Irate citizens hurled verbal pitchforks at the administration and City Council during the Nov. 20 Council meeting.
Although the issue was not on the night's agenda, 14 people showed up to oppose the Council's earlier vote to extend a quarter-cent transportation tax and use part of it for bonds to build a streetcar line along parts of Central [Council Watch, "Panda on Wheels," Nov. 16-22]. About half the speakers supported the proposed streetcar system from Nob Hill to Atrisco Plaza but opposed the process used to pass the bill. About half opposed the entire idea.
At the previous meeting, councilors voted 6-3 to extend the transportation tax 11 years beyond its voter-approved sunset date of 2009. The extended tax would pay for various street, trail and transit needs as well as Mayor Martin Chavez' trolley project. Many Downtown business and hospitality industry people supported the tax.
On Nov. 20, Councilor Don Harris introduced a bill calling for an independent cost/benefit analysis of the streetcar line. The bill will be debated at the Dec. 4 Council meeting. However, Dec. 4 is also when the $200 million transportation bond bill is scheduled for a vote. Councilor Brad Winter, who opposed extending the tax without voter approval, proposed spreading the issues over two meetings so that discussion of the cost analysis could precede the bond vote. His motion failed.
Councilor Michael Cadigan, the third councilor to oppose the original legislation, asked if the administration had done cost comparisons with other cities' streetcar systems. Spokespeople from the city's Municipal Development Department said most comparisons were not "oranges to oranges." They said the Portland, Ore., and Tampa, Fla., systems cost about $24 to $25 million per mile compared to the estimated Albuquerque cost of $28 million per mile. They said the systems in Kenosha, Wis., Little Rock, Ark., and Tucson, Ariz., with costs ranging from $3 to $8 million per mile, were not modern or comparable.
Chavez and Heinrich subsequently announced they would let voters decide whether to extend the tax. The measure will share the ballot with the Albuquerque Public Schools election on Feb. 6.
In other actions, councilors unanimously approved a development agreement for the historic, culturally significant DeAnza Motor Lodge on Central aimed at saving the building and its unique murals painted by the late Zuni Pueblo artist Anthony Edaakie.
Councilors also heard a status report on the Del Rey mobile home park. To prevent long-time residents from being evicted and to create affordable housing in the Northeast Heights, the city will explore buying all or part of the property since no offers from the private sector were acceptable to the property's owner.