Council Watch: Balloons And Biology

Council Examines Civic Issues

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Albuquerque City Council
The Albuquerque City Council (Eric Williams Photography)
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Dignity in death, landing spots for hot air balloons and nurturing a bioscience community were the some of the hot topics at the May 7 regular Albuquerque City Council meeting.

Limited Landing Spots

City Councilors approved
creating a task force to look for land that can be preserved for the landing sites for the hundreds, if not thousands, of hot air balloons that routinely grace the city’s skies. Paul Smith, executive director of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, said the city has a dwindling number of empty urban land spots for balloons to land. He said it takes a half to a whole acre for one balloon to safely land. Smith added that there are a number of ways to increase the number of possible spots by encouraging people to allow balloons to land on their private property, using appropriate parking lots, community parks and preserving urban open space.

Westside Councilor Cynthia Borrego said she had a recent experience where she saw this need for more open land first hand, when a hot air balloon hit her neighbor’s house before bouncing out onto a busy Westside street to land.

Dying Choices

Support for doctors to help terminally ill patients die with dignity was unanimously passed by the Council.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Councilors Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson, urges the New Mexico state Legislature to enact the Medical Aid in Dying or The End of Life Options Act. House Reps. Bill McCamley and Debbie Armstrong introduced a House bill during the last short session of the Legislature but ran out of time before a vote could be taken.

“Dignity in dying is a basic human right for all,” one tearful public speaker said.

Councilor Benton spoke about his own family’s journey with a terminally ill loved one who had to go out of state to die with dignity.

Retired District Court Judge Elizabeth Whitefield spoke bravely and eloquently with a trach tube attached to her about how she supports this resolution because she may be one of the people that will use it. Whitefield said she has terminal cancer. “I am the face of one of the users of this bill,” Whitefield said. “I know my death is going to be painful. This will allow me to have the dignity that cancer has taken away from the rest of my life. It allows competent people a dignified way to die.”

Albuquerque will join other cities across the state in drafting similar resolutions in support of a bill to allow doctors to help terminally ill, competent adults who are physically able to take their own medication, end their lives, and legally protect doctors assisting them.

Bioscience? What?

Councilors approved a $100,000 agreement with the
New Mexico Bioscience Authority to create a “Community Bioscience Ready Program” which is intended to attract more bioscience industry to the city. The Bioscience Authority plans to locate in the Innovation Central District at Central and Broadway. It will promote and facilitate new start-ups, and plant the seeds for a thriving bioscience industry.

Here in Burque the biotech/bioscience industry produces a variety of items such as surgical supplies to injectable pharmaceuticals to homeopathic products. Many companies are spin-offs from Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.

New Mexico’s bioscience industry includes nearly 700 businesses with about 9,300 employees bringing in about $1.2 billion annually. Nationwide, the bioscience industry
created an additional 5 million jobs. UNM has a Center for Biomedical Engineering as well.

Public Spaces

Councilors approved a study to set a fee structure for renting space in city-owned community buildings. According to bill sponsor Councilor Brad Winter, the intent is to develop standard city-wide policy with set fees across all the departments, since different departments were using different rental amounts for similar city property. Along with an updated policy, the Council will consider raises in the fee structure.

Speaking Out

‘No more nuclear waste through our town’ was one of the main messages made by those addressing the Council during public comment time. Several speakers referenced a memorial introduced by Councilor Pat Davis opposing the radioactive waste traveling through Albuquerque by rail on its way to a proposed new nuclear waste dump location in southern New Mexico. “We are facing as many as 10,000 shipments of radioactive waste traveling through our community,” one speaker said. The memorial will be on the table at the May 21 Council meeting. Other citizen comments supported the end of life option bill and condemned airstrikes on Syria.

Stepping Up

Folks who stepped up to volunteer on public service boards include: Fred E. Mondragon to the Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board; Diane Harrison Ogawa to the Indicators Progress Commission; David Stromberg to the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee; Coby Livingstone to the Para Transit Advisory Board; Steve Vatoseow to the Central Avenue Business Advisory Board; Tim Nisly, Matthew Biggs, Paulette M. Baca, Michael M. Silva Jr. and Kenneth J. Carson to the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Committee; Christopher M. Schroeder to the Information Services Committee; Jesse A. Herron to the Lodgers’ Tax Advisory Board; Crystiana M. Baca-Bosiljevac to the Biological Park Board; Cynthia D. Serna to the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Advisory Board; Sandra McCardell to the Albuquerque Energy Council and Troy Alan Bradley to the Balloon Museum Board of Trustees.

Send your comments about the City Council to

The next meeting

Monday, May 21, 5pm

Vincent E. Griego Chambers

Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center

1 Civic Plaza NW

View it on GOV TV 16 or at

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