After a shout-out to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Albuquerque City Council, at its Jan. 17 meeting, did a little Burque salsa by introducing a bill to strengthen the city’s immigrant friendly status.
There was no discussion of immigration policies at this meeting, as the resolution was only introduced and will be formally heard at a later meeting. The gist of the legislation says that no funds, equipment, personnel or city facilities can be used to assist in or facilitate the enforcement of federal immigration law. Slipping through a perceived loophole in the 2000 immigrant friendly resolution, the former Berry administration provided a desk inside the downtown Prisoner Transport Center to accommodate ICE, something this resolution aims to change. The bill says all city residents shall have equal access to city services, refuses access to all non-public areas of the city’s properties by ICE agents without a specific warrant and decrees that no city agency, employee, officer or agent will inquire about citizenship status while interacting with the public.
Councilors were quizzical about problems with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. The ART project was recently, and accurately, called “a bit of lemon” by new Mayor Tim Keller. Councilor Pat Davis said his staff is reviewing the previous administration’s request for proposals for the bus contractor. The project is afflicted by problems with the stations and the 60-foot electric buses. To save face, Davis pointed out that technically the approval for the bus contractor never came to the Council but it was a decision made solely by the mayor and former administration. Councilor Isaac Benton did a little political soft shoe by calmly taking some responsibility for Council actions related to the project. Like a seasoned architect, he reminded everyone that there are problems with every project. Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said he will be meeting with the bus contractor to work out a resolution to the problems.
But if the contractor can’t resolve the problems to their satisfaction then they will look at other options. In the meantime, come to Central Avenue to dine, shop, grab a drink or just give a warm hello to the many businesses trying to stay afloat while fingers point.
Councilor Pat Davis brought up the secret taping of Federal Monitor Dr. James Ginger that was done by members of the previous administration’s police administration and legal team. Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair gave a brief synopsis of the situation—where Mayor Keller’s new administration learned after they took office—that the former city attorney had filed a notice with US Federal Judge Robert Brack containing several recordings made of conversations between Ginger and members of former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration.
The Berry administration said, up to that point, there was only one recording. Nair reassured the Council that such shenanigans will not be happening under the new mayor, and reported, “We have discontinued this practice and all who had been doing this are no longer working for the city. That gives us confidence that going forward this will not be happening.”
Davis pointed out that he asked the previous city attorney and police chief about the number of secret recordings and was told there was only one. “I am really troubled,” Davis said. But by the end of the week, after a hearing in front of Judge Brack, the new city administration, Ginger and the Department of Justice staff had what one attorney present at the meeting said was a Kumbaya moment. All agreed to move forward working with the new administration. Nair said in a statement, “We look forward to restoring the trust between the public and its police department.”
Depending on how one counts, there are between 1,300 to 3,000 vacant or abandoned homes throughout the Duke City. Councilor Diane Gibson took the reins last year to help create a task force to come up with ideas to address problems caused by long-term vacant properties. Other than becoming eyesores for neighbors, chronically vacant properties encourage transients to set up camp. The group came up with a couple dozen ideas such as forming land banks that buy and fix up such houses for future tenants, as well as websites and hotlines for folks to easily identify habitually vacant properties in need of attention. Members said the idea is to spruce up blighted neighborhoods to attract residents who are looking for homes across Burque.
Several speakers spoke eloquently about the proposed resolution to protect our immigrant families and friends. But in this reporter’s opinion, one speaker could have kept his mouth shut when he verbally, and otherwise, mad-dogged the immigrant supporters before he snorted a racial slur at Council President Ken Sanchez as he left the podium. Freedom of speech is a protected right and we will fight for that right no matter what one must say, but being mean for mean’s sake is a different form of speech. Kudos to our local elected officials who respectfully take what is spouted out by sometimes ill-informed citizens.