Heading into the July vacay month, the Albuquerque City Council served up a fat stack of agenda items at its nearly six-hour June 17 regular meeting. The Council does not meet during July so they had to tie up all the city business that must be done—so the city can buzz along while Councilors are off doing whatever it is they do during their summer break.
There will be no ranked choice voting this November, but it may be adopted in the future. After weeks of deferrals, much posturing and several dozen public commenters, Councilors rejected making the decision and will instead consider sending the question to the voters. In Burque, a candidate must get at least 50 percent of the votes to win, otherwise there is a runoff election. Supporters say ranked choice voting eliminates these costly, inconvenient runoffs because voters rank their choices—first, second, third, etc. The candidate with more than 50 percent of first choice votes win. If no candidate gets a majority, then the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated and the ranked votes are counted until a winner emerges.
Opponents say this is too confusing for Burque voters to grasp. What? I guess Santa Fe voters must be smarter, as last year the City Different became the first New Mexico municipality to adopt ranked choice voting. When Burque’s Councilors return in August, they will revisit the idea of putting ranked choice voting on the November ballot for the citizens to decide.
A vacant liquor warehouse in Martineztown will soon be transformed into a billion-dollar NBC Universal Studio. The media giant was given a sweet deal, including $3 million in Local Economic Development Act incentive package money, that was cheerfully approved by the Council. This chunk of money will be added to $7.7 million in state economic development money. For its part, NBC Universal commits to spending $500 million over 10 years on productions.
The studio folks have said that about 330 full-time and several hundred part-time jobs that pay more than minimum wage will be created quickly. State Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said that this will be not only a job creator, but a wealth creator.
The empty former booze warehouse is owned by the Garcia auto dealership family, which will lease to NBC. It is located at Broadway and Odelia and will be transformed into a two-stage television and film studio. The Garcia family has said they, along with NBC Universal, will invest about $10 million in the property. In the last five years, the Garcia family has purchased more than one million square feet of property in the greater Downtown area.
Councilors approved some non-substantive clarifications to the infamous 2017 panhandling ordinance that is currently tied up in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.
Police enforcement is on hold while a federal judge decides if this an unconstitutional attempt to chill free speech in public places such as roadway medians and freeway entrances/exits where solicitation is common. This law criminalizes physical interactions between occupants of vehicles and pedestrians.
The lawsuit’s plaintiffs include both homeless citizens who solicit money, citizens who give them money and citizens who hold political signs at medians. An August court date is set to hear arguments in the case.
Keep your eyes off local street racers or else you may find yourself with a fat $500 fine or behind bars for up to 90 days. Councilors passed a measure making it a ticketable offense to watch illegal street racing. Councilor Brad Winter sponsored the measure after he said he recently saw hundreds of people gather to watch an illegal race at Balloon Fiesta Parkway. As a late-’70s Valley High School alum, I totally get the long history of bad-boy Burque street racing, but someone will more than likely get hurt, so let’s find a way to make it safe. History has proven that racers and their fans are not going to stop the zoom.
Five-plus hours is a long meeting by anyone’s standards but Councilors did take care of much of their obese agenda. Councilors approved a jam of other items, including appointing Eric Olivas and Tara Armijo-Prewitt to the Civilian Police Oversight Board; amending the boundary of East Gateway Metropolitan Redevelopment Area; authorizing the sale of $26.4 million in Metropolitan Redevelopment Bonds for a project at 1101 Central Ave. NE, and the sale of $20.6 million in bonds for a project at 200 Mulberry St. NE.
The best Council comment for June goes to Council President Klarissa Peña, who said her family was watching the news when they saw elder Councilor Brad Winter carrying the torch for the National Senior Olympics held in Albuquerque. “I can’t believe this vato pole vaults,” she said in reference to Winter’s senior citizen athletic ability. Vault on, Señor Winter!