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Albuquerque’s City Charter has the same relationship to the city that the Constitution has to the federal government—that is, it defines how the city operates as well as the rights and responsibilities of its elected officials and its citizens. One of the perks of living in Albuquerque is that voters regularly get to vote on propositions to amend the charter. This year, voters have five propositions to consider.

Proposition 1

Election Dates

Alibi Supports

This one is a small, somewhat tedious administrative change allowing the City Council to push back an election date if the default date falls on a holiday. Don’t put much thought into this one. Just vote for it and move on.

Proposition 2

Campaign Contribution Restrictions

Alibi Supports

This proposition prevents candidates for mayor or the City Council from taking contributions from people, businesses or organizations that have existing contracts with the city to provide goods or services. It’s designed to avoid obvious conflicts of interest. Sounds logical to us.

Proposition 3

Power to Appoint

Alibi Supports

This one is something of a power grab on the Council’s part. As it stands, the mayor has sole responsibility for appointing members to city committees, commissions and boards. Proposition 3 allows the Council to draft ordinances that would allow the Council itself to make certain appointments. You might think this could create a balance of power problem, but the mayor has to sign any such ordinance into law. If he vetoes, then the Council would have to pull together a 6-3 vote to override it. (Which is a lot easier with the current Council make-up than it used to be.) So, long story short, there are at least some safeguards in place to keep the Council from taking away too much mayoral authority. We tentatively support this one.

Proposition 4

A Living Wage for Councilors

Alibi Supports

This ballot initiative would raise the annual wage of city councilors from slightly less than $10,000 to slightly less than $30,000. This initiative almost certainly isn’t going to pass. Mayor Chavez recently joked that it would only get nine votes (one for each Council member). That’s easy for him to say, though, since his salary, according to the City Clerk’s Office, is more than $103, 000.

The truth is that being a city councilor isn’t an easy job. We want people on the Council who can take the time necessary to deliberate on policy and make decisions that are beneficial to the city. A $30,000 salary makes it theoretically possible for someone to make a Council position a full-time job. This is a good thing for two reasons. No. 1, it encourages people who aren’t independently wealthy (or retired) to run for a seat. No. 2, a seat on the Council is almost a full-time job anyway. People crazy enough to take on such positions should be justly compensated. It’s only fair.

We understand it’s difficult to vote for pay raises for public officials. Still, in this case, it’s the right thing to do, so we endorse it.

Proposition 5

Recall Elections

Alibi Does Not Support

We happen to agree with City Councilor Don Harris on this one: The City Charter makes it too easy to get a recall election against an Albuquerque elected official who hasn’t really done anything egregiously wrong. (See “District 9 Recall Election” for our take on Harris’ recall nightmare.) Proposition 5 is an attempt to remedy that. We’d like to see the hurdle placed a bit higher. Unfortunately, our gut instinct is that Proposition 5 will place it too high.

The way it stands now, disgruntled citizens need signatures equivalent to 25 percent of the votes cast in the last regular municipal election. Proposition 5 raises that number to one third of votes cast. So far so good.

The problem comes with Proposition 5’s requirement that those same disgruntled voters go to state court before they begin circulating a petition. In court, both the elected official and that person’s critics would go through a hearing process where they can present evidence for and against the recall. There doesn’t seem to be any requirement of an expedited process. As such, even if there were valid allegations of misconduct against the official the process could potentially be dragged out for years. Not good.

We understand the danger of using the recall process for frivolous harassment of elected officials. But some clear, efficient process needs to be in place to make it realistically possible to begin a recall procedure if an elected official’s misconduct warrants it.

We do not endorse this proposition.
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