Alibi V.13 No.40 • Sept 30-Oct 6, 2004 

Council Watch

Troops Sí, Drunks No

Never shy or nervous, Geraldine enjoys speaking at the Council meetings.
Never shy or nervous, Geraldine enjoys speaking at the Council meetings.

At the Sept. 20 meeting, Council President Michael Cadigan's bill mandating treatment for city employees after a first DWI conviction and firing after a second conviction passed 9-0, as did his bill guaranteeing that vacation and sick leave would accrue normally for city employees on active military duty.

Councilor Sally Mayer's bill redefining what constitutes a two-thirds majority when fewer than nine councilors are present passed unanimously, setting a higher bar for "two-thirds" at six of eight, five of seven, four of six, and four of five. Mayer's bill directing the city to relocate prairie dogs to city open space instead of poisoning them passed 7-1, Cadigan opposed.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
ABQPAC Blowback Referring to the recent ABQPAC unpleasantness, Councilor Miguel Gomez said a bill he has been working on for months "gets to the heart of a terrible scandal" by barring city employees from using their positions to solicit for political candidates or PACs during working hours. Councilor Eric Griego mentioned previous political mailings from the administration. Council President Michael Cadigan said, "If you haven't been the target of a hit piece, you aren't doing your job." Chief Administrative Officer James Lewis wanted mention of ABQPAC "put to rest." The bill passed 9-0. Councilor Sally Mayer asked for a definition of the prohibited "pre-election activity." Gomez said, "If you see it, you know what it is." Uh huh. Want to bet on how long until the first violation? Want to bet that the definition gets redefined along party lines?
Inspector General Councilor Griego moved a new version of a bill to set up an office of Inspector General to investigate charges of malfeasance in city operations. The new bill expands the former internal audit office to include investigation activities and specifies qualifications for new members of the current Audit Committee. The bill excludes investigations normally handled by the Police Oversight Committee, APD Internal Affairs and labor relations. Representatives of city employees supported the bill, saying it keeps government transparent and keeps accusations from falling only on lower tier workers. Members of the existing Audit Committee opposed, saying it would disrupt a smoothly functioning operation. Gomez amended the bill to require a review in 18 months. The bill passed 5-4, Councilors Mayer, Brad Winter, Tina Cummins and Craig Loy opposed. At the time of filing, Mayor Martin Chavez has not said whether he will veto the bill. Obviously the people on the committee control the hiring of an Inspector General, and the IG controls the effectiveness of the office--a serious consideration in an era when Bush's EPA has degenerated from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Enabling Polluters Agency.
A World of Hurt, Lightened Two programs asked for emergency "bridge" funding from the Council. Councilor Griego sponsored a bill allocating $375,000 for the Women's Community Association, which shelters victims of domestic violence, and the Rape Crisis Center. Councilor Debbie O'Malley called for $150,000 for the Emergency Shelter Services Program Strategy.Michelle Fuller said the WCA was the only shelter for battered women and their children in Bernalillo County, and they were initiating a fund raising program. Josh Allison of the new Albuquerque Opportunity Center said the center planned to raise $100,000 by the end of the year. Both funding bills passed unanimously. Councilors warned against breaking the rule demanding Requests for Proposals from competing service organizations. James Lewis and Chief Operating Officer Diana Dorn Jones said that for every city dollar, there were $2 of need. Still, if we're pouring millions on every corporation that waggles a finger, we can spare some for the most vulnerable.
The Gong Show Generally, the rule allowing anyone to comment on any item at a council meeting has worked well. However, Geraldine Amato often seizes the lectern a dozen times an evening to deliver mini-lectures on various pet theories. Cadigan sponsored a bill that limits a citizen's comments to four two-minute periods--once during general public comment and three times for specific agenda items. City Attorney Robert White said that the U.S. Constitution protects free speech but case law usually confirms the right to insist that remarks be germane and to limit time. Gomez characterized the bill as censorship. Heinrich wanted a stricter definition of "germane." Loy said other people often had to leave before they got a chance to speak. The bill passed 6-3, Heinrich, Winter and Gomez opposed. I'm of two minds on this one. Life is short, and I've spent far too much of mine sitting in council chambers while Amato flaps her trap at a captive audience about subjects having little to do with the item under discussion. On the other hand, it's fun to watch out-of-town investors stare at each other when Amato gets going on numerology.