Saturday, September 23, 2006

September 18 Council Brief (J-school Piece revised)

A City Charter amendment making changes to its ethics code passed with one dissension at Monday night’s city council meeting.

The bill was a revision of an earlier version that died when the sponsor, Councillor Brad Winter, was unable to get the required seven-vote supermajority necessary to amend the City Charter. Councillors Craig Loy, Ken Sanchez and Sally Mayer voted against the first proposal June 5.

After another couple of months of negotiations, Winter was able to gain the support of Loy and Sanchez while addressing some concerns expressed by Mayor Martin Chávez.

"I don't feel like this is an ethics bill that will stop corruption or make any big changes, at all. I’m sorry." Mayer, who cast the only opposing vote, said, “I know I’ll get some bad press off of this, but I just cannot support this bill. Just because you call it ethics doesn’t make it so.”

Other critics contend the bill, which is supposed to cut down on gifts and contributions, is so watered down as to be ineffective.

In other action, the council passed what is called Kendra’s law, named after a woman in New York City killed by a mentally ill man who refused to take his medication and pushed her in front of a subway train.

The bill allows for court ordered treatment of the mentally ill after establishing an eight step criteria at a hearing before a state district judge.

Testimony before the council showed that as few as six or seven individuals may qualify within a year for a court proceeding.

New Mexico is ranked 51 among the states, including the District of Columbia, in funding for mental illness, and calls for more resources were echoed.

The bill passed on an 8-1 vote with Councillor Debbie O’Malley opposing. She said she was concerned about the constitutionality of the bill.

Mayor Chávez proposed this legislation after the shooting deaths of five men, including two Albuquerque police officers last year. John Hyde, a man with a history of mental illness, has been charged with the five deaths but sits in the State Hospital in Las Vegas during proceedings to determine his legal status.

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