IssueHit the Road, Jack
The latest version of Councilor Craig Loy's bill reduces new offenses added to the city's nuisance abatement ordinance from 81 to 59. De-listed were misbehaviors such as illegal fireworks, improper handling of fire, indecent waitering and so on. Fifteen speakers opposed the bill and 11 supported it. People who work with domestic violence victims protested the bill's classification of repeated calls for help as a nuisance violation. They feared abusers would use the threat of eviction to silence victims.
Pete Dinelli, head of the Safe City Strike Force, said no domestic violence victim would be named in subsequent legal actions. Dinelli said the bill would only "secure injunctive relief," allowing courts to use the threat of demolition to force a cleanup of properties. Bill supporters told horrifying stories of nearby properties plagued with gang violence, drugs and shootings. Opponents told about elderly neighbors being unfairly evicted. The bill passed 8-1, Councilor Brad Winter opposed.
Hooray for evicting the predators and scumbags. But this bill is "drift net" legislation--while it may scoop up the target fish, it also risks dredging up a lot of "by-catch" because its language is so broad. And although the bill does not give the city the title to condemned properties, it still puts people at risk of losing their homes. For someone on the financial edge, if the city bulldozes their dwelling and then charges them by slapping a lien on their property, odds are they'll have to sell the property to survive.
IssueCuando Caliente El Sol
The Council unanimously approved the Level A plan for Mesa del Sol, the 13,000-acre tract of mostly undeveloped land bounded by the Sunport, Kirtland Air Force Base, Isleta Pueblo and Interstate 25. The project has been in the works for years. It recently began to move forward following an agreement with Cleveland-based developer Forest City Covington, in concert with local firms, including Dekker/Perich/Sabatini, Bohannan Huston, and Herb Denish and Associates. The Level A plan lays out the project's general arrangement of industrial, commercial, residential, activity center and open space areas. It also sets out the main goals and policies cited as guides for more detailed planning.
Col. Terrence A. Feehan presented Kirtland's concerns about light pollution, noise and smoke from military operations, possible unexploded ordinance, access from the south and water. Feehan said the city had answered the base's concerns. Isleta Pueblo Gov. Robert Benavides asked for a 60-day deferral to resolve concerns about traffic, a buffer zone, water, wastewater and storm runoff. Councilors said discussions with the pueblo would continue. Bill sponsor Councilor Isaac Benton asked about affordable housing and street widths. Council President Martin Heinrich thanked former Mayor Jim Baca for initiating the project. Councilor Michael Cadigan said any house built anywhere except in his Westside District 5 was good.
In a recent New York Times Magazine article, mega-builder Bob Toll said the next generation of home buyers would pay twice as much for homes that were half as big. And that's not the only looming change in homebuilding. The great thing about Mesa del Sol is that it has a chance to still be a viable community in 50 years when it's built out at 38,000 homes. A looming question remains about securing a sustainable water supply without taking it from somebody else. And will the enormous project leave room for the fascinating messiness of human ingenuity? Will it allow rusting treasure yards of 70-year-old vehicles? Mysterious, overgrown houses that spook generations of kids? Places like the Black Hole hi-tech junk store in Los Alamos? Bart Prince houses?
IssueThe Ugly American
Councilor Heinrich sponsored a bill condemning the American Inn Motel at 4501 Central. Inspector Larry Moya of Criminal Nuisance Abatement said the city first cited the motel in November of 2004, but no repairs have been done since. Attorney Mike Rueckhaus, representing owners Tourist Promotion Services, Inc., said the motel had not been a problem from 1991 to 2004, at which point their tenant "double-crossed" the city.
Tushar Patel said the engineer's report on the building found two minor structural problems and four code violations that could be fixed for $75,000 to $100,000. Neighborhood resident Claude Lewis said the building had been the scene of drug sales, prostitution and three murders over the past 10 years. Moya said the building needed a new HVAC system and $200,000 worth of cosmetic repairs.
Councilor Heinrich asked Moya if the building met the legal standard for condemnation. Moya said, "As far as I'm concerned, it does." Asked for his opinion, City Attorney Bob White said the condemnation was "supportable." Hmm. Obviously, neighbors are sick of this place, but it seems a real shame to bulldoze a 126-room building that could possibly be used to alleviate homelessness.