The battle over restricting methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is headed to Bernalillo County. It’s in the form of a proposed resolution by Democratic County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, with the support of groups such as New Mexico Voices for Children and Hispanics Enjoy Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO). The resolution is expected to be heard during Tuesday evening’s meeting. While acknowledging that “energy development is critically important to the economy of both Bernalillo County and the State of New Mexico,” the resolution calls for the Bernalillo County Commission to support stronger rules from the federal government on methane flaring and leakage and to charge royalties on “wasted, vented or flared methane gas” released into the atmosphere. “It really seems to us to make no sense to allow these oil companies to basically waste a resource that should belong to the public, that the production of which should benefit the public,” NM Voices for Children Executive Director James Jimenez said in a short interview.
The Bernalillo County Commission’s Thursday decision to vote down two ballot initiatives was seemingly based less on space and more on ownership. A majority of the commission spoke against adding two Albuquerque ballot initiatives, citing ballot space and saying the proposals should be on Albuquerque municipal ballots instead of county-managed ballots. Commissioner Wayne Johnson said he wasn’t comfortable with carrying city proposals on the county-managed ballot without an explicit process. “Until we have a process that is clear, it’s far smarter for us to just not place either items on the ballot,” Johnson said. At issue were two initiatives city councilors wanted to go before Albuquerque voters.
The Bernalillo County Commission voted down two city initiatives on Thursday afternoon that would have appeared on Albuquerque ballots in the upcoming general election. Commissioners cited lengthy wording and ballot space as reasons to not include two questions previously approved for the ballot by the Albuquerque City Council. See the full story on why the county commission rejected the proposals here. Commission Chairman Art De La Cruz criticized the city council for not sending enough instructions to the county on how the questions would read on the ballot. “This is a city matter first and foremost,” De La Cruz, a Democrat, said.
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.
State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort resigned, opening up a seat for the governor to appoint—for the next three months at least. The Republican from Sandia Park is not running for reelection, so anyone who is appointed would only serve through the start of the year. The Mountain View Telegraph reported the news that the Bernalillo County Commission is accepting applications from those who want to be considered by Gov. Susana Martinez for the appointment. The paper reported Wilson Beffort tendered her resignation July 29. Republican former state representative James P. White will face Sandia Park Democrat Harold W. Murphree in November’s election in the Republican-leaning district.
Monday evening, the Albuquerque City Council sent a sick leave ballot initiative to Bernalillo County officials with a request that it go to voters in November. If enacted, the initiative, spearheaded by the Healthy Workforce ABQ coalition, would require businesses with 40 or fewer employees to provide workers with 40 hours of paid sick leave each year. Businesses with more than 40 employees would be required to provide workers 56 hours of paid sick leave each year. City Councilor Trudy Jones took a moment to remind members of the public that the Council had no authority to completely strike down the bill. “We cannot vote against this and defeat it,” Jones said.
The developer of the controversial Santolina development in western Bernalillo County poured nearly $36,500 in June in successful efforts to defeat vocal opponent Adrian Pedroza in the District 2 commission race. New Mexicans for New Mexico, a political action committee, raised nearly $64,500 from April through the end of June. More than half of that came in the days leading up to the June 7 primary from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings LLC, the Arizona-based developer of Santolina, according to afinal report filed Thursday. Breaking Bad actor and Albuquerque Public Schools board member Steven Michael Quezadawon the three-way Democratic primary on June 7. New Mexicans for New Mexico bought billboards, hired canvassers, sent mailers and used robocalls to support Quezada and Robert Chavez as well as criticize Adrian Pedroza, who opposes the development.
It’s just one sentence – 19 words – but its disappearance from a proposed 100-year plan to manage the Albuquerque Metro area’s water supply has critics saying its omission could dramatically draw down the aquifer in future years. The critics also charge it’s part of a plan by water insiders and consultants to flip Bernalillo County’s water strategy without any real public input and that it will work to the benefit of the proposed Santolina master-planned community on Albuquerque’s far West Side. This piece originally appeared in ABQ Free Press. The change is to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Water Resources Management Strategy, which was last updated in 2007. The current version of the strategy’s Policy B says, “The Authority shall limit the use of ground water except to meet peak demands or during times of drought.”
But that sentence is missing from the water authority’s proposed revised strategy, which could be approved by the utility’s board of directors later this summer.
A hard-fought, close three-way race that will determine the ideological balance of the Bernalillo County Commission ended with a winner late Tuesday—Steven Michael Quezada. Quezada, a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and an actor best known for his supporting role in “Breaking Bad,” now goes into the fall general election race a clear favorite over Republican Patricia Paiz. Quezada said he isn’t ruling Paiz’s challenge out, despite his district’s Democratic leanings. “We still got to move forward,” he said. “We still got to fight.”
Quezada narrowly edged out opponents Adrián Pedroza and Robert Chavez by winning just over 35 percent of the vote for the district, which covers Albuquerque’s South Valley and Southwest Mesa.
A new political action committee of unknown origins inserted itself into a hotly-contested Bernalillo County Commission race with a decidedly nasty mailer the day before the primary election. The mailer, from a PAC called “Committee for the Truth District #2,” aggressively attacks candidates Adrián Pedroza and Steven Michael Quezada while ending with the phrase, “MAY THE LORD GUIDE YOUR VOTE!!!”
Pedroza and Quezada are vying, along with Robert Chavez, in this week’s primary for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat currently held by Art De La Cruz, who is term-limited and cannot run again. It’s unclear who is behind “Committee for the Truth District #2.” The mailer lists John Davis as treasurer. NM Political Report is choosing to not run pictures of the mailer because of at least two demonstrably false claims written on it, which we will not publish here. When NM Political Report called the phone number that the PAC left with the business that printed the mailer, a person on the other line said, “Wrong number,” and quickly hung up.