By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A commissioner’s attempt to amend the city’s nuisance ordinance was thwarted by fellow commissioners before the start of their latest meeting.
City Commissioner Ralph Moya sought the removal of a proposed amendment to the city nuisance ordinance from the commission’s agenda on Thursday.
Moya said the City Commission couldn’t operate as a “confident” governing body if it keeps amending ordinances that it passed during previous meetings. Moya said he opposed the nuisance ordinance when it was proposed. The commission approved it and now Moya believes that amending it would undermine commissioners’ efforts.
Mayor pro tem Robert Lumpkin had requested during the commission’s June 23 meeting that the nuisance ordinance amendment be placed on the agenda.
“The reason I am requesting an amendment to this ordinance be considered by the commission is for the best interests of the residents,” Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin said residents and Municipal Judge Joe Dominguez have contacted him with concerns about the penalty portion of the nuisance ordinance.
Lumpkin added, “This is the portion of the ordinance I am looking to have amended. The ordinance will not lose and of the effectiveness or teeth regarding dangerous buildings.”
Lumpkin said that the penalty phase of this ordinance for lawns not being in compliance was too great for city residents. He explained that many times the residents are ill, elderly or do not have the means to mow their lawns. “This result is the resident receiving a fine that is often higher than the amount of paying someone to mow his or her lawn,” Lumpkin added.
Lumpkin said what is more troubling is that the municipal judge, who is elected and entrusted by the commission with the job of issuing penalties for civil citations, has no say in the matter. He said the fines have been set by language in the ordinance — with no leeway.
Dominguez could not be reached immediately for comment.
City code compliance officers work with residents before issuing a citation, said City Manager Jared Langenegger, who explained that compliance officers usually issue a first notice and have occasionally issued second-notice warnings to give residents time to bring their lawns into compliance. He said there have even been some local organizations that have offered to help those unable to do so due to health or lack of equipment.
Langenegger said the penalty portion of the ordinance is set as follows: first offense $100, second $200, third $300 and $500 for the fourth and subsequent offenses. He said changing the ordinance would also be unfair to those who have already paid the fines.
Lumpkin said he is seeking a chance to voice the concerns and issues expressed to him by Tucumcari residents.
“We cannot be an effective governing body if we constantly change ordinances,” Moya said.
The commission voted 4-1 to remove the consideration of amending the ordinance of the agenda.
“We cannot be an effective governing body if we do not listen to the concerns of the residents,” Lumpkin said.