The Spanish established the City of Albuquerque, as a community, in 1706 with the founding of Old Town. In 1885, while New Mexico was still a territory of the United States, Albuquerque was chartered as a Town, and in 1891 Albuquerque was organized under Territorial laws as a city.
The first Mayor was elected in 1885. Up until 1918 the leader of the City of Albuquerque was a mayor. However in 1917 the city adopted a change in its system of government from Mayor-Council to Commission-Manager in which the city leader became the “Chairman of the City Commission”. Albuquerque returned back to a Mayor-Council government in 1974.
Read more below the timeline in the historical postscript.
The Spanish established the City of Albuquerque as a community in 1706 with the founding of Old Town. In 1885, while New Mexico was still a territory of the United States, Albuquerque was chartered as a Town, and in 1891 Albuquerque was organized under Territorial laws as a city.
The Charter adopted pursuant to State Law, under which the City of Albuquerque government now operates, was adopted in 1917. It changed the system of government from a Mayor-Council (ward) system to a Commission-Manager system. The Charter was amended four times (July 22, 1919, October 7, 1919, February 15, 1966, and June 29, 1971) prior to the city’s government being changed to the Mayor-Council form in 1974.
The July 22, 1919 amendment increased the number of City Commissioners from three to five and provided for the election of the added members within 60 days. They were in fact chosen October 7, 1919, and their successors have been selected every four years thereafter. Also at the October 7, 1919 election, two additional amendments were adopted, one concerning the method of filling vacancies on the City Commission created by a recall election and the other eliminating the provision concerning compensation of $5 per week for each member of the City Commission.
At the Special Election, February 15, 1966, eight amendments, adding some new sections and repealing some other sections, were adopted as indicated in the parenthetical statements following the appropriate sections. These amendments were submitted to the electors of the City of Albuquerque upon recommendations made by a City Charter Study Committee appointed by the City Commission on July 6, 1965. Nine proposals had been made but the electors rejected one recommendation. The rejected proposal would have increased the number of City Commissioners from five to seven and changed the general election date to the first Tuesday of March in even-numbered years.
On November 3, 1970, the State adopted a new constitutional provision popularly called the Home Rule Amendment to the New Mexico State Constitution, compiled as Article X, Section 6. Subsequently, on December 7, 1970, the City Commission appointed a Charter Study Committee that made its final report on May 10, 1971. Its recommendations, consisting of five propositions, were submitted to the electors on June 29, 1971; of these propositions, three were adopted. The preamble and Article I providing for Home Rule were amended, a new provision (Article VIII) was adopted concerning human rights, and a new provision (Article IX) was added concerning the preservation of environment.
Of the two proposed amendments which were not adopted, Proposition #2 would have changed the form of city government to a Mayor-Council type, would have established councilmanic districts, provided for the official salaries and would have made other changes. Proposition #5 would have permitted the City Council to establish subordinate governmental districts and provide an elective citizen council in each district with authority to act upon appropriate local matters.
It should be noted that the Charter Committee of 1971 proposed the title “City Council” for the existing City Commission. Since Propositions #2 and #5 failed while Propositions #1, #3, and #4 succeeded, the reader should recognize that “City Commission” and “City Council” refer to the same body.
On January 24, 1974, the City Commission submitted to the electors five proposed amendments that were voted upon at the Special Election, February 26, 1974. Three amendments were adopted by the electorate as indicated in the parenthetical statements following the appropriate sections. The amendments replaced the five-member, at-large City Commission, which had governed the city since 1917 with a full-time Mayor as the city’s chief executive and a nine-member, part-time districted City Council as the legislative arm of city government. The amendments also provided for an Election Code and a Code of Ethics.