By Carolyn Carlson
—2012 was a busy year for Albuquerque’s City Council. The meetings were packed with dozens of people showing up week after week to comment on a number of issues, most prominently police shootings. Though the Council is theoretically nonpartisan, politics stifled the four left-leaning councilors, as the five conservatives consistently voted in a block. The New Mexico Compass reviews the Council’s highlight reel:
Redistricting—On a standard 5-4 vote, the Council passed a controversial 10-year redistricting plan that gave the Westside another representative, while merging the Downtown and North Valley districts. The move put nearly all of the federally designated “pockets of poverty” into one district.
Public Outcry—City Councilors came under fire from scores of residents who stood before them pleading for an end to police misconduct. Folks were eager to talk about other problems, too. In April, 77 people signed up to speak about the Albuquerque Police Department and a change in the city’s public access TV operators. More than 100 signed up in May to comment on those issues, as well as the Smith’s gas station on Carlisle and Constitution.
The Man With the Plan—A $475 million budget was passed that included $3 million to pay back Paseo bonds and $2.9 million set aside for Mayor Richard Berry’s ABQ: The Plan projects. City workers making less than $50,000 got a 1 percent raise, while those making more got zip.
Police Watchdog—Councilors approved the appointment of Robin Hammer, an assistant district attorney, to replace retiring Independent Review Officer William Deaton. Hammer’s previous career included investigating judges for the Judicial Standards Commission.
DADT, Citizens United—Councilor Rey Garduño offered a memorial honoring lesbian and gay military members on the one-year anniversary of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s repeal. The measure was shot down by the Council. He also proposed the Council pass a resolution that would tell Congress to overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling, but that was killed, too.
Fees for Suburban Builders—Westside impact fees implemented during the housing boom of the 1990s and early 2000s were eliminated by the Council. A standard citywide impact fee schedule was adopted instead in an effort to jump start the city’s construction machine.
Zoo Boo—The Council compromised on raising zoo prices to $9 for adults after Mayor Berry raised them to $10 on his own. Zoo supporters came out in masse to speak in favor the rate hike, which they said would generate much-needed revenue to keep up with maintenance and upgrades.
Birdland—The Southwestern willow flycatcher, an endangered bird species, was given its own 10-acre spot in the willows of our Bosque near the La Orilla Outfall. This habitat comes thanks to a joint agreement between with Bernalillo County and the Water Utility Authority.
O’Malley Departs—Councilor Debbie O’Malley resigned from the Council after she won a spot on the Bernalillo County Commission in the November election. Before she left the Council, her North Valley district was enlarged by redistricting to swallow Councilor Isaac Benton’s Downtown district.
Party Split—Councilors voted along party lines more times than I cared to count. It became tiring, and 2013 looks like it could be more of the same with a 6-3 split. Newly appointed Councilor Republican Roxanna Meyers is a Republican and will be taking Democrat O’Malley’s place.