There’s an election tomorrow in New Mexico’s biggest city. Voters who did not vote early or absentee will head to the polls in what is expected to be a light-turnout election, although one that will decide the makeup of the city council and a tax to help fund improvements at Albuquerque’s BioPark. Also on the ballot are changes to the city charter and a number of bond questions to fund infrastructure, parks and more. Voters can cast their ballots at any voting location; it doesn’t have to be your local precinct. The University of New Mexico even has a map that tells you the length of waits at each location if you want to stop off at lunch or take off early from work to vote.
The city council in Albuquerque once again passed legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana along with another piece of legislation to make marijuana offenses the lowest priority for Albuquerque police. Both measures are destined for failure, however, as Mayor Richard Berry vowed to veto them again. The legislation passed 5-4, with Democrats voting for the measure and Republicans voting against. The city council is officially non-partisan, but votes frequently fall along party lines. It would take six votes to override a mayoral veto.
Two Albuquerque city councilors are trying again to decriminalize marijuana in the state’s largest city. City councilors Rey Garduño and Isaac Benton filed the legislation on Friday, according to a press release from the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico branch. DPA is a group that has supported decriminalizing marijuana possession. “Incarcerating people through this failed war on drugs for possessing a small amount of marijuana is creating criminals where none exist,” said Garduño, president of the Albuquerque city council. The proposal is actually two pieces of legislation.
As Albuquerque’s October city elections approach, campaign finance reports are trickling in. The latest period for campaign reports covers July 17-Aug. 13. Four city council seats are up for election, only two of which have more than one candidate. We’ll start with Pat Davis, who we’ll disclose here helps raise money for New Mexico Political Report through his role as Executive Director of ProgressNow New Mexico to keep our operations running but exerts no control over our editorial content.
ISAAC BENTON is the City Councilor for Albuquerque’s District 2 and KLARISSA PEÑA is the City Councilor for Albuquerque’s District 3. It’s no secret that the nature of work in our state and country has changed dramatically. The demands of our modern economy have resulted in longer hours, less job security and stagnating wages. But even though much about the way people work has changed, public policies haven’t kept pace. In Bernalillo County alone (where 82 percent of all residents live in Albuquerque), nearly one-third of hourly workers are employed in part-time jobs or jobs with variable hours. Many people working hourly jobs to provide for their families are not offered earned sick leave and have little predictability in their scheduling.
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.
An Albuquerque city councilor plans on making a second attempt at getting city government to weigh in on a controversial planned development currently awaiting approval from the Bernalillo County Commission. Earlier this month, a majority of city councilors, led by Trudy Jones, rejected Councilor Isaac Benton’s introduction of a measure that would have given the city authority to approve the Santolina master plan. Now, Benton said he’ll reintroduce the same bill at tonight’s city council meeting. “Over my objections, a majority of the City Council voted in an unprecedented move to remove the bill from the Letter of Introduction,” Benton wrote in a note to constituents last week. That move, according to both Benton and Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, actually wasn’t legal under city guidelines.
In the capital outlay bill passed in this week’s brief special legislative session, lawmakers included more than $2 million to work on a major road that would play a big role in proposed development of Albuquerque’s West Side. Specifically, lawmakers granted nearly $1.5 million for an “interchange row” between Paseo del Volcan and I-40 and another $600,000 for rights of way purchase for Paseo del Volcan. Currently, Paseo del Volcan covers just seven miles of Rio Rancho. Yet plans for the major roadway expansion, pictured right, show it stretching all the way down to I-40, going past landmarks of several controversial proposed developments, most notably the Santolina planned community. As New Mexico Political Report previously reported, many of the proponents behind the bypass expansion are also behind Santolina and other West Side developments.
In an unusual—though legal—parliamentary move, city councilors rejected the introduction of legislation seeking city input into the Santolina master plan. Councilor Isaac Benton announced late Friday afternoon that he planned to introduce the legislation. The introduction of legislation is generally a part of the agenda that goes by without much notice. But this time, councilor Trudy Jones moved to not allow the legislation to be introduced. After a heated exchange between council president Rey Garduño and councilor Dan Lewis over the composition of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, the council voted 6-3 to reject Benton’s bill.
Tonight, Albuquerque City Councilor Isaac Benton plans to introduce legislation to give the city a say on approving or rejecting the controversial Santolina master plan. Update: In a rare parliamentary maneuver, the city council rejected the introduction of Benton’s bill, meaning it will not be heard. This story continues as originally written. Benton told New Mexico Political Report that his goal is to simply “ask people to go on the record about whether or not they believe we should coordinate between city and county” on the planned community development that would take up 22 square miles on Albuquerque’s West Side and house up to 90,000 people. “I think the voters and city and county taxpayers in general would like to see the two governments work together on something of this magnitude,” Benton said.