City council votes to give mayor emergency powers

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque City council has voted to give Mayor Tim Keller emergency powers.

The six to three vote allows Keller to declare a public health emergency for up to seven days. It also gives him the power to prohibit mass assemblies, close daycares and preschools and relocate city staff.

It would not let him seize private property or put individuals in quarantine. The emergency power would join others the mayor has like declaring a civil emergency if there is a riot or a natural disaster.

The state has its own set of emergency laws something the governor is currently using during this coronavirus pandemic.

As the vote took place, the council meeting looked a little different. The public wasn’t there to hear councilors discuss items on the agenda.

City Councilors started their meeting like they always do: Recited the pledge of allegiance moved on to approving city appointments and then went over to the consent agenda.

“This last week has really been a trying one for everybody,” said Councilor Pat Davis.

There was something missing from the meeting: The public.

“Keeping the general public out of this meeting and it feels weird just to have us, right,” asked Councilor Diane Gibson.

These doors are closed to the public to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Only members of the media, city councilors and some city workers were allowed inside. Outside, police were like bouncers, checking people’s credentials who were trying to get in.

“So we can’t talk to the people who represent us,” asked local Dereck Scott.

That didn’t settle well for a couple hoping to voice their opinion on the emergency powers ordinance.

“If you confront somebody just like this, no right to assembly,” said Scott. “Last time I checked, that’s a first amendment right in our country.”

They didn’t make it inside but they could watch the meeting online and for others who wanted to participate in public comment, they could’ve emailed, faxed or hand-delivered their comments to the councilors before the meeting.

“I know we received hundreds of comments over the weekend on all types of issues,” said Councilor Davis. “We’ll have a chance to talk about more of those, our staff put together a large packet of public comment that will be available for inspection.”

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