With the flip of a coin and the bang of a gavel, the last meeting of the 22nd Albuquerque City Council came to an end. When Councilors reconvene in December, they will form the 23rd Council and newly elected District 5 Councilor Cynthia Borrego will join them.
Councilors barely approved—on a 5 to 3 vote—sending $25,000 to the city’s Office of the Internal Audit to provide for a review of the performance of Dr. James Ginger, the independent federal court monitor appointed to oversee the city’s Department of Justice ordered police reforms.
Ginger was appointed in 2015 to oversee federal court ordered changes within the police department due to its excessive force issues. As of June 2017, Ginger and his team have been paid about $3 million out of a five year $4.4 million contract. The new resolution comes on the heels of a recent city legal battle with Ginger in federal court. City barristers say Ginger is unreasonably biased against the police department when he says it is not doing enough in its efforts to comply with the court approved settlement agreement. US District Court Judge Robert Brack did not buy it. Brack admonished the city in court last week over a police department deputy chief secretly audiotaping Ginger to try to show the bias.
Councilor Ken Sanchez, one of the sponsors of the resolution, said there was no collusion with the administration or with the police department in the timing of this request. “I am very concerned. We need to know if he is conforming with his contract,” Sanchez said. Councilor Diane Gibson said the resolution was misguided and Ginger already had the oversight of the federal court. Councilor Isaac Benton put his best Cool Hand Luke quote into the debate when he said “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Councilors Klarissa Peña, Gibson and Benton said no. Councilors Dan Lewis, Brad Winter, Trudy Jones and Don Harris joined Sanchez, and said yes. Councilor Pat Davis was excused from the vote.
District 5 Councilor Dan Lewis got accolades for his eight years on the Council. This was his last meeting as he vacated his Westside seat to run, and subsequently lose, a bid for mayor. He was elected to the Council in October 2009, and re-elected in 2013 to represent the largest council district in the city.
Lewis, a Republican, has served as council president twice. One little known fact is he is also a kidney donor, according to his city council webpage. Rumor has it Lewis is one of the handful of names in the hat to replace State Auditor Tim Keller, who will become Albuquerque’s next mayor Dec. 1. In the recent runoff election, Lewis lost his bid for mayor to Keller by a wide margin. “Thank you all so much. It has been an honor to serve on this council. It has been a great privilege to represent this area, really good people,” Lewis said with a glint in his in his eye. He was given a standing ovation.
It took a coin flip to decide who would fill a spot on the city’s Accountability in Government Commission. There were two candidates, Daniel Trujillo and Laura Smigielski-Garcia. It was a tie vote, so under state law, a coin toss breaks the deadlock. Trujillo won the toss. Councilors encouraged Smigielski-Garcia to keep her application active.
Before Chantel Galloway was appointed to the Police Oversight Board, a couple of councilors wanted to grill her a bit about why she wants to sit on this important, albeit controversial board. Other notable citizens who were appointed include: Alicia Romero to the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Committee; Michael Jefferson to the Human Rights Board; Joan Costello to the Affordable Housing Committee; Kennedy Chavez Silver, Alex Jaqua and Ryan Rogers to the Youth Advisory Council; Elizabeth Calhoon to the Albuquerque Volunteers Advisory Board; Juan Carrizales to the Airport Advisory Board and Glenn Garcia, Mark Johnston and Mark Haley to the Balloon Fiesta Park Commission.
City officials will debut the new Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus and test the system beginning Nov. 25. They say some of the ART buses will be up and running to hustle Westside folks to and from the annual Christmas River of Lights located at the ABQ BioPark. This is one way for Westside river dwellers to beat the expected—and ugly—traffic jams that always happen during this popular event. Check the city’s website—www.brtabq.com/
The Council agenda was pared down even before the meeting commenced with notations that the sexiest items—a proposed gas tax, a plan to recruit and fund more police officers, an evaluation the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project—all were postponed until December and January.