Council president Brad Winter began the Nov. 21 meeting by presenting engraved Nambé ware platters to departing councilors Miguel Gómez and Tina Cummins. Cummins, who said she would be seeing the other councilors often but wouldn't miss council meetings, left shortly after.
Gómez mentioned what he considered his top three accomplishments: balancing the city budget with minimum job cuts, sponsoring an anti-predatory lending bill, and taking the lead on reconstruction of the Coors/I-40 interchange. Gómez left at the council's dinner break after warning his colleagues to keep a close eye on Westland Development Corp.
Councilor Eric Griego arrived late, fresh off his new state economic development job. After receiving his platter, he thanked District 3 constituents and urged more citizens to become politically active. Griego stayed for the meeting, pushing through a bill requiring the city to initiate efforts before July 2006 to supply a citywide, affordable mix of Internet access systems.
Councilor Michael Cadigan's bill discouraging the rezoning of more Westside property to residential use in areas where schools exceed their design capacity passed unanimously, as did Cadigan's bill renaming the currently undeveloped Squaw Road in District 5 as Rosa Parks Road in memory of the civil rights activist.
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1. KOB Kopter Klash In 1997, KOB-TV Channel 4 renovated their broadcast studio located a block northwest of the Rio Grande Zoo. The $1.8 million renovation included installing a helipad directly across the street from residences. Neighbors' complaints forced the TV station to keep its leased helicopter at local airports instead. Legal action ensued. The city council was charged with determining an amortization period that fairly compensated KOB-TV for not using the helipad at their studio. KOB-TV used the helipad, which cost approximately $21,000, for about four years.
Neighbors said the copter, recorded at 94 decibels, rattled windows, disturbed Tingley Beach and the Zoo, and lowered home values. One resident said the station's newscast openings didn't show the noise, fumes and dust. Attorney David Campbell, representing KOB-TV, said the city issued a valid building permit for the station's renovation. Cadigan pressed Campbell whether the helipad specifically received a building permit. KOB-TV General Manager Mike Burgess emphasized the need for the helicopter and the increased cost of offsite operations. Griego called for a 12-month amortization period. The bill passed unanimously.
While almost nothing's more entertaining than a cage fight between attorneys Cadigan and Campbell, no TV news crews--helicoptered or otherwise--recorded the debate. Which raises the question of how useful news helicopters really are. Burgess cited use of the machine for covering bosque fires, a valuable public service. But most TV helicopter hoopla is just a race toward the latest, creepiest crime scene. The city tightened the noise ordinance Downtown despite the protest of club owners and patrons, so it's hard to see why KOB-TV should get a special exemption.
2. Circle the Wagons Recently, residents of the long-established Del Rey mobile home park got the news that the owner of the property planned to sell it. Many of the park's 450 tenants left. Some of the remaining 125 tenants organized to try to hold onto their homes. Winter sponsored an ordinance designating the property just north of San Antonio Dr. as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area.
The bill's intent was to help attract a non-profit developer who would preserve some type of affordable housing, increasingly rare in the area. In the meantime, large homebuilder Centex bought the property. While the meeting was in progress, Centex contacted park residents offering to come to an agreement. Winter requested a second hearing for the MRA bill.
Cadigan and Griego both expressed skepticism that the conflicting goals of Centex to build profitable residences, tenants to keep their homes, and the city to maintain affordable housing in the area could be achieved. Yeah, it's a stretch. About the only physical possibility would be to cluster the remaining mobile homes together to leave enough room to build closely spaced homes.
3. But the Chicken Couldn't Cross the Road This week's episode of Montaño Mayhem, following last week's federal slap-down of Mayor Marty's midnight restriping, featured citizens reprising the recent advisory committee findings, councilors deferring dueling bills, councilors slamming everything but maximized car capacity, and a report from HPE Engineering, the Florida firm hired in response to an earlier requirement for an independent study of the area.
Cadigan and Councilor Debbie O'Malley both deferred their Montaño bills until Dec. 5. Cadigan's bill calls for the immediate striping of Montaño to four general-purpose lanes. O'Malley 's bill calls for an immediate return to two lanes until either a 3-lane or 4-lane modification using High Occupancy Vehicle lanes can be provided. What a fun issue for the brand new councilors!
After Montaño was restriped to four lanes, it is noticeably more harrowing to attempt a left turn from the St. Michael and All Angels parking lot at midday Sunday. One can't imagine what pulling out is like during the weekday rush hour. Putting in enough stoplights to allow safe access onto Montaño from properties along the road would probably slow traffic more than returning to two lanes.