County Matters: The Commission’s Progress

County Lawmakers Work On Minimum Wage, Public Health

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Maggie Hart Stebbins
BernCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins (Carolyn Carlson)
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Without a lot of hoopla, the folks over at the Bernalillo County Commission set the foundation for mental health and substance abuse programs, raised the minimum wage and honored the peaceful ones at their most recent meeting.

Give Peace a Chance

Vice Chair Steven Michael Quezada, along with the rest of the Commission, recognized the 200th birthday of Bahá úlláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith. The religion was founded in 1863 in the Middle East.
It teaches the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. One member of the local Baha’i community said they were pleased with the county’s recognition. “Unity and justice and peace and service are what we are all here for,” she said.

Pay Bump

County commissioners upped the ante by
raising the minimum wage in Bernalillo County from $8.70 to $8.85 to account for the increase in the consumer price index set by the federal Bureau of Labor. But not all the commissioners were hip to the idea of giving county laborers a little bump. Notably, Commissioners Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert said no. This increase only covers those businesses within the county but not within the Albuquerque city limits. Albuquerque’s minimum pay rate is $7.80 per hour if the employer provides benefits. Otherwise $8.80 is what one gets for an hour of sweat in these parts.

Helping Up

The County appropriated $3 million for mental illness prevention and early intervention. And the folks involved with the county’s promise to bring more mental, substance and behavioral help to residents have been busy bees. Recently the Commission approved several new positions to fully staff
the county’s behavioral health initiative. To date, there have only been three people working this initiative. “It’s clear that we’ve been asking three people to do too much,” Commission Chair Maggie Hart Stebbins told Weekly Alibi.

The county has also entered
a partnership with the City of Albuquerque and St. Martin’s HOPE center mobile crisis teams that is set to start on November 1. This program will send a licensed mental health clinician out on non-violent law enforcement calls that involve someone having a behavioral health crisis in order to provide support for all parties and to help assure a non-violent ending to the call.

Out at the Lockup

One of the largest expenditures the county must shell out is related to running the regional jail out on the West Mesa. On the brick and mortar side, the county appropriated $2 million to improve energy efficiency at Metropolitan Detention Center. As you can imagine, housing 2,000 people is akin to managing a small town, and energy is a big ticket expenditure. On the human side, the county jail will soon begin a methadone induction treatment program for new inmates wanting to start medical opioid addiction treatment while in jail. The jail has offered methadone maintenance for more than 10 years, but this is the first time the county will make medication-assisted treatment available to inmates who aren’t already in a program. The county now has an in-house pharmacist who can dispense 14 days of free prescription medications to the inmates upon release. At risk former inmates can also take Naloxone, an overdose medication, with them upon release.

Open Spaces

Commissioners approved a new process for identifying and selecting target properties for the county’s open space program. Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins told
Weekly Alibi that the new "GreenPrint" process was created by the Trust for Public Lands and will help identify priorities for land acquisition using established criteria. Here is a link—click on the mapping portal to see how potential acquisitions are identified, based on community priorities—

Quick Hits

A shout-out was given to longtime, beloved activist
Jewell Hall who is leaving her 28 years as a member of the Martin Luther King Junior Multicultural Council. Hall has been a strong voice against local law enforcement’s use of force and excessive police shootings in the city and county. Sadly, in 2012, her son who struggled with mental illness, was shot and killed by officers with the Saginaw, Michigan police department.

christened a new memorial dedicated to public safety officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial is located at 8201 Osuna Road NE in the Arroyo Del Oso Park next to John Carrillo Memorial Fire Substation. Those being honored are fallen officers from Albuquerque, county, state, federal and other local public safety offices who have served or have lived in BernCo.

The Commission approved
the renaming of the North Valley Library after Rudolfo Anaya, local author from Santa Rosa and one of the founders of contemporary Chicano literature and the author of Bless Me Ultima and many other books, poetry and essays.

Send your comments about the County Commission to

To keep up, check the Bernalillo County Commission meetings list:

Meetings are held at the

Vincent E. Griego Chambers

Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center

1 Civic Plaza NW

View it on GOV-TV 16 or online at

Maggie Hart Stebbins

Carolyn Carlson

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