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 V.18 No.19 | May 7 - 13, 2009 

Council Watch

Thumping Chests

A stern City Council clipped its way through the Monday, May 4 meeting. After clearing up routine matters, the Council, minus Sally Mayer, approved hiring an outside attorney to go head-to-head with Mayor Martin Chavez. At issue: the capital budget bill. The Council says its version is valid. The mayor says it isn’t.

City staff speaking on behalf of Chavez said there is no reason to resort to litigation; they could all sit down and hash it out. Councilor Brad Winter, who sponsored the bill, said when dealing with the mayor, “It is his way or the highway.” Other councilors concurred, saying it was time for the Council as a body to stand up for itself.

Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris disagreed. They said hiring a lawyer would make the Council look bad, and it is not in the best interest of the city’s residents for the Council to resort to going to court.

City Attorney Bob White—under rapid cross-examination by Councilor Michael Cadigan—had to admit his office shouldn’t have advised councilors to postpone acting on the capital bill. Because of the hesitation, the mayor said they missed the deadline and their capital bill was invalid.

A challenge was thrown out to Mayor Chavez: Approve the Council’s version and send back amendments for projects he would like to see on the October ballot. If he does not want to do that, councilors said, they will see him in court.

The Council also approved a measure making it perfectly clear that public financing for campaigns can’t be used on booze or votes. Little discussion was held on this no-brainer.

Finally, the Albuquerque Fire Department wanted to remind city residents that while it looks like a green spring, it is very dry in the Bosque. Everyone needs to be careful with cigarettes, fireworks and any type of flame.

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com.

Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Pay-to-Play?

Cadigan wants the city inspector general to investigate allegations of improper dealings between Mayor Chavez and Bode Aero Services.

The aviation company operates the Double Eagle airport, which is under contract with the city. After some negotiation issues, Bode filed not one but two civil lawsuits. The first is in the state’s Court of Appeals and accuses the city of not following through on lease commitments. The second is in Federal Court and claims Mayor Chavez traded campaign flights for better city deals with Bode.

Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams said not only does he welcome an investigation, he has requested one as well, “to put to rest all these silly allegations.”
A couple of weeks ago, Cadigan publicly expressed his concern after he said FBI agents spoke to him about these pay-to-play allegations. The Council wanted to know about the inspection process.

The city’s inspector general, Sylvia Padilla, is under the supervision of the Internal Audit and Investigations director. The Council’s request includes a thorough review of everything in the state and federal lawsuit files.

Sanchez said he did not support the measure, but the rest of the Council passed it anyway.
There was a subtle underlying smugness wafting around several councilors as the issue-by-issue bombing of Mayor Chavez’ administration was carried out. The Council has justifiable beef with the mayor, but it seems much of the posturing at the Council table is geared toward the upcoming election.

With two lawsuits making their way through the system, there are plenty of eyes on the case already. Cadigan should have instead asked for the creation of an independent panel made up of some folks from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and some of the area’s good investigative reporters. That panel could dissect the documents and court cases instead of putting it on the shoulders of one city employee. Now that would bring some sunshine to the issue.
BMX Track: Move It or Lose It

Benton asked the Council to go along with a 30-day moratorium on any city-funded building at the BMX arena near Isotopes Park.

A floor amendment was added directing city staff to look into moving the dirt track back to the west end of the site where it was originally approved. Instead, the track was built in the east, causing neighbors to protest the dust and noise from the arena. The city administration has said the track would not fit on the west end, so it was moved. Neighbors filed a lawsuit in 2007 over the issue. It was settled in April.
Several residents asked the Council to help because they did not get any relief, other than reimbursement for attorney’s fees, from the outcome of the lawsuit. Councilors were clearly on the side of the area residents. They said city administration pulled a bait-and-switch when approval was given to move the track to the east end of the property, which is adjacent to homes. Councilor Rey Garduño said the BMX track is a nuisance and needs to be removed. Send the city’s Safe City Task Force out there, he suggested. It’s a shame a good idea was poorly implemented. A BMX ring is a great addition to the city’s plate of recreation choices.

At first glance, putting the arena near the ballparks seems smart. But locating a loud, dusty event that draws large crowds near a neighborhood doesn’t make sense. There has to be something to mitigate the negative facets of this project. What about putting the entire ring inside a noise- and dust-containing structure? Or moving the project to the Mesa del Sol area, where it would have the room to develop into a destination BMX arena?
 

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