Word limits seldom allow mention of individuals honored at Council meetings, but let's leave for July's vacation thanking some outstanding Albuquerque residents cited on June 18. Councilor Michael Cadigan, a former Marine, arranged for Marine Sgt. Jeff Hunter to receive his Silver Star at the meeting. The citation mentioned several occasions when Hunter ran through heavy fire to retrieve wounded comrades. Proclamations honored seventh-grader Matthew Evans, who made it into the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition, and Goldie Ann Steadman, who recently died at the age of 96 after a life filled with community activism. Perennial Council junkies relished the final episode (maybe) of the city's very own "Survivor" drama, starring the Del Rey Mobile Home Park residents. The 50 families remaining of the park's original 270 have fought eviction for more than two years as the property's owner tried to sell it. Now, Stillbrooke Homes and Argus Development are negotiating an arrangement to create a first-class, mixed-use neighborhood on the land that will allow current residents to buy their own lots.
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That Thing on Central AvenueThe on-again, off-again construction is on again for Jason Daskalos' Nob Hill project across from Shogun. The block-long building will have residences on the top two floors, retail on the ground floor facing Central and parking in a basement story on the north side.
Kenneth Robey, who lives just to the north, appealed the building permit, saying the project was too big, didn't provide adequate parking and lacked required landscaping. The Council unanimously accepted the project with no changes except requiring a landscaping buffer to the north.
Yes, the project will loom over the streetscape, and arguments in its favor barely squeezed under the legal wire. However, several years ago neighborhood opposition killed another proposed, somewhat less massive development. Sometimes opposition backfires.
Turn Down (or Up) the #@$%& Thermostat Councilors Cadigan, Martin Heinrich and Isaac Benton have worked for months on adopting the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code, which cuts energy waste in building construction, renovation and operation. Besides including increasingly common standards for equipment, materials and installation, the bill mitigates design problems. For instance, it requires shading on large, overheating expanses of west-facing glass. It also slaps a surcharge on permit fees for gargantuan single-family residences.
The bill was slated for a vote but Mayor Martin Chavez announced that his own conservation plan was on the way and the Council bill would conflict with it. Benton said he'd only seen a draft of the mayor's plan that afternoon but he thought the Council's bill was stronger and better. He proposed a deferral to Aug. 6 in hopes of a compromise. Cadigan said he hoped the delay was not just for the mayor to hold more press conferences. The deferral passed.
The built environment consumes huge amounts of energy--we need more efficient materials and design, downsized buildings and slower population growth. Chavez has mixed his messages on sustainability, requiring greater conservation from residents while relentlessly promoting city growth. The Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico is working on Chavez' bill. One can hope it follows the Home Builders' current, excellent 200-page guide to green building. Let's also hope the mayor's bill isn't legally toothless. Stay tuned.
Irony OverloadRecap: Mayor cuts funding for county jail and schedules tax cut to begin in January. Council replaces jail funding and delays tax cut until June--a hit of about $18 per capita. Mayor vetoes change. Council overrides veto. Council passes bills putting Council salary raise and tougher recall standards on October ballot. Mayor vetoes both bills. For Act VII, the Council voted whether to override both vetoes. The recall change, requiring more signatures and an actual incident of misconduct, is widely seen as triggered by the recent attempt to recall Councilor Don Harris. In a concurrent sideshow, a Downtown resident began a drive to recall the mayor.
Early in the meeting, Councilor Ken Sanchez, usually an ally of the mayor, moved to put the Council pay raise from $9,800 to $29,600 back on the ballot. He noted that he had worked less and earned more on the County Commission. Sanchez read Council salaries from other New Mexico towns, ranging from Las Cruces' $19,442 to Farmington's $10,000. The override passed 6-3, Councilors Cadigan, Brad Winter and Martin Heinrich opposed. After Harris left, Loy moved to put recall changes back on the ballot. Loy said that maybe all previous recall attempts had failed because they had been so frivolous. The override passed 7-1, Winter opposed.
Regarding the tax cut, the mayor has talked about "relief" until he sounds like a Rolaids ad. Well, here's a plan to relieve the situation without costing the city. Nine $9,800 salaries for nine councilors totals $88,200. Add the mayor's salary of $98,000 for a total of $186,200. Now, the mayor should receive more than a councilor because he may work twice as hard, but it's doubtful he works more than 2.5 times as hard. So change the city charter to balance work and wages. Divide the $186,200 into 11.5 portions, one for each councilor and 2.5 for the mayor. Each councilor would receive $16,191 and the mayor would make $40,478.