Alibi V.15 No.13 • March 30-April 5, 2006 

Council Watch

Shame Game

Councilor Isaac Benton moved an administration bill designating the Werner-Gilchrist building on Cornell a city landmark.
Councilor Isaac Benton moved an administration bill designating the Werner-Gilchrist building on Cornell a city landmark.
Wes Naman

At the March 20 meeting, Councilor Don Harris' bill establishing an Interim Development Management Area for the core of District 9 passed unanimously. Also passing unanimously was a bill sponsored by Council President Martin Heinrich and Councilor Isaac Benton placing a moratorium on conditional use permits for residential construction in commercial zones in the south Yale/University sports area until the city can prepare interim guidelines for development.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
The Year of the (Squashed) Child
Councilor Michael Cadigan moved a bill forbidding conditional use permits for building residences in areas zoned C-1 and C-2 (commercial) where schools serving the area "can not be shown to have space" and where jobs are scarce compared to housing.
Several Westside parents and activists demanded remedies for overcrowded schools instead of finger-pointing. Objecting to development limits, Councilor Sally Mayer said, "It drives me nuts when we let APS drive our policy." The bill passed 7-2, Mayer and Councilor Craig Loy opposed.Westside school crowding is now such a mess that maybe we should get all the players together--city, state, APS educators, board members, developers, planners, other property tax recipients--give 'em all a heavy dose of political-ego saltpeter and lock them in a room until they work it out.
Near Heights Hideaway
Councilor Isaac Benton moved an administration bill designating the Werner-Gilchrist building on Cornell a city landmark. The house, built in 1908, is the oldest remaining building east of Yale. Its stacked stone foundation, adobe-bearing walls and milled lumber mark a transition between Hispanic and Anglo building techniques.
Neighbors and preservationists spoke in defense of the building, which had been slated for demolition by the current owners, Dan Kelley and Reeves McGuire. According to the city, the owners oppose the landmark designation but are willing to let things take their course. The bill passed 7-2, Councilors Craig Loy and Brad Winter opposed.The house is almost hidden by overgrown landscaping and surrounded by a chain-link fence. However, city officials say the interior is in good shape and can be renovated pretty much at will, although the exterior must remain essentially the same. Along with the two city lots to the south, the property should still be economically viable.
Here's Looking at You
Hoping that public humiliation might deter drunk drivers, Councilor Michael Cadigan sponsored a bill to publish the photographs of drivers convicted or pleading "no contest" to a first DWI offense. Money received from selling cars seized from drunk drivers would pay for the program. Cadigan said editors at the morning daily would sell space at a discount to run the photos. Billy Baldwin, president of the New Mexico Hospitality Retailers Association, said the bill wouldn't affect drunk drivers but it would hurt tourism when people were afraid to order a drink. Allison Kuper, lobbyist for the New Mexico Restaurant Association, said the bill was unbalanced because it treated a first-time offense--a misdemeanor--as a felony. Cadigan said he was saddened that members of the NM Restaurant Association thought it was OK to get drunk and drive, and labeled their opposition as "despicable." Councilor Sally Mayer asked what in the law was "not balanced." Kuper said it equated a .08 blood alcohol content with a .20 reading. Mayer said it was a misdemeanor as long as "they don't hit somebody."
Linda Atkinson of the DWI Resource Center said first-time offenders caused 70 percent of crashes. Councilor Debbie O'Malley asked if publishing photographs had been legally upheld in other jurisdictions, and what was the legal status of the city's policy of impounding first offenders' vehicles. City Attorney Bob White said the impoundment policy was currently being litigated. Citing "constant" DWI television ads, Councilor Brad Winter asked APD Deputy Chief Paul Chavez if improvement had resulted. Chavez said APD had seen about a 25-percent increase in arrests since they had increased the size of the DWI unit. Councilor Craig Loy warned that the bill might make people more reluctant to plead guilty, further clogging a jammed court system. Councilor Don Harris asked if the city could be sued for invasion of privacy. White said all booking documents were public records. Councilor Ken Sanchez said he'd rather see the money go to rehabilitation than to humiliation and supported a 12-month test period. O'Malley amended the bill to require Council evaluation 12 months from the effective date. The bill passed unanimously. Although public humiliation techniques have become a fad around the nation, statistics analyzing their effectiveness seem to be lacking. Cadigan is probably correct in saying humiliation is more likely to deter "professional people who care about their standing in the community." A 2001 Wisconsin study suggests that such techniques might work better in rural settings where "everybody knows everybody," and with first- or second-time offenders. Dr. William Miller, director of research at UNM's Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse and Addiction, has developed a program based on, among other principles, the concept that you can't stop people from drinking by making them feel worse about themselves. Of course, this law's objective isn't treating alcoholism but reducing DWI crashes. As several speakers pointed out, policies can have unintended consequences. The Wisconsin study mentioned a tavern owner who installed a Breathalyzer in his establishment to tell patrons when they were too drunk to drive. Unfortunately, university students used the device for contests to see who could become the drunkest.