The May 2 meeting of the Albuquerque City Council featured discussions and Council action on a variety of matters of local import. A proclamation supporting Mental Health Awareness Month, top cops being punished for departmental noncompliance with Department of Justice objectives, and a new version of the city’s dangerous dog law were among items considered.
We’re All In This Together
The rate of young people who commit suicide in New Mexico is almost twice the rate of suicide in the rest of the nation. With that in mind, the Albuquerque City Council proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Ane Romero, a mental health advocate, said lime green is the color to wear to remind people to be aware that one in five people will be diagnosed with mental illness. The proclamation calls out public and private employers, teachers, family, friends and neighbors to be more aware, supportive and compassionate towards those with mental illness. “Individuals with mental health conditions can recover ... and lead full, productive lives,” the proclamation reads.
In an unusual move, Albuquerque City Councilors stayed away from any grilling of the city’s bosses during the meeting’s “Administration Q & A” period. A grilling was expected due to more grumbles from the the Department of Justice about the city police and legal minions being uncooperative. But the Council did go into executive session to discuss pending litigation with DoJ, so this may be where the fireworks flew.
A number of senior citizens from the newly formed Silver Platinum Downtown Neighborhood Association addressed the Council about increased traffic around the soon-to-be-opened grocery store at Silver and Third Street. Here are some of the public comments:
“There are lots of us seniors near the new Silver Street Market.”
“We need speed bumps. And crosswalks. Maybe a stop sign.”
“We don’t walk as fast as we used to. Can you look in to that and help us seniors out?”
“We need some more police officers Downtown. It is pretty rough.”
Councilors approved naming a future park located at Copper and Wyoming the Officer Daniel Webster Albuquerque Children’s Park. Albuquerque Police Department Officer Webster was killed during a traffic stop near there. Webster was a 20-year Army Ranger veteran and had been with APD since 2006. Webster was well liked in his beat area of south Los Altos.
Maybe Maybe Not
Councilors have been debating how to go about making open space purchases for quite a while. Councilor Don Harris sponsored a bill to reserve 2 to 3 percent of the general reserve or about $4 million a year for the purchase of open space land. The measure was deferred again when questions rose regarding where that money comes from, what will be impacted and how can the money be used. The Council will take this up again at a later date.
The Council has been ‘playing catch’ with this bill over the last few meetings by deferring it repeatedly. Angel’s Law refers to a city ordinance regarding harm caused by dangerous dogs. Councilor Diane Gibson introduced a new version, then deferred the vote because the Council cannot vote on a new version of a bill at the same meeting where it was introduced. Councilor Gibson and City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said the bill was still being worked on and comments are still welcome. Councilor Isaac Benton asked if the bill tries to blame the animal and not the owner. The best line of the night goes to Councilor Gibson when she said, “I’ve been bitten by a lot of dogs. I am kind of an expert.”
Some city employees from the mayor on down could be part of a public ethics and code of conduct training pilot program. The training is being done in order to “reaffirm that the city is dedicated to fostering an environment of fairness and accountability.” Not all city workers will be required to take the training.
Staffing the Rescue
Council members approved establishing minimum staffing requirements for Albuquerque fire fighters. Each fire station will now have to be staffed with a minimum number of fire fighters and paramedics along with all fire stations having updated essential equipment. Details and staff numbers will vary by station depending on need. For instance, the measure requires a minimum of two paramedic firefighters on each rescue and a minimum of four fire fighters on each engine. Councilor Ken Sanchez got a little emotional when he said he knows first hand the need for two paramedics is a matter of life and death. He said he had to call 911 several times while taking care of his aging mother. Councilor Pat Davis said maintaining minimum staffing requirements helps keep city residents’ property insurance a little lower.
Top Cops Time Out
Councilors did not approve a bill to economically punish top cop bosses if the city does not comply with the court ordered Department of Justice police reform settlement. The measure would have halted retention and other bonuses. It was sponsored by Councilors Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson and went down on a 6-3 vote with Councilor Pat Davis joining Benton and Gibson in supporting the incentive to prod the top brass into playing nice with the feds. Those against it said it would be hard to carry out, might push out some of the department’s institutional knowledge, and holds the upper command staff hostage for the recalcitrance of others.
Councilors approved new rules for city Council meetings and agendas. The bill limits the items a member of the public can comment on, to general public comment and two additional topics. It bans signs, posters and banners larger than legal size paper. Councilor Benton said the measure will allow the Council to “give attention to the people’s business while supporting the public’s right to speak.” The bill also moves the consent agenda up before the public comment to allow items on the consent to be dealt with early on in the meeting as many city staff are present for those items. Due to some recent outbursts from the public, Councilor Ken Sanchez asked about the idea of a lengthy ban for people who are consistently being disruptive. Councilor Benton said the bill could be amended in the future.