Updated: March 16, 2020 08:02 PM
Created: March 16, 2020 04:40 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- The Albuquerque City Council will address Monday night whether Mayor Tim Keller should receive emergency powers during the public health crisis related to the coronavirus outbreak.
This bill is a modification of the Civil Emergency Powers, which City Council President Pat Davis said was passed in the 1960s that addresses many - now unenforceable - restrictions that were meant to manage widespread rioting.
But the powers granted to the mayor under a Public Health Emergency would be completely different.
"It doesn't let the mayor or the city hold anybody in quarantine in their house," Davis said. "It doesn't let us take anybody's personal property. And this is not even about any kind of martial law. It simply is public health common sense rules that let the mayor implement the rules we need from the state right here in the city."
If passed, with the new amendments Monday, it will allow the mayor to close any and all public streets.
The mayor could order retailers to limit quantities of items sold.
The mayor could also close places where large amounts of people gather, including theaters, clubs, athletic venues or places of worship.
Paul Gessing - with the policy analyst group Rio Grande Foundation, urges caution when passing legislation this quickly.
"I think those are real concerns," Gessing said. "And before we panic and do that we need to understand what the lacking powers really are on the mayor's part."
Davis said there are checks and balances. The city council can take the powers away if the mayor takes action that the council disagrees with. Davis said three councilors can call a meeting to reverse any action taken.
The emergency health emergency powers would last 30 days, but could be shortened or lengthened by the council.
The mayor's office released the following statement about the action that is being considered:
“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
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