ABQ city councilors OK ‘reprieve’ from in-person meeting standard - Albuquerque Journal

ABQ city councilors OK ‘reprieve’ from in-person meeting standard

Seeing your city councilor at City Hall may not be a given anymore.

While in-person council meetings still happen twice a month in the building’s basement chambers, the councilors have granted themselves permission to each “virtually attend” up to five of them per year.

The councilors behind the rules update cited health reasons, the volume of meetings their position demands and a changing world.

“The expectation we are here live and in person – I agree with that. But I think we should have the ability to have this little bit of a reprieve for medical conditions or just personal issues,” Councilor Klarissa Peña said, mentioning the migraines she suffers as well as the many meetings she must attend beyond the council’s bimonthly sessions.

Peña, Isaac Benton, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Trudy Jones co-sponsored the rules change.

The council approved it 8-1 on Wednesday. Only Renee Grout voted against it, though Louie Sanchez and Dan Lewis also expressed some reservations.

“I just think we’re being a little bit lazy towards our taxpayers and our constituents to actually take five,” said Sanchez, who unsuccessfully urged the sponsors to consider setting the limit at two or three meetings.

Jones, however, countered that it should hardly affect the public if a councilor participates virtually or in-person. She noted that many interested residents already follow council meetings from other locations. The live viewing options include TV, online streaming and the Zoom webinar format.

“It’s the way the world is,” Jones said. “I’m older than all of you, and it seems wrong to me, but it’s the way it is and so I don’t think it’s going to cause any harm.”

While the councilors now have latitude to attend five meetings remotely, the rule says they still should make “every possible effort” to attend in-person.

TIGER BEAT: A week after Albuquerque police discovered a caged Bengal tiger cub inside a mobile home during a shooting investigation, City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn publicly questioned APD Chief Harold Medina about the department’s exotic animal response, saying she’s concerned about animal welfare and public safety.

“We’ve heard of alligators and tigers, and there are rumors of additional tigers being shipped here,” Fiebelkorn said to Medina during the Jan. 18 council meeting.

Medina noted “we’ve had an influx of tigers” and affirmed that his department takes it seriously. It handed the recent tiger cub it found off to state game officials, who entrusted the ABQ BioPark with its ongoing care.

But the chief said such investigations can be complicated since the humans involved may have drug cartel ties.

“We do at times have to work with our federal partners who may or may not have investigations on some of these locations,” Medina said. “And we have to remember that we have concerns about the animals themselves, but we also have other possible active investigations.”

TTYL?: General public comment – a fixture of Albuquerque City Council meetings – may soon fall to the end of the agenda.

Council President Pat Davis is proposing a rules change that moves the free-for-all public speakup opportunity to the last order of business at the council’s bimonthly meeting. It presently happens prior to the council approvals and final votes.

Davis said council meetings have become “exceedingly long,” with high-profile decisions frequently occurring late into the night. While he said the council will continue accepting public commentary tied to specific agenda items as those matters arise throughout the meeting, he wanted to test putting nontopical remarks at the end.

“Anyone who wants to bring up something new still has our attention, but it will be at the end of the meeting, once we’ve taken care of business,” he said of his proposal, due for a vote on Feb. 6.

Jessica Dyer: jdyer@abqjournal.com


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