VP Harris visits NM to talk reproductive rights

Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.

“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”

 Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.

Keller wins reelection; stadium bond fails

A record number of voters cast ballots in Albuquerque, and chose to reelect Tim Keller as mayor for a second term. Keller won in a three-way race with over 55 percent of the vote with 71 or 72 vote centers reporting. 

Keller easily outdistanced both of his opponents, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and conservative radio host Eddy Aragon. 

If no candidate had reached 50 percent, there would have been a runoff election between the top two candidates. Keller said in his victory speech that the results showed voters cared about “leadership in tough times.”

“There is no doubt, these are some of the toughest times Albuquerque has been through,” Keller said. “Four years ago, you trusted me to move our city in the right direction, and now, I’m asking you to trust me to see that vision through. We may not always agree, but today we affirmed our mutual commitment that I will push us forward and lift up our city for future generations.”

Keller received 55.82 percent of the vote with 72 of 72 vote centers reporting, while Gonzales received 25.56 percent and Aragon received 18.38 percent.

Voters head to the polls for local elections

Voters throughout the state will go to the polls on Tuesday in local elections. The two biggest elections, in terms of voters, are those in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Both elections will feature incumbent mayors seeking a second term. In Albuquerque, incumbent Mayor Tim Keller faces two opponents, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and conservative radio host Eddy Aragon. The two public polls in the race show Keller with large leads in the three way race.

Democrat Manny Gonzales wants to be mayor. Republicans run his campaign.

Eight years ago, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, cruised to re-election with almost 70% of the vote. Yet this year, with just three weeks left for a candidate to produce the 3,000 petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot, it seems likely there won’t be a registered Republican running for the job for the first time since 1974, when the city established its current system of government. But that doesn’t mean prominent Republicans don’t have a candidate to promote. Jay McCleskey—a formidable GOP strategist—is working for Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a Democrat aiming to unseat Mayor Tim Keller. 

McCleskey shepherded both campaigns of former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and served as her chief strategist. He won the Albuquerque mayoral seat for Berry, twice.

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.

Albuquerque Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force recommends ways to better address domestic violence

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force recommended that the city develop a permanent line-item in the city budget to address domestic violence, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. According to the report, which the Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force provided to Keller this week, domestic violence programs in the city are underfunded. In addition, Albuquerque and New Mexico both have “some of the highest percentages of domestic violence in the country.”

“The best way to address these issues is to allocate more resources both in the area of training and in the area of financial support for survivors and victims,” the report states. Christopher Ortiz, public information officer for the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, provided the report to NM Political Report and said via email that Keller’s budget proposal for this year “fully funds domestic violence shelters and services and sexual assault services.”

He also said it’s up the city council to pass the final budget. The task force also recommended the city hire a full-time employee to serve as a domestic violence coordinator to advocate for and be the point person for community organizations, city employees and the community.

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.

Albuquerque could issue curfew if virus spread continues to increase

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew like the one now in effect in El Paso could be on the horizon for Albuquerque if the city doesn’t get the coronavirus spread under control. Keller and Dr. Mark DiMenna, a deputy director for the city’s Environmental Health Department, spoke Wednesday during a live teleconference about the increasing rate of virus transmission and actions the city is taking to try to reduce the spread and help local businesses survive. “What we’re seeing in El Paso is what Albuquerque could look like in the next few weeks or months if we don’t get it under control,” Keller said. “Curfews could be on the horizon.”

DiMenna said Albuquerque is seeing new cases “increasing at a faster and faster rate.”

Last week the city had a 4.7 percent positivity rate. This week the city’s positivity rate went up to 8.7 percent, he said.

City of Albuquerque shelter reports 17 cases of COVID-19

The West Side Emergency Housing Center reported 17 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The individuals who tested positive for the disease are in isolation and receiving medical care for their symptoms, according to the City of Albuquerque, which issued a news release late Thursday afternoon. The shelter houses about 400 individuals each night, according to the release, but it can house up to 450 people. Until 2019 the shelter only housed people during the winter months, but Mayor Tim Keller converted it into a year-round facility. Though it remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for families during the public health emergency, the shelter is not currently accepting new residents and transportation to the facility has been suspended, according to the release.

Reactions from New Mexico officials to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.