The Council clicked its way through business at the Monday, Jan. 4 meeting. New Councilors Michael Cook and Dan Lewis are still keeping pretty quiet but are starting to ask questions and express opinions.
Ten million dollars in Industrial Revenue Bonds was approved for SUMCO Phoenix, a silicon chip company. The chip-slicing business chose New Mexico in a national competitive process. The city’s economic development staff said SUMCO choosing the city’s north side industrial area shows Albuquerque is a top choice for business.
Residents living in the Sawmill area will soon see traffic relief after councilors approved about $300,000 for Mill Pond Road, giving this neighborhood of about 600 houses a second entrance/exit. The neighborhood has only one egress for emergency vehicles.
Councilors also approved a study group to take a look at all the traffic calming ideas available and how they could be used in Albuquerque. If you have ideas for your neighborhood, give your city councilor a call and get involved.
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|Issue||Council's Take||Reporter's Take|
|Public ArtCity administration asked councilors to approve a sole-source contract (one that doesn't go out for bid) with local bronze artist Reynaldo “Sonny” Rivera for a $130,000 sculpture in the BioPark Sister Cities Rose Garden. The proposed piece includes a large flowerpot and two young women holding roses representing the sister cities of Albuquerque and Guadalajara. Rivera has already done a half-dozen large bronze pieces at city museums and the BioPark. The city’s Arts Board members said there are several ways they can use money from the "Art in Municipal Places" fund, and a sole-source contract is one of them.||Councilor Isaac Benton led the charge to deny this proposal (by a vote of 6 to 3), questioning the method of selecting Rivera to do the piece. Benton said he was surprised a project of this size was given a sole-source contract. He argued the art project should go out for bids to allow more artists to participate. Councilors Debbie O’Malley and Brad Winter agreed, saying the city should give as many artists as possible the opportunity to make public art. Members of the city’s art selection board said Ray Darnell, the city’s cultural services director, recommended Rivera to them because the sculptor has a feel for the culture of New Mexico.||Rivera’s pieces do capture the essence of the Land of Enchantment and its residents, and his work deservedly receives acclaim. His sculptures are large and expressive, often inviting people into the installation itself with the addition of chairs or benches. But New Mexico is full of talented artists who have access to world-class foundries. They deserve the opportunity to at least bid on creating monumental pieces for the taxpayers. Opening up the project to bid allows less well-known artists, or young up-and-comers, to showcase their work. It also brings a little sunshine to the selection process—even if the city ends up with another one of Rivera’s bronzes. The issue is not an emergency, and the process for art that should last decades or centuries can be a studied one.|
|Short ChangeWhen the state eliminated tax on food and medical needs, it agreed to pay municipalities for their share of the lost money. Keeping this provision in place is at the top of the city’s legislative priority list. Due to budget troubles, state lawmakers could consider halting those payments. The city’s three-page list of policy priorities also includes continued support for the film industry, amending the Children’s Code to allow for curfews, and increased funding for alcohol and drug treatment. The city expresses support for a universal health care system in the document.||Councilors say they are concerned about the possibility of losing about 7 percent of the budget if the state does not continue to pay the lost food and medical tax revenue. Council President Ken Sanchez said this would impact every community in the state and could mean layoffs for city employees. Councilor Debbie O’Malley agreed that if the state stopped making up for the $30 million, it would be a tremendous hit to the city’s coffers. “We are looking at a grim situation in Santa Fe this year,” Sanchez said.||The city’s wish list includes several dozen policy priorities, ranging from public safety, education, senior affairs, youth services, health care, land use, and animal and transportation issues. The document is thorough and thoughtful but is not specific to any projects. If state lawmakers decide to repeal the provision to pay local governments for the lost food and medical tax revenue, Albuquerque would have to make major adjustments this fiscal year. It is not likely the Legislature will take that route in 2010, but it is imperative to let lawmakers know where the city stands on this important issue. Albuquerque should plan for a likely hit to come in the near future.|