Alibi V.17 No.46 • Nov 13-19, 2008 

Council Watch

Hot-Air War

Two city employees expressed their disappointment with the City Council during the Wednesday, Nov. 5 meeting. The Council failed to override Mayor Martin Chavez’ veto of a bill on Sept. 3 that would have allowed for arbitration between the city and its workers. One of the workers said a single councilor’s vote kept them from getting an ordinance that would allow an independent arbitrator to oversee labor-management negotiation. Councilor Sally Mayer said four councilors, not just one, voted against arbitration. To override a veto, the council must have a 6-3 majority.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Balloon Battle

Councilor Michael Cadigan was miffed by the administration’s advertisement of a job opening for a new assistant manager at the Balloon Museum. The ad says the job pays up to $55,000 a year. Cadigan said he didn’t understand why, in times of economic hardship, a new assistant manager was needed for a museum that’s poorly attended.

Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams explained that the ad posting had just been taken down. Adams said the administration was advertising the job because there might have been another personnel change at the museum. He maintained that at least three jobs have been cut at the museum, and the employees have been moved to other departments. But Cadigan fired back that job postings don’t happen by accident. He said the Council reduced the museum's funding and directed the administration to reduce costs. “This is not a good time to start hiring middle managers and increasing their roles,” Cadigan said. Adams’ cryptic responses to Cadigan’s pointed questions underscore an ongoing battle between the Council and the mayor over the museum. Chavez has been frustrated by the Council’s budget cuts and noted that attendance numbers have been rising. But the overall numbers are still low, as Cadigan mentioned. Until the museum can get more people through its doors, funding it should be a low priority.
Solar Bucks

The Council unanimously passed an ordinance that gives Schott Solar $1 million toward building a facility in Albuquerque. The ordinance, which was requested by the mayor and sponsored by Councilor Don Harris, is an incentive for Schott Solar to build a solar receiver and solar module manufacturing facility that is expected to employ at least 735 people by 2014. In exchange for the $1 million and the $105 million bond approved by the Council earlier this year, Schott must stay in Albuquerque for at least 10 years. The ordinance says Schott must give back some of the money it has received if the company doesn’t employ the number of workers it agreed to hire.

Cadigan mentioned that the Council has approved funds for companies like Eclipse Aviation that have since fallen into financial duress. In an interview, Harris said Schott is far more stable than companies like Eclipse. Councilor Ken Sanchez said at the meeting he was concerned the jobs Schott is providing could be shipped overseas to Schott’s other facilities in Europe. Schott President Mark Finocchario explained the Euro’s higher value made sending jobs outside the United States unwise. He also said the 10-year commitment would keep Schott in Albuquerque for at least that long. More than $100 million is a lot to spend to entice a company to move jobs to the city. But Albuquerque has seen its unemployment rate climb in recent months, and the promise of jobs in the growing solar energy industry is appealing. The city has been burned before by companies who promise to bring jobs. Still, if Schott is true to its word, this should be good for Albuquerque.
Get On the Bus

The Council unanimously passed an ordinance that does away with the transfer fee on ABQ Ride buses. The ordinance, sponsored by Councilor Debbie O'Malley, also lowers the cost of monthly passes for indigent citizens, such as those receiving food stamps or Social Security disability payments. The cost of monthly passes for those bus riders goes from $12 to $10 under the ordinance. For the first time, ABQ Ride will offer one- and two-day passes for $2 and $4, respectively. Instead of paying a 25 cent transfer fee, passengers can either pay $1 for a one-way ride or $2 to ride any bus all day. A couple of fares increase under the ordinance, but the vast majority decrease significantly. The ordinance goes into effect in January of 2009.
ABQ Ride Director Greg Payne said one of the main goals of the ordinance is to increase the number of one-, three-, six- and 12-month passes the city sells. He said he’d rather have more people pay less than have fewer pay more. Payne said the benefit of selling more monthly passes is that even if gas prices fluctuate, those with long-term passes will continue to ride the bus. O’Malley and Payne, who have butted heads in the past, praised one another for their efforts in designing the ordinance. Harris said seeing the two work together “makes you want to say, ‘Yes we can.’ ” Payne added, “You might say change is in the air.” Reducing the cost of riding the bus for those with the least income is a positive step for Albuquerque mass transit. But under the ordinance, those who only want to ride the bus twice a day actually pay more under the new rules. (They have to buy a one-day pass for $2, instead of paying $1 and then 25 cents for a transfer.) Payne’s efforts to get more folks on the bus are commendable, and reducing fares is a good way to do it.