The City Council rang in the new year by tackling an agenda loaded with leftovers. While the Council cleared most of its plate at its Jan. 5 meeting, it deferred once again an ordinance that requires the city to phase out and retrofit wasteful toilets and other plumbing fixtures. Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams said the city owns between 2,500 and 4,700 water-wasting toilets. Councilor Michael Cadigan introduced this idea months ago as part of a broader water conservation measure, but fellow councilors shied from it. So Cadigan split the ordinance into two separate bills, hoping to at least get the water-greedy toilets dealt with by the end of 2009. Council members still balked at the estimated $750 per toilet replacement cost and sent Cadigan and Adams back to get more accurate numbers and a better plan on how to pay for the project.
About $2.7 million in five grants for the Albuquerque Police Department was approved. A half million dollars will be spread over a new DWI BAT Mobile, more party patrols, continued seat belt enforcement, community-oriented policing and better crime analysis software. One of the grants from the U.S. Justice Department will pump more than $2 million into upgrading the department’s radio infrastructure, such as modems and antenna sites. The grants don’t come free; there is a total of about $65,000 in matching funds that will have to come from the city’s coffers.
There will be a whole lot of wishes sent to Santa Fe in Albuquerque’s 2009 legislative resolution, a collaborative measure agreed on by the city’s administration and the Council. It includes a summary of the laws, policies, capital projects and other things Albuquerque would like to see come its way during the upcoming 60-day session. City leaders asked for brick-and-mortar projects, open space acquisition, several types of public transit expansions, protection for the environment, economic development in many forms, funding for youth and senior programs, more money for public, charter and higher education schools, and public safety.
Councilor Cadigan announced Monday, Jan. 5, that he will run for mayor this year using public financing. Former state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero jumped in the race in late December. It’s still unclear whether Mayor Martin Chavez will seek another term.
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Marching up the HillCadigan asked fellow Council members to pass a resolution allowing the city to better control how development will proceed across SunCal’s massive holdings on the city’s southwest side. Cadigan’s resolution said SunCal must actually build 70 percent of the homes in each phase before developing the next phase west up the hill. A water development plan previously approved by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority allows SunCal to move to the next phase of development when 70 percent of the first three phases are platted, not built.
Council members rejected Cadigan’s resolution 5 to 4. Councilors Sally Mayer and Trudy Jones said they were confused about why there needs to be an additional layer of government on top of the already approved development plan. Councilor Ken Sanchez said the development plan in place would guide how SunCal builds on thousands of acres. Cadigan pressed SunCal’s Will Steadman about whether the company was going to build from east to west. After some deflection, Steadman said the development would go from the center outward.
Cadigan was trying to make sure SunCal does not leapfrog into the west before actually building up the areas closest to the city. It seems Cadigan wants something in place that’s more stringent than the Water Authority’s approved plan. This vote may come back to haunt the Council if SunCal does not hold up its end of the bargain and sprawls its way out to the Rio Puerco. The Water Authority and the city should get together with SunCal and solidify a building plan so there is no confusion.
Destination UptownAfter months of delay, Councilor Sally Mayer presented her resolution repealing the 1995 Uptown Sector Plan and adopting the 2008 update. The new version changes zoning, implements design regulations, transportation services and other details to develop the Uptown area between Menaul, San Pedro, I-40 and Pennsylvania. Her resolution includes pedestrian and bicycle paths, parking structures and civic spaces.
Council members approved the sector plan revision without much discussion.Inez Neighborhood Association President Evelyn Feltner said her group believed the 2008 update was the best deal it was going to get. Mayer said many people worked on the plan over many months to get it to where “pretty much everybody is happy” with it.
The sector plan revision has been a long time coming. The 1995 Uptown Sector revision tangled up the city in litigation for 13 years and cost it more than $8 million in a jury verdict with a former developer. It’s good to see this designated shopping area get a strategy underneath it to move it forward. But one has to wonder if more mid- to high-end retail space is the way to go in this downward economy.