The City Council did a smooth job contending with a first-term mayor's new administration. Even better, councilors remained professional while negotiating Mayor Richard Berry’s budget cuts.
There was a shift in politics in 2010. While the Council is supposed to be nonpartisan, five councilors are right-leaning, so the other four had to work a little harder to gain cooperation.
But in the end there were no huge internal rifts either within the Council or with the Mayor’s Office. Let’s look through the highlight reel.
Nasty budget slashes happened all over City Hall. The decreases left departments gasping, police officers grumpy and the public wondering what would be next. Some of the more disappointing cuts were to Warehouse 508, Health Care for the Homeless, drug abuse prevention and senior programs.
Bowing to the war machine
Though councilors usually found a way to work together, one issue divided the conservative and liberal members. Councilor Rey Garduño fired the first salvo when he introduced a resolution asking the federal government to get busy dismantling the warheads rumored to be stored near Albuquerque. The resolution also called for a speedy cleanup of the jet fuel spill threatening the city’s aquifer. The full Council did not go for Garduño’s message, fearing bad juju from the job-wielding research labs and Kirtland Air Force Base. Berry came back with a resolution via conservative Councilors Brad Winter and Dan Lewis that praised the labs and base, and said the city appreciates all the entities have done for New Mexico. This one passed with a 5 to 4 party-line vote.
Without much media attention, the Council approved millions in public housing throughout the year, as well as other metropolitan redevelopment grant and bond money. This type of action often goes unnoticed but is important to the health and vitality of a community.
Bees and gardens
A Community Garden Study Group Report given to the Council over the summer makes every alley and empty dirt lot shimmer with possibilities. This—along with a week set aside to honor Burque’s honey bees—were two actions that may not have made headlines but were important to the soul and beauty of Burque nonetheless.
Open space land will be added to the ends of Albuquerque. Forty-acres were purchased along Rainbow near Paseo del Norte. Money was set aside for land along the fragile Tijeras Arroyo on the city’s eastern boundary. An innovative, interactive public art project was also approved for the Westside and will be popping up along Coors north of Montaño.
The inspector firing
At a September Council meeting, Inspector General Janet McHard eloquently reported that the new fraud-reporting hotline was working like a charm. McHard said the tips were good and were leading to solid cases. Fast-forward about 20 days to when the director of the Internal Audit and Investigations office, Carmen Kavelman, fired McHard without any explanation. McHard, it turns out, was still considered a probationary employee and therefore did not have termination protection, according to Kavelman. Well, the Council quickly rewrote the policies governing who can hire and fire the inspector general. A commission was set up to make those decisions, taking the power away from any one person.