Okay Alibi readers, you are going to have to read fast and assimilate quickly to keep up, because our local governing bodies have been busy in the last couple weeks. Bernalillo County Commission put some future jingle in some of our pockets, while the Albuquerque City Council proclaimed support for statewide affordable healthcare for all.
More Money For Us and Them
Attention Bernalillo County minimum wage workers: There soon could be a few more cents in your pocket after the Bernalillo County Commission raised the minimum wage $.20 from $8.85 to $9.05. This raise goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
Newly elected officials who start their terms Jan. 1 will also get more annual money. Incoming County Commissioners will get about $39,000 per year, nearly $10,000 more than sitting commissioners. Treasurer, clerk and assessor will gain about $20,000, to take home around $86,000. The sheriff will see an increase from about $68,000 to $90,000 in his salary. The new Probate Judge will go from about $28,000 to $38,000 per year. Officials elected in 2020 also will receive this raise, in 2021. The last pay bump for county officials was approved in 2006 and took effect in 2007 and 2009.
More Money to Help
Commissioners approved a new $3 million annual appropriation for the County’s Department of Behavioral Health Services to expand triage crisis mental health and substance abuse services for adults in need of immediate treatment.
The four-phase plan starts with the first two phases transitioning the MATS detox center to the University of New Mexico Hospital, to give UNMH a larger administrative role. This will allow the MATS detox services center to expand its programs—including a public inebriate program—by about 36 beds overall. The third phase would be an outpatient clinic with some innovative peer-based treatment ideas. And the fourth phase is a real freestanding mental health hospital with emergency medical and psychiatric urgent and emergency care.
Phases one and two are expected to be gearing up early next year. This overall plan will provide our emergency services personnel with a place to take those struggling with mental health and substance abuse to get full service help. It is hoped and expected that this will take a huge number of patients out of hospital emergency rooms and out of the criminal justice system.
All this is being funded in part with monies from the 2015 mental health and substance abuse gross receipts tax passed by the voters and implemented by the county.
Santolina, the 13,700-acre master-planned community sitting southwest of I-40 and 118th Street, is one step closer to becoming reality. Commissioners approved a development agreement with Western Albuquerque Land Holdings to develop about one-third of the West Mesa property. When fully built, Santolina could host about 96,000 people. The city-county water authority recently said there is water available on the property but not within the water authority’s current capacity. It would cost $600 million over several decades to develop a delivery infrastructure for the water under the proposed development. The development is estimated to use about 11,700 acre-feet of water per year with a daily use of about 18.5 million.
The approval did not come easy as a couple dozen folks showed up at the Nov. 13 meeting to oppose the move. The commission split down gender lines, probably coincidentally, with the three men at the table voting yes and the two women voting no. A construction timeline has not been set.
Official No Toss Policy
Councilors at their Nov. 19 meeting made their rise in littering fines official. Just as a reminder: 250 clams is the penalty for being a first-time litterbug, $350 for the second and a whopping 500 simoleons will be charged to third time dumpers. Cigarette butt tossers will face $250 for their first offense and $500 for each one of those frajos tossed thereafter. Local authorities are on alert.
Councilors approved a resolution urging the upcoming 2019 Legislature to pass the Health Security Act, legislation that would enable New Mexico to set up its own healthcare plan. Supporters say it would be set up like a cooperative, would cover most New Mexicans who choose to participate, would offer a comprehensive set of healthcare services and freedom to choose providers, and would be administratively simple while being paid for with existing monies from public funds, employer contributions and income-based premiums. Certainly worth a hard look!
More City Business
• Several bills were passed that will amend the city’s election code in a few ways, including moving the municipal election held in odd-numbered years to November from October. They approved propositions that will be submitted to the voters at the Feb. 5, 2019 special election, but they deferred adding the Democracy Dollars Charter amendment for 60 more days.
• Councilors keep kicking down the road the idea of reconfirming Edward Harness as the Director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency. This time it was deferred until the Dec. 3 meeting. Council staff reminded the table that a decision needed to be made prior to the next US District Court hearing regarding progress of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement between the city’s police department and the Department of Justice.
• In almost an afterthought, Councilors approved a five year vision statement with goals to help guide the city’s budget, resource allocation, performance and other work plans. We will be taking a look at what our leaders see ahead for residents.