While most of the political action is happening up at the state legislative 60-day session, there are still local government deeds going down. Recent back to back Council and Commission meetings kept Albuquerque and Bernalillo County business rolling along.
City Councilors hired a new Inspector General at their nearly two hour Jan. 23 regular meeting. The inspector is in charge of an independent department whose task it is to detect and investigate fraud, waste, corruption and criminal activity inside city government. The Inspector General reports to the civilian Accountability in the Government Oversight Committee.
The last Inspector General, David Harper, resigned last summer after filing an unflattering report on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. He also criticized the city for not funding his department adequately. The department is funded to the tune of $375,000, has two investigators along with the Inspector General, and has to keep keen eyes on 20 departments and nearly 6,000 city employees.
Kenneth Bramlett is the new guy. He is not from around here. Bramlett served as the Inspector General for the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2013 until 2018. Before that he worked on audits and fraud investigations for the state of Georgia. He was not at this Council meeting, but he was in town for the Jan. 7 meeting where he addressed the Council regarding his accomplishments at catching fraud, and how he has returned millions of dollars to the coffers he was charged to protect.
Bramlett said he would be a good fit because he does not know anyone in Albuquerque, and therefore is not beholden to anyone. He’s probably not going to be the most popular employee at city hall but potentially one of the most important.
Another inspiring group of people were confirmed to the city’s various boards, Councils and Commissions: Christopher S. King, Jr. was appointed to the Americans with Disabilities Act Advisory Council; Dr. Virginia Necochea, Sradha Patel and Adrien Lawyer went to the Human Rights Board; Elaine M. Hebard was named to the Indicators Progress Commission; Kimberly D. Andujo and Stephen Pilon were appointed to the Transit Advisory Board; Lauren Meiklejohn is now a member of the Joint Air Quality Board; Gary L. Eyster was selected for the Environmental Planning Commission; Abuko D. Estrada and Arra Carbajal were named to the Early Head Start Program Governance Advisory Committee; Andrew Lipman went to the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund; Jeffrey D. Huss became a member of the Balloon Museum Board of Trustees and the reappointment of Dan Serrano to the Environmental Planning Commission also took place.
Meanwhile, in just a bit over 45 minutes, the Bernalillo County Commission sailed through its Jan. 22 meeting—mainly by deferring a good chunk of the agenda.
County Commissioners urged the public’s support for the mail-in Albuquerque Public Schools Mill Levy and General Obligation Bond Election. Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada, who is a former Albuquerque Public School Board member, said, “We are already behind the 8-ball, if we don’t become proactive about education we are never going to catch up,” Quezada said. “I understand education is expensive, it just is. But this is important.”
According to the resolution, APS has about $900 million in critical infrastructure and capital needs, and the average age of Albuquerque Public School building is 40 to 45 years old. While 40 may be the new 20 that axiom does not apply to school buildings. Many of our city’s public education facilities have persistent roofing, heating and other structural problems. Ballots have hit the mail boxes so vote “yes” and send your vote back by Feb. 5.
Commissioner Debbie O’Malley asked her fellow Commissioners to reaffirm their commitment to a master plan for a 640-acre piece of property known as the Swede Scholer Regional Recreation Complex at Mesa del Sol. The county has been leasing the land from the State Land Office since the late ’90s. The idea is to master plan a long-term indoor/outdoor recreational facility for local youth for such sports as soccer and other sportsball games; and to attract national and regional tournaments to a less populated area in an effort to reduce the impact (driving, traffic, access issues) youth soccer games can have on neighborhoods.
A tasty list of county-wide capital outlay requests were amended, then approved to be sent up to the state Legislature for funding.
Some of the items on the $88.77 million dollar wish list include: (as the county’s number one priority) $34.6 million for new regional emergency communications infrastructure and mobile radio replacement project; $3.75 million for Sheriff Department facilities and off-road vehicles; $4.1 million for planning of the above mentioned Swede Scholer Regional Recreation Complex; and millions and millions for public works projects, community services, open space projects, community centers, senior centers and so much more.
The list is sent up to the legislative bean counters (including the all powerful Legislative Finance Committee) who use it as a reference for allocation of available funding. This year there is an extra billion or so in funding available making everyone see green. The governor has said that about a half of that extra billion dollars must go to statewide education improvements. We will see how many coins hit Bernco coffers when the legislative session ends in mid-March.