By Carolyn Carlson
The Sounds of the Budget Crunch
More than 250 people descended on City Hall Monday, Jan. 26, to let councilors know where the Albuquerque's dollars should go. And they came bearing signs and strumming guitars.
About 100 signed up to speak against a proposed resolution that would have swept about $27 million out of next year's roughly $400 million budget. The measure carried by mayoral hopeful Councilor Michael Cadigan failed in a 3-2 vote by the five-member finance committee. Councilors Don Harris, Ken Sanchez and Debbie O’Malley (who also wants to move up to the mayor’s office) voted against the measure. Brad Winter and Cadigan voted in favor of it.
Cuts would have included $200,000 from Warehouse 508, the teen music and arts center set to take over the Ice House space Downtown. The measure would have also nixed about $1 million from the Animal Welfare Department, $2 million from the police department, $1.02 million from libraries, $1.7 million from transit and $1 million from the BioPark.
Many of those addressing the councilors stressed the importance of keeping the city's animal, youth, social and cultural programs funded and ready to grow. They said with the national and local economies in a downward spiral, more people would need the services these programs provide. "Look into the eyes of the homeless who have no voice … and let your heart guide you," one man told the committee.
Many booed when Cadigan defended his measure.
Several dozen Warehouse 508 supporters, some with guitars, came to speak on behalf of the up-and-coming teen center. It's better to keep the youth involved in positive activities, and Warehouse 508 is critical, said Patrick Baldonado, president of the NMX Sports board. What looked like a hundred people stood up in support each time someone spoke about not cutting funding to programs run by Youth Development, Inc. The agency contracts with the city to provide educational and developmental services to children, youth and families. Many booed when Cadigan defended his measure.
City Chief Financial Officer Anna Lamberson made a short presentation outlining Mayor Martin Chavez' plan. She said the city would be short $20 million next fiscal year. But by carrying over several million from last year, leaving about 150 or so jobs unfilled, and cutting spending on supplies and travel, the city should get through the crunch.
Cadigan insisted his bill would not cause layoffs or reductions in services. He said if his fellow councilors did not send his resolution up to the full Council, they were not doing the job they were elected to do.
Chair Don Harris disagreed and said another proposal brought forward by Councilor Ken Sanchez would allow the Council to have a say in the fiscal adjustments. Sanchez' bill was passed up to the big table for full Council debate. This bill does not have the crushing numbers that Cadigan's bill did. It says instead that only critical positions essential to public safety, transit and education should be filled. It also says, in essence, that there should be better communication between the administration and the Council about the condition of the city's coffers.
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