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Metro Beat: Notes from the ABQ City Council meeting

Downtown Albuquerque. (Journal file)

With the Albuquerque City Council heading into a monthlong summer break, it spent Monday night’s meeting filling its plate for August.

In its last regularly scheduled* meeting before the July hiatus, the council voted to postpone decisions on multiple bills. If you are wondering what the council will do on the following resolutions, you will have to wait until at least Aug. 2 to find out:

  • R-21-171: Approval of the 2020 Resource Management Plan for the Candelaria Nature Preserve. (Apparently, the council received an incomplete packet of material, missing about 10 of roughly 900 pages outlining the plan and associated reports, prompting Councilor Isaac Benton to request deferral.)
  • R-21-178: This bill is a budget language amendment to clarify that the council’s $3 million appropriation for free bus rides was to cover a “comprehensive zero fare pilot” for all fares except special events and Transportation Management Monthly passes.
  • R-21-179: This bill would declare the council’s intent to consider a tax increment development district, or TIDD, for the University of New Mexico’s South Campus. (Officials from the UNM side said they submitted their TIDD application in March but recently received feedback from city administrators and wanted more time to address it.)

Even amid the deferrals, the council did take action on several bills during Monday’s four-hour session.

As reported here, the council approved a moratorium on cannabis-related business activity in Old Town until next year.

The legislative body also appointed a new city inspector general, naming Melissa Santistevan to the government accountability position.

A certified public accountant, Santistevan owns her own Albuquerque audit firm. She also spent about eight months in 2018 as the director of special investigations for the Office of the State Auditor.

She told the council she has 32 years of experience in the finance and accounting field and has been a certified fraud examiner since 2012.

“I am excited for a new venture should that come to fruition,” Santistevan told the council.

She was the highest-ranked of three finalists recommended by the city’s Accountability in Government Oversight Committee, a citizen panel that oversees the city auditor and inspector general, two positions that operate independently of the city council and mayoral administration.

The other finalists included Gregory McCormick, deputy director for the Tax Fraud Investigation Division within New Mexico’s Taxation and Revenue Department, and Richard Holmgren, who most recently worked for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission as deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations.

In his brief remarks to the council, Holmgren tried to distinguish himself from his competition by saying he was the only one with specific inspector general credentials.

“I think if you want an inspector general, then you want somebody who actually has done the job before, and I bring that to the table,” he told the council.

But Santistevan received the most support from the council, getting appointed on a 8-1 vote.

Only Brook Bassan voted in opposition, saying in a statement to the Journal she was interested in an outside perspective.

“It’s important we support our local applicants but also welcome highly qualified, out-of-state applicants to allow for a fresh and equitable perspective in Albuquerque. I was hoping to do that by confirming a different applicant,” she told the Journal.

The council also voted to:

  • Approve a sublease agreement with Netflix Studios for 130 acres of Mesa del Sol property the city leases from the New Mexico State Land Office as part of the company’s previously announced expansion project
  • Prioritize the safety improvements on Universe Boulevard between Irving and Ventana Hills that are recommended through a forthcoming study of the area
  • Dedicating a section of Coors Boulevard to Rev. Graham Golden, who died after a T-bone car crash last month on Coors, south of Pajarito. The resolution says that Golden “was an extraordinarily dedicated and talented young priest in Albuquerque and his pastoral heart touched many individuals and groups during the short six years of his priesthood.” The dedication covers the covers Coors from Central Avenue south to the Bernalillo County line but does not include renaming it, according to Klarissa Peña, who sponsored the legislation. It will encourage state officials to offer the same dedication. The resolution also says the city will prioritize safety investments on that stretch of roadway and urge the state to help fund improvements.

*It’s true. The council — which already held one special meeting last week — has scheduled another before its July recess. It will convene at 3 p.m. Friday, June 25.

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