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Council Watch

We Are One, We Are Safe

Council hears from citizens and advocates

By
Councilors Benton, Borrego and Winter
Councilors Benton, Borrego and Winter

Shout-outs were heard for Albuquerque’s African American community, the city’s domestic violence advocates and a new fire chief at the Feb. 21 Albuquerque City Council meeting.

We Are One New Mexico

Councilors invited members of the local African American community to take part in a proclamation honoring February as Black History Month. Councilor Pat Davis read the better-late-than-never proclamation as several members of the city’s black community gathered at the podium. New Mexico Black History Month organizer Cathryn McGill said it was wonderful that the Council did this on their own without a prompt.

National Black History month was launched in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, the 1916 founder of The Journal of Negro History. The proclamation says that we celebrate the deep cultural, intellectual and historical richness the black community brings to the city and the state. “What we want to see is not a history of a selected race, but a history of the world devoid of race hate,” McGill said. She encouraged all of us to live up to what our state flag and the Zia symbol represent—a perfect friendship among cultures.

Here to Help

Albuquerque’s Shelter and Family Empowerment House (SAFE House) was lauded for its 40 years of service to the community. SAFE House is the only domestic violence shelter in the city. It focuses on survivors of intimate partner violence and is not gender-oriented. The organization houses men, women, children and members of the LGBTQ communities. They emphasize crisis intervention, safety planning, personal empowerment and economic sustainability for the survivors and their children.

SAFE House administrator Patricia Gonzales said that currently over 60 percent of the residents at the 85-bed shelter are under 17 years old. Domestic violence is especially difficult for children, she said. Last year, the shelter answered more than 1,100 crises calls, served 30,000 meals and helped 31 survivors get into housing with one of their enterprising programs called Rapid Re-Housing which helps get families stable quicker. Log on to www.safehousenm.org to see what you can do to help.

New Fire Chief

Councilors approved the mayor’s appointment of Paul W. Dow as the city’s new fire chief. Dow worked at the Rio Rancho Fire Department prior to coming to the Albuquerque Fire Department in 2000. He has served as a battalion commander and has an undergraduate degree in Fire Administration; he is also a fire science instructor at Central New Mexico Community College.

Councilor Cythia Borrego said she has a special place in her heart for firefighters because her dad was a firefighter. But when taking tours of the firehouses in her district, she did not notice any fireman poles in those stations. “We may have to look into that issue,” Borrego said.

Stepper Uppers

Councilor Don Harris said he was pleased to see the recent increase in the number of people wanting to serve on the city’s important boards and commissions. Councilors named Woody Duncan and Charlotte Shoenmann to the Arts Board; Joe McKinney to the Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission; Richard N. Meadows to the Environmental Planning Commission; Cathryn L. McGill and Tushar N Patel to the Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board; Enrique G. Aguilar to the Human Rights Board; Deborah Good to the Albuquerque Museum Board of Trustees; Elena Gonzales to the Affordable Housing Committee and Mariah Harrison and Andrea Yost to the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board.

Councilor Borrego asked a good question about the vetting process for the candidates—“Is it willy-nilly,” the councilor wondered. Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair explained that “the appointments are not ‘willy-nilly.’ ” She said candidates first apply, then they have to answer a bunch of questions, in writing and in person, and get a formal city background check. Check out all citizen input boards and commissions at: www.cabq.gov/clerk/boards-commissions.

Blue Tax

In a bi-partisan move, Councilor Trudy Jones and Ken Sanchez introduced a measure that would increase the city’s gross receipts tax by three-eighths of a cent per dollar, a tax increase that is expected to rake in about $55 million a year. The money will to go toward improving public safety programs. The city’s gross receipts tax rate is currently 7.5 percent.

The new tax schedule will help offset the phaseout of the “hold harmless” subsidies given out by the state for not collecting gross receipts tax on food. Sanchez said those hold harmless payments to the city will be gone in a couple years, taking about $37 million in annual tax money with them.

The city’s police union wants a commitment regarding a set tax percentage aimed at bringing funds into the police department budget. Councilors will take up this issue at their March 5 meeting.

Quick Hits

• Here’s what the Council set aside: an ordinance directing the mayor and the City Council to make fully funding the Albuquerque Police the number one priority every year; a measure to prohibit city boards, commissions and committees from sponsoring or hosting public forums; and an appeal of some text amendments to the Mesa del Sol Level B plan.

• Councilors dropped a request to audit Dr. James Ginger, the federal monitor overseeing the Albuquerque Police Department’s federal court ordered reform measures. Former state treasurer James Lewis was just hired to oversee the process.

• The session became enlightening when the Council was eloquently reminded during public comments that “we are all just stardust brought to life.”

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com.

The next meeting
Monday, March 5 at 5pm
Vincent E. Griego Chambers
Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center
1 Civic Plaza NW
View it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv

 
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