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Albuquerque city council passes proposal for city charter changes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque city councilors are moving forward with proposals changing the way local elections are conducted, and the council’s power to remove key city officials. This, in the face of opposition from some community members.

City councilors are looking at adding several items to the ballot this November, changing the city’s charter.

Many of Tuesday’s public commenters spoke against one of those changes, lowering the percentage of votes a candidate needs, to win a city election. “Breaking with established norms, you are proposing to do away with majority rule, a cornerstone of a representative democracy. You are suggesting that a candidate that receives a majority of votes against them is fit to serve and carries a mandate to govern,” said one public commenter.

“R-49 will drastically change the hiring and fire of positions like the firefighter and police chief and curb the voice of the people who depend on these positions as a matter of life and death,” said another.

Right now, if there are three or more candidates in a race for mayor or city councilor, a candidate needs at least 50% of the vote to win. Otherwise, it heads to a runoff election.

The proposal from councilors Dan Lewis and Karissa Pena, would lower the threshold to 40%, making it less likely a runoff election would be necessary. “I believe there is nothing more democratic than for the council to be voting on this tonight and certainly nothing more democratic than the general public to be able to weigh in on this November,” said Council President Dan Lewis.

Another process the council is looking to change would be allowing the city council to have the power to remove the chief of police or the fire chief with a two-thirds majority vote.

Both of those proposals were passed in the council Monday night but there are still a couple more hurdles before it reaches voters. The council still needs to hear the proposals one more time, then the mayor needs to sign off before the late August deadline to get it on the November ballot.

Councilors also considered changes to the way the city clerk and city attorney are appointed, but they could not agree on the language. The council also passed the language for more control over city appointments.

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