ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With Albuquerque officials now deciding exactly how to allocate $1.1 billion for city government operations, citizens have a chance to give their two cents.
The City Council last week hosted the first of three public hearings on the fiscal year 2020 budget, drawing a handful of commenters touting the importance of investments in public safety, museums and even trees.
Business leaders from two different neighborhoods used the opportunity to lobby the council for a greater law enforcement presence.
Damen Kompanowski of the Uptown Progress Team urged the city to consider more police bike patrols in the area full of hotels, retail stores and other businesses popular with locals and tourists alike. He also advocated for cameras connected to the city’s Real Time Center.
“Let’s keep Uptown Uptown,” he said during the council committee meeting. “Uptown is a bright spot of Albuquerque.”
Nob Hill business owner Jean Bernstein, meanwhile, painted a far more dire picture of the situation along Central Avenue. She pleaded with the council for more resources to combat crime and other issues on Central, where she has run Flying Star Cafe for 32 years.
“Let’s recognize and admit with clarity and honesty what has happened to Central Avenue. … Let’s face that Central needs serious help, and it needs it now,” she said.
But not all of the public’s requests involved public safety. Bruce Hinrichs, an ABQ BioPark Society board member, asked the council to consider funding a new BioPark veterinarian, saying the staff’s two existing vets are stretched “critically thin,” covering a population of 16,000-plus creatures.
“The BioPark vets must care for animals of every size – sharks, eels and other fish require the same life-saving care that the zoo’s large mammals birds and reptiles need,” he said. “Both major surgery and routine dental exams require veterinary services.”
Mayor Tim Keller’s 2020 budget proposal – which the council is presently reviewing and may amend – does not include another vet position. But Cultural Affairs Director Shelle Sanchez said it does address other critical BioPark needs and would provide for two additional zookeepers. She said the city can and does contract outside vets when necessary for BioPark animal care.
“I have no concerns about us having the veterinary services that we need,” she told the Journal.
The council committee will hold another public budget hearing on May 2 and take public comment again at the full council meeting on May 20.
SHADY DEAL: In an effort to preserve and enhance Albuquerque’s dwindling tree canopy, Mayor Keller last week announced plans to bolster the city’s forestry efforts. The city forester and assistant forester – a newly created job – will work alongside volunteers to create an inventory of trees on city properties, according to a city news release.
“That information will contribute to the development and implementation of an Urban Forest Management Plan that ensures the health of Albuquerque’s urban forest for generations to come,” the release said.
Jessica Dyer: email@example.com