Short and Sad
The City Council's special meeting on Aug. 22 adjourned in less than two hours so that councilors could attend the Rosary for slain APD officer Michael R. King.
Councilor Eric Griego's memorial passed, urging every possible effort to provide early and absentee ballots to the Jewish community. The Oct. 4 election falls on Rosh Hashanah, as well as the first day of Ramadan and of the nine-day Hindu Navaratri. Councilor Miguel Gómez was absent.
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IssueThe Ethics Derby
The agenda listed Mayor Martin Chavez' appointment of Benjamin Silva to the Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices--the board that ruled on the mayor's recent ABQPAC problem. Councilor Griego asked for a deferral to "take a closer look" at Silva.
City Attorney Bob White said the board's three mayoral appointments and three Council appointments were independent of other branches of government and that the Council could only note that the appointment had been received. Councilor Griego withdrew his deferral.
Two of the three Council slots are empty, although Council President Brad Winter said names had been submitted to the mayor. There's a disconnect here, somewhere. Silva's areas of practice are listed as "Business Litigation; Employment Law; White Collar Criminal Defense; Personal Injury; Insurance."
IssueNo Fraud Unless It's Our Fraud!
Councilor Michael Cadigan's amendment to the city charter would have required both voters at the polls and absentee voters to show proof of identity. Absentee voters would have been required to submit either the last four digits of their Social Security number or a copy of a photo ID, which would be destroyed after the election. Cadigan's bill was in response to Councilor Sally Mayer's bill putting a similar issue on the October ballot. Mayer's proposal did not require absentee voters, often heavily Republican, to show any form of identification. Charter amendments require seven Council votes to pass.
Councilor Cadigan said, "It's easier to commit voter fraud in the privacy of your own home." The administration said they did not have a position on Cadigan's bill. Assistant City Attorney Mark Shoesmith said ID provisions in a recent state law did not apply to municipal elections unless a city amended its laws. Cadigan said the Council could later tweak or repeal his amendment to the charter, but not a ballot initiative. Speaker Desi Brown said voter ID bills did not prevent fraud on national or state levels, and any restriction would disenfranchise people. Cadigan's charter amendment failed 5-3, with Councilors Mayer, Tina Cummins and Craig Loy opposing.
What a coincidence! On the same day, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about something we're not supposed to talk about: Al Gore won the 2000 election under Florida law, which calls for a full manual recount statewide in very close elections. Gore's win was tiny among votes counted. It would have been much larger had it included the tens of thousands of votes thrown out in predominantly black Duvall County, lost on confusing "butterfly ballots" or never cast by people falsely purged from voter rolls. In the last few years, excluding voters has been a much greater problem than attempts to vote under a false name.
Responding to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing municipalities to take private property for private economic development, Councilor Griego sponsored a bill forbidding the city from taking occupied houses unless they are deemed blighted or a public nuisance.
Councilor Griego's new floor substitute limited the banned condemnations to total rather than partial takings. An amendment moved by Councilor Winter also protected "properties occupied by small businesses" from eminent domain solely justified by economic development. The bill passed 7-1, Councilor Cummins opposed.
A reader noted that Councilor Loy is sponsoring an upcoming bill that will define 79 more offenses or categories of offense as public nuisances. While activities such as unlawful assembly, possessing a fake bomb or "indecent waitering" are deplorable, they hardly seem reasons to put someone's home at risk.
IssueElephant in the Living Room
Councilor Griego moved a floor substitute to a renewable energy bill that calls for, among other things, deriving 15 percent of city power from renewable resources in seven years. The floor substitute more closely integrates its goals with the city's Energy Conservation Council.
Administration officials opposed the bill, saying the city already had numerous programs in place. Richard Harding of Energy Management listed some initiatives, including the Million Solar Roofs program, school programs and facilities inventory. Councilor Griego called for a second hearing.
Councilors Griego and Martin Heinrich called for stronger city leadership on the issue. I've no idea whether this bill tangles up or advances the many existing city programs, but Albuquerque needs to go full speed ahead on energy conservation before the end of cheap oil makes our sprawl unlivable.