Keller's veto aims to keep plastic bag ban in ABQ - Albuquerque Journal

Keller’s veto aims to keep plastic bag ban in ABQ

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has vetoed the City Council’s vote to repeal the city’s plastic bag ban.(Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Mayor Tim Keller is trying to save Albuquerque’s plastic bag ban.

But even he acknowledges his intervention may not make any difference.

Keller has vetoed the City Council’s repeal of the Albuquerque Clean & Green Retail Ordinance. While Keller’s action forces the matter back onto the council’s next agenda, preserving the ban would require at least one councilor to change his or her mind since the repeal passed 6-3. It takes only six votes to override a mayoral veto.

The mayor addressed the uphill battle in his veto message, saying “I write to you not taking lightly the Executive Veto power and also with the acknowledgment that this (veto) may not ultimately stand.”

But his memo subsequently asks the council to consider ways to improve the ordinance rather than “outright repeal” it, saying the ordinance provides the Solid Waste Department the flexibility to make adjustments.

“For decades the dedicated staff at Solid Waste led the recycling efforts in New Mexico. The City of Albuquerque started curbside recycling in 2012, and the sustainable innovations that started at Solid Waste continue to this day,” he wrote.

The City Council passed the Clean & Green ordinance in 2019, making it illegal for grocers and other stores to distribute single-use plastic bags at checkout starting Jan. 1, 2020. Keller – who has supported the ordinance – temporarily suspended the ban early in the COVID-19 pandemic, but his administration last year reinstated and even strengthened it.

The council has undergone major turnover since it originally passed the ordinance, and Councilor Brook Bassan’s proposal to repeal the ban sailed through the increasingly conservative legislative body earlier this month. In addition to Bassan, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis, Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez voted to strike down the ban.

“I’m not surprised that he vetoed it – I was going to be more surprised if he did not,” Bassan said. “But at the same time it’s a difficult position to put some of my colleagues in being it was a 6-3 vote. We’ve received a lot of emails and a lot of correspondence, and we have to relive that even though we’ve made the decision.”

The repeal came in a six-hour council meeting during which the overwhelming majority of public commenters implored the council to keep the ban in place. Many asked the council to wait for the results of an ongoing city study into the ban’s impact.

Keller did the same in his veto message. He also cited the heated debate surrounding the ban, saying it has “become unnecessarily divisive” and that he condemns any “inappropriate personal attacks” from the public.

This is Keller’s second veto in three weeks. His last was successful, as he earlier this month struck down a council vote that would have gutted mayoral powers during a public health emergency. The council fell one vote shy of the six needed to override him.

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