Water in the desert
In this week’s news section, reporter Jack King highlights a lack of transparency when it comes to the Dirt City’s water supply.
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority spent millions on a project that’s designed to take some of the strain off our aquifer. We divert water from the Colorado River Basin and add it to the Rio Grande. But the utility hasn’t met its relief objectives for 2009 and 2010, and the governing board had no idea, according to King’s story.
The utility’s promised to up its transparency game.
This week, County Commissioner Art De La Cruz wrote a letter to the Alibi defending the project. He writes:
First and foremost, after three years of project operation the U.S. Geological Survey is reporting that the aquifer is showing signs of rebound. According to the USGS New Mexico Water Science Center, increases in winter groundwater levels (which are most representative of aquifer condition) are being observed. This is consistent with predictions from model simulations wherein groundwater pumping was reduced in favor of using surface water. Given that the water-level trend had generally been downward through the early part of this decade, the reversal is an extremely positive development.
Read the rest of his letter in the next edition of the Alibi, which will be online tomorrow evening. And look for another article by King in the coming weeks.
How much do City officials make?
Berry’s expanded online transparency efforts
Mayor Richard Berry provided us with a new online time-waster Wednesday on the city's ABQ View government transparency website. The database list includes the names, departments, positions, base pay and total year-to-date earnings of all 6,000 city employees. It will be updated every pay period. Seriously, I've already looked up the salaries for the Police Department and am moving on to Parks and Recreation as soon as I finish writing this blog.
ABQ View launched in August of 2010 and started out by publishing the names (or positions) and salaries of appointed officials and the 250 highest-paid employees. The city is the first in New Mexico to publish this information on all employees who's salaries come from tax-payer money, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Due to Berry's efforts on increasing government openness, the city received a Sunny Award from the Sunshine Review for a perfect record in transparency. Only 112 governmental entities throughout the country have received this distinction from the nonprofit organization that collects and shares state and local government information.
Some city employees expressed concerns about publicizing a notoriously taboo subject like salary, but Berry pushed ahead saying that the community deserves to know how its money is spent. Concerns about identity theft have not been substantiated.
The expansion of the website allows interested parties to search out instances of nepotism as well as examine the database for tax money spent on travel expenses and city contracts. For the incurably nosy, its the peephole we've been waiting for.
Playing Chicken With Millions
Senators battled as the final moments of the 2011 legislative session ticked away
If an eye for an eye makes everyone blind, a bill for a bill leaves our roads messed up and our senior centers unfunded.
During the legislative session, most measures are passed in the final days, hours and even minutes. As the clock wound down on Saturday, March 19, lawmakers threw a wrench in the works to force one of the governor’s priorities through. But it didn’t work, and in the end, Gov. Susana Martinez’ “social promotion” education bill got left behind—and so did millions for improvements around the state.
Free the Data—Crack open the databases, New Mexico. Taxpayers want a look. Under Rep. Joseph Cervantes' (D-Las Cruces) bill, the state would allow people to peruse electronic collections of data "maintained by or on behalf of a public body."
The latest word in New Mexico government is “transparency.” Mayor Richard Berry’s administration released its new transparency website, ABQ View (cabq.gov/abq-view), on Aug. 25. Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit that focuses on the issue, says the city site “achieved not just every mark on Sunshine Review’s transparency checklist, but also nailed all our suggested data as well. Data is even downloadable in different formats.”