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City Council to continue sans public

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, pictured during a Thursday news conference with several local government agencies, would get broader “emergency powers” under legislation the City Council is expected to vote on Monday. (Anthony Jackson/Albuquerque Journal)

City of Albuquerque officials pledged on Thursday to continue providing services as normally as possible, although anyone wanting to watch the Albuquerque City Council in action next week will have to turn the channel to GOVTV or go online.

“We want the public to know that, as of right now, you can rely on city services just as you would before,” Mayor Tim Keller said.

City and county officials gathered with Albuquerque Public Schools and University of New Mexico officials on Thursday morning, stressing their collaboration and preparedness to address the pandemic. They cited more rigorous sanitization at public facilities and noted that the state ban on gatherings of more than 100 people will mean postponements and cancellations of some events at public venues.

The city has also stopped employees' out-of-state travel and is preparing for some employees to work from home.

Council President Pat Davis, meanwhile, said that leaders intend to keep the public out of Monday's meeting amid COVID-19 concerns and the current ban on large gatherings. He said the plan for the immediate future is to restrict meeting attendance to councilors, essential staff and media with credentials – an attempt to limit the flow into 1 Civic Plaza, a building that not only hosts the meetings, but also is headquarters for the city and Bernalillo County.

Council meetings will still be broadcast on GOVTV and streamed live on the internet, though the temporary measures will mean the public cannot directly address the council during the meeting. Under normal circumstances, the council allows individual citizens 2-minute opportunities to speak.

“We will prohibit in-person public comment in the near future because the council chambers holds more than 100 people and we don't want to (create) exposure for other city employees who work in the building doing critical work,” Davis said.

Davis said citizens can still present their opinions by calling 768-3100 or going online to cabq.gov/council and sending a message through the “contact your councilor” link.

The council on Monday is expected to act on legislation that would allow Albuquerque's mayor to declare an emergency for public health reasons and to broaden the mayor's “emergency powers.”

Bernalillo County Commission Chairman Lonnie Talbert said the county's five-member governing board plans to observe the same public restrictions at its meetings for the near term. The commission's next administrative meeting is scheduled for March 24 and Talbert said the board intends to carry on with its duties – just without an audience.

“I hope everyone will understand these are unprecedented times. … We want to take an abundance of caution to protect everybody, but we're not going to adjust the way we do business. We're going to continue to move forward – just making sure we're taking proper safety protocols,” he said.

Like city council meetings, those of the commission are broadcast on TV and online. Citizens can contact county officials through the bernco.gov website using the “Talk to Us” link.

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