The “semi-secret” memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Councilors made up for a cancelled Dec. 19 meeting at a special session on Jan. 9. They unanimously approved eight mayoral appointments to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee. The appointees will work with a county committee to plan a memorial to Dr. King more in keeping with his stature than the current semi-secret installation at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the railroad tracks. Councilor Michael Cadigan moved a bill giving Albuquerque residents first priority in registering for programs at the city's community centers. The bill passed 7-1, Councilor Ken Sanchez opposed, Councilor Don Harris excused. Councilors also passed a bill stating the city's budget priorities for the upcoming 30-day session of the State Legislature.
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Ignore the Law? Moi? On Halloween night, city crews re-striped portions of Montaño from two lanes to four between Coors and Fourth Street. The city had not cleared the action by first getting the Mid-Region Council of Governments Transportation Board to change the area transportation plan from two to four lanes. Board members feared the noncompliance would put federal road funds at risk. Addressing the Council, Mayor Martin Chavez criticized the fed's actions and said many bigger issues needed the mayor's attention.
Councilor Debbie O'Malley, in whose district the Halloween caper took place, said her constituents had expected the required process to be followed and their comments to be heard. Councilor Sanchez said MRCOG should have voted to allow the action last month. Councilor Cadigan, whose district lies west of the bridge, steered the discussion toward illegal signs in medians. Montaño has been returned to two lanes pending the MRCOG vote and federal review.
Meanwhile, another pesky law is getting in the way. The owner of a nearby historic home has brought suit charging that increased traffic on Montaño will violate legal protections for historic properties. Certainly, the Bush administration has set a nationwide example of an executive simply ignoring laws seen as inconvenient. Let's hope this second, late-night road project doesn't indicate the same trend in Albuquerque.
New Year's Diet Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese presented the city's Five Year Forecast, which shows expenditures creeping higher than revenues by increasing margins until 2010. Reese said gross receipts tax (GRT) revenues have been difficult to analyze. Large road projects are currently boosting GRT revenues but are not expected to do so in the future.
Reese also cited higher energy and materials prices, rising interest rates and a soft national economy as problems. Reese said the mayor's budget would not propose deficit spending, and that departments would be asked to cut budgets by 5 percent. Councilors questioned the city's money-losing parking garages and a seemingly low-balled allocation for public election financing.
Council President Martin Heinrich noted that deficit predictions had been about the same last year, but the city emerged untainted with red ink. Reese said the estimates were very conservative, so maybe the shortfalls will give way to a similar happy conclusion. But energy and medical costs will just keep rising.
Cruising Gets a Bruising Councilor Craig Loy moved a resolution banning cruising in the heart of Downtown on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 8 p.m. until 3 a.m. the following morning. Loy said that, in a cruising situation, "just a stare results in a shooting or a stabbing." The ban applies to the streets bounded by the rectangle formed by First Street, Silver, Eighth Street and Copper. In a bill passed last May, cruising was defined as passing the same traffic control point three times in two hours. If someone is deemed to be cruising, then that person is subject to penalties for actions such as waving, yelling, getting out of one car and into another, or soliciting a prostitute.
Luisa Casso of the Downtown Action Team said, "Many of the people who are causing congestion are not the people who patronize businesses." Councilor Don Harris asked if cruising were a constitutionally protected activity. City Attorney Bob White said the American Civil Liberties Union had no problem with the original ordinance, due to the limits on area and duration of cruising bans. Councilor Isaac Benton said the walk from Old Town to the Downtown theater was pleasant, but the walk back home was not, due to cruising. Councilor Sanchez said the ban was "an injustice to our youth." He said APD's tactical team had alleviated the cruising problem on West Central. The bill passed 8-1, Sanchez opposed.
Actually, neither the Downtown cruising ban nor the original ordinance includes language automatically limiting the length of a ban. It's hard to visualize a councilor bucking city business interests to lift the ban on Downtown cruising, so the ban seems, effectively, permanent. Watching enforcement of the bill could be fascinating. Suppose Mr. Chauncy Bigbucks goes to a Downtown restaurant, leaves, goes back for the sunglasses he forgot, circling the block four times before finding a parking place and at one point getting in the car with one of his lingering dinner partners, thus passing the cruising checkpoint eight times in two hours. Suppose Mr. Bandanna Boombox does the same. Which one is more likely to be cited for cruising?