City Councilor Martin Heinrich was voted in as the new Council president.
And so it begins. The first meeting of the 17th Council got off to a late start as a full house shuffled about with handshakes, welcomes and words of congratulation. First-time Councilors Ken Sanchez (District 1, replacing Miguel Gómez), Isaac Benton (District 3, replacing Eric Griego) and Don Harris (District 9, replacing Tina Cummins) expressed excitement over their new endeavors, while second-round Councilors Michael Cadigan (District 5) and Sally Mayer (District 7) thanked their constituents for another term.
Mayor Martin Chavez attended and said he was “looking forward to the opportunity to improve relationships” with the new Council, adding that he hoped to start attending all Council meetings, or the first part of them, at least.
Other changes also swept through the chambers as City Councilor Brad Winter stepped down from his role as Council president and City Councilor Martin Heinrich was voted into his place, with Harris getting voted in as vice president. It was also announced that James Lewis, the mayor's chief administrative officer (CAO), would officially retire from his position on Dec. 31, and words of appreciation were heard throughout the night for Lewis' service.
The mayor's appointment of Bruce Perlman as the new CAO and his reappointments of Bob White to city attorney, Ed Adams to chief operations officer, Gail Reese to deputy CAO of finances and Nick Bakas to deputy CAO of public safety were all unanimously approved by the Council.
One of the first items approved by the new Council was to cancel the Dec. 19 meeting and schedule a special meeting on Jan. 9.
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A Brand New Home for $5,000 Del Rey Mobile Home Park residents are looking for a way to save their home, despite interest from the park's owner, Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS), to sell the land to Centex Homes. To do this, they want to establish their community as the Del Rey Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA). Doing so would require a metropolitan redevelopment plan for the area, with the bill requiring that the plan address issues such as affordable, mixed-income and mixed-density housing, along with the upgrade and redevelopment of the existing mobile home park.
James Chavez, the attorney for ELS, said an MRA could only be created if an area was blighted, and argued that the park was well-maintained. He also said the Council wasn't allowed to create legislation that would hinder ELS' contract with Centex. City Councilor Michael Cadigan argued that the bill wouldn't affect the contract, and most councilors agreed, after seeing pictures of the park, that it fit the city's definition of "blighted." City Councilor Sally Mayer said she was uncomfortable with designating Del Rey as an MRA, as she thought it was an issue zoning enforcement should deal with and clean up. The bill passed 8-1, with Mayer opposing.
Designating Del Rey as an MRA is a good thing for residents, but one wonders how much of a victory it really is. If Centex chooses to opt out of the funding available to MRAs, they can still build whatever they want within zoning requirements and force residents out of their homes. Yet ELS has offered to pay residents a $5,000 incentive to move out of the park. Considering that most residents currently own their mobile homes, and that older mobile homes won't sell for more than a few thousand dollars, if they're lucky, five grand sure doesn't seem like much to get them back on their feet in a brand new home, especially in the upscale area of town they're currently located in.
No More Community Centers The final report on the assessment of community centers in the city was heard, with recommendations that the city not add or close any centers until the already-existing centers are used more efficiently. Currently, Albuquerque has more centers per capita than other major Southwest cities, such as Denver, but they're dispersed unevenly throughout districts. Suggestions included keeping centers open later and on weekends, and creating focus groups to determine what programs will be most used and during what times.
City Councilor Mayer said not getting more community centers in her district would break the hearts of her constituents. She said many people wouldn't go to centers if they weren't in their neighborhood. Councilors Winter, Cadigan and Loy also protested strongly, as they have low numbers of centers in their districts as well, and high demands for more of them.
Districts with community centers that are overenrolled (or nonexistent) should get more community centers--as soon as possible. Focus groups are useful, but if the demand is already present, the city should accommodate that demand. They're going to have to be built sooner or later, so we might as well do it now and provide safe locations for our kids, and ourselves, to get involved in something more stimulating than reality TV.
Building a Better Nob Hill City Councilor Martin Heinrich requested an extension of the moratorium on the issuance of building permits in Nob Hill. Permits would only be issued if the development is consistent with design standards included in the bill, such as not allowing structures to be built over three stories and having entrances to buildings every 30 feet. The moratorium would expire June 13, 2006.
Some neighborhood residents complained the moratorium is designed to move forward a project that Jason Daskalos wants to build on the old Baca's Restaurant site. Councilor Heinrich said he's never been accused of being overtly pro-developer. Other Nob Hill residents supported the idea of the extended moratorium. Chief Operating Officer Ed Adams said the administration supported the resolution. The bill passed unanimously.
Good development is worth waiting for. The Nob Hill Sector Development Plan won't be completed for another six months to a year, and in that time, without careful design standards in place, one of the most popular areas of the city could become home to a host of five-story monstrosities that do nothing to add to the pedestrian environment residents and merchants have been trying to create there for years.