BernCo commission votes State Rep. Maestas to fill state senate vacancy

The Bernalillo County Commission voted to appoint New Mexico State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas to the state Senate seat recently vacated by Jacob Candelaria Tuesday night. Maestas was one of seven applicants for the seat. Other applicants included Julie Radoslovich, Steve Gallegos and Em Ward. “I want to thank every member of the public that came both in-person and on Zoom to participate in both tonight’s regular meeting and the appointment for Senate District 26,” Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa said. “We received hundreds of emails about this and public participation is a crucial part of a healthy democracy.”

Barboa said that the County received 66 emails supporting Radoslovich, who was principal at South Valley Academy, 46 emails supporting Maestas and 14 supporting Ward with a few other emails supporting the other contenders. 

The commission approved Maestas on a 3-to-2 vote with Barboa and Debbie O’Malley as the votes against.

Bernalillo County seeks applicants for vacant state senate seat

The Bernalillo County Commission is looking for applicants for the vacant District 26 New Mexico State Senate seat. The Bernalillo County Manager’s Office will accept applications through noon Nov. 10. The Commission is expected to discuss and possibly make a decision for who to appoint for the District 26 Senate seat at its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.

Bernalillo County Commission fight over when to fill state senate vacancy

Jacob Candelaria left an open seat when he resigned his position in the State Senate on Oct. 19. The district, 26, is completely within Bernalillo County, which means that the task of replacing Candelaria falls to the Bernalillo County Commission. During a discussion of upcoming meetings at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Bernalillo County Commission fell into heated discussion about the timing of naming a replacement for Candelaria. 

No decisions were made at the meeting. Initially, Bernalillo County Commission Chairwoman Adriann Barboa suggested Nov.

Bernalillo County passes ordinance banning outdoor cannabis consumption areas

The Bernalillo County Commission unanimously approved an ordinance on Tuesday that bans outdoor cannabis consumption areas in parts of the county not already governed by the City of Albuquerque. 

An earlier version of the proposal would have made a distinction between medical and recreational-use cannabis consumption areas as well as prohibited multiple cannabis production and manufacturing in one place. The commission ultimately amended the ordinance to eliminate the distinction between the two types of cannabis use and allow integrated cannabis businesses to perform multiple operations in one location, after securing a special-use permit. 

But even with the amendments, the ordinance would still prohibit outdoor cannabis consumption areas. 

Bernalillo County Zoning Administrator Nicholas Hamm told commissioners that the intention of the legislation was to “create an environment that’s separated from the public broadly, because this is still a controlled substance, and it has some intoxicating effects, so that adults can do that within a building and behind a carbon filter.”

None of the commissioners took issue with prohibiting an outdoor consumption area, but Erica Rowland, a medical cannabis patient advocate and cannabis business license hopeful, spoke out against the consumption area portion of the proposal. Rowland praised the commission for adding a special permit option for multiple cannabis uses, but said she was worried about the consequences of requiring businesses licensed as consumption areas to keep smoking inside. “I’m very concerned with outdoor consumption not being allowed,” Rowland said. “The indoor consumption-only language is very restrictive.

Bernalillo County commission chooses Bounkeua to fill vacant legislative seat

With a unanimous vote, the Bernalillo County Commission appointed the first Asian American woman to the New Mexico Legislature. 

Viengkeo Kay Bounkeua, who goes by Kay, was sworn into office Tuesday evening by Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover after commissioners voted 4-0 to appoint Bounkeua to fill the House District 19 seat. The House seat was left vacant after former Democratic Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton resigned amid embezzlement charges. 

Bounkeua is the New Mexico Deputy Director of The Wilderness Society, a national environment advocacy organization, and the former director of the New Mexico Asian Family Center. 

In a phone interview with NM Political Report just after her appointment, Bounkeua said she had a mix of emotions. 

“I feel a bit overwhelmed, I feel a bit scared, I feel so content and peaceful,” she said. “And also, I feel that I have the love and guidance of so many people who do this work and do it well, and of all the ancestors that carried us to this moment. I feel that power and I’m so grateful for it.”

Bounkeua was nominated by County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, who said she had seen Bounkeua’s qualifications first hand. 

“I’ve seen her be gentle enough to work with the care needed to serve people in domestic violence situations, and the strength and power to fight for the visibility and the rights of refugee and immigrant families,” Barboa said. 

Bounkeua’s parents were refugees of the Vietnam War and moved to Albuquerque’s International District in 1974. In her application to commissioners, Bounkeua wrote that her family experienced discrimination after her parents became naturalized citizens in 1986 and saved enough money to buy a house in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. 

“As we were planning for our future, the neighborhood was petitioning to ban us from buying a home, saying people who looked like us would drive down property values and bring in crime,” Bounkeua wrote. 

After the vote, Bounkeua told commissioners that her appointment is an “opportunity to kick open doors so we’ll never again be the only or the first.”

She told NM Political Report that she plans to carve out a path for others as well. 

“It’s not going to end with me,” Bounkeua said.”It’s about who we can bring with us, who will come after us, how we set the stage for the next generation of leaders who come through, that’s what this is all about.”

Bounkeua said her immediate legislative focuses will be redistricting and education reform. 

“I’m still focused, and will be focused, on redistricting.

State judge denies petition for medical cannabis use while on house arrest

A state district judge denied a petition asking the court to force Bernalillo County and its Metropolitan Detention Center to allow those on house arrest to use medical cannabis if they have a medical cannabis card.  

Second Judicial District Judge Erin O’Connell ruled from the bench during a telephone hearing on Tuesday. She said she denied the petition on the basis that it was out of her jurisdiction and that if she granted the petition it would conflict with the judges decision in a tangential criminal case. 

“The criminal court took the plea in this case and sentenced the petitioner and issued conditions of release based on that plea,” O’Connell said. “The court therefore has concern that granting relief would potentially result in conflicting orders with the criminal court. The criminal case O’Connell referred to was that of Joe Montaño. In 2019, Montaño was convicted of drunk driving and, due to a plea agreement, was sentenced to drug court and Bernalillo County’s Community Custody Program, also known as house arrest. 

Montaño previously spoke to NM Political Report about his past criminal convictions which ultimately resulted in him spending more than two decades in and out of prison. 

Montaño didn’t hide the fact from county CCP officers that he used medical cannabis and during a home visit they found cannabis and paraphernalia.

Two progressives vying for a BernCo Commission seat

As the dust settles from the Albuquerque municipal election and federal candidates gear up for the 2020 elections, two friends are preparing to run against each other for a spot on the Bernalillo County Commission. 

Adriann Barboa and Adrian Carver are progressive Democratic community activists and hope to replace County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, who will be termed out next year. With the primary election about six months away, the two have begun getting the word out about their campaigns. 

Barboa is a mother of two who identifies as a queer chicana and was raised in a pocket of District 3 near the Albuquerque airport that she said is often overlooked by politicians. She said too often politicians with the best of intentions just do not understand overlooked and marginalized people and communities. 

“When you haven’t had some of that lived experience you don’t get to see that nuance,” Barboa said. 

The nuance in Barboa’s childhood included a politically engaged father who was also a “very functioning” heroin addict and alcoholic. She said her late father was the primary financial provider for the family and it wasn’t until she was 12 that she finally realized that he struggled with addiction. That life experience, she said, helped her when she worked as a Youth Development Incorporated case worker and community organizer—she was instrumental in organizing a push for mandatory sick leave.   

“I truly believe our lived experience is policy expertise,” Barboa said. 

Earlier this year when former state Senator Cisco McSorley was tapped to lead the Probation and Parole Division of the state Corrections Department, Barboa was one of many who sought to replace McSorley.

BernCo Commission chooses Sedillo Lopez for vacant state Senate seat

Bernalillo County commissioners unanimously voted to appoint Antoinette Sedillo Lopez Monday morning to fill the vacancy left by former state Senator Cisco McSorley. A long-time professor at the University of New Mexico Law School, Sedillo Lopez ended a year-long campaign for Congress last summer. She was up against a long list of opponents in the 2018 Democratic primary election, but ultimately lost to U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland. Sedillo Lopez will have about 24 hours to prepare for the legislative session, which  

starts at noon on Tuesday. She said she is ready to serve and will drive to Santa Fe early Wednesday morning.

Pencils down, turn in your letters: BernCo to pick Senate replacement

Bernalillo County commissioners now have a list of 19 applicants to choose from to fill long-time legislator Cisco McSorley’s former Senate seat. The list included doctors, lawyers, political and community activists as well as two former congressional candidates from the 2018 election. The Albuquerque Democrat resigned earlier this week after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed him as director of the state’s Probation and Parole Division, under the state’s Department of Corrections. McSorley served in the state Legislature since 1984, first as a representative, then as a senator. Update:The Bernalillo County Commission appointed Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

BernCo Commission votes down Democracy Dollars ballot access

The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday against adding a public finance proposal to the November general election ballot. The proposal, known as Democracy Dollars, would provide vouchers to citizens, who could apply them to publicly-financed candidates of their choice. While the commission only voted on whether the measure would be on the November 2018 ballot for Albuquerque residents, commissioners mostly criticized  the merits of the proposal itself. Executive Director of Common Cause New Mexico Heather Ferguson called the 3-2 vote an “overstep” and “overreach” by commissioners. “What the commission decided to do tonight is to question the will of the voters who knew and understood the program they were signing,” Ferguson said.