May 22—After weeks of public hearings and 13 last-minute amendments, the Albuquerque City Council seemed to have concluded its annual budget process shortly before 8 p.m. Monday night.
The council had voted 8-1 — with only Councilor Dan Lewis objecting — to approve about $857 million in general fund spending for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The legislative body then adjourned for a short intermission.
But Lewis returned from the meeting's dinner break hungry for a redo. The West Side councilor did not want to change his budget vote but rather correct his inadvertent support for allocating $250,000 of it to a Planned Parenthood of New Mexico sponsorship. Lewis was among the six councilors who had approved Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn's amendment to include the sponsorship in the budget.
After Councilor Renee Grout moved to bring the budget back, Lewis sought to reconsider that amendment specifically. A Republican who spent 15 years as a pastor at a church he helped found, Lewis explained that he had been distracted during the initial vote.
"I was honestly looking at another amendment when we voted on this and just want to change my vote on the record," he said.
The same amendment passed again on a 6-3 vote — with Councilor Trudy Jones, who'd initially voted against it, supporting it on its reappearance — and the budget also repassed, although Grout joined Lewis in opposition in the do-over.
Fiebelkorn later celebrated the approval.
"These funds support our local Planned Parenthood clinic to ensure that all Albuquerque women have access to family planning, abortion, and other reproductive health services," she said in a Tuesday statement.
VETO IS A NO-GO: Mayor Tim Keller's veto-fest continued this month as he tried to close the door on some new neighborhood association-related rules recently passed by the City Council.
But Keller suffered his second defeat out of five vetoes since March, with Councilor Louie Sanchez ensuring the council had the numbers needed to override him.
The latest battle centers on the overhauled Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance the council approved on April 18.
The bill represented a yearslong effort to update the city's existing NARO. It instituted certain requirements for neighborhood associations seeking special treatment from city government, including special notice and standing in land-use appeals. For example, it required associations to elect leaders via a democratic process and prohibited them from requiring members to pay dues in order to have voting rights.
Keller vetoed the bill earlier this month. The mayor agreed in his veto message that the city needed to update its NARO but echoed critics who complained that the new version was drafted and passed without enough public participation.
The council had passed the bill on a 5-4 vote — one vote shy of a veto-proof majority.
But when Keller's veto came up for a potential override during Monday's meeting, Sanchez provided the sixth vote necessary to render the mayor's opposition moot.
Sanchez, who had initially voted against the bill, joined its five original supporters — Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn, Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis — to successfully overrride Keller.
He said he was trying to strike a balance between giving neighborhoods sufficient influence without squashing business growth.
"I'm doing my very best here to do what's right," Sanchez said, adding that he is willing to work with the community on possible future amendments to make the ordinance better and find the ideal "middle ground."
CLEANING BILL: Amid ongoing debate over how to address Albuquerque's homelessness crisis, questions have arisen about the cost of the city's current response. Councilor Klarissa Peña recently asked the city administration how much it spends on the biweekly cleanup at Coronado Park.
The answer: $27,154, according to numbers a city budget official gave the council during its Monday meeting.
People who are homeless have long congregated and camped at the park near Third Street and Interstate 40, and the city every other Wednesday dispatches a crew to temporarily clear it of people and clean it. The team involves several departments, including Police, Family and Community Services, Solid Waste, and Parks and Recreation.
"There is no question that monitoring a park of that size with that many folks does cost some dollars to make sure we keep it clean," the city's acting chief administrative officer told the council.
But he cautioned that the number includes staff time built into the city budget for homeless outreach that occurs throughout the city.
"I want to make sure (to note) a portion of that $27,000 is already day-to-day operating costs we assume anyway," he said.
Jessica Dyer: firstname.lastname@example.org