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Council to vote tonight on revamped emergency powers bill

Albuquerque City Council. (Jessica Dyer/Journal file)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the Albuquerque City Council is slated to vote tonight on legislation that would broaden the mayor’s “emergency powers,” though the proposal has changed since its introduction.

Council President Pat Davis’ updated bill distinguishes “public health emergency” from other “civil” emergencies like riots and natural disasters and would grant the mayor specific authority under the health category.

As currently written, after proclaiming a public health emergency, the mayor would have authority to close streets, daycares and places of “mass assembly” such as theaters, sports venues and churches. The mayor could also reallocate city resources to help mitigate the emergency and order private employers to take “reasonable measures” to protect their workers and the public.

The updated bill also adds the power for the mayor to order retailers “to limit the kinds and quantities of items that a business may sell per customer per day.”

Customers have depleted many stores’ stock of toilet paper and other household goods amid the current pandemic.

Mayor Tim Keller and his administration have in recent days repeatedly asked the community not to hoard household supplies, warning last week that inappropriate stockpiling by metro area residents could hurt the state’s rural populations whose goods often come from, or through, Albuquerque.

Davis introduced the legislation last week, noting that current ordinance does not give the mayor authority to declare an emergency for public health reasons. The bill’s original language added disease outbreaks to the ordinance but lumped it with natural disasters and riots, for which the mayor’s existing authority includes the ability to set curfews, close bars and liquor stores, and order a halt to sales of gasoline and firearms.

The new version separated public health.

Tonight’s council meeting will be closed to the general public given statewide restrictions on large gatherings and the council’s desire to limit flow into the building, which also houses administrative offices for the city and Bernalillo County government.

That means no in-person public comment on the emergency powers ordinance or anything else, but the council says it is accepting feedback via other channels. Comments made by 4:45 p.m. today will be distributed to councilors for review. Submissions are being taken:

-Online at https://www.cabq.gov/council/find-your-councilor/comments-march-16-council-meeting

-Via fax at 505-768-3227

-In person on the 9th Floor of the City/County Government Building at 1 Civic Plaza


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