Alibi V.27 No.9 • March 1-7, 2018 


The City and the County

Two issues for your consideration

An ART bus during its testing phase
An ART bus during its testing phase

There’s always plenty of news happening in Burque and the surrounding environs. From crime to capital improvements, the pace of change in this city and county is staggering. As spring approaches, here are two municipal issues that demand further attention.

Tragical Mystery Tour

The buses are coming. Except the buses that are coming have structural and mechanical problems. Additionally, there’s still the problems with their landing pads. And all sorts of other things. And as the ART stations designed to accommodate Burque’s masses sit empty and unused, many have begun to wonder what will become of the project that was once heralded as a step into the future for urbanization in Albuquerque.

It turns out the Keller administration is also wondering about the project. A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Albuquerque General Inspector David Harper is taking a closer look at the forces that shaped the project.

In a statement to the press, Mayor Tim Keller, formerly state auditor, acknowledged the on-going review, writing that “I appreciate the value and importance of the Inspector General’s independent investigation and we look forward to getting to the bottom of this.”

Meanwhile, the inspector was quick to note that the review did not actually comprise an investigation—in as much that investigations focus on allegations of fraud, misconduct or criminal activity.

Harper told the local daily that “About two months ago I decided, ‘Let’s look at the funding aspect of the project overall.’ … My concern, of course, was that we still haven’t received funds.”

The lack of funding for the ART project has been a contentious issue since Keller took the reigns from Richard J. Berry on Dec. 1, 2017. At issue is a $75 million in federal funding that the Berry Administration said was all but a done deal, but which Keller’s people found to be less than sure, as the federal budget went through several adaptations as it advanced through both houses of Congress and the White House these past few months.

In addition to this review by city officials, the State Auditors office, now headed by former county commissioner and mayoral candidate Wayne Johnson, is also making moves toward reviewing and perhaps investigating the finances behind the ill-fated project.

Johnson plans to bring a third-party accounting firm in to check out ART’s finances and told the press, “can’t really tell you how many times somebody has come up to me on the street or in a grocery store somewhere and said, ‘You need to look at ART.’ ” Though at press time, it’s clear that Johnson’s interest in ART is escalating, firm plans about the scope of the investigation have yet to be revealed.

The Sheriff and Force

While the city of Albuquerque Police Department remains under the acute observation of James Ginger and the US Department of Justice—mainly because of its past use of force against citizens of all stripes—the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office has remained out of the spotlight, until now.

Increases in use of force incidents, shootings and, consequently, lawsuits and out of court settlements have led to calls for a closer look at the enforcement agency tasked with upholding law and order in Bernalillo County.

On Monday, Feb. 26, County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins introduced a bill that will provide a process to begin a review of polices enacted and used by the Sheriff’s office.

In an interview with the local daily, Hart Stebbins told readers that “any significant jump in the use-of-force incidents is cause for concern, so it’s important to understand the factors that might be driving that increase. … We need to make sure we’re following best practices both to protect our deputies and to protect the public.”

The news about rising rates of use-of-force incidents happening at the BernCo law enforcement agency isn’t new. Over the past several months, questions about the use of deadly force and documentation have regularly made the news.

There were at least nine officer-involved shootings involving our county’s sherriff’s office this past year. The Sheriff, Manuel Gonzales has repeatedly gone on record to claim that automatic lapel cameras are not necessary to the mission of his office.

A Summary

All the things mentioned in this article, from the possible economic missteps that accompanied the progression—or lack thereof—of the ART project to the subsequent calls for review of those alleged problems, all through the issues surrounding the quality of policing in this city and county deserve citizen attention and monitoring.

Losing track of these important issues will ultimately speak to the credibility of the underlying institutions that govern such activities; but it will also speak to the importance of citizen-based discourse and resolutions if we disincline ourselves from keeping notes and voicing legitimate concerns about the direction our city and county is headed.