART project—by offering to throw in $500,000 of his district’s discretionary funds. Davis said the area’s businesses and neighborhood associations thought they were going to get wide sidewalks along the Albuquerque Rapid Transit route. Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan said the wide sidewalks were not promised along all the areas of the route—only where it was feasible. Riordan added that it would not be safe to widen sidewalks more than 8 feet in some areas due to lack of right of way. He added that other neighborhoods are jealous of Nob Hill’s sidewalks. Councilor Don Harris chimed in and agreed that he gets a little green-eyed over Councilor Davis’ sidewalks. Councilor Dan Lewis moved for a two-week deferral, the Council agreed; it looks like it's time for Davis, Riordan and area merchants to come up with a compromise.

Quick Hits

Five folks were appointed to various city boards and commissions. Lydia Riley went to the Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council; David Ferrance was named to the Cable Franchise and Hearing Board; Dara Ambriz is now part of the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board; Joanne Fine and Rev. David Ring have been appointed to the Police Oversight Board.

The Council approved the intent to form a Tax Increment Development District near the lower Petroglyphs on the city’s West Mesa. This will be done to help finance a future hospital on the far West Side. A couple of councilors pointed out that TIDDs are risky and can fail, pointing to the still mostly vacant Mesa Del Sol development south of the Burque. A public hearing on the TIDD formation will be held at a future City Council meeting.

The Council amended and then approved a state funded project with CSI Aviation, Inc., to build a new airport hangar and office building. Councilor Pat Davis amended the approval, saying that since this company contracts with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport illegal immigrants he wants to make sure no direct city funds will be used to identify or apprehend immigrant status for the Feds.

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

The next meeting
Monday, March 20, 5 pm
Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall
View it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv
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