Monday’s meeting of the City Council started with a minor disturbance when Council President Ken Sanchez directed city security officers to remove an activist from the room.
The activist, Silvio Dell’Angela, had refused to take down an upside-down American flag hung in front of his seat, a violation of the council’s rule against signs and props.
But the meeting rolled along rather quietly after that, even as protesters outside City Hall carried signs in opposition to police violence.
Late Monday, the council narrowly agreed to start limiting the amount of general public comment they accept at the beginning of their meetings.
Under an amendment to council rules sponsored by Isaac Benton and Brad Winter, the council will now allow no more than 30 people to speak during public comment. If more people want to speak, they can address the council at the end of the meeting, which is often around 11 p.m. There are no limits now.
Under the new rules, there would be no restrictions on the number of people who sign up to speak on individual bills before the council.
The change was adopted on a 5-3 vote, with opposition from Ken Sanchez, Klarissa Peña and Rey Garduño. Dan Lewis wasn’t present.
Earlier, councilors spent hours inside the chambers listening to public testimony and debating how best to reform the civilian oversight system for the Albuquerque Police Department, among other proposals.
They agreed to schedule the oversight proposal for final consideration in mid-August, a move intended to give the city time to take into consideration any recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is expected to propose reforms for APD this summer.
Federal investigators released a report that found APD had a pattern or practice of violating people’s civil rights through the use of force.
Several speakers asked the council to wait until the DOJ makes its recommendations, some of which are expected to touch on strengthening civilian oversight of the police department.
“I feel strongly we need to get it right this time,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.
Councilors Rey Garduño and Brad Winter are co-sponsoring a proposal to abolish the city’s oversight system and replace it with a new one that has expanded powers and more funding. But they agreed to postpone final action on the measure while debate continues over the details.
Also postponed was a measure to increase taxes to fund mental health and homelessness programs. Some of the people shot and killed by police in recent years have struggled with mental illness and homelessness.
Outside City Hall, just before the meeting started, about 40 people protested the number of people shot by Albuquerque police in recent years.