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City Council to meet under new rules

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

City Council leadership on Wednesday announced a new set of rules for the public in the wake of Monday’s meeting, which was taken over by loud protesters upset at Albuquerque police.

The plan includes enforcing old rules and adding a few new ones.

At a news conference in City Council chambers on Wednesday, Council President Ken Sanchez outlined the changes and said he has asked for additional police and security presence.

“The council takes the people’s right to speak very, very seriously and firmly believes that everyone’s right to participate needs to be honored,” said Sanchez, who was joined by Council Vice President Trudy Jones.

But Sanchez said the “disruptive public outburst” at Monday’s meeting prevented 50 people from speaking during the public comment period. And the Council was unable to vote on important police reforms and to approve a municipal bond, which cost taxpayers money, he said.

It also meant that there were some agenda items left over to be considered during today’s meeting.

The new rules are interim changes, and Sanchez said the full council could consider making permanent rule changes in the near future.

The changes include:

  • No signs, props or other campaign material, except that which can be presented on the overhead projector, will be allowed in the Council chambers.
  • Only the person speaking during public comment periods may stand at the podium or in the area around it, with the exception of those who need a translator or assistance.
  • The two-minute limit for speakers will be strictly enforced.
  • There will be no tolerance for disruptive public outbursts.
  • The wheelchair ramp to the right of the City Council dais will no longer be open to those wishing to film, per a Fire Marshal’s Office recommendation. Those with cameras will still be able to film the meeting from the left of the dais.

During Monday’s rowdy meeting, protesters tried to arrest APD Chief Gorden Eden, who was named to that position in February, shouted at councilors and ignored Sanchez’s attempts to restore order.

Public criticism of APD has mounted due to more than two dozen fatal police shootings since 2010. The city is beginning a series of negotiations with the Department of Justice to set and implement numerous reforms after a DOJ investigation and report found APD has repeatedly used excessive force. The report criticized numerous areas, including APD’s training and its very culture.

David Correia, an organizer of the Monday meeting protest, said the City Council would not be in the position of changing its rules if councilors had heeded four years’ worth of criticism of the police department and made reforms during that time.

“I wish they would have moved as quickly as they have regarding these changes on the question of APD violence,” he said. “Then we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.”

He also said he “would hope” that the message the council received after the Monday meeting was not just about the need to change public comment rules, but also the necessity to implement drastic reforms of the police department.

Earlier Wednesday, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce expressed concern about security at today’s council meeting. It said it was interested in weighing in on two agenda items but was worried about the “chaos” that occurred at Monday’s meeting. It urged the council to ensure that the public was comfortable at the meeting.

In response, a policy analyst for Councilor Dan Lewis assured the chamber in an email that anyone who wants to speak at the meeting will be able to do so without interruption from fellow members of the public.

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