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.
The Albuquerque City Council killed a proposal Monday night that would have withheld raises and retention bonuses for the police department’s top brass if the city fails to comply with it settlement agreement on police reform. The proposal by Councilor Diane Gibson failed on a 6-3 vote, with opponents saying it could drive off APD’s senior commanders and that it would have been hard to implement. “What will we do if we lose the people who are a year into this process? They are working hard and they are doing a good job,” Councilor Trudy Jones said in opposing the measure. Councilor Ken Sanchez echoed that opinion, saying, “I’d hate to hold the upper command staff hostage.”
City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told councilors that bit would be difficult to actually measure compliance under the proposal.
A bill that would let cities and municipalities impose limited youth curfews failed in a Senate committee Tuesday evening. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the legislation on a 6-4 vote, with bipartisan votes on both sides of the issue. “This in no way mandates a statewide curfew,” House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, the sponsor of the legislation, said in describing the bill. Instead, it would only allow cities and municipalities to impose curfews that only were from midnight to 5:00 a.m. and even then had a number of exceptions. The Albuquerque Republican said that he was brought the idea by Albuquerque city councilor Ken Sanchez.
It’s only August, but a high-profile topic in the 2016 legislative session is already getting discussed. Legislators will consider a law to allow local municipalities to enforce a curfew on teenagers. Since 2016 is a short session, just 30 days, any non-budget topic must be approved by Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez made the announcement on Monday. The Albuquerque city council on Monday evening tabled a proposal to ask the state to allow the city add a teen curfew. Ken Sanchez, who sponsored the legislation, said Martinez pledge to put it on the call for hte session fulfilled what his legislation would have done. From the Albuquerque Journal: Martinez said Monday that she supports letting communities decide whether to impose curfews and plans to include a curfew measure to her call for the 30-day session that begins in January.
The Albuquerque city council narrowly rejected a measure that would have called on the city to weigh in on a controversial planned development on the city’s West Side. Councilor Isaac Benton carried the bill Monday night, two weeks after the council rejected his introduction of similar legislation that would have also given the city a say on the Santolina master plan. Benton said the city had a right to influence the master plan based on the city and county adopted Planned Communities Criteria and the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Comprehensive Plan. But councilors rejected the bill on a 4-3 vote, with two members abstaining because their employers own some land where Santolina is planned to be built.
During the debate on the legislation, Benton stressed that he wasn’t asking for anything drastic. “We’re not asking for signoff approval,” he said.
In a city council meeting on Monday night, some councilors addressed recent allegations that they violated the state Open Meetings Act. The discussion was initially regarding a stipulated order by Mayor Richard Berry to establish the office of and payment for an Independent Monitor. Dr. James Ginger, who currently holds the position, was tasked with overseeing reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department as ordered by the U.S Department of Justice following an investigation into the department. Last week the Albuquerque Journal reported that a group of councilors met with Ginger individually and may have violated the Open Meetings Act. City officials and councilors have denied that there were any violations.
A former general counsel and deputy chief of staff to Gov. Susana Martinez will be Albuquerque’s new city attorney. Jessica Hernandez, a 34-year-old attorney who’s been practicing law since 2002, comes to the city after just over four years at the governor’s office. Prior to then, she practiced law at Rodey Law in Albuquerque and clerked for US District Judge James O. Browning. Before unanimously confirming her for the position, Albuquerque city councilors questioned Hernandez about the independence of the city attorney from both the mayor and the city council. “As the governor’s attorney you obviously were advocating for the governor’s position in all matters,” City Councilor Isaac Benton said.