Albuquerque City Councilors ended 2015 by approving a new senior housing project, polishing up Downtown and giving some well deserved raises at their Dec. 21 meeting.Bigger Bucks Save LivesCity cadet paramedics and probationary firefighters will get a long overdue pay bump in 2016. Fire Deputy Chief David Downy said Albuquerque’s pay for new cadets and new firefighters is low compared to other regional departments. Currently cadet paramedics start at $10.25 an hour and probationary firefighters get $10.50. Downy said the city’s current pay rates make it difficult for new hires to support themselves, not to mention their families, and make it hard for the department to recruit already trained paramedics. The pay bump will fire up cadet paramedics to $17.00 an hour and probationary firefighters to $12.14.Ginger TimeFederal Monitor Dr. James Ginger gave City Councilors a report on the police department’s progress in complying with the US Department of Justice settlement agreement. Ginger and his team are responsible for monitoring implementation of the city’s agreement with the DOJ. He reports to US District Judge Robert Brack who approves any and all changes in the police department. The city and the DOJ came to an agreement last year after a nearly year long investigation sparked by more than 40 police shootings since 2010. The federal investigation found a problem with use of excessive force by APD officers. Revamping the APD use of force policy is first on the list and Ginger said the new use of force policy will be done in the next couple months.Ginger said progress is slow because good policy has to be developed in order to have good police training. He said the department has completed 4 out of the 280 operational compliances set out by the DOJ. While that sounds like a dismissal start, Ginger said it is not as bad as it sounds and Albuquerque is no better or worse than any of the other police departments under DOJ supervision. “Everybody knows what is expected of them,” he said. “We are in the early innings of a very long ball game.” Ginger said the four-year compliance timeline that the city aims for is very aggressive. He said it took the Los Angeles Police Department 10 years to get their act together. To help keep the community involved, he said there will be a local office staffed in part by University of New Mexico graduate and law students who will take calls and complaints from the community. This will allow Ginger and the police department to address problems as they arise during the process of new policy and training implementation. In addition, Ginger is excited about a website being designed to increase community interaction. He said it will be up and running within the next month. Ginger said he will be filing his next report to Judge Brack in March 2016. Meanwhile, there was another police shooting this week, and some residents and councilors have raised concerns about how much Ginger is being paid from Albuquerque coffers. Ginger is being paid $4.5 million for four years of monitoring the DOJ agreement.Go DowntownDowntown is fixing to get her groove on. City councilors approved the sale of $24 million in lodger’s tax revenue bonds for some major improvements to the city’s convention center area. The plans include a major renovation of the east building into a 10,000 seat retractable roof arena anchoring the entertainment hub that will include an upscale bowling alley, breweries, restaurants and retail stores. A 460 space parking structure will be built to stash cars while folks are having a good time. Civic Plaza will get a revamp of its currently concrete fountain into an interactive, sustainable water element. Everyone is optimistic that the projects should be completed by the fall of 2017.What’s On TV?A grainy picture of what is going on with the city’s community cable situation is emerging. A couple of people asked the council about the city’s public access cable channels and their governing boards. Comcast pays the city 40 cents per customer, or about $3 million a year, along with giving access to several public, education and government channels for local and community programing. In the Albuquerque metro area those Comcast channels are 26 and 27. In late 2011, the contract to operate the PEG channels 26 and 27 was ripped out from under longtime operator Quote…Unquote. A five-year contract was given to uPUBLIC, a company with no experience running community access channels, but with connections to the city. This caused a public outcry due to drastic programming changes, eliminating most local programs. Laura Dill asked the council if they were aware of the lack of transparency overseeing the spending of the Comcast millions. Councilor Pat Davis called out the city administration for failing to bring the evaluation report to the council meeting, to answer some questions. City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said she and Chief Executive Officer Rob Perry attended a recent PEG meeting and spoke with a representative of uPUBLIC about the programming but did not come away with any real information. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montano said he would get an update on the situation for the next meeting. As one of the speakers pointed out, Perry said at the last meeting he would have the results of a city evaluation of uPUBLIC at this council meeting, but Perry was unable to attend the meeting and didn’t send the evaluation with any one else.New SpacesThe city entered into a development agreement with Catholic Charities to build a $2 million, 54 unit rental development. “Generations at West Mesa” will be built at 5715 Avalon NW, in the West Mesa neighborhood. The mixed-income infill development will be a blend of one, two and three bedroom apartments. The development is targeted to seniors over 62 with priorities given to those over 75 or those raising grandchildren. This is a good idea for a neighborhood with few housing choices for seniors. Kudos.
Send your comments about the City Council to firstname.lastname@example.org.The next meeting Monday, Jan 4, 5pmCouncil Chambers in the basement of City HallView it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv