City fee increases will now require 90-day notice - Albuquerque Journal

City fee increases will now require 90-day notice

The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Government Center at Civic Plaza. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal file)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

After hearing about multiple city parking fee hikes after the fact from frustrated constituents, an Albuquerque city councilor has ensured that the mayor’s administration cannot raise any more fees – parking or otherwise – without advance notice.

Councilor Pat Davis’ resolution requires Albuquerque’s mayor to alert the council at least 90 days before implementing any fee or rate adjustment made outside of the city’s annual, multi-meeting budget process.

The council approved it with an 8-0 vote Monday.

Albuquerque’s mayor has administrative authority to increase many city rates and fees, and Davis said the bill does not require that the council grant approval of those decisions. However, he said, the resolution means such changes are publicly documented beforehand by going through a council process, including the opportunity for public comment.

“There were (occasions) where the (city) departments were implementing rules and fees they thought were appropriate that might not have gone through a full public vetting,” Davis said in an interview. “If we’re going to change the way we do business, let’s put it on the record and give people a chance to participate.”

A spokesman for Mayor Tim Keller said the administration supports the change.

At least twice in 2020, Davis did not know about various city parking division fee changes until his constituents contacted him to complain.

Last summer, for example, the city parking division began charging $25 for annual on-street parking permits in neighborhoods where they are required, such as areas around the University of New Mexico and the State Fairgrounds. The city had previously offered the permits for free to the residents on those streets. The change caught many by surprise.

After public outcry, the city decided to charge those who applied for the permits through a new online payment system but keep them free for residents who picked them up in person.

Davis said such matters warrant transparency, which the resolution will provide. He called it “common sense.”

“It gives the public a way to weigh in and ensure no one is surprised,” he said before the vote.

Keller spokesman Matt Ross said in a statement after the vote, “If it improves transparency, we’re all for it, and we worked with council on a measure that made sense.”

ALSO: The council on Monday also approved an explicit ban on discrimination based on race-related hairstyles.

The ban comes in an amendment to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, which already prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and physical handicap.

Councilor Lan Sena sponsored the amendment to specifically add race-related hairstyles, such as braids and Afros, and cultural headdresses, such as burqas, to the list. Sena said some protections already exist, but that discrimination persists and the city should take a clear stand.

Councilor Trudy Jones, who said she supported the intent of the legislation and ultimately voted for it, questioned whether it was necessary for the city to have a policy given the movement at the state and federal level. The U.S. House has passed the CROWN Act – which stands for “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair” – and Sena said advocates are also pushing for action at the state level.

But Sena responded that the city should be “champions” for the cause.

“If we have the authority and ability to do so and address this here in the city and be champions of it, then of course we should do so,” she said.

The council approved the amendment 9-0.

NEW PRESIDENT: The council also voted Monday to make Cynthia Borrego its president for 2021. Borrego got five votes, narrowly defeating Davis, who was nominated to serve a second consecutive term and had four votes.

Borrego had votes from herself, Brook Bassan, Don Harris, Klarissa Peña and Lan Sena. Davis’ votes were from Isaac Benton, Diane Gibson, Trudy Jones and himself.

Diane Gibson was elected vice president, a role she also had in 2020, while Klarissa Peña was elected Budget Committee chair.

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