Jun 18 - 24, 2009 
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Council Watch

Warehouse for the (Partial) Win

By Carolyn Carlson

Warehouse 508 has ridden the ups and downs of the funding seesaw. The budding Downtown teen center saw its operating budget slashed by $50K and its Icehouse-rehab budget increased by $300,000 in a late-May meeting.

On Monday, June 15, the Council quickly approved a one-year $150,000 contract with the New Mexico Xtreme Sports Association to run the center, which will open in a few months at 508 First Street NW.

About 70 young 508 supporters organized a pre-meeting barbecue, walked over to City Hall and stayed late at the meeting. They put together a short video to show the Council what is going on at the Warehouse and what they envision.

Councilors seemed to enjoy the video and encouraged the teens to make the old strip club vibrant. The contract was approved in an 8-1 vote with little discussion but accolades for the youth and mentors involved. As expected, Councilor Michael Cadigan voted against the contract. He has been a persistent critic of Warehouse 508 but says he is somewhat supportive of the idea of a teen center located somewhere else.

Councilors nitpicked their way through parts of their agenda then deferred a large chunk of the items until a special meeting or until August. The Council does not meet in July. The special meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 22, for councilors to deal with some important items: the transportation tax, a noise ordinance for vehicle engines, future budget procedures and changes to the city charter that will be on October's ballot.

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

Issue

An appeal would have allowed a bail bonds company to set up shop in a space zoned for a nursery or flower shop. Eric Kilmer said he paid $400,000 for the property, which sits at Sixth Street and Constitution, just north of Downtown. He thought he could run his Goodfellas bail bonds company there. He was so sure of his business venture that he started renovations and bought Yellow Pages and other advertising months ago.

Kilmer and his agent Jim Strozier said the business was unfairly denied its zoning request simply because it is a bail bond business. He said the real reason he was denied was that the neighbors did not want that type of business in that location. The property is next door to a criminal defense attorney’s office and across the street is a small day care. City staff recommended not allowing the zone change because, among other reasons, a bail bond shop would not jive with the area’s sector plan.

Council's Take

Councilor Cadigan, who is an attorney, said all he knows about the bail business he got from watching a few episodes of “Dog the Bounty Hunter.” The Council sounded naïve and a little leery about such a business. Councilors focused instead on the idea that less restrictive zoning might not be the best use of the property. Councilor Trudy Jones said it seemed to her the accused often don’t go to a bond place because they are in jail. But they do go to a criminal defense attorney’s office, and one is already located next door.

Nearly a dozen Wells Park residents showed up to let councilors know they did not want the bail business to move in because it is not neighborhood friendly and would attract a criminal element. They said some parents from the day care across the street have said they would pull their kids if the zone change was approved. Councilors said Kilmer did not have enough of a case for them to change the flower shop zoning. Staff and councilors agreed Kilmer did not do enough to get their approval for the zone change.

Reporter's Take

It seems a couple of the councilors forgot regular folks have a constitutional right to post bail. They also didn't seem to realize that plenty of people find themselves in jail because they've been falsely accused. But by the grace of God go I, it is always a good thing to remember when representing the public. And in this age of technology, there is almost no reason for the accused to make even one physical trip to the office. Most of the bail bond folks will come to you.

In metropolitan areas, bond businesses set themselves up near jail facilities. But in Albuquerque, the jail is way out in the boonies, leaving the bond businesses to locate near the courthouses. A quick Google check of where bail bond businesses are situated shows most are within a small area on the north side of Downtown.

In the end, it is always possible to get something even less palatable than a bail bond company. Kilmer, the neighborhood and city planners need to talk it out to come up with an agreeable use for the property.
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