The Albuquerque City Council voted Monday night 6-3 to approve a measure that would allow the city’s mayor to declare a public health emergency and receive federal and state funds. The measure would also give authority to the mayor to limit large gatherings and limit the amount of supplies consumers purchase during a public health crisis.
The sponsor of the proposal, Council President Pat Davis, said he began working on the measure last month to update the city’s emergency provision law that has remained mostly the same since the late 1960s.
“It was clear that we needed an update,” Davis said.
During his opening statement on the legislation, Davis said the city law that allows a mayor to declare a state of emergency was developed during a time of war protests that often led to violence and riots.
But the measure was met by heavy scrutiny by Councilor Brook Bassan, who offered 10 amendments that she said were aimed at being less restrictive to citizens. Only three passed. Bassan referenced a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin regarding giving up rights in the name of safety and raised concerns that the proposal might go too far.
“We are considering surrendering our freedoms,” Bassan said. The overarching theme from Bassan was that even if social distancing and limiting large gatherings is needed to stop the spread of a disease, it doesn’t need to be dictated by city leaders.
“Even though we need to have these measures in place, even though we need to be able to be capable of enacting these laws to protect our society, guess what?