With the city suffering extreme drought conditions, on June 5 councilors quickly passed emergency fire restrictions on open burning or smoking in the city and bosque, fireworks in nonbarren areas, and certain motorized equipment in campgrounds, wildlands or bosque.
A convenience store safety bill Council President Martin Heinrich has been negotiating died on expiration, but Heinrich said changes made by the most severely affected stores had greatly improved the situation, and he hoped to make those changes permanent. Councilor Don Harris' bill passed, creating less restrictive interim design guidelines in the East Central corridor until more permanent guidelines are established.
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The Air Up ThereThe Council tackled adoption of the Volcano Cliffs sector development plan. The plan would create a balance of housing, retail and employment facilities on land in the Volcano Cliffs area that has not yet been platted.
Unhappy landowners said they would not be able to build desired amenities such as three-car garages on their lots. District 5 Councilor Michael Cadigan advised them to study the High Desert development, used as a model. Action was deferred until June 15.
Yes, the land near the volcanoes above the escarpment is slated for development. No, it will not be saved. Pressure will mount from landowners to turn it into another endless residential subdivision like most of the rest of the Westside. Stay tuned.
Coziness Threatened, Coziness RestoredCouncilor Brad Winter moved a revised version of the ethics bill he's been working on for months. The bill covers selection and training of Ethics Board members; gives the board subpoena power; spells out disqualifying conflicts of interest for city officials; defines improper use of city resources or employees; regulates campaign practices, gifts and travel; and sets rules for awarding city contracts. Winter said the bill took so long because he had "gotten input from everyone," including agreement on amendments by the Council and administration.Several speakers praised the bill. Andres Valdes of Vecinos United said, "Boy, we sure need it." Rev. Daniel Erdman of Albuquerque Interfaith said, "The love of unaccountable power is the root of all evil." Before awarding some city contracts, a committee evaluates proposals, ranks the top three firms and submits those names to the mayor, who usually chooses the firm with the highest point total. Rarely, the second- or third-ranked firm is chosen. Much debate concerned whether a councilor could vote to approve a second- or third-ranked firm that had contributed to that councilor's campaign.
Councilor Craig Loy asked why committees submit three names. Councilor Isaac Benton said a first selection was often followed by contract negotiations and, failing agreement, the city moved on to the next name on the list. Amendments by councilors Loy, Ken Sanchez and Sally Mayer weakening the prohibition failed. Mayer insisted councilors should be able to award contracts to their contributors because disclosure should be enough.Sanchez' amendment passed, halving the six-month period before elections when incumbents can't use city resources to campaign. Mayer's amendment passed, deleting public comments about Ethics Board appointees from the city's website. As the night wore on, Mayer repeatedly asked to have aspects of the legislation explained to her in case she wanted to make more amendments. Finally, Heinrich said she had probably 15 chances to amend the bill over the past 8 months. Because the bill would amend the city charter, it required seven votes to pass. It failed 6-3, with Sanchez, Mayer and Loy voting against it.
Winter looked shocked when the three councilors voted down the bill. While Mayor Martin Chavez' ABQPAC scandal a couple of years ago may have been an early stimulus for the bill, Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman said the administration favored Winter's bill. What a surprise then that Mayer, Sanchez and Loy, the mayor's three staunchest supporters on the Council, killed a bill the administration likes so much. Marty's probably really mad at Mayer, who just stole his photo-op thunder with her animal care bill. Republican Mayer has worked so diligently to make would-be voters work harder on their IDs, you would think she'd be eager to clean up the other end of government. And Ken Sanchez, Marty's own former campaign treasurer! How will Marty feel about Sanchez torpedoing the ethics bill he approved? In his defense, Sanchez said Albuquerque government was so clean it didn't need more ethics laws.News reports say Winter will try to put the ethics bill on the 2007 ballot. No doubt we'll see Sanchez, Loy and Mayer out there stumping for that initiative, with Marty cracking the whip right behind them.
Bread, Wine and JewelryCouncilor Debbie O'Malley moved an administration bill striking down the ban on serving liquor with meals in outdoor dining areas of Old Town restaurants. The bill also allows vendors to set up in private patios attached to stores.
Parishioners and clergy of San Felipe de Neri church objected to expanded liquor sales. Innkeepers, shopper and diners, restaurant owners, and merchants applauded. O'Malley asked for a continuance on the debate.
One plaza vendor, who demanded the same restrictions be placed on patio vendors, suggested the two-part bill be split. Sounds like an idea that might save time in the long run when dealing with this unique, intensely inhabited space.