Near the end of his announcement for mayor last weekend, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis took a shot at the city’s public school district, saying it needed “radical repair.”
“I believe now is the time to deconstruct this large unaccountable school district and replace it with smaller, more accountable school districts,” Lewis said at the business incubator ABQ Fat Pipe, which is located in the old Albuquerque High School building. “As your mayor, what I’ll do is lead the charge to fundamentally change education in our city.”
With more than 95,000 students in the school system, APS ranks as the 31st largest public school district in the nation—outsizing the public school systems in bigger cities like Detroit, San Francisco and Boston. Lewis is making the idea of breaking up the school district a part of his mayoral platform. To do so requires action from the state legislature. State Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, could be the lawmaker that takes on the issue this legislative session, which starts next week.
The race for Albuquerque mayor became a major focus for a group of Democrats, one Republican and one independent over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of Democrats spoke about their respective visions of what the next mayor of Albuquerque should focus on, while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis officially announced his intention to run for the city’s top office on Sunday afternoon. Lewis told supporters gathered at the business incubator Fat Pipe ABQ that he will focus on public safety, economic development and education. More specifically, Lewis said he wants the city to hire roughly 300 police officers under new leadership at the Albuquerque Police Department. As for paying for more police officers to bring the APD street officer total to 1,200 cops, Lewis suggested that the department could cut “duplications” in dispatch and instead focus on “one professional dispatch center.”
Lewis added that APD must “get ahead of the [federal Department of Justice] reforms” rather than being “dragged” into them by the federal government and the courts.
Kari Brandenburg, the outgoing Bernalillo County district attorney, said Monday a federal “criminal investigation is absolutely warranted” into allegations that Albuquerque Police Department employees have tampered with videos that show police shootings. Brandenburg said Monday in a telephone interview she is sending documentation detailing the allegations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office would not say Monday whether the agency planned to open an inquiry based on the district attorney’s referral. But spokeswoman Elizabeth Martinez wrote in an email “the Justice Department takes seriously all referrals from state and local prosecutorial authorities.”
Reynaldo Chavez, the police department’s former records supervisor, swore out an affidavit as part of an ongoing civil right rights lawsuit against APD in which he alleged that department employees had altered or deleted videos showing the events surrounding two controversial shootings by officers in 2014.
Supporters of a proposed Albuquerque sick leave initiative asked a district court judge Wednesday to reconsider his decision to require the full text of the proposal on election ballots next year. The city election is still a year away, but the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed the motion asking Bernalillo County District Judge Alan Malott to reconsider a previous decision that required the full text of the proposal appear on the ballot and instead allow the sick leave initiative to appear as a summary on the ballot next October during the municipal elections. Lawyers with the Center on Law and Poverty said the full text would likely not fit on a one-page ballot and could cause inaccurate ballot counts, rejected ballots or a complete absence of the initiative on next year’s ballot. They also disputed Malott’s interpretation of the city charter. “The best way to mitigate these risks is an order that the Charter permits a summary to appear on the 2017 municipal election ballot, and that the full text may be provided to voters in a separate document,” wrote the Center’s lawyers in the motion.
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.
A ballot initiative that would require most Albuquerque employers to provide paid sick leave for employees will head to the City Council after the City Clerk’s office approved more than enough petitions signatures this week. Albuquerque City Clerk Natalie Howard confirmed with NM Political Report on Thursday that Healthy Workforce ABQ, a group of community advocates turned in at least 14,477 valid petition signatures. Howard said the group turned in more than 18,000 signatures but her office will likely not have to verify any more. Such campaigns typically turn in an excess of signatures in case some are thrown out for being invalid. Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with the New Mexico Center for Law on Poverty, told NM Political Report that the signature confirmation is “definitely a success.”
“The next step is going to make sure the City Council and County Commission do the right thing,” Wagoner said.
Albuquerque police announced four arrests at the protests of the Donald Trump rally last night and said more are likely coming. The once-peaceful protests turned violent as the day turned to night and the family atmosphere turned more threatening. An Albuquerque Police Department spokeswoman said “Six officers suffered significant injuries after being pummeled with fist-sized rocks.” All six were treated on the scene, and suffered injuries “to their faces, noses, arms and legs.” No officers were transported to the hospital for these injuries. One Sergeant was treated for smoke inhalation, which police blame on fires lit by the protesters. APD announced one Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Deputy was injured, though it isn’t clear to what extent.
On a night where protests outside of a Donald Trump rally drew national attention, plenty also disrupted the Republican presidential candidate’s speech inside the Albuquerque Convention Center. It’s not as if the Trump campaign wasn’t expecting it. Before the likely GOP presidential nominee walked onto the stage, a voice on loudspeaker told the crowd how to treat potential protesters. “If a protester starts demonstrating, please do not touch or harm the protester,” the announcer said, prompting some scattered boos from the crowd. Trump previously said he’d like to punch one of the protestors at a rally in the face.
Top city officials said that the Department of Justice told them that APD could not look at other departments for model policies to reform the troubled department. The only problem with that serious allegation? It’s not true, at least not according to the U.S. Attorney. The Albuquerque Journal reported that U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez wrote in a letter to Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry and City Council President Dan Lewis that he was “perplexed” at the allegations, made by both APD’s Assistant Chief and the Albuquerque City Attorney. In fact, Martinez said he has encouraged city leadership and police to look at other departments over how they implemented reforms.
APD has to make reforms after a damning DOJ report that found a history and pattern of unconstitutional policing, which included fatal shootings by officers and other usages of excessive force.
The recent blow up in the Albuquerque City Council over comments made by Council President Rey Garduño came to a quick end on Monday night during a council meeting. Earlier this month, Councilor Dan Lewis criticized Garduño for disparaging remarks towards councilors who cast a dissenting vote on a proposed Indigenous People’s Day proclamation. Lewis issued a memo that called for the censure of Garduño, but within the first 20 minutes of Monday’s meeting, Lewis announced he was withdrawing his proposal, followed by applause from the audience. The withdrawal came just after Garduño issued a public apology to his councilors for previously calling them “cowards.”
“For that, I’m a sorry. I regret my choice of words,” Garduño said.