Albuquerque City Councilors tumbled their way through a short agenda and made a seemingly mean-spirited decision to turn their backs on citizens who rent housing.
Money Over People
Five of nine Councilors rejected transparency and a bare minimum of protections for renters. Councilors Brook Bassan, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, Louie Sanchez and Renee Grout all sided with landlords to hide potential resident screening standards, how much they charge for pets, parking, other services and amenities. Among other things the failed measure would have capped application fees to $150. It would have required that unprocessed or denied without a reason applications be refunded to the applicants.
Those in opposing the transparency bill said in a nutshell it was wrong for them to intervene on private property rights of individuals as that was government overreach.
Representatives from some of the bigger rental agencies cried crocodile tears saying they might have to raise rents if this passes, raining down even more punishment on those desperately seeking reasonably priced shelter.
Brave Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn sponsored the bill and spoke her passion in favor of putting in these small amounts of protections in place for those on more financially and housing-vulnerable sides of our community. The majority of public comments were in favor of these common sense small things that can help keep the city’s housing crisis in check. One regular speaker, along with her popular, civic-minded cat, reminded folks that the out-of-control housing crisis mainly impacts lower income women and their children. But alas, it all fell on five sets of deaf ears.
This decision didn’t make Mayor Tim Keller happy. "Our city is in a housing crisis that is putting pressure on our most vulnerable," he said after the decision. "Now is the time for additional resources to protect tenants and increase transparency in the rental process, and we are disappointed this ordinance did not pass. The proposed changes were conservative safeguards, needed especially now as so many people are struggling to find affordable places to live."
Couple of Good Moves
At least the Council unanimously approved The Downtowner, a $2.2 million Metropolitan Redevelopment plan for the area around First and Silver SW. This is along a proposed Rail Trail to be installed adjacent to our historic railroad tracks. It is billed as a mixed-use multifamily property offering eleven live-work units, 208 other housing units, a cafe and other amenities.
A little further south at the actual Rail Yards, Councilors approved the maintenance, restoration and active use of the 1920 Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Fire Station, the oldest remaining fire station in the city. Of interesting note, the old firehouse is made of rough sandstone bricks quarried from Laguna Pueblo and salvaged from the original 1881 roundhouse. It is a city landmark and is now recognized as a priority and there should be regular reports on the progress of this great project.
You Go, Emily!
While we are on the subject of firehouses, Councilors appointed Emily V. Jaramillo to the position of Chief of the Albuquerque Fire Department. Jaramillo is the first female fire chief in Albuquerque, ever. Jaramillo was obviously more than happy and thanked the city for the opportunity to work with the fire department. Councilors and the mayor’s administration had glowing remarks about Jaramillo’s qualifications.
Councilor Louie Sanchez pulled the Quarterly Litigation report out of the consent agenda for discussion, a move that made this reporter giddy as municipal legal reports are immensely interesting to government watchdogs. The line item Sanchez questioned was a $400,000 settlement for a whistleblower complaint filed by former Albuquerque Police Officer John Ross. Sanchez was intent on knowing and releasing more details about this large payoff, but didn’t get much more information from city officials at the meeting. He should have done a Google news search for all the juicy details the media has covered on this case.
Of much more interesting nature were a couple of other settlements. One was a violation of the Inspection of Public Records Act for $4,500. This begs the question of what documents the city refused to turn over in a case where police officers raided a home without a warrant. A separate lawsuit is still alive against the city for the actions of the officers. Another whistleblower complaint was settled for $10,000. And among the other slip-and-falls, or getting injured on city buses, there was a kid who got hurt playing on a city park swing. The city violated an IPRA request, then settled the whole playground mess for $250,000.
The next meeting of the Albuquerque City Council is set for 5pm on March 20. For more information, agenda and video meeting links go to cabq.gov.
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