Alibi V.14 No.46 • Nov 17-23, 2005 

Council Watch

Winding Down

Montaño got twice as fat overnight.
Montaño got twice as fat overnight.
Christie Chisholm

Albuquerque's 16th Council met for the next to last time on Nov. 7. Councilors Sally Mayer and Miguel Gómez were absent.

Councilor Eric Griego deferred his bill calling for wireless Internet throughout the city until Nov. 21, Griego's last meeting as a councilor. He also deferred bills calling for a Martineztown/Santa Barbara Community Center and for compliance with the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement for 30 days, pushing them beyond his term.

Councilor Martin Heinrich called on Cynthia Griego from the city's Planning Department to present the final draft of the Highland/Central Metropolitan Redevelopment Area plan, running roughly from Nob Hill to San Mateo and from just north of Central to Zuni. The plan will facilitate redevelopment in the area.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
We Have a Plan. It's a Secret.
The city has updated its All Hazard Emergency Operations Plan. Councilors set Dec. 12 as a date to gather public comments on the plan, preceding a vote at their regular Dec. 19 meeting. Jim Hunter of the Emergency Management office noted that the emergency plan was aimed primarily at first responders, but had been written so that it could be released to the public.
Councilor Heinrich said parts of the plan were difficult for the public to understand and suggested city personnel answer questions at the meeting. Hunter said, "I hear what you're saying" but 9/11 had made the city even more cautious about "giving people a blueprint." Hunter urged the Council to accept the plan without further discussion. The city's very general emergency information for the public is at Tip: Put together your personal emergency kits. The actual, very complex plan can also be found on the site. One chart scores the top 20 emergencies, with "War" leading at 2072 points and "Land/Rock Slide" bringing up the rear with 206.
Ha, Ha! Crossed My Fingers.
The latest act in the Montaño melodrama featured the report of the Montaño Citizens Advisory Committee, half of whose members were appointed by North Valley Councilor Debbie O'Malley and half by Westside Councilor Michael Cadigan. Attorney Phil Krehbiel, chair of the committee, presented several recommendations the group had devised. The most discussed was re-striping all of Montaño, including the bridge, to accommodate four traffic lanes, the two outside lanes to be restricted to high occupancy vehicles, or HOV lanes. Krehbiel said that 17 percent of vehicles crossing the bridge already carried more than one person.
Councilor Cadigan said councilors were always asking Westsiders to absorb problems, and why not make Fourth Street one lane plus an HOV lane in each direction. He said the city had "a pile of money" for improving the Montaño and Fourth Street intersection. He asked if any city had data on short HOV lanes, because the distance on Montaño was only a mile, maybe a mile and a half. (Scaled off a map, Montaño runs three miles from Coors to Second Street, and four and a half miles to I-25.) John Sparks, who owns an historic home near Montaño and Rio Grande, said noise levels allowable for historic districts were already being violated.Hey! Who cares about laws or previous agreements when there's traffic to move? Possibly the Army Corps of Engineers. Certainly North Valley residents who thought previous bridge agreements were made in good faith. Councilor O'Malley's plan for two lanes and a reversible HOV lane in the middle doesn't seem efficient because it requires tearing up extensive medians. The committee's four-lane plan--one standard lane and one HOV lane in each direction--holds the promise of moving more people and advancing the monumental task of rational traffic management in Albuquerque.
The Gates of Gondor
Recently, Councilor O'Malley questioned the cost increase from $370,000 to $840,000 for the 65-foot tall Tricentennial Towers to be erected at I-40 and Rio Grande, as well as their funding source [See Newscity, "The Two Towers," Nov. 10-16 click here]. O'Malley said the administration had taken care of the previously inappropriate funding and it was now appropriate. She said the director of the New Mexico Department of Transportation had called that afternoon and said the DOT would work with the city on the landscaping project.
Chief Operating Officer Ed Adams presented a breakdown of the cost increases since 2003, saying former Albuquerque Public Arts Program Director Gordon Church had left items out of the original budget. Adams said the cost of fabricating and installing the towers increased from $330,000 to $496,000; the cost of the foundation increased from $20,000 to $60,000; the addition of more elaborate lighting boosted that cost from $20,000 to $150,000; and that Church had not allowed for $134,000 in taxes, demolition and utility relocation. Councilor O'Malley's bill passed, limiting costs to $840,000 plus a 5 percent contingency allowance. She said the towers could look fantastic or really weird, but she didn't want to second-guess the Arts Board. Aesthetic opinion has been split from the first. A newspaper article reported that neighborhood first impressions ranged from "looks like crap" to "love the design." Regardless of their appearance, there seems a disjunction between using two towers to celebrate three centuries, our longstanding, if oversimplified, "three cultures," and our natural setting of desert, mountain and river.