Council Watch: Protests And Public Funds

City Council Listens To Citizen Concerns

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Protests and Public Funds
City Councilors Diane G. Gibson and Brad Winter (Eric Williams Photography)
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Albuquerque City Councilors took a long agenda on a four-hour stroll during their Monday, June 6, meeting. Historically, June agendas tend to be a bit hefty as the Council tries to wrap up city business before the end of the fiscal year and before the annual July month-long recess.

Pointing Fingers

Public comments were dominated by a blame game going on between the city’s law enforcement and the groups, organizations and individual protesters over the violence that erupted during the May 24 Donald Trump rally. Council President Dan Lewis started out by reading the rules of decorum for addressing the Council. Several times during the often heated public comment period, Councilor Lewis had to warn members of the gallery to not interject comments. Javier Benavidez, executive director of the Southwest Organizing Project, spoke passionately about the city’s law enforcement agencies targeting and arresting protesters including a 14-year-old boy charged with an adult felony. “We are requesting the police to stop the high-financed witch hunt of young people of color,” Benavidez said. “We ask you to take a stand for our young people.” Benavidez called out Councilor Lewis for allegedly standing behind Trump and cheering on the volatile speech. Some Councilors defended and some criticized the police response but most agreed it was a black eye for the city. “When we say come out and protest we better be prepared for what could happen,” said Councilor Klarissa Peña. Other random public comments included:

• “Do we want to ruin the life of a youngster before he has the chance to live it?”

• “Children don’t belong in court.”

• “I am proud to have participated in the Trump rally protest in the early evening hours and I condemn, I condemn the riot that took place later.”

• “Peace is the generous contribution to the good of all.”

More Sun Later

Councilors put off making a commitment to set a goal of generating at least 25% of the electricity used by city facilities from solar energy by 2025. Councilor Dan Lewis said a fiscal impact analysis is in process and should be done by August. Several young people spoke out in support of this idea of more sun power. “It is a necessity and I don’t think it is too much to ask that you not cause the end of the world as we know it in the next 30 years,” one young citizen said.

Stepping Up

Nearly a dozen city residents took spots on several boards and commissions. Those appointments include Robert Bello, Daniel Solares and Petra Morris to the Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission. Former City Council candidate Hess Yntema IV was appointed to the Labor Management Board. John Whitson took a position at the Parks and Recreation Board. A chunk of items on the consent agenda were quarterly reports on the city’s progress on public safety goals. Councilor Pat Davis asked City Attorney Jessica Hernandez how things were going meeting the settlement deadlines set by the Department of Justice. Hernandez said that her office and the police department have worked hard in the last three months to meet the deadlines.

Bucks for Wanna Be Mayors

Councilors approved a bill that puts a question on the November ballot asking voters to raise the amount of money publicly funded mayoral candidates receive to run their campaigns. Municipal candidates can choose if they want to raise their own private campaign funds or go through the process to qualify for public campaign financing. To qualify for the public financing, candidates have to gather a number of signatures and $5 donations from registered voters. If voters approve the ballot question, it would raise that amount to $1.75 from the existing $1.50 per voter. The public money comes to about $630,00 per mayoral candidate and a little over $250,000 for publicly funded Council candidates. The vote was not unanimous, Councilor Trudy Jones dissented saying if you want to run for office you should be prepared to hit the streets, knock on doors and raise your own dang campaign money.

Future Folk Fest

Councilors deferred until June 20 the idea of adding a regional folk festival to the city’s list of cultural offerings. The proposal considers a one-day event possibly held at Expo New Mexico or a multi-day event held at a venue such as the Balloon Fiesta Park or the Open Space Visitor Center where folks can channel their inner gypsy and camp out.

Land Bank

Councilors approved setting aside 2 percent of the biennial General Obligation Bonds from the Capital Improvement Program for open space acquisition over the next 20 years. Councilors Winter and Jones opposed the set aside saying the funding could take away from other more critical projects and that 20 years is a long time to commit to something.

Central Business Collaborative

Councilors approved forming a new business advisory board for Central businesses impacted by the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit line running from Coors to Louisiana. According to Gary Oppedahl, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, a group of people from the Small Business Resource Collaborative are already meeting one-on-one with small business owners along the corridor. Oppedahl said there are 1,200 business along the proposed route with 800 businesses that will be directly impacted. Out of those businesses, 374 are locally owned. Oppedahl said the locally owned small businesses are the ones that the SBRC are focused on to help minimize the negative effects of the proposed year and a half construction.

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The next meeting

Monday, June 20, 5pm

Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall

View it on GOV TV 16 or at

Diane G. Gibson and Brad Winter

Eric Williams

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