Updated: March 17, 2020 08:30 AM
Created: March 16, 2020 05:47 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Albuquerque city council voted Monday in favor of amending the emergency powers ordinance to help prevent further spread of COVID-19. The updated bill will expand the mayor's power to respond to the outbreak.
The Civil Emergency Powers ordinance was initially passed in the 60s to address potential widespread rioting. City Councilman Pat Davis said the original bill includes many provisions that would be unenforceable today, such as closing down gun stores and gas stations.
Under the new version of the bill, Mayor Keller will have the authority to close streets, limit the quantities of certain items sold at stores and close places where big gatherings happen such as places of worship.
Councilman Davis said these powers should have been passed sooner and are necessary to keep people safe.
“Well I think the best place to have done this would have been years ago when we were doing pandemic planning, but-the fact is we didn't do it in the end but it doesn't mean we don't need this now,” Councilman Davis said.
Opponents of the bill worry about city leaders abusing the bill’s power.
"I think everybody is willing to compromise. We don't want to act rationally in ways that dramatically empower government and policy makers in ways that—maybe they're best of actors—but they’re potentially giving them abusive powers to act in the future and I don't want that to happen,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.
In the legislation, city councilors can reverse any decision declared by the mayor. The powers granted to the mayor would only last for 30 days, but could be lengthened or shortened by the city council.
The mayor's office released the following statement about the action:
“If we declare a public health emergency, it will be to tap into state and federal funding and allocate resources to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our entire community. The declaration would be in step with the President of the United States, the Governor of New Mexico, dozens of other states and cities around the country including the Mayor of Rio Rancho who have already made such declarations."
“The legislation being considered tonight does not ban gun sales, confiscate guns, prohibit liquor sales, nor does it implement a curfew or close streets, and the Mayor’s declaration will not either.“
"Anyone suggesting otherwise is wrong, period. Stoking fear and mistrust will only harm our efforts to fight this public health emergency as a unified community.” – City spokeswoman Jessie Damazyn
Copyright 2020 - KOB-TV LLC, A Hubbard Broadcasting Company