May 31 - Jun 6, 2007 
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Council Watch

Numbers

By Laura Sanchez
An amendment that would require a proposed youth space in the old Ice House building (its south-facing wall pictured here) to hold its first event by June 30 of next year passed unanimously.
Tina Larkin
An amendment that would require a proposed youth space in the old Ice House building (its south-facing wall pictured here) to hold its first event by June 30 of next year passed unanimously.

On May 21, Mayor Martin Chavez promoted his FY08 budget at a press conference outside City Hall, while inside councilors prepared to amend the mayoral package to reflect their own priorities. The amended FY08 Goals bill passed unanimously, and the Council's appropriations bill passed 6-3, Councilors Sally Mayer, Craig Loy and Ken Sanchez opposed.

Grim reality broke through the accounting when a small group holding photographs of a bloody accident scene marched down the aisle. Ruled out of order, they continued to speak outside the chamber. Denise Baker said that a year ago, her 74-year-old grandmother, Flora Marie Aragon, was sitting at a picnic table in her front yard near the intersection of Old Coors and Central. A police car swerved to avoid an accident and crashed through a brick wall into the yard, killing Aragon and injuring two friends. Baker said the grand jury found no criminal charges in the matter. The family was told no details of the secret deliberations, a result that neither answers their painful questions nor publicly clears the officer's name.

As the clock passed 11 p.m., Sanchez' hotly debated bill lowering second and subsequent red-light camera fines passed 8-1, Councilor Brad Winter opposed.

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

Let's Put on a Show!

Issue

Councilor Isaac Benton amended the goals bill to add specific deadlines for renovating the Ice House building for a teen art and community space. Benton's amendment would require the facility to hold its first event by the end of FY08 on June 30 next year and seek partnerships within the arts and youth services community.

Several teen advocates spoke for the center. One had the large crowd of supporters in the chamber stand up. Two mentioned how positive the center would be in comparison to last year's cancellation of Rock Out With Your Cause Out and praised Warehouse 21, an effective Santa Fe program that would be used as a model.

Council's Take

Saying everyone supported the center, Councilor Michael Cadigan questioned the selection of building and contractor, and whether the entire process was as efficient as possible.

Cadigan said the old ice vaults downstairs were dangerous, and that "interesting amenities in the upstairs area" would have to be removed. He said using an existing community center would allow more money to go toward programming, and that the project needed to include private funding. Loy said that right now the teens were in bars, they wanted a place of their own, and they wanted to have input on running it. Cadigan's proposed changes failed 6-3. Benton's amendment passed unanimously.

Reporter's Take

Can we conclude both Cadigan and Loy are correct? Using a community center would almost certainly be more efficient than renovating the 30,000-square-foot Ice House. The city could do a perfectly good job of setting up programs and do it for less money.

But Loy's right, too. The teens seem already sold on the Warehouse 21 model and already feel a sense of ownership for the Ice House location, whether it’s because the Downtown atmosphere is more nurturing to art projects or because the building's nasty history is a point in its favor is unclear. The location offers no guarantee of success, but it scores better on the intangibles than a suburban community center.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Issue

Ground Zero of budget contention was the mayor's plan to cut gross receipts tax by one-eighth of one percent, a savings of 12.5 cents on every $100 spent on non-food or medical items. To help make up for the tax cut, Chavez deleted $9.1 million earmarked for the city's portion of Bernalillo County Detention Center operating expenses. Councilor Don Harris amended the tax cut bill to delay the cut for six months.

Council's Take

Council President Debbie O'Malley called the tax cut foolish in light of a $32 million deficit. Sanchez said he had not been shown an operating budget for the jail. Cadigan challenged Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman not to come back to the Council requesting a tax increase for a Downtown arena. Perlman said a tax cut freed the administration to increase taxes for other things. Several councilors criticized lack of cooperation from the county. The bill passed 7-2, Loy and Sanchez opposed.

Reporter's Take

Being a perfectly normal person, I hate taxes. But we've seen this routine too many times, locally and nationally. Conservatives grab the spotlight with a tax cut. Hooray! Predictably, services and infrastructure decline and budget deficits rise. Eventually, fiscally responsible politicians have to restore revenue levels. Boo! At its current rate, Albuquerque's gross receipts tax is still lower than most non-reservation municipalities in the state.

All Your Yards Belong to Us

Issue

A bill sponsored by Mayer and Benton allows people to park only on their driveways, which must be made of concrete or other impermeable materials and cannot exceed certain dimensions.

Council's Take

Benton said parking in yards brought down neighborhood appearance. Mayer said the bill helped property values. Cadigan hoped it would stop people from driving over curbs. The bill passed unanimously.

Reporter's Take

I just don't understand Council enthusiasm for this bill. If it's my yard and my car, why should the city legislate where I park? Oh, well. Good thing I don't live in Albuquerque.
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