At its Jan. 20 regular meeting, the Albuquerque City Council took it easy while clearing its short agenda in a record time of about two hours. All of the Council was present with a sparse crowd in attendance and no one agenda item drawing a large body of controversy.
Repeat No More
Councilor Ken Sanchez honored Second Judicial District Judges Nan Nash and Jacqueline Flores for a court program to help DWI repeat offenders. The Felony DWI Court is a 16-month program for those who have at least five DWI convictions. Judges can use the intensive program as an alternative to incarceration. There have been 19 graduates since its 2013 inception. The Felony DWI Court recently received $279,919 from the US Department of Justice to double the number of people in the program—from 30 to 60. Councilor Sanchez said he attended a recent graduation and he was inspired and impressed after meeting several of the graduates and hearing their stories. “It is unbelievable, after five DWIs, to see the accomplishments these individuals have made after going through the program,” Sanchez said.
Lady Lobo Champions
Councilor Brad Winter presented a proclamation close to his heart and legs. Winter, an avid pole vaulter who continues to compete in his age group, was visibly pleased to honor the University of New Mexico’s women’s cross country team for its NCAA national championship. The Lobos' championship is only the second NCAA national title in University of New Mexico history, joining the ski team’s NCAA title in 2004. It's the fourth NCAA women's cross country title in Mountain West history. Coach Joe Franklin and a handful of the Lady Lobo runners were on hand to accept the honor. Mackenzie Everett, a local girl from La Cueva High, spoke for the team and said it was a great honor to be recognized by the city for their truly great season.
Folks from the Jewish Voice for Peace are continuing to put pressure on the city to discontinue its sister city relationship with Rehovot, Israel due to Israel’s treatment of West Bank Palestinians. One speaker spoke of the West Bank Palestinians who had their olive trees burned and destroyed. She said they then have to get permits to replant trees. Olive trees have been a source of income for the Palestinians for generations. Councilor Isaac Benton thanked the speakers for coming to talk to the Council. He said their presentations have been very educational and wants to know more about Israel’s treatment of the West Bank Palestinians. Left unsaid is an explanation of the benefits and reason behind having a “sister city.”
Councilor Winter asked Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan for another progress update on the contentious Bosque Trail working group. Riordan said in the last few weeks they have had three walking tours along with a well attended public meeting on Jan. 7. He said there were more than 100 people in attendance and 126 pages of comments. “Some are cut and paste from special interest groups and some offer valuable information,” Riordan said.
He also let the Council know that the city met with the access specialist from the Governor’s Commission on Disability. “She said it was the finest she has seen of its kind in the country,” Riordan said. Additional comments will be taken until the end of January. He also said the public can be confident that those working on the trails are taking care to not bother eagle nests, coyote dens or other sensitive sites.
Chief Gordon Eden was called up to the podium by Councilor Sanchez to answer questions about how the recent police department staffing analysis came up with the target number of needing 1000 sworn officers. “When I heard the number 1000. I was stunned and shocked. I feel that number is way too low,” Sanchez said. He said back in 2006 the city had 982 sworn officers. “I expected to see that 1100 or more officers are needed a decade later,” he added. Chief Eden said the analyst who did the US Department of Justice mandated study took data from dispatch regarding calls for service, the time taken for each type of call and other police department data. Chief Eden said the analysis clearly states there needs to be between 501 and 522 field officers on the streets, chasing traffic and handling 911 and other calls. Currently, police department sworn officer numbers hover around 800 with about 400 of those street/field officers. The department is having a difficult time recruiting new officers. Chief Eden said they are looking at incentives to get and keep qualified officers.
Councilor Benton introduced a bill to allow the city to acquire about 60 acres of open space land adjoining the Petroglyph National Monument. The two pieces of land known as La Cuentista, or the storyteller, will cost more than $1.5 million. The pieces of property are south of Paseo del Norte and are otherwise prime for development, according to the bill. Purchasing the pieces would make it harder for people to trespass on the monument and will keep subdivisions away from one of our local jewels. The bill will use bond funding set aside for open space acquisition. The property is in Council President Dan Lewis’ district and he is in support of the acquisition, as long as the city gets a good price on the property.