The City Council was scheduled to pass a routine bond bill for the Sunport at the Sept. 15 meeting. Councilors had to defer action. City Assistant Treasurer for Debt Management Cilia Aglialoro and bond attorney David Buchholtz said they couldn’t price the bonds that day because of turmoil in the financial markets, including the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the buyout of Merrill Lynch, insurance giant AIG going on life support and a 500-point drop in the Dow Jones index. Councilor Sally Mayer was excused.
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Bus Rider Blues
Public transit issues concerning transfer fees, more bus stops and more bus stop shelters drew discussion. Four people, all representing services for the homeless or disabled, spoke about the hardship imposed on the most vulnerable citizens by 25 cent transfer fees and a lack of stops and routes.Councilor Michael Cadigan said it would be great if Westside Rapid Ride shelters were available. Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams said the Northwest Rapid Ride Park and Ride was doing great and soon there would be a couple of shelters along Coors. Kathleen Cates, executive director of Susan’s Legacy (a transitional housing facility) protested the removal of bus stops that served clientele. An administration bill to add two new bus routes to the Westside passed unanimously.
Transit Director Greg Payne said the bus stop at the Social Security office on Cutler had been removed at the request of a neighborhood association and a stop at Adelante(a facility for people with disabilities) had been removed by mistake.Councilor Isaac Benton said the push to privatize meant federal agencies that serve the disadvantaged no longer built offices clustered conveniently Downtown, but on “the cheapest piece of dirt they can find anywhere.” Payne said according to the Albuquerque Police Department, most of the people who were creating problems on busses used transfers. Cadigan said he didn’t see the connection between the 25-cent charge and people causing trouble on the bus. Councilor Debbie O’Malley introduced a bill to discontinue the bus transfer charge, which will go first to the Finance Committee.
About the only upside to high gas prices is the increased use of public transit. Gas prices are down again, at least temporarily, but mostly because the miserable economy is expected to reduce the demand for gas from cash-strapped drivers.One of the speakers said many bus riders actually didn’t have a spare quarter for the transfer fee. It remains to be seen whether the economic situation will permanently expand bus ridership to a wider sampling of the public beyond people who don’t have cars. New bus routes depend on attracting enough riders to be economically successful, but building ridership depends on offering adequate routes and schedules. Chicken, meet egg.
Mayor Martin Chavez issued an executive order that all vending machines on city property—schools, government buildings, community centers—dispense only healthy food. O’Malley questioned the plan, saying the Council for the Blind stocks and maintains the vending machines and would suffer financially from the change.
CAO Adams said the city met with members of the Council for the Blind that afternoon. The two parties reached a compromise: Twenty percent of the machines willdispense healthy food, with the number gradually increasing to 50 percent. O’Malley said she had a problem with telling adults what to eat.
O’Malley also said some of the proposed foods weren’t healthy for certain people, such as fruit juice for diabetics. So who decides the definition of healthy food? You probably couldn’t get three people at a health food store to agree, much less convince citizensto eat the items. Maybe the city should start with only one “healthy” item per machine.
The Council approved awarding a single contract for three new food vendor sites at the Sunport to Black Mesa Coffee Company, JDDA Concessions of Houston, Texas, and Fresquez Concessions of Albuquerque. Keva Juice, headquartered in Albuquerque, protested the award, saying the company wanted to file a proposal but the manner in which the three contracts had been bundled into one was too complicated. A Keva Juice representative also said the city awarded the contract and then negotiated with the winning applicants.
Pointing out that Keva never actually submitted a bid and thus could not legally protest, attorney David Campbell said, “Showing up is 90 percent of life.” Councilors Trudy Jones and Benton recommended breaking such Requests For Proposals (RFPs) into individual bids instead of bundling them. O’Malley said she was concerned about the city’s “bid and then we’ll negotiate” approach. Councilor Don Harris said he would prefer more competitors. The contract was approved 6-2, Harris and O’Malley opposed.
The contract process sounds much too loose, and it would have been better to split it into separate RFPs. Keva Juice apparently has a great product. Still, Keva’s after-the-fact protest puts it neck-and-neck in the race for the 2008 Whiny-Bag Award with the losing Democratic primary trio of Sen. Shannon Robinson, Sen. James Taylor and Rep. Dan Silva, who immediately brought a lawsuit against advocacy organizations that informed the public (horrors!) of their voting records.