Albuquerque City Councilors slid into their summer vacay by taking care of a boatload of city business. Councilors met until late in the night on consecutive Mondays, June 15 and 22, to wrap up a number of items in need of attention before the end of the city’s fiscal year on June 30. July means time off for the council, and there will not be any council or committee meetings. July also marks the beginning of the city’s 2015-2016 fiscal year when city coffers get refilled.
Here is a quick hit list of some interesting items the council took care of before bugging out on holiday.
The council gave thumbs up to:
* Give $350,000 to St. Martin’s Hospitality Center Day Shelter to spiff up their kitchen; $320,000 to First Nations Community HealthSource for repairs to its facility; and $260,000 to Roadrunner Food Bank to help with roof repairs.
* Divide up $403,000 held in reserve among a half dozen or so agencies already contracting with the city to help the city’s homeless, at-risk teens, gang prevention programs and other social services, which tend to save money down the road.
* Re-up the annual airport lease for the indie airline Jet Blue, which means it looks like the late night, red eye flights to New York City will continue. The city’s airport collects $1.39 million a year on the deal.
* Submit a couple of grant applications totaling about $6.5 million for the design and development of a Central Avenue Rapid Transit Project. The city will have to come up with about $1.2 million in matching funds.
* Set the next municipal election date for Tuesday, Oct. 6. There will be full ballot including general obligation bond questions.
* Ask the voters on Oct. 6 to give confirmation power to the city council over the mayor’s appointment of the city’s future fire and police chiefs. Currently, the mayor appoints those positions without council approval.
* The future possibility of increases in fares for the city’s bus service ABQ Ride. No set amount was approved, only the ability for the transit department to raise rates over time. It was estimated by transit director Bruce Rizzieri that rates could raise anywhere from 9 to 25 percent over the next seven years to help fund many types of improvements within the transit department.
* An extra $530,000 for Scott Greenwood, a Cincinnati attorney hired to negotiate a settlement with the Department of Justice after the feds found that the Albuquerque Police Department had a pattern of violating civil rights through excessive use of force. The council wants Greenwood on a budget and hopes the city won’t need him much longer.
The Council gave thumbs down to:
* A municipal ballot question asking the voters on Oct. 6 to make the police chief an elected position instead of an appointment. Councilors said this would eliminate nationwide searches for potentially good police chief prospects from being considered.
* An appeal of the bid award for the redevelopment of the De Anza Motor Lodge at Central and Washington. The company filing the appeal says the city wrongly awarded the bid, and the company that got the bid will “demolish,” not preserve, the historic landmark. The council disagreed. There is a lot of history both in the actual lodge and in the city’s attempts to renovate it. We should see some movement on the renovation by the end of the summer.
On Tap For August:
* Councilor Benton introduced a bill called the “Fair Workweek Act” that would require city employers to make a number of changes intended to create a better environment for workers, in particular single parents, part-time and other flextime workers. Some of the requirements would set schedules 21 days in advance, pay fairly for any schedule changes and provide paid sick leave. The bill will be reviewed by the finance committee after the July break and should be back to the council late summer.
More Burque Buzz:
* Bernalillo County Commission approved Santolina, a 22-square-mile mega-development adjacent to the city’s southwest border. The council squabbled for several weeks over whether they should express an official opinion, but I don’t think it would have mattered what the city folks said to their county colleagues. Property laws allow for owners to develop their land. The only tangible thing government can really do is put in place constitutional or lawful regulations seeking rational and sustainable development.
* Special Prosecutor Randi McGinn announced the filing of an information against newly retired Albuquerque Police Department Officer Keith Sandy and current Officer Dominique Perez of second degree murder in the March 2014 police shooting death of James Boyd, a homeless man police say was illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills and took a stand against them with two knives in his hands. The preliminary hearing will be sometime in August. This allows both sides to present evidence of what happened to a judge in a preliminary hearing, who will decide if probable cause exists.
* Nob Hill got a once-over by a national expert who analyzed the historic Central Avenue business landscape. The expert’s report said the area needs more retail to balance the many restaurants; slower traffic; more crosswalks; better parking options and cleaner public areas. In a presentation to the city council on June 22, Nob Hill Main Street member Rob O’Niell said the report gives suggestions for keeping the historic urban area vibrant.