Councilors Don Harris and Martin Heinrich sponsored a bill authorizing $8.9 million in industrial revenue bonds for Historic Hotels LLC to purchase and renovate La Posada. The bill passed unanimously.
At the Feb. 21 meeting, Councilor Don Harris sponsored an extended moratorium on construction in Tijeras Arroyo and a bill authorizing a study of whether the speed humps in his district actually work. Both bills passed unanimously.
Councilors deferred three bills of general interest--repealing extension of the 1/4-cent transportation tax, setting a moratorium on cell phone towers that are not "concealed" and requiring 18 months notice before mobile home park owners can evict law-abiding residents.
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Fish, Bikes, Balloons and Spats Mayor Martin Chavez' recent capital improvements budget allocated $158 million for the next cycle. Items include the usual upgrades and expansions along with $27 million for higher profile goodies. Several councilors preferred a larger helping of meat and potatoes and less Chocolate Decadence. A parade of speakers supported the proposed amenities, which include a Westside therapeutic pool for senior citizens at $3 million, Phase II of the Albuquerque Bicycle Park and a proposed Extreme Sports Park for $9.5 million, and $4 million for landscaping and land acquisition at the Balloon Museum. Several people supported $12,775,000 for the Albuquerque Biological Park to fund an aquarium expansion, improved tiger habitat, completion of the Japanese Garden, Tingley Beach and upkeep.
Last week's budget differences may have triggered an early evening spat when Councilor Michael Cadigan asked Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman why the city's 2004 contract with Consensus Planning for designing a Ventana Ranch park was still not signed. Wrangling ensued and several department heads wandered out. Councilor Brad Winter said he hoped the directors would be at the next evening's “Committee of the Whole” budget meeting. Perlman said, "We do not appear here on a subpoena." Council President Debbie O'Malley said, "Clearly, directors work for the city of Albuquerque" and asked whether Perlman had asked the directors to leave. He said yes. Winter asked City Attorney Bob White if the city charter obliged administration officials to attend Council meetings. "Just me," replied White.
Despite news reports of a calming during the next evening's meeting, it's gonna be a long haul till this budget is passed. During discussion of another bill adjusting 2006 and 2007 appropriations, O'Malley and Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese butted heads over consistency in procedures, but agreed that city revenues had been good recently and projections also looked favorable. So if money is truly available, all these extremely desirable projects should move forward. While the Balloon Museum is the least visited of the exhibits, it has a specific association with Albuquerque, and we should build on our own strengths. But it approaches petulance for the administration to take offense at councilors' questions about whether facilities duplicate existing ones, how broad a section of the public they would serve and their cost of maintenance.
Repeating Mistakes Defines InsanityCouncilors Harris and Martin Heinrich sponsored a bill authorizing $8.9 million in industrial revenue bonds for Historic Hotels LLC to purchase and renovate La Posada. Downtown Councilor Isaac Benton recused himself due to his architectural connection with the project. Heinrich said using IRBs for a hotel project was unusual, but the proposed boutique hotel would aim for a different clientele than the historic building's previously unsuccessful stint as a provider of mid-level lodging.
Economic Development Director Fred Mondragon said the hotel would help draw conventions and revitalize Downtown. The department's Deirdre Firth said the lease agreement included clawback provisions in case the project shut down within five years or didn't meet its obligations regarding hires and wage levels. The bill passed unanimously. O'Malley left the room during the vote, but not before triggering the best laugh of the tense evening by miscalling the Hyatt Regency's Karl Holme "Karl Rove."
Long-term residents have been moaning since the ’60s about the destruction of the Franciscan and Alvarado hotels. How many lessons in hindsight do we need? And on the subject of economic development, kudos to Mondragon and other city business leaders who landed Tesla Motors for Albuquerque. Our future depends on drastically reducing the use of private vehicles and cleaning up the ones left. Right now, Tesla's super-performance electric vehicles look set to fill a critical niche.
Architectural MidwiferyAt the last meeting, Councilor Sally Mayer sponsored a three-month construction moratorium in one District 7 area while new guidelines for height and setbacks are written. At this meeting, Mayer and Councilor Craig Loy sponsored a bill repealing the earlier ban in favor of a similar moratorium covering areas of their Districts 7 and 8 that do not already have Sector Development Plans.
Loy said his constituents were very concerned with new "buildings that just don't fit in." Heinrich said the time allowed for planning was "completely unrealistic," and that it "paints everything with one brush in an enormous area of the city." Cadigan's motion to refer the bill to the Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) Committee passed 5-4, Mayer, Loy, Harris and Councilor Ken Sanchez opposed.
When the endless La Cueva Sector planning process was mentioned, Mayer said, "Giving birth naturally is easier." This issue is playing out in such a contrarian manner, it's anybody's guess what will happen if LUPZ members Benton, O'Malley, Winter and Cadigan--usually staunch planning advocates--argue against the bill, while Craig "No Regulation" Loy supports it.