ABQ city council rejects most of mayor’s cannabis zoning proposals

The Albuquerque City Council made zoning restrictions and allowances for recreational-use cannabis official Thursday night after a six hour meeting to approve the city’s updated Integrated Development Ordinance. 

For weeks, both those in the medical cannabis industry and those hoping to be a part of the recreational-use cannabis industry have raised their concerns about zoning proposals related to cannabis, namely those that came from Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office. But the council rejected all but one proposal from Keller’s administration. 

Most of the concern from the cannabis industry was that the city would effectively zone out new cannabis retailers, manufacturers and retailers. 

Keller’s office originally proposed barring cannabis retail stores from areas that are considered to be a Main Street Corridor, or sections of the city designed to be walkable with local businesses. Examples of Main Street Corridors in Albuquerque are Nob Hill, downtown and the Barelas neighborhood, just south of downtown. 

Keller’s proposal would have prohibited cannabis retail shops “abtutting” those areas, in addition to prohibiting them from being within 300 feet of areas zoned as residential. All but one councilor voted against the measure. Councilor Trudy Jones, who sponsored the proposal, said she ultimately decided to vote against the proposal after talking to local businesses along Central in the Nob Hill neighborhood. 

“They would welcome having cannabis within our requirements, our laws and our regulations on Central, because they are dying,” Jones said.

City of Albuquerque tries to decertify a class action lawsuit for gender pay equity

The City of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit that alleges gender pay discrimination. About 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 to create a class action lawsuit to seek redress for alleged gender pay discrimination. The original four plaintiffs filed their suit in 2018. Related: ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexandra Freedman Smith, said the pay inequity is so significant, that in some cases, the plaintiffs are alleging there is as much as a $7 an hour difference between what men are paid and what women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women are owed around $100,000 because of the pay differential.

Details of APD’s plan for Oñate statue protest still fuzzy

It’s been nearly two months since Albuquerque police arrested Steven Baca and charged him with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after a protest in Albuquerque. The protest began with a group of activists who called for the removal of a statue of 16th century conquistador Juan de Oñate, who is infamous for his brutal treatment of Indigenous people in what is now New Mexico. Baca, who was seemingly at the event as a counterprotestor, at one point got into a physical altercation with a number of protesters. Accounts of what happened on the evening of June 15 vary. Some videos shared on social media appear to show Baca grabbing and throwing protesters to the ground.

ABQ mayor asks city to work together to slow spread of COVID-19

Tuesday morning, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller asked city residents to work together, both in spirit and financially, to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

Keller said since Albuquerque is the “urban core” of New Mexico, emergency orders and restrictions may diverge from what the state puts in place. 

“We might have to do things longer than the rest of the state or we might have to do things more intensely,” Keller said. “But right now we are in step with the state.”

Following the state’s public health emergency orders and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s most recent “stay at home” instruction means much of Albuquerque is shut down, Keller said. 

Keller encouraged residents who can, to consider donating money to the city’s effort to house those who experience homelessness through hotel vouchers and to help purchase basic necessities for vulnerable residents. Keller also stressed the importance of people staying home when possible due to Albuquerque being the metropolitan center of the state. 

“We’re where all the hospitals are, we’re where the highest density is,” Keller said. “That makes us by far and away, the highest risk for anywhere in New Mexico.”

Keller said all golf courses in the city will be closed, along with many community centers — with the exception of those that are providing childcare or meals. City buildings are closed to the public and administrative hearings will be cancelled or held through video conferencing. 

By this weekend, Keller said, regular weekday city bus service hours will be drastically reduced to what would normally be a Saturday schedule.

ABQ declares public health emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller declared a public health emergency Wednesday for the city amid growing numbers of COVID-19, a disease from the coronavirus. 

“We are continuing to take action to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help the most vulnerable folks in our community,” Keller said in a statement. “Like many mayors across the nation, declaring this public health emergency declaration gives us the tools to allocate resources to immediate needs and tap into additional funds for recovery and response.”

While the city’s ordinance already allowed mayors to declare a state of emergency, it was only Monday that the city council approved a public health emergency provision. 

Under that new provision, the mayor of Albuquerque can use the emergency declaration to get financial assistance from the state or federal governments, mandate purchasing limits on certain products, close streets and ban certain gatherings. But a press release from Keller’s office said he would only be using the declaration for emergency funds and not for other public restrictions. 

Keller’s office emphasized that there will be no mandated curfews, street closures or bans on selling firearms or alcohol. 

But the mayor’s office did encourage voluntary “social distancing” or limiting in-person interactions, including working from home if possible. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, along with the state’s Department of Health and Keller’s office, continue to encourage those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, aches and trouble breathing — to call the Department of Health at 855-600-3453. 

Updates on what city services are available can be found here. 

Guv issues directive aimed at limiting face-to-face contact by state agencies

State museums, state parks and other facilities will be closed beginning Monday as part of the governor’s Sunday directive to agencies to minimize face-to-face contact. The governor announced the directive in a release Sunday afternoon, which excludes those deemed essential to public health and safety. The governor’s directive says that state museums, state historic sites, state parks and cultural institutions will be closed to the public effective Monday morning. The Rail Runner, which runs between Belen and Santa Fe, will be closed during the state public health emergency, which Lujan Grisham declared last Wednesday. “We continue to adapt as the situation changes, choosing needed, measured responses to stay a step ahead of the virus,” Lujan Grisham said.

Albuquerque working on strategy to protect homeless from coronavirus

The City of Albuquerque is still working out the kinks in its plan to protect some of the most vulnerable of its populace – its homeless – during the coronavirus pandemic. Albuquerque manages an emergency shelter, commonly called the West Side. It can house up to 450 people a night. Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, officials have recommended washing hands regularly, staying at home and social distancing when engaging with others to prevent the spread of the disease. But people who are homeless might not be able to adapt as easily, according to advocates.

Guv gives state employees paid family leave, some hope to take it further

Some hope Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new executive order giving state employees 12 weeks off to care for a new child is a harbinger for the passage of a bill that would bring that benefit – and more – to all New Mexico employees. Lujan Grisham made her announcement earlier this week. Starting with the first day of 2020, all state employees are now eligible to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, whether a birth or an adoption. Leave must be taken within the first six months following the child’s arrival. If both parents work for the state, both parents are eligible for the leave.

NM United tells legislators about need for their own stadium

New Mexico’s professional soccer team received a warm reception from the Legislature Thursday as the team told legislators about the need for their own stadium. The discussion was light on specifics, since it is so early in the process, but signs pointed toward a publicly-owned facility managed by New Mexico United, a similar arrangement in place between the city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Isotopes. New Mexico United President and CEO Pete Trevisani was joined by McCullers Sports Group LLC president Mark McCullers and City of Albuquerque Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael to speak to the Economic and Rural Development Committee about the potential for a stadium. Rael was involved in the move to build Isotopes Park after the Albuquerque Dukes, the minor league baseball team that played in Albuquerque for decades, left the city. They cautioned that this was in the very early stages and said they didn’t have any specifics to study, but told legislators about the potential impact that a stadium would have on Albuquerque.

City pays $375K to kids whose father was killed by APD officer

The children of a man shot and killed by an Albuquerque police officer will receive $375,000 in a legal settlement from the city, four years after they first sued the city of Albuquerque. On Tuesday morning, state court judge Denise Barela-Shepherd approved the settlement agreement between city attorneys and lawyers for the three children of Mickey Owings. Alicia Manzano, a spokeswoman for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, said her office had not recieved the official order from Barela-Shepherd. “The city is awaiting the court order that approves the settlement and dismisses the case,” Manzano wrote in a statement to NM Political Report. In a prior statement, Manzano noted this was one of the last few pending cases carried over from the previous administration.