Alibi V.17 No.24 • June 12-18, 2008 

Council Watch

What is Our Nation But All of Us?

Several groups of citizens packed the June 2 City Council meeting. First up to bat were firefighters, who asked the Council to approve a collective bargaining agreement negotiated with the administration. The Council approved, although several councilors said they should have been consulted on any contract running three years.

Councilor Debbie O’Malley sponsored a resolution to combine funds allocated a year ago with a proposed $1 million from the county to buy a vacant 22-acre property at Osuna and Vista del Norte. The property is a popular landing site during the Balloon Fiesta.

In other actions, Councilor Michael Cadigan passed two bills unanimously. One brings the city’s anti-smoking legislation in line with that of the state. Another directs city departments to develop plans for cutting gasoline use by at least 10 percent.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
The “R” in MRA Means Redevelopment

For years, Southwest Mesa residents have wanted more retail businesses nearby. Plans are progressing for a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area for the stretch of Central between the river and Old Coors. Meanwhile, Armstrong Development, along with area residents, sought to have the MRA boundaries stretched another half mile to include Armstrong’s proposed Unser Crossing on an undeveloped 50-acre site at the southwest corner of Unser and Central.

Councilors Isaac Benton, Ken Sanchez and Trudy Jones proposed compromise legislation that would keep the MRA within its designated boundaries but would give Armstrong $1.8 million in tax breaks for Unser Crossing. The Council argued that MRAs are meant for redeveloping blighted areas, not building on raw land. A dozen residents and politicians from the area spoke in support of the compromise bill.
Jones said she was pleased to co-sponsor the bill, which should be seen as economic development rather than a handout to a developer.

O’Malley said Armstrong had “manipulated a very vulnerable population.” She proposed an amendment obligating the developer to comply with the Large Retail Facility ordinance. Cadigan suggested a clause tying funding to compliance with the ordinance. S.G. Ellison of Armstrong said they intended to comply with the intent of the ordinance but were uncomfortable with an amendment “bringing us down to the technicalities” of the ordinance. Sanchez and Harris argued oversight by the Environmental Planning Commission was enough. The amendment making funding contingent on compliance failed 5-4, Councilors Benton, O’Malley, Cadigan and Rey Garduño supporting. The bill itself passed unanimously.
According to the West Central Community Development Group, the national average for retail space is 20 square feet per person, the Albuquerque average is 38 square feet and the average in the Southwest quadrant of the city is only 10 square feet per person. One might conclude that Albuquerque has way too much retail space, and it’s in the wrong places.

The amount and type of development is the dominant issue for the Southwest Mesa, if not the entire city. Six state lawmakers from that quadrant support—and have received support from—SunCal and Atrisco Oil and Gas. Three had primary races on June 3. Incumbents James Taylor and Dan Silva were defeated by Eric Griego and Eleanor Chavez, respectively. Incumbent Linda Lopez edged challenger Michael Padilla. Regarding developers, area residents are sending a mixed message.
What a Bizarre Idea

Garduño called for the Council to support a bill similar to the one in Congress sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich that would create a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence. Both federal and local bills emphasize programs to reduce various types of violence and improve police-community relations.

Speaker Jodee Oyas said the bill in Congress had 70 co-sponsors and 35 supporting city councils. Paul Eichhorn of Project Share noted that for the cost of the Iraq War, the government could have retrofitted the nation’s houses with solar panels, reducing the need for Middle Eastern oil.
O’Malley said she liked the idea. She also wanted to see campaign money cleaned up since it was the cause of so many grassroots initiatives failing. Jones said the bill’s goal was laudable but peace was not the Council’s job. Benton said they’d heard the same argument last year regarding an Iraq War bill. With less emphasis on war and occupation, Benton said, Councilors could do more for their constituents.

Sanchez praised the military. Garduño said two of his uncles hadn’t come back from Guadalcanal. He said the bill wasn’t disrespectful of the military but was about getting beyond “Who do we kill next?” The bill passed 6-2, Councilors Sally Mayer and Jones opposed, Councilor Don Harris out of the room.
Violence—gang, domestic, school, racial and ethnic, against gays and lesbians—what wouldn’t we do to reduce such scourges of the community? The irony is a bill promoting such a reduction probably receives less support because it includes that hideously wimpy, horribly un-American word "peace."

On the other hand, a Department of Peace and Nonviolence may have a better chance than in times past simply because the utter bankruptcy of pursuing deceitful, unnecessary wars has become so starkly apparent. But nobody—not Congress, not the mainstream media, not the military-industrial complex nor the lobbyists—will stop the pro-war mindset unless people pressure them.