Warehouse 508 supporters clapped when the Council voted to fund the teen center, but the exuberance they'd shown at previous meetings was missing. In a 5-4 vote, councilors approved Warehouse 508's money but whacked $50,000 from a promised $200,000 contract to turn the old Ice House strip club into a performance space and arts program for Albuquerque youth. Members of Mayor Martin Chavez' administration at the Wednesday, Feb. 18 meeting agreed to cut the cash to $150,000 to get Warehouse 508 off the ground.
Warehouse 508 is a part of New Mexico Xtreme Sports, a nonprofit youth sports organization. When the Warehouse is up and running, it will have music production facilities; host all-ages music events; have classes and shows in fine arts, urban arts, digital design, theater; and more, according to NMX Executive Director Drew Stuart.
Stuart said he and his staff would work diligently to ensure the money is spent appropriately on youth programs. Nearly a dozen teens and parents spoke at the meeting in support of Warehouse 508, saying it fills a much-needed gap in the city.
Councilor Michael Cadigan battered Stuart with questions about how the money would be spent. Family and Community Services Director Valorie Vigil stepped in to answer.
Several of the councilors expressed more than a little concern over a three-year plan to spend about $5 million more in taxpayer money to improve the building where 508 is housed. Councilor Debbie O’Malley thanked all the young people who had come out to the Council meetings, adding that grown-ups can be a bit intimidating. She then said the Council could not fully fund the venue and suggested the $50,000 cut. As to the $5 million renovation, she wondered if it was a “gold-plated building,” and said there would need to be further discussion about where the money will come from.
Councilors Cadigan and Brad Winter said they are critical of the location of the building but support giving a teen program a chance. Yet, in the end, they voted against the contract along with Councilors Trudy Jones and Sally Mayer.
Councilor Michael Cadigan battered Stuart with questions about how the money would be spent.
Cadigan said the city made a mistake when it bought the building in 2006. About $1 million has already been awarded to begin the first phase of the renovation work. In addition, he would not let his 12-year-old daughter go to events at the proposed First Street and Roma location that he said is surrounded by abandoned buildings, drug users and other such riffraff. Cadigan was also vocal about what he called a top-heavy budget with too much money allocated for administration and not enough for the actual programs.
Councilor Don Harris was skeptical about the building as well but said it is important to invest in the city’s youth even though they are risky, noisy and don’t like adults much. One of the councilors suggested NM Xtreme Sports talk with Bernalillo County about using the old Highland Theater space that is under renovation and underused. Councilor Rey Garduño said the money was better spent on preventive youth programs—like 508—than on jail or increased policing costs.
U.S. Congressman Martin Heinrich stopped by to talk a bit about how the $300 million in federal stimulus money had been divvied up. Heinrich said the money coming to New Mexico is split between transportation projects and tax breaks, among other things. He said 7,600 out of a total 22,000 jobs statewide could manifest in his congressional district. Heinrich expressed his disappointment that money for many worthy projects, such as building schools, were not part of the package.
Connected to the free money from the feds, the Council passed a memorial putting the long-awaited and much-needed I-25 and Paseo del Norte interchange redo at the top of the city’s wish list. All councilors were in agreement that it is a priority.
Before time ran out and a large chunk of the agenda was deferred, the Council formally changed the name of the area in and around Louisiana, Central and Zuni to the International District to reflect its diversity. The resolution, sponsored by Councilor Garduño, passed easily, and he gave a standing ovation to the community that has put up with the derogatory “War Zone” nickname for years. He applauded the residents for their hard work and dedication to changing the area’s crime-riddled image.
State Rep. Richard Berry announced his candidacy for mayor on Monday, Feb. 23. This makes Berry the first Republican to enter the nonpartisan race. Already in the ring: Councilors Cadigan and O'Malley, former state Senate Pro Tem President Richard Romero, and Donna Rowe, an advocate for homeless youth. Mayor Martin Chavez has not announced his bid for re-election but is expected to do so soon.
The official deadline to declare candidacy is Aug. 11. Between now and then, campaign workers will be knocking on doors and asking people to sign petitions and donate $5. Folks can donate to more than one candidate.