People in the Asian community in Albuquerque say they have seen a rise in discrimination since the outbreak of COVID-19. According to Torri A. Jacobus, managing assistant city attorney for the City of Albuquerque Legal Department Office of Civil Rights, there has not been an increase in reported discrimination against Asians or Asian Americans since the public health emergency response to COVID-19 began. But Kay Bounkeua, executive director of New Mexico Asian Family Center, said that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Jacobus said through a written statement that the department is aware of a couple of incidents, one that happened to a student at the University of New Mexico and one that happened to an Albuquerque small business owner. Members of the Asian and Asian-American community met with Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, other officials and law enforcement to discuss what happened earlier this week.
The student was the subject of a racist prank, according to KOB-TV.
An Albuquerque City Council committee voted Monday evening to defer for 90 days a resolution asking New Mexico’s congressional delegation to push for an investigation of a 2016 federal law enforcement operation that netted a highly disproportionate number of black people. Councilor Pat Davis*, who sponsored the measure, cast the lone vote to send it to the full City Council. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is used with permission. Voting to defer the resolution were councilors Don Harris — who made the motion to delay the vote — Ken Sanchez, Brad Winter and Klarissa Peña. That means the council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee will rehear the resolution after 90 days during which time city officials hope to gather more information.
A new Santolina backed political committee popped up an electronic billboard and sent out mailers on Albuquerque’s west side late last week to support the re-election bid of City Councilor Ken Sanchez. Energize Albuquerque filed a campaign report showing a $20,000 contribution from Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, the company seeking to create a massive master planned community in far west Bernalillo County that would be called Santolina. Over the past two weeks, another committee backed in part by Santolina developer Jeff Garrett, called Make Albuquerque Safe, blanketed the city with negative ads against mayoral candidate Tim Keller. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Both Energize Albuquerque and Make Albuquerque Safe are helmed by Denise Romero, Chairperson, and Donna Taylor, Treasurer.
Potential candidates for Albuquerque City Council who aim to run using public funds are up against their first deadline later today. To qualify for the public financing, the city requires candidates to collect a certain number of $5 contributions, depending on how many people are registered to vote in the district. So far, about 60 percent of city council candidates are seeking public financing. Only one mayoral candidate qualified for public financing. Coming into the final day to collect the qualifying donations, about half of the city council hopefuls attempting to qualify for public financing are on track.
The race for Albuquerque mayor became a major focus for a group of Democrats, one Republican and one independent over the weekend. On Saturday, a group of Democrats spoke about their respective visions of what the next mayor of Albuquerque should focus on, while Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis officially announced his intention to run for the city’s top office on Sunday afternoon. Lewis told supporters gathered at the business incubator Fat Pipe ABQ that he will focus on public safety, economic development and education. More specifically, Lewis said he wants the city to hire roughly 300 police officers under new leadership at the Albuquerque Police Department. As for paying for more police officers to bring the APD street officer total to 1,200 cops, Lewis suggested that the department could cut “duplications” in dispatch and instead focus on “one professional dispatch center.”
Lewis added that APD must “get ahead of the [federal Department of Justice] reforms” rather than being “dragged” into them by the federal government and the courts.
The Albuquerque City Council killed a proposal Monday night that would have withheld raises and retention bonuses for the police department’s top brass if the city fails to comply with it settlement agreement on police reform. The proposal by Councilor Diane Gibson failed on a 6-3 vote, with opponents saying it could drive off APD’s senior commanders and that it would have been hard to implement. “What will we do if we lose the people who are a year into this process? They are working hard and they are doing a good job,” Councilor Trudy Jones said in opposing the measure. Councilor Ken Sanchez echoed that opinion, saying, “I’d hate to hold the upper command staff hostage.”
City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told councilors that bit would be difficult to actually measure compliance under the proposal.
A bill that would let cities and municipalities impose limited youth curfews failed in a Senate committee Tuesday evening. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the legislation on a 6-4 vote, with bipartisan votes on both sides of the issue. “This in no way mandates a statewide curfew,” House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, the sponsor of the legislation, said in describing the bill. Instead, it would only allow cities and municipalities to impose curfews that only were from midnight to 5:00 a.m. and even then had a number of exceptions. The Albuquerque Republican said that he was brought the idea by Albuquerque city councilor Ken Sanchez.
It’s only August, but a high-profile topic in the 2016 legislative session is already getting discussed. Legislators will consider a law to allow local municipalities to enforce a curfew on teenagers. Since 2016 is a short session, just 30 days, any non-budget topic must be approved by Gov. Susana Martinez. Martinez made the announcement on Monday. The Albuquerque city council on Monday evening tabled a proposal to ask the state to allow the city add a teen curfew. Ken Sanchez, who sponsored the legislation, said Martinez pledge to put it on the call for hte session fulfilled what his legislation would have done. From the Albuquerque Journal:
Martinez said Monday that she supports letting communities decide whether to impose curfews and plans to include a curfew measure to her call for the 30-day session that begins in January.
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.
In a city council meeting on Monday night, some councilors addressed recent allegations that they violated the state Open Meetings Act. The discussion was initially regarding a stipulated order by Mayor Richard Berry to establish the office of and payment for an Independent Monitor. Dr. James Ginger, who currently holds the position, was tasked with overseeing reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department as ordered by the U.S Department of Justice following an investigation into the department. Last week the Albuquerque Journal reported that a group of councilors met with Ginger individually and may have violated the Open Meetings Act. City officials and councilors have denied that there were any violations.