Playing nice was the game plan at the Oct. 19 regular Albuquerque City Council meeting. Council President Rey Garduño set the stage when he opened the meeting by apologizing for calling fellow Councilors Trudy Jones, Don Harris and Dan Lewis cowards. The comments flew at the last meeting when the three councilors did not sign on to a proclamation in support of Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day. Councilor Lewis got offended and put forth a motion to censure Garduño. Councilor Garduño’s apology snowballed into Lewis pulling his censure motion. A number of people commended both councilors for their fair play. Garduño introduced a new resolution more formally recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. It will be debated at the next meeting. After an imaginary group hug, the council moved on to conduct some interesting city business.
Fat Fight Bucks
Mike Winkeljohn from Jackson Wink Academy spoke during the economic development section of the meeting about the impact of professional fighting in the city. Winkeljohn and Greg Jackson are among the top mixed martial arts coaches for professional fighters like Holly Holm, Jon “Bones” Jones, Carlos Condit, Keith Jardine, Diego Sanchez, Andrei Arlovski and others. Winkeljohn and Jackson recently purchased the 30,000 square foot building at Broadway and Martin Luther King that formally housed the Drug Enforcement Agency. They invested about $3 million into renovations to make it into a top notch MMA training center with dormitories and other in-house amenities.
“We are proud of what we’ve done. We have stayed in Albuquerque. We had a gym in the War Zone and now we have a who’s who’s list of fighters,” Winkeljohn said. “It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and a multibillion dollar industry.”
As to bringing in the bucks, he said local fighters will make $20 million next year and spend most of it here. He said the gym currently has 30 people from around the world training who are also contributing to the local economy. “Albuquerque is known worldwide as the destination to come to to train for this sport,” he said.
Councilors passed a resolution to support a collaborative process for behavioral health reform between the city and Bernalillo County through the Albuquerque/
Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Stephanie Lopez said during the public comment section of the meeting that a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal that said there was 865 sworn city police officers was misleading. She did a breakdown of the city’s transparency website and stated that there are a total of 810 sworn officers with 675 of those officers actually on patrol in the city. That is roughly one officer for every 10,000 citizens. She said there are 30 lieutenants, 98 sergeants, 14 commanders and 7 top administrators including the chief.
Councilor Ken Sanchez did the math and came up with four to five officers on duty each eight hour shift at each of the six area commands. Lopez said the number of officers on patrol is actually smaller since the 675 number includes some specialty officers like detectives who don’t routinely answer calls or do neighborhood patrols.
A short time later, Councilor Sanchez called Police Chief Gorden Eden to the podium to answer questions regarding the low staffing at the police department. Eden said it is not just here but there is a crisis across the nation in filling police officer positions. On the bright side, Eden said they have seen 2 million hits on the police department’s recruiting website. He said there is some improvement. They are graduating cadets and filling the classes. He said people get disqualified mainly for prior criminal and drug history or during the psychological testing. Eden said there is an outside staffing study underway that should shed light on the police department’s problem with attracting and keeping qualified candidates.
Councilor Harris asked Chief Eden if smoking marijuana was a disqualifier to becoming a police officer. Eden said the city follows state statute but he said he did not know the length of time since last use that would disqualify an applicant. A quick check of the Albuquerque Police Department’s recruiting website says three years for misdemeanor drug use like marijuana and five years for felony drug use, which includes illegal prescription drugs. A bigger problem, Chief Eden said, is applicants lying on their written application by saying it has been the required number of years since last drug use but when they get to the polygraph test they often admit more recent use. Chief Eden said one applicant was just disqualified a couple weeks ago because he said no pot use on his written application then self-admitted at the polygraph that he had smoked the day before.
At Long Last, Lights!
The Westside intersection of Sequoia and Ladera will get a long awaited and much needed traffic signal—more than 340 people signed a petition to get the city to make the $357,000 investment.
The Route 66 Westside arch over Central at the Rio Grande bridge will get a spruce up and upgrade to fix some old neon lights that have been burned out for far too long. The council peeled off $150,00 bucks to update the colorful signage.