Alibi V.17 No.52 • Dec 25-31, 2008 

Council Watch

Bean Counting

Most of the Dec. 15 City Council meeting was deferred due to icy roads and snow. The councilors still managed to get a couple things out of the way. The most interesting items—sweeping water conservation measures, sector plan approvals and what to do with all those water-hog city toilets—will be heard sometime in the new year.

Former Duke City first lady Margaret Aragon de Chavez made an appearance and was all smiles, promoting the Council’s passage of the measure declaring the third Saturday in June “Albuquerque Adoption Appreciation Day.” Aragon de Chavez is the statewide recruitment director for the Children, Youth and Families Department’s foster and adoptive parent program.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Recession Special

A resolution quietly introduced by Councilor Michael Cadigan outlined about $20 million in cuts to the overall $400 million city budget. The measure includes a 10 percent overall cut for temporary city employees, such as summer recreation workers. Several people addressed the Council, asking that it not drastically decrease funding for youth, homeless and animal programs. Under Cadigan’s proposal, various youth programs would see about $3.6 million less next year.

Cuts include funding for substance abuse treatment programs and $200,000 less for the long-planned Downtown teen center, Warehouse 508. About $1 million is set to be axed from the Animal Welfare Department. Other departments taking big hits in the proposal: the library program ($1.02 million), the police department ($2 million), the transit department ($1.7 million), the BioPark ($1 million), and the list goes on. The resolution was referred to the finance committee.
There was no direct discussion of the proposed budget-slashing resolution. Councilors commented about how hard it is to decide what will receive less money. Cadigan mentioned that many of the budget cuts are for unfilled positions. He did not have any trouble letting Animal Welfare Marketing Director Rick DeReyes know that maybe if there was less money going to the department's administrative jobs (such as marketing director), more money could go directly to the animals.

After a middle school student spoke in support of keeping the youth programs intact, new Council President Isaac Benton said, “Anything else we do up here is useless if we don’t take care of our youth.”
Carving $20 million from the city’s budget will be painful no matter where that money comes from. The measure calls for several million to be yanked from those providing services for youth, the homeless and animals. I assume city bean counters asked all agencies to propose ways to accomplish their respective functions, avoid job loss and keep valuable programs—with 10 percent less money. In times of economic hardship, these types of services for the young, old, families and animals become even more necessary. City councilors should listen to the rank-and-file workers, who are the heart of the programs and know their needs best.
To Notify or Not to Notify

The Southwest Alliance of Neighbors (SWAN) appealed an Environmental Planning Commission decision to approve a zoning amendment for a 40-acre mobile home park just west of Coors on Ervien.

SWAN disagrees that more mobile homes are a good thing for an area already burdened with low-income housing. But the group could not register an opinion due some glitch at the Office of Neighborhood Coordination. SWAN appealed, saying it did not receive notice of the planning hearings. The city staff said SWAN was not entitled to notice because it is an alliance or coalition of neighborhood associations, not an individual association.

Office of Neighborhood Coordination Manager Patrick Montoya said SWAN does not have notification paperwork on file. Just about then, SWAN President Klarissa Pena, along with a handful of other members, presented their copy of an April 2008 registration, signed by Montoya.
After about an hour of roundabout discussions, the Council decided to send the whole issue back to the Environmental Planning Commission for a re-hearing, along with a first-time hearing on SWAN’s concerns.

Councilors went in circles over whether alliances or coalitions are in the same standing as regular neighborhood or homeowner associations.

Councilor Michael Cadigan said he did not buy the “post hoc justifications” given by Montoya, Policy Analyst Bruce Thompson and Deputy City Attorney John DuBois. Cadigan pressured Jim Strozier, the agent for the landowners, about how and why the owners think more mobile homes are better for the community than stick-built housing. Strozier stumbled with a non-answer.

All of the councilors agreed it was unfortunate that Strozier and the property owners were told by the city that there was no neighborhood notification requirement.
Cadigan’s right: The justification Montoya and other city staffers came up with for the bungle was lame. Any efforts to “define” SWAN out of the notification process failed— and rightly so. SWAN has kept a sharp eye on South Valley and Southwest Mesa development since the ’90s. Even if the group did not have its paperwork on file, SWAN members Pena, Dolores Griego and Louis Tafoya are no strangers to City Hall. Input from groups like SWAN may be be bothersome for city staffers, but neighborhood input from diverse sources is critical.