Alibi V.16 No.50 • Dec 13-19, 2007 

Council Watch

Big Bucks and New Face(s)

At the first meeting of the 18th Council--more or less-- Councilor Brad Winter was unanimously elected president by the five councilors that showed up, including newly elected Rey Garduño. Debbie O'Malley was unanimously elected vice president.

Winter sponsored a memorial opposing an $82 million rate hike for PNM. City experts and the state Attorney General's Office had recommended a hike of between $16.7 and $20.4 million. In spite of opposition by the Chamber of Commerce, the memorial passed unanimously.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
We're Gonna Go Eat Worms

Or maybe spaghetti. With Councilors Ken Sanchez, Sally Mayer, Don Harris and Trudy Jones still absent, outgoing President Debbie O'Malley finally gaveled the meeting to order. The fugitive foursome were so angry that Sanchez couldn't lock up the votes to be elected Council president they had retreated to Capo's Italian Restaurant to fume, call a news conference and boycott the entire meeting.
According to news reports, pre-meeting negotiations over the Council presidency left Sanchez and O'Malley with four votes each. Brad Winter said he'd vote for Mayer or Sanchez. Then the O'Malley faction proposed electing Winter, who voted for himself. Winter said, "If they had concerns, they should have come [to the meeting] and debated." O'Malley characterized the boycott as "childish." Pundits speculated the furor over the Council presidency relates to Mayor Martin Chavez' run for Senate, with the assumption that a Council presidency of mayoral ally Ken Sanchez would help the mayor's campaign. But Chavez withdrew from the race Friday, Dec. 7, and it's doubtful the fugitives' action will make many people wish for a Sanchez presidency. It was particularly unwise as the newly elected Trudy Jones' first action.
Greenbacks for "Greenfields"

TIDD stands for Tax Increment Development District. A city sets up a TIDD by defining an area, usually older, "blighted" or in need of redevelopment. A baseline of property and gross receipts taxes in the area is established and an agreement set up with potential developers. The agreements give developers up to 75 percent of any increase in taxes for as long as 25 years to pay for infrastructure.

Arguing that TIDDs are designed to encourage inner-city redevelopment, Councilor Michael Cadigan sponsored an amendment restricting TIDD financing to "fully served" areas in the city or areas where TIDDs are already in effect. The bill would block TIDD deals for SunCal's 55,000 acres of mesa on the city's southwest fringe.

Greenfield TIDDs, used for land that is not developed or urban, have pulled enough opposition to put the libertarian, pro-business Rio Grande Foundation on the same side as the Southwest Organizing Project.
Five people opposed TIDD limitations: land use attorney David Campbell, Louis Tafoya of the West Mesa Neighborhood Association, Larry Smith of the Chamber of Commerce, Peter Sanchez of Atrisco Co. and Will Steadman of SunCal.

Twenty-nine people supported limitations, saying TIDDs for greenfields drained needed tax revenues and water away from the city. Others said TIDDS were designed to encourage infill development rather than building on raw land.

Benton said he had supported TIDD financing for Mesa del Sol because of different transportation and employment situations. O'Malley said the bill's financial "implications are huge." Cadigan said Westside development didn't need taxpayer subsidies and that 93 percent of the anticipated jobs in SunCal "would have to come from out-of-state or the state loses a tremendous amount of money." The bill passed 4-1, Winter opposed.
Ken Balizer, board president of 1000 Friends of New Mexico, said TIDDs for greenfields upset a delicate balance, which seems as good a summary as any. The problems besetting the development industry today stem more from the bursting bubble of mortgages that probably never should have been made than from inadequate taxpayer money for fringe development.

Mayor Chavez lost no time, vetoing the bill limiting TIDDs two days later in spite of mass public revulsion for the enormous tax breaks. It takes six council votes to override a mayoral veto. Odds are realtors Mayer and Jones, along with mayoral buddy Sanchez, will support the veto. Councilors Harris and Winter end up swing votes over how heavily taxpayers will subsidize greenfield development.
We Saw What You Did

With relatively little fanfare, Winter's moratorium passed, stopping red-light camera citations until the mid-January mayoral committee report comes out. Benton and O'Malley opposed the bill. Winter said he'd been unable for two years to get figures on program costs and revenues, where revenues went or whether cameras reduced accidents.
APD Chief Ray Schultz said the STOP program was working and displayed a couple of graphs showing an initial spike in citations at camera intersections followed by steep declines. He said the cameras resulted in an additional 10,000 citations per month. However, Schultz never answered questions about whether cameras reduced accidents. The mayor indicated he'll veto the moratorium. A couple of interesting asides popped up. Senior Policy Analyst John Zaman said violations decreased at some intersections but rear-end accidents increased at one intersection. Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman said, "Accidents at intersections are rare." Oh, really? The cameras might be a great leap forward in public safety, but rarely has an issue been so obfuscated.