Gas tax increase posed as a solution to failing roads

Moderately low gas prices and an increasingly dire budget situation in the state has lawmakers eyeing new sources for revenue. Gov. Susana Martinez has adamantly opposed any new or increased taxes, but some lawmakers are looking to grab several more cents from drivers at the gas pump. At least two state senators and one Albuquerque city councilor have introduced legislation to increase gas taxes to help pay for road repairs and infrastructure. The move appears to be a trend in several other states. New Mexico state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is considered one of the most fiscally conservative Democrats in Santa Fe.

ABQ City Council

City Council had the chance to address early candidacy problems

An issue with the Albuquerque city charter that allowed a mayoral candidate to run for office without making it official could have been addressed months ago. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta announced earlier this year she would run for mayor in 2017, but there was no way to file as an official candidate. Her campaign started fundraising about a year before the city filing process starts. During a city council meeting earlier this year, on May 2, Councilor Don Harris called to withdraw two bills he previously sponsored. One of the proposals included new language in the city charter that would update the definition of a candidate.

City, county disconnect could mean two initiatives don’t make ballot

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.

Union giving APD officers money after shootings

A practice of a police union giving payment reimbursements of up to $500 to Albuquerque police officers after shootings from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) continues. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday on how one officer, Jeremy Dear, went to Hooters and a Chinese massage parlor two days after he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes. Part of that report, unrelated to Dear’s actions, says “police union officials confirmed officers are still reimbursed up to $500 by the union to use for vacations and other ways to decompress after being involved in a shooting.”

It’s a practice that first surfaced publicly in 2012 when news broke that the union had given out payments to 23 officers involved in shootings. The revelation led to an outcry from critics over the appearance of awarding cops for shooting people in a department where a culture of “excessive use of force” eventually landed a court-ordered consent decree from the federal Department of Justice demanding a reform process. The city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department are still working on the implementation of the reforms.

At the time, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and then-APD Chief Ray Schultz called for the practice to stop.

Tempers flare during latest ART meeting

Tempers boiled over at the most recent meeting to discuss a bus rapid transit system slated to travel down Central. City Councilor Isaac Benton moderated the latest meeting of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system, or ART, and clashed with some outspoken opponents of the proposal. Video was posted online by ABQ Free Press and as part of a news story by KOB-TV. Both are embedded below. The videos focus on one man, in a blue polo shirt and jeans, heckling Benton and then confronting him.

A day later, city council winners, losers reflect on results

As the dust settles after the Albuquerque city election on Tuesday night, city council candidates are weighing in on the results. After an extremely low turnout, one candidate is ready for his new position as a councilor and another is ready to continue his tenure. The other candidates said they are ready to work with their former opponents on the issues they respectively see as important. In District 6, Pat Davis* defeated Hess “Hessito” Yntema and Sam Kerwin for the seat recently vacated by Rey Garduno. District 4 saw long time councilor Brad Winter win reelection despite the efforts of newcomer Israel Chavez.

Councilors urge override of marijuana decriminalization veto

Two city councilors in Albuquerque who are pushing for less stringent punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana want their fellow city councilors to override the mayor’s vetoes. City Council President Rey Garduño and councilor Isaac Benton rebutted Mayor Richard Berry’s statements about the veto of decriminalization of marijuana. The other measure would have directed Albuquerque police to make marijuana possession a low priority. The two said that the city should not wait for the state Legislature in Santa Fe or Congress in Washington D.C. to make changes to marijuana policy in the city and noted that other cities around the country have already done so. Santa Fe is the only city in New Mexico that has decriminalized marijuana.

ABQ voters to decide city council makeup, BioPark funding

There’s an election tomorrow in New Mexico’s biggest city. Voters who did not vote early or absentee will head to the polls in what is expected to be a light-turnout election, although one that will decide the makeup of the city council and a tax to help fund improvements at Albuquerque’s BioPark. Also on the ballot are changes to the city charter and a number of bond questions to fund infrastructure, parks and more. Voters can cast their ballots at any voting location; it doesn’t have to be your local precinct. The University of New Mexico even has a map that tells you the length of waits at each location if you want to stop off at lunch or take off early from work to vote.

ABQ city council passes marijuana decriminalization

The city council in Albuquerque once again passed legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana along with another piece of legislation to make marijuana offenses the lowest priority for Albuquerque police. Both measures are destined for failure, however, as Mayor Richard Berry vowed to veto them again. The legislation passed 5-4, with Democrats voting for the measure and Republicans voting against. The city council is officially non-partisan, but votes frequently fall along party lines. It would take six votes to override a mayoral veto.

Another marijuana decriminalization push in ABQ

Two Albuquerque city councilors are trying again to decriminalize marijuana in the state’s largest city. City councilors Rey Garduño and Isaac Benton filed the legislation on Friday, according to a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico branch. DPA is a group that has supported decriminalizing marijuana possession. “Incarcerating people through this failed war on drugs for possessing a small amount of marijuana is creating criminals where none exist,” said Garduño, president of the Albuquerque city council. The proposal is actually two pieces of legislation.