Twenty-eighteen opened with pizza-gate Governor Suzanna Martinez giving her final State of the State address at the opening of the annual Legislature, but it didn’t start off well for her when demonstrators from New Mexico Dream Team expressed their support for the Dream Act. Here in Burque, members of the public were asking the City Council what was going on with the Community Cable Channels; 12 months later the public is still asking what is going on and is still getting the runaround. Newly elected Mayor Tim Keller went to work on all his promises by signing a bill to speed up processing on a decade long backlog of rape kit evidence. Keller recently announced that one year later about half of the backlog has been processed.
The metro area received the go ahead to build some new housing from both local governments when the City Council approved an 88-unit affordable housing project at Central and Unser adjacent to the new Patrick Baca Library and the Bernalillo County Commission approved a 240-unit family housing project between 98th and 118th Streets along Dennis Chavez Ave. At year’s end, construction is underway. The state Legislature’s 30-day session ended on an unremarkable note, with the Republican administration stifling much of the progressive agenda pushed forward in the House.
City Councilors approved a tax increase of 3/8 of one cent per dollar to offset the phase out of the state’s subsidies for not collecting gross receipts on food. They also put an end to organized coyote hunting when they passed a resolution denouncing and prohibiting the inhumane activity. The city put out a Request for Proposals for the management of our public access community cable channels but it was scrapped, had to be done over and now at the end of the year an RFP still has not been awarded and answers remain vague regarding community television in Burque.
A majority, but not all, of City Councilors approved decriminalizing less than an ounce of marijuana. Again some, but not all, Councilors approved requiring immigration agents to have a warrant to enter any city property to check the status of any person. This reaffirmed a 2000 immigrant-friendly resolution that has been part of the fabric of our community for the last 18 years. Former Mayor Richard Berry proved to be the exception to that by allowing federal immigration agents to have a desk inside the prisoner transport center that gave immigration agents the office space to check arrestees’ documents.
The City Council passed a whopping $577 million budget and a $629 million budget was approved by the County Commission for Fiscal year 2018-2019 that began on July 1. That’s over a billion dollars spent on our local government’s services and infrastructure.
City Councilors approved spending $100,000 to attract more bioscience industry to the city, and sent a message of zero support for increased amounts of nuclear waste proposed to travel through Albuquerque via train on its way to a new nearby nuclear waste dump. There is not much locals can do as Holtac—the company that applied to ship 100,000 metric tons of waste—will head to New Mexico and begin trucking, starting in 2022.
The Bernalillo County Commission took a strong stand against gun violence by passing a resolution supporting universal background checks among other gun safety measures. Topgolf USA came to town and snagged some money from the city and county to open a virtual golf entertainment center at the old Beach Waterpark location. Mayor Tim Keller officially gave the job of top cop to interim Police Chief Michael Geier. Councilors also tightened up bicycle lane laws. Both the City Council and the County Commission threw some more shade at the Trump administration’s inhumane treatment of migrant and immigrant populations.
Routine summer vacays took the City Councilors away from the table for July. The Civilian Police Oversight Committee heard crime stats that show that city homicides were up nearly 50 percent over 2017 at about 70 killings so far in the metro area compared to 2017’s 75 killings. Burque Bucks/Democracy Dollars advocates garnered about 28,000 signatures during a July city wide public petition but the Bernalillo County Commission failed to put it on the November ballot. It is now in the City Council’s corner to take up in the new year and get Democracy Dollars on an upcoming ballot.
City Councilors approved a contract with St. Martin’s Hopeworks and YES Housing to build a 42-unit supportive multi-family housing project at Third Street and Mountain Rd. Residents came out in force to oppose, at least in their backyards, another homeless initiative involving building tiny home villages in areas of town where the need is greatest.
Luckily a few months later, the folks at the Albuquerque Indian Center offered its unused 1.38 acre property at Zuni and Texas as the location for a pilot campus of 30 tiny homes plus all the support services needed to begin serving Burque’s homeless population.
This fair month brought a little more than $5 million for a new Albuquerque Police Department helicopter. Customer service company TaskUs announced it was locating an office in downtown Burque with about 700 new higher than minimum wage jobs. Mayor Tim Keller unveiled additional real solutions to the city’s homeless epidemic such as turning the Westside winter shelter into a full-time men’s shelter. Mean while, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a $80 million industrial revenue bond for the Ben E. Keith’s Company. Just a few weeks later, the south Broadway warehouse would be the scene of a workplace shooting that injured three employees.
There were beautiful hot air balloons and election posturing, but the big news in October was Netflix announcing it was buying ABQ Studios at Mesa del Sol, adding about 1,000 jobs to the employment mix here. Electric scooters were given the green light to buzz along city streets and 34-acres west along the Rio Grande south of Central and east of Coors was designated historic urban green area. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department released an independent study that said for the most part there is a consistent effort by its deputies to do the right things with regards to enforcement and citizen contact.
November was a good month for New Mexico in general when the state showed that it not only brought the surfboard but “became one with a blue wave,” sending a Democratic delegation to Capitol Hill. Here in the neighborhood, November also saw the infamous, faulty and destructive Albuquerque Rapid Transit project be declared “on hold,” due to the new electric buses having some bad problems. City Councilors made it okay to take a slow cruise down Central Avenue when they repealed an anti-cruising ordinance, but increased fines for being a litterbug.
The Bernalillo County Commission raised the minimum wage, put more needed money into behavioral health services and took steps to make urban reality of a sprawling 13,700 acre master planned community on the city’s far Westside called Santolina.
Councilors finally got around to approving the contract for Edward Harness as Executive Director of the city’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency. Harness’ contract renewal had been deferred for nearly six months while Councilors worked out some details. Councilor Klarissa Peña took the president’s gavel for her first time. At its last meeting of the year—held Dec. 17—the Council approved paid parental leave for all city employees including birth, adopted or guardianship moms and dads. Councilors also heard some holiday songs from the Albuquerque Boys Choir and a convincing plea from some eloquent students to ban plastic shopping bags.