ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque city council gave Mayor Richard Berry an all or nothing proposal. Either send five questions, including a marijuana decriminalization proposal, to the ballot or veto all of them.
Friday, Berry opted for the veto pen, keeping all five issues off the November ballot for now.
Berry made the announcement in a short YouTube video.
In that video, Berry said while he supported some of the proposals, he couldn’t sign off on two of them added to the election resolution on a 5-4 party-line vote by city council.
“There were measures added that I, in good conscience, cannot sign including flying in the face of federal and state law pertaining to the decriminalization of possession of an illegal drug and also raising taxes on citizens without a clear and concise plan,” Mayor Berry said in the video.
That proposed tax hike would’ve raised $16 million in revenue, half of which was earmarked for services for the homeless and the mentally ill.
The marijuana proposal was similar to one passed by Santa Fe city council Wednesday night. It lessens the punishment for possession of less than an ounce of pot, making it punishable by a fine of just $25 with no possibility of jail time.
The mayor’s veto also axes three other propositions. One of them would’ve given Albuquerque city council the power to approve or remove the mayor’s pick for police or fire chief.
Another one would’ve changed the number of signatures required for the public to submit an issue to voters and eliminated the need for special elections for issues proposed that way.
The fifth question asked voters to approve bond funds for city projects.
City Council President Ken Sanchez is disappointed by Berry’s decision. “I was hoping that the mayor would have given the voters an opportunity on such vital and critical issues, that opportunity to weigh in on these initiatives,” Sanchez explained. “I trust the voters of Albuquerque to make the right decision.”
“I think we just want to know why the mayor just won’t let people have a vote on this, we’re in a democracy, voters did their part, we’re supposed to settle differences like this at the ballot box,” said Patrick Davis, of ProgressNow New Mexico.
News 13 asked the mayor’s office why he didn’t give voters a say. A spokeperson for his office responded, “As he said in the video even though he supported the original bill he cannot in good conscious sign a flawed, all-or-nothing bill that proposes a tax increase with no specific plan or budget and flies in the face of state and federal law as it pertains to illegal drugs.”
Mayor Berry went on to say at the end of his video announcement, “So it’s my hope that after this veto, that city council will work together to send me a bill that I can sign that we can send voters for their consideration.”
Council could still override the mayor’s veto with six council votes, but that seems unlikely.
More likely is council approving a compromise version of the election resolution, axing some of the questions included. A spokesperson for Berry said the mayor would be open to that.
Time is of the essence. Bernalillo County clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she has to get the general election ballot to the state by September 9th.