By Carolyn Carlson
— What can $481 million buy? For starters, buses, roads, libraries, museums and jobs, about 6,500 jobs. Councilors approved the city’s 2013-2014 budget at their Monday, May 20 meeting. This year’s budget is up more than $5 million from last year’s pot. It covers the day-to-day operations of all aspects of city government and employes thousands who work for Albuquerque.
Partisan politics were apparent on a couple of 6-to-3 party-line votes with Republicans in the majority. One such vote axed an amendment that suggested taking some money from Mayor Richard Berry’s ABQ: The Plan and from the police department to put into the city’s fire and animal services.
In the end, councilors sorted out their differences, and Councilor Brad Winter was praised for putting together a workable budget. It was passed unanimously.
The budget includes a 1 percent raise for all city employees and requires no layoffs.
Democrat Councilor Rey Garduño and Republican Winter worked together to get a bill passed that gathers public input about revamping the Police Oversight Commission. The measure requires that three public meetings are held, and it forms an 11-member task force. The bill gives $50,000 to hire a consultant who will make recommendations to the Council by the end of the year.
The effort garnered support from local anti-police brutality activists—including the American Civil Liberties Union—who have been calling for changes in the troubled commission for years.
The oversight structure has been in place since the late ’90s. An appointed independent review officer investigates public complaints against police. The IRO evaluates the case and determines whether the officer’s actions were acceptable. The civilian Police Oversight Commission reviews that decision and accepts or rejects it, sending the matter on to the police chief who has the final say in any disciplinary measures.
Hiring the Police Chief
Democrat Ken Sanchez proposed putting a City Charter amendment in front of voters, who would decide whether to allow the Council to confirm police and fire chief hires. The measure failed 5-to-3 along party lines, with Republican Councilor Don Harris absent during the vote.
The councilors opposing the bill said this would make it hard to recruit good candidates and could politicize the positions. As things stand, the mayor can appoint whomever he would like to the positions without any other approvals.
Kudos to the 23 city residents who answered to the call of public service and were appointed by Berry to various city boards and commissions: Senior Affairs, Arts, Open Space, the Fire Code Appeals Board, Youth Council, Energy Council and the Municipal Golf Advisory Board, among a number of others. Volunteering for any of these advisory groups is a great way to get involved in helping build the city.
The next City Council meeting is set for Monday, June 3, at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. Watch it on GOV-TV Channel 16, stream it live or make a personal appearance and sign up for your two minutes of participation.