The Bernalillo County Commission reiterated its commitment to being an immigrant-friendly community. On Tuesday night, commissioners voted 4-1 against a provision that would have rolled back that status. County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, a Republican who is running for Albuquerque mayor, introduced a proposal to bring the county in alignment with the federal government’s current policy on detaining people who are in the country illegally. “There is nothing in this resolution that directs or even implies that the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department should be enforcing federal immigration law,” Johnson said. “Everything in this resolution puts the burden on the Department of Homeland Security and on Immigration and Customs. It allows access to detainees, identified by the DHS, and it allows notification when those identified detainees will be released 48 hours prior and then it would allow, in the very specific condition, for us to hold someone for 48 hours if the Department of Homeland Security agrees to indemnify the county against liability.”
Johnson’s proposal would have rescinded a resolution passed by the commission earlier this year that declared the city immigrant-friendly.
After more than 45 minutes of sometimes-impassioned public comment in Albuquerque Tuesday night, the Bernalillo County Commission voted to reaffirm Bernalillo County’s status as an immigrant-friendly county. The commission voted 4-1 to approve the resolution. This echoes votes by the Albuquerque City and Santa Fe city councils in recent weeks. On the same night, the Village of Corrales rejected a similar resolution. In addition to declaring the county immigrant-friendly, the resolution also asked that “no county monies, resources or personnel shall be used to enforce federal civil immigration laws or to investigate, question, detect or apprehend person on basis of immigration status unless otherwise required by law to do so.”
Commissioner Stephen Michael Quezada sponsored the legislation.
Voters in Bernalillo County get to vote on a question regarding Albuquerque’s controversial rapid transit project—but the results will have little to no effect on the project itself. The ballot question asks voters if they are in favor of putting the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project to a vote in future elections. Even if the majority of voters in the county are in favor of voting on ART, the Albuquerque City Council would not be required to add the proposal to any future ballots. The actual question asks voters, “Are you in favor of giving voters residing in the City of Albuquerque municipal limits the chance to vote in support of or opposition to the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project?”
Even if the question receives a resounding ‘yes’ when results come in next week, there is nothing on the ballot that can stop the project from moving forward. The question’s sponsor County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said she wanted to send a message to Albuquerque Mayor Berry on behalf of business owners who still oppose the project.
One ballot Bernalillo County initiatives voters will weigh in on this election season may appear perplexing on the surface, but the idea is relatively simple. “It’s basically like a constitution for the county,” former Bernalillo County attorney Randy Autio said of the proposition to establish a home rule charter in the county. “It sets guidelines on what governance in the county would look like.”
The county is home to more than 674,000 people, including all of Albuquerque, and is currently subject to the same governance guidelines as all but one other county in New Mexico. One of those guidelines from state law, for example, only allows for a maximum of five elected officials to represent the county. But state law also allows communities to establish “home rule,” which Autio said would give county voters “the greatest ability to govern themselves.” If voters approve this for Bernalillo County next week, they could in the future push to amend the charter to change the number of county commissioners, who currently represent more than 100,000 people per district on average.
The Bernalillo County Commission passed a resolution supporting the federal government’s push to create stricter rules on methane leaks and emissions. The proposal passed on a 3-1 vote Tuesday night, with all three Democrats on the commission voting for it and Commissioner Wayne Johnson voting against. Commissioner Lonnie Talbert was not present for the vote. The resolution shows the support of the Bernalillo County Commission for proposed rules from the Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency on methane emissions and leaks from oil and gas drilling. Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins sponsored the resolution and said the proposed federal rules would have a positive impact on health for residents of Bernalillo County, plus help slow down the effects of climate change.
The battle over restricting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is headed to Bernalillo County. It’s in the form of a proposed resolution by Democratic County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, with the support of groups such as New Mexico Voices for Children and Hispanics Enjoy Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO). The resolution is expected to be heard during Tuesday evening’s meeting. While acknowledging that “energy development is critically important to the economy of both Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico,” the resolution calls for the Bernalillo County Commission to support stronger rules from the federal government on methane flaring and leakage and to charge royalties on “wasted, vented or flared methane gas” released into the atmosphere. “It really seems to us to make no sense to allow these oil companies to basically waste a resource that should belong to the public, that the production of which should benefit the public,” NM Voices for Children Executive Director James Jimenez said in a short interview.
The Bernalillo County Commission’s Thursday decision to vote down two ballot initiatives was seemingly based less on space and more on ownership. A majority of the commission spoke against adding two Albuquerque ballot initiatives, citing ballot space and saying the proposals should be on Albuquerque municipal ballots instead of county-managed ballots. Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he wasn’t comfortable with carrying city proposals on the county-managed ballot without an explicit process. “Until we have a process that is clear, it’s far smarter for us to just not place either items on the ballot,” Johnson said. At issue were two initiatives city councilors wanted to go before Albuquerque voters.
The Bernalillo County Commission voted down two city initiatives on Thursday afternoon that would have appeared on Albuquerque ballots in the upcoming general election. Commissioners cited lengthy wording and ballot space as reasons to not include two questions previously approved for the ballot by the Albuquerque City Council. See the full story on why the county commission rejected the proposals here. Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz criticized the city council for not sending enough instructions to the county on how the questions would read on the ballot. “This is a city matter first and foremost,” De La Cruz, a Democrat, said.
Because of a disagreement between the Albuquerque City Council and Bernalillo County Commission, it’s not clear which ballot initiative voters will get to vote on—or if either will even be on the ballot. During a Bernalillo County Commission meeting last week, commissioners did not discuss either of two recent ballot initiatives sent to them by the Albuquerque City Council. In fact, neither even appeared on the agenda. One initiative, prompted by a successful petition drive, would require some employers to provide sick leave to employees. The other would increase public campaign finance dollars to Albuquerque mayoral candidates.
State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort resigned, opening up a seat for the governor to appoint—for the next three months at least. The Republican from Sandia Park is not running for reelection, so anyone who is appointed would only serve through the start of the year. The Mountain View Telegraph reported the news that the Bernalillo County Commission is accepting applications from those who want to be considered by Gov. Susana Martinez for the appointment. The paper reported Wilson Beffort tendered her resignation July 29. Republican former state representative James P. White will face Sandia Park Democrat Harold W. Murphree in November’s election in the Republican-leaning district.