It was a busy night for the Albuquerque City Council Monday night as members met via Zoom. Here’s a look at what happened.
• The redistricting committee provided eight different maps with committee and resident ratings for the council to consider along with the amendment for changes to each district. Committee members emphasized the five top principles of redistricting: equal population, minority voting rights, contiguity, compactness, and communities of interest, as well as the deadline for map adoption by the end of 2022.
• An overall assessment of the Department of Justice ruling on July 26 observing improvements with Albuquerque Police Department operations. The report touched on use of force investigations to the use of progressive discipline within APD. DOJ training was completed in 2021, and everyone who spoke believes that APD can be fully in compliance with DOJ standards within the next two years. City administrators said this was a positive improvement since the DOJ oversight started eight years ago, and that the department is heading in the right direction. APD is still only 70% compliant so far and hopes to be fully there within the next two years.
• During public comment, Crystal Carmichael, a family member of Brett Rosenau, the 15-year-old who died in a house fire during a SWAT raid, mentioned his positive characteristics, adding that she shouldn’t have to because this tragic loss is one that could have been prevented.
• Council spoke to administration about the Albuquerque Community Safety department, and that so far the department has diverted around 3% of emergency phone calls from APD.
Housing and homelessness
• The public comment section also had members of the community housing project pleading with city council to declare a state of health emergency to stop rising rental rates with a freeze for residents being displaced by 60-100% rent increases and no laws in place to stop this from happening. Councilor Isaac Benton, District 2, said that City Attorney Lauren Keefe is looking into the legalities or what can or cannot be done about the housing crisis in Albuquerque. Keefe that it is only possible to put rental regulations and laws in place at the state level.
• Carla Sonntag, president of the New Mexico Business Coalition, addressed the expansion of homeless areas with the outdoor spaces proposal, saying there needs to be a solid plan of action. Her organization has gotten more than 12,000 emails about the open spaces proposal saying it lacked real solutions.
• Rosemary Blanchard of Wells Park neighborhood addressed her concerns about the Coronado Park closure and that the surrounding parks and neighborhoods will be greatly affected by this change.
• President Issac Benton asked for an update about the Coronado Park closure, and the administration responded that data suggested it was going to get worse for surrounding businesses and residents if the park was not closed. Administration also said that the city has done an intensive outreach the last few weeks with ACS and family services. They ensure they’re speaking with all park residents to make sure they know their options with shelters throughout the city, as well as opportunities for housing. Animal Welfare was also at the park with pet supplies for the half-dozen animals that were at Coronado Park. Councilor Dan Lewis, District 5, asked if the policies being used for Coronado Park can applied to other parts of the city and other city parks. The administration said yes and they hope to deal with other problem areas.
• Councilor Renee Grout, District 9, asked about the donations and funding used with the city donations signs at panhandling locations for housing solutions. The administration said there is $21,900 in the fund used toward homelessness and housing, with the average donation at $129.
• Councilor Dan Lewis also mentioned weed control as the monsoons have brought massive weed overgrowth in the medians and open areas of his district. It has become an issue with plants protruding into the streets and causing safety hazards. He wanted to know what the schedule is and how these areas can be prioritized. Administration explained its staff is at half of what it usually has to address the issue and hopes to get contractors to help with certain areas of the city. Lewis asked how the city council is able to help with the weeds and trash throughout the city, and said it’s a good idea to utilize contractors. With employees on mandatory overtime, it was the only way to relieve city workers while they get staffed and be able to get to the job done.