It seems extra necessary this year to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace and the city obliged with a proclamation. The Council’s proclamation encourages all businesses, schools, organizations and individuals to participate in promoting peace and justice for our citizens. Sept. 21 is the actual day, but that’s a Thursday—which is an awkward day for merrymaking—so organizers have set an additional forum on issues of immigration to be held on that day at 5:30pm. On Saturday, Sept. 23 , the yearly celebration will be held from 3-7pm. Both events are at the Center for Peace and Justice located at Silver and Harvard near the University of New Mexico. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Together for peace through respect, safety and dignity for all.” Organizer Dr. Rosemary Blanchard told the council, “We will celebrate the diversity of this city—and we are a diverse and accepting city.”
Film is alive and well in the city of Albuquerque, said Ann Lerner, the city’s film guru. She gave the Council an enthusiastic update on the city’s busy flick industry. Lerner said that film industry peeps dropped $180 million in direct spending during fiscal years 2017 and 2016. “In last 8 years, over a billion dollars of direct new money has come into the greater Albuquerque area,” she reported. Each TV episode filmed in the city equals about 8 days of filming, she said, which jingles down to about $1.5 million in new dollars spent and circulated. For one recent film project, New Mexicans made up 90 to 95 percent of the crew. After the presentation, Councilor Diane Gibson had but one burning question for Lerner—was Albuquerque still known as Tamalewood? Lerner said no, people around the world can now spell Albuquerque thanks to this city being one of the top five best places to film in the world.
A chunk of the short meeting was spent quizzing City Attorney Jessica Hernandez about what is up with Dr. James Ginger, the federal monitor who oversees the court-approved settlement agreement between the Albuquerque Police Department and the US Department of Justice. The court agreement was reached after a DOJ investigation found a pattern and practice of excessive force that included many of police killings.
“Who is monitoring the monitor?” Councilor Ken Sanchez asked Hernandez. Sanchez wanted to know about Ginger’s living status in Albuquerque and if he was working in a local office. “He has been paid to date $2,921,422,” Sanchez recalled, saying, “I have not seen him move here or open an office.” Hernandez reiterated that Ginger opened an office staffed with University of New Mexico graduate students who take complaints and relay messages to Ginger. But she is not aware of any monitoring staff using an office in the city. “This has been an issue we have tried to work around as there are challenges with not having a monitor team here,” Hernandez told Councilors. Councilor Diane Gibson came to Dr. Ginger’s rescue saying, “He had apartment here for a while but was suffering from allergies. Whatever blossoms here, it doesn’t agree with him. I think that is why he gave up his residence,” Gibson remembered. Councilor Sanchez didn’t buy it, saying Ginger or someone from his monitor team should be here in the city especially since he is being paid millions.
Hernandez didn’t quite answer one question when asked by Councilor Sanchez about how the police department was doing, meeting its federally mandated goals. She said the fifth report came out a couple of months ago with a new format that more clearly outlines Ginger’s recommendations. “Giving us clearer recommendations helps the department,” Hernandez said. “I know since they got the new format they are using them as department guideposts as they move forward with their progress.” What she didn’t mention was Ginger’s interim outcomes report recently released on Aug. 18; it, knocked the department as being well below where it should be in the reform process. Ginger also reported that some of the data being submitted is not up to par and has been inaccurate. The sixth regular report is due out early November.
Other items handled by the council included:
• Deferring a re-prioritization of fully staffing the police department and amending the city’s pawnbroker’s ordinance.
• Approving the creation of a task force to make recommendations for how to deal with the city’s hundreds of vacant and/or abandoned homes.
• Giving the thumbs-up to routine airline operations agreements.
• Confirming John O’Donnell to be the lead Washington DC lobbyist for the city.
• Appointing Christine Glidden to the Biological Park Board and Deborah Good to the Indicators of Progress Commission.
• Reappointing Marie Q. Julienne to the Personnel Board.