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Albuquerque council votes to rein in crisis powers of mayor

ALBUQUERQUE – The Albuquerque City Council has narrowly voted to reverse its 2020 action at the start of the pandemic to expand the mayor’s emergency powers during a public health crisis.

The council on Monday voted 5-4 to revoke Mayor Tim Keller’s power under the city’s emergency powers ordinance to do such things as ordering closures of streets or places of mass gatherings, canceling city events and reallocating up to $1 million in the city budget.

Instead, the mayor could only issue “advisories and recommendations” during a public health crisis, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Keller spokesperson Ava Montoya said Thursday the council’s action is subject to a potential veto by the mayor. “We’re carefully considering the legislation,” she said in an email.

Councilor Dan Lewis proposed the change, saying that Keller had hardly invoked his powers and mostly deferred to orders issued by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.

A high-ranking Keller appointee, Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael, opposed the change, saying the administration had used the newly revoked procurement flexibility and needed the ability to move quickly.

Lewis said the spending could have been accomplished “in a variety of ways, including (getting) support from the council.”