Alibi V.14 No.26 • June 30-July 6, 2005 

Council Watch

Melt Down

“Yeah Inspector, I want surveillance of assailants, if that’s what you want to call it.”
“Yeah Inspector, I want surveillance of assailants, if that’s what you want to call it.”
Singeli Agnew

At the June 20 meeting, city councilors braced for a session running into early morning, but a Democratic walkout cleared the chamber before 10:45 p.m.

During public comment, six people spoke against Mayor Martin Chavez's plan to shut down all-ages music venues that serve liquor.

An administration bill allocating $60,000 for yet another study of a Downtown arena drew questions from Councilor Eric Griego.

Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese said this study would consider financial feasibility in light of the arena slated for Rio Rancho. The bill passed unanimously.

Facing a legislative backlog, councilors announced a special meeting on June 30 before their July vacation. Councilor Debbie O'Malley was excused.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Convenient for Crime
Councilor Martin Heinrich said that 80 percent of his bill enhancing convenience store safety matched state law but went further in protecting customers and neighbors. Provisions include moving pay phones inside buildings where they can be monitored, installing security cameras outside of stores and requiring the second person on late-night shifts to be a security guard. The bill only affects stores that stay open all night.
Pete Dinelli, deputy city attorney and director of the Safe City Strike Force, noted the huge cost to city police of answering calls to convenience stores. Detective Will Sutton presented crime data on individual stores. Business representatives opposed the bill, saying that changes would be expensive. Dinelli said neighborhoods were so upset they just wanted to close down convenience stores. The bill was deferred.Councilor Michael Cadigan asked whether insurance companies reduced premiums for enhanced safety measures. Heinrich cited statistics that the measures reduced robberies 80 percent. Can that be factored into costs? Since several Council members never hesitate to shower goodies on corporations, is there any way to upgrade store safety while lessening the financial impact on owners?
Oh, Give Me a Votin' Break!
Councilor Sally Mayer began discussion of her voter photo ID bill by telling the story of Rosemary McGee, who went to vote and found someone had already used her name. Mayer moved a long amendment containing a new version of her bill. A voter must show a photo ID at a polling place to vote. A voter who lacks an acceptable ID may go to the City Clerk's office to get one and return to the polling place. Alternately, a voter may cast a provisional ballot but must come back to the polling place within the 10-day canvassing period with some form of acceptable ID unless hampered by a religious objection to being photographed. Mayer's bill puts the issue on the October ballot for voters to decide. Meanwhile, Cadigan has been working on a related ordinance amending the city charter to require photo IDs of voters. (See Nerdstream for a blow-by-blow account of the debate.)
Councilor Eric Griego asked if the bill included an ID provision for absentee voters. Mayer said no. Heinrich asked if Mayer would look at both sides of the equation. Mayer said, "Certainly, but not if it slows the bill down." Cadigan said he'd seen a big problem with people requesting absentee ballots for other people to prevent them from voting. Cadigan and Griego offered slightly different amendments requiring absentee voters to furnish either a photocopy of a drivers license, the last four digits of a Social Security number or a signed affidavit. Mayer said that made it "incredibly cumbersome" for disabled absentee voters. Heinrich said the majority of absentee voters just did it because of convenience. Councilor Miguel Gómez left before the amendment votes. In an e-mail response he said he had to take his son to the emergency room. Both amendments failed 4-3 on a party line vote. Mayer's bill passed 5-2, Heinrich and Griego opposed. If passed by voters, Mayer's bill will almost certainly increase the number of provisional ballots required. And, of course, the extra hassle will cause some percentage of people to just blow off voting. Locally and nationally, there have been far bigger problems with voters being discouraged than with voters attempting fraud. Historically, Republicans have voted by absentee ballot much more heavily than Democrats. However, this Council maneuver might backfire by pumping up the local Democratic ground game. Democratic absentee voting has risen sharply following extensive "irregularities" in the last two presidential elections. Democrats are also now encouraging absentee voting in order to leave a paper trail missing from many electronic voting machines. For what it's worth, the two biggest manufacturers and programmers, Diebold and ES&S, are owned by staunch Republicans.
Money's Monkey Wrench
Councilor Eric Griego submitted a revised floor substitute of a substitute of his bill setting up public campaign financing. Several speakers, including State Sen. Dede Feldman, supported the bill. On a 4-3 party line vote the Council refused to allow the substitute.
Had the floor substitute been accepted, Griego could have deferred his bill. Cadigan and Heinrich left, apparently seeing inevitable defeat of public campaign financing with a 4-3 Republican majority. Then Griego disappeared, depriving the Council of a quorum. This reporter is trying to recall if the Council ever before refused a member the courtesy of a floor substitute. The actions of Councilors Mayer, Tina Cummins and Craig Loy were no surprise, but Brad Winter abandoned his usual moderation to jump on the smash-mouth train. Brad's running for mayor, after all, and he needs every Republican vote he can get.