Love for Burque Pride, a shout out to Bessie’s Lace for hanging in there for 25 years and a veto override were part of the June 5 Albuquerque City Council meeting. With all Councilors at the table, Council President Isaac Benton took care of business in two and a half hours.
Councilors Pat Davis and Diane Gibson gave a shout out to the annual Albuquerque Pride Parade to be held June 10. The parade will take a different route this year due to the ART construction. This year, the parade will travel east on Lomas from Washington to Expo New Mexico. This is the 20 year anniversary of celebrating Burque Pride, Davis and Gibson reminded citizens. Also getting a high five, Councilor Klarissa Peña congratulated Bessie’s Lace and More located at Central and Atrisco SW. They’ve been in business for 25 years. Bessie Romero said in January that she was not sure she would be able to keep her doors open due to the Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction steps away from the shop’s front door. Peña said Bessie’s has a loyal customer base. Bessie even goes as far as to serve coffee and snacks to the construction crew.
In a budget standoff, Councilors overrode Mayor Berry’s veto of the council’s $534.1 million budget. A compromise budget was also on the table but Councilors rejected that as well and stood by their version. Berry had said the Council budget “overpromised and underdelivered,” but the majority of those with the purse strings in hand disagreed. It didn’t take long for Mayor Berry to shoot back saying the budget approved is already broken, needs more work and risks the city’s credit rating being downgraded. But this is not the end of the budget debate, as the Council plans on considering some tweaks to the budget to address various concerns. City budgets go into effect at the start of the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
Councilors gave the thumbs up to two appointments to city boards. Douglas Alsup will take a seat on the Human Rights Board and Raymond Barrera was appointed to the Veterans and Military Affairs Advisory Board. Other action items included drafting a three-way memorandum of understanding to move forward activities between the city and the state MainStreet program and the Nob Hill MainStreet organization. The city also accepted a $75,000 grant with Living Cities for the Racial Equality Here initiative.
Councilors were set to tackle putting a gas tax question to voters but public comment seems to have given them pause. Councilors are thinking about asking voters to approve a 2-cent gas tax to fund municipal roadway infrastructure improvements. But after several public comments Councilors agreed to take the bill up at the next meeting after changes are made. Paul Gessing from the Rio Grande Foundation said he submitted hundreds of signatures opposing the added tax. Another speaker said the city should not put roadway infrastructure on the backs of the citizens. Other folks said they had concerns that the money generated from a citywide gasoline tax would not go to fixing streets, but end up helping pay for the ART project. It appears these concerns will be addressed with changes at the next meeting.
Public comment at this meeting centered around the proposed gas tax, and on the size and type of ballot to be used for the October election regarding sick leave for part-time employees. Some of the comments include these snippets:
“Please stand against unfair elections. Why use a size 6 font for the workers sick leave measure on the ballot when 8.5 is more readable?”
“If all you guys disappear, if the mayor disappears, what will happen to the money?”
“You guys are supposed to help us take care of the problems in the city.”
“The state fair is almost here and the ART project is not even finished yet.”
“Please oppose the gas tax; why are you driving people to the pueblos?”
Councilor Benton discoursed with the City Administrator Rob Perry over funds to finish off a second spay and neuter surgical site at the East Side Shelter. Benton wants to get the project done; Perry said there were not enough cats and dogs coming in for spay and neutering to justify the expense. He said the money would be better spent on getting new vehicles for the animal welfare department. If that is true, Benton countered, then why did the staff not tell them that during budget preparation? Then, Councilors approved selling energy savings bonds to do more solar projects. Also, Albuquerque Police Department Chief Gorden Eden said there are currently 862 sworn police officers. He added a cadet class of 24 graduated last week.
Next go-round on June 19, Councilors will re-visit the gas tax, talk about creating a Department of Asset Management, consider approving a request for proposals for short term loans for city employees and look to evaluate how the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project is coming along. The Council will also consider a measure to increase entrance fees to the BioPark and articulating policy for developing the Alvarado Transportation Center.