Albuquerque city councilors to discuss change to city charter

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – City councilors will discuss a bill that aims to limit the powers of the city’s mayor.

The bill calls for a new government structure, and the hiring of a city manager to fulfill those administrative duties.

As it stands, the councilors proposing this believe progress sometimes stalls with the change in direction and leadership.

City Councilor Louie Sanchez says moving to a council-manager structure would give the city more stability, and professional management. But a local political science professor says there are tradeoffs with both forms of government.

“It’s really important for the mayor to be extremely responsible to what’s going on outside of his office,” said Sanchez. 

It’s what’s driving the push for change.

Sanchez is sponsoring legislation to amend the city charter, to move from a council-mayor government to a council-manager system.

The mayor would be lumped into the city council, and a manager would be in charge of administrative operations.

“If you have a city manager who is a professional manager instead of just a political appointee, who doesn’t have any experience, we have the opportunity to go out and get the best of the best in our city managers,” Sanchez said. 

The city councilors would be responsible for hiring the manager. It’s a system Albuquerque actually moved away from in 1974. 

“Interestingly, there was a conflict between the city council and the manager over economic development and planning that prompted, there was a lack of leadership that prompted the change,” said Tim Krebs, UNM Political Science professor.  

Krebs says there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of systems.

“Mayor-council systems are more sort of participatory, there’s more public engagement, voter turnout is higher. There’s more sort of democracy, if you will,” said Krebs. “On the other hand there’s some evidence to suggest that council manager systems are administratively more efficient, and they’re perhaps better run.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller sent the following statement to KOB 4:

“We are committed to working with Council and taking a hard look at how we can work more efficiently, but an extreme change to our form of government is not the answer. This proposal would drastically alter Albuquerque’s local government, eliminating individual accountability and checks and balances, placing all city power into a committee and an unelected city manager.”

Sanchez says nothing final will happen Monday night because it’s a charter amendment, and there will be one more hearing before a vote from city councilors.

If it gets through council it would eventually go to voters.