Alibi V.16 No.33 • Aug 16-22, 2007 

Council Watch

He Said-They Said

At the Aug. 6 meeting, city councilors voted to schedule a recall election of District 9 Councilor Don Harris along with the regular Oct. 2 municipal voting. Combining the elections guarantees that the recall will receive the minimum number of votes necessary. But it also might dilute the sorehead vote, making it harder to reach the also-necessary 50 percent majority necessary to remove Harris from office.

Councilor Michael Cadigan moved a 30-day deferral on his bill establishing guidelines for tax increment development districts (TIDDs) to allow all stakeholders more time to comment. A TIDD can have an enormous financial impact, because it diverts all or part of gross receipts taxes collected in a district away from city coffers and into infrastructure for that district. Stay tuned.

Guided by basic logic, Councilor Martin Heinrich moved a bill deleting a portion of the traffic code that requires registration and tags for bicycles. The city has no procedure by which a rider can actually register a bike.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
"Fiddling While Rome Burns"

Councilors Isaac Benton, Heinrich and Cadigan worked for months with Council staff on the High Performance Building Ordinance, which uses the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code as the basis for more energy-efficient construction standards.

During that time, Mayor Martin Chavez announced he was appointing a "Green Ribbon Task Force" to write new, more energy-efficient construction standards, and wanted the Council's bill deferred. Six weeks ago the Council moved to vote on its bill, but the administration insisted they delay action until after the July recess to consider the mayor's bill before voting.

The Council deferred their bill until August, agreeing to study the mayor's bill in the meantime. However, the mayor's bill was still not available to councilors. Councilor Isaac Benton brought a floor substitute for the Council bill to a vote. The Council's revised bill moves bans on burning toxic materials to a separate bill, raises the impact fee surcharge for building enormous houses, simplifies efficiency standards for heating and cooling equipment and bans installation of electric resistance heating in limited circumstances.

The administration again insisted councilors defer action in favor of the mayoral bill, which Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman said was ready to send down to the Council.
Councilor Brad Winter asked whether the administration had consulted with anyone from the Council. Perlman said that Benton, an architect, was a task force member. Benton said he hadn't been invited to a task force meeting for 12 months.

Cadigan asked if the administration objected to any specific parts of the Council bill. Perlman said he hadn't seen the floor substitute. Benton said he'd been whittling down the bill, not adding to it and that everything had been in there for months, available on the city's website. Councilor Craig Loy asked for a deferral for the Council bill. Heinrich said, "We've been deferring this for six months. We're fiddling while Rome burns." Cadigan said during the six-month deferral, the city had issued 2,000 to 2,500 more building permits.

Councilor Sally Mayer asked how long it would take the administration to complete its own bill. Planning Director Richard Dineen held up pamphlets with a big green Q on the cover and said, "Here are the documents." Dineen said, besides "issues about approach," the administration was trying to put the bill into code language and get consensus with builders and designers.

Heinrich said the Council gave credit to builders and appreciated their very specific advice. Cadigan said they had taken out some items at the request of homebuilders. The deferral failed on a 4-4 vote, Sanchez absent, with Mayer, Loy, Harris and Winter in favor of deferring. Harris asked to reconsider the deferral. Cadigan said, as a tactic, the administration had been careful not to learn anything about the bill. A two-week deferral passed 7-1, Council President Debbie O'Malley opposed.
Cadigan expressed concern that the mayor's "consensus" was with homebuilders more than alleviation of global warming. Later, a visibly angry Perlman said the councilors were acting in bad faith and that they shouldn't have referred to the mayor's task force as builders.

The debate touched repeatedly on the unknown makeup of the task force. The
Alibi obtained a member list from the Planning Department. Entities represented are one trade education group; two unions; three building material suppliers; five architects, engineers and designers; three builders; two Planning Department members; Advent Solar; the Homebuilders Assoc.; Assoc. General Contractors; National Assoc. of Office and Industrial Properties, PNM; NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources; one lawyer; one realtor; and one councilor who didn't receive meeting notices.

Since the mayor's bill was still unavailable, its content is anybody's guess. Mine is that it will use tighter language but won't include penalties for grotesquely huge houses or bans and penalties on any type of less efficient appliance, method or system. Too bad, because we need to cut consumption as well as increase efficiency.

According to news reports, Chavez later offered to meet with councilors three at a time to discuss the matter. However, he's only offering to incorporate bits of the Council bill into his own bill. The point is not whether Chavez takes all the credit--he will, no matter what happens. The point is to pass a strong bill.