Jun 1 - 7, 2006 
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Council Watch

Take Your Dog to School Day

By Laura Sanchez
A bill that requires APS to approve all residential plats before the city approves them passed unanimously.
Wes Naman
A bill that requires APS to approve all residential plats before the city approves them passed unanimously.

Red-clad supporters of Councilor Sally Mayer's animal ordinance filled the Council chambers for the third time on May 22, wearing crimson gimme caps, which most had apparently not yet figured out how to adjust. Councilor Ken Sanchez presented three FY 2007 budget bills, all of which passed. Councilor Craig Loy's bill expanding the use of photo-radar spy cameras to nab red light runners passed unanimously after debate about the bill's constitutionality.

Send your comments about the City Council to laura@alibi.com.

A Well-Regulated Fido and Fluffy

Issue

Councilor Sally Mayer opened discussion of the 65-page plus HEART ordinance by calling on Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese to "clarify erroneous information from an earlier meeting." At the May 1 meeting, Councilor Don Harris, who sponsored the administration's competing animal bill, had asked how much Mayer's bill would cost the city. Reese answered that the administration estimated Mayer's bill would cost an extra $5.6 million yearly.

On May 22, Reese said the administration had previously estimated the bill's Safe Haven provision would triple costs for each animal at the city's shelters, since stays would be extended on average from four days to 12 days, but that information provided by Animal Services was in error. Mayer noted that adoptable animals were already staying 10.3 days on average. Reese said spay and neuter costs were covered by the budget bills just passed, and reiterated that she could not get reliable numbers from Animal Services.

Council's Take

After Reese's presentation, Councilor Michael Cadigan verified that city shelters already met requirements of the HEART ordinance. Mayer moved amendments that gave impounded animals one "get out of jail free" pass from city facilities before mandatory sterilization. Cadigan declined to move the dozens of changes he had proposed at a previous meeting and only moved a set of amendments he and Mayer had agreed on, all of which passed.

Harris successfully moved amendments to give kennel facilities five years to meet new requirements for heating and ventilation. Harris' attempt to reclassify animal fees as taxes and put them to a public vote failed, as did his attempt to allow exemptions from cruelty provisions for circuses and other animal businesses. The HEART ordinance passed 6-3, Cadigan, Harris and Councilor Brad Winter opposed.

Reporter's Take

During debate Mayer repeatedly said the purpose of the bill was to change people's thinking about animal welfare in general. Yet the bill includes specific legal prohibitions. Which will it be? For instance, the bill requires birdcages to have perches of different diameters. If that provision encourages Jane Doe to buy a second perch for Tweety on her next visit to the pet store, well, good. But if the provision encourages Jane Doe's nasty neighbor to report Jane for perch inadequacy, then it opens up the Pandora's Box of selective enforcement.

News reports quote Mayor Martin Chavez as saying he won't enforce parts of the ordinance other than ones that replicate his own competing billbasically the mandatory spay, neuter and micro-chipping provisions. Pet owners in the city will most likely encounter the HEART ordinance if they let their animals run free, chain them in the yard, try to sell litters on the street corner or through classified ads, or take intact animals to the vet. Or have vicious neighbors.

Throw Money at the Problem, Please

Issue

Regarding the Westside crisis in school overcrowding, a 2006 graduate of Cibola High School said, "We just thought it was normal not to have a textbook." Recently, development interests and Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) agreed that builders would begin contributing over $1,800 for each "rooftop" built to APS, the amount to increase over the next two years unless other funding sources are put in place. The money will go to the neighborhood cluster where the construction is located. Councilor Michael Cadigan sponsored a bill that requires APS to review all residential plats before the city approves them. If APS does not receive the development fees, the city can reject the plat.

Council's Take

Bob Murphy of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) encouraged an increased mil levy and passage of bonds to support schools. He said the builders' fees would reach $2,900 in two years, multiplied by 5,000 to 6,000 dwellings. Bruce Perlman, Chief Administrative Officer, objected to the bill, praising city government and slamming APS. Perlman said the bill would send development to Rio Rancho. Cadigan said he was tired of everyone taking potshots at APS, and that the administration had worn out its argument that any bill it didn't like would send development elsewhere. The bill passed unanimously.

Reporter's Take

Yes, schools sometimes waste money. Many programs barely affect schools' central mission. Administration and staff positions multiply like rabbits. Chasing after grant money often dilutes focus. But still, educators have known for ages the two things that do the most to improve students' learningsmaller classrooms and better teachersand both require large investments of money. So gold-plated kudos to the Home Builders Association and to NAIOP for stepping up to the plate without further dithering. And while smaller schools would be nice, too, it's much cheaper to just keep adding classroom square footage to more expensive, core facilities.
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