More sunshine is the key to illuminating shadowy government shenanigans. Councilors delayed but did not kill a proposal to shine a beam on the city’s financial business. Councilor Rey Garduño asked for expedited approval of his transparency bill at the Monday, Sept. 21 Council meeting. Some councilors agreed with Garduño, saying there was no reason to wait and they should just “get it done.” Councilor Trudy Jones and the city’s administration reminded everyone they're required to have a fiscal impact report ready for inspection when the bill comes up for approval. Garduño’s measure did not have a fiscal impact report attached yet.
With the bill, the city would have to make it quick and easy for citizens to look up city finances. (It also calls for an accessible online form for making public records requests.) Available information would include: who receives city money, amounts of all contracts and industrial revenue bonds, and who is getting tax breaks. The measure would also make it simple to find out how much money is being spent on all the city’s capital outlay projects, including those being funded with state grants. Probably the juiciest item for folks around the water cooler is a listing of all city employees considered “double dippers”—those who receive a pension from the Public Employees Retirement Association and a city salary simultaneously. Garduño wants it all completed by the end of January 2010. The bill will be heard at the Wednesday, Oct. 7 meeting.
Councilor Sally Mayer was excused from the meeting. Councilors approved a three-month moratorium on issuing any permits that allow the tearing down or building of housing in the UNM area. They also heard an interesting presentation about the Albuquerque International Sunport, supported an effort to find a use for the dying General Electric Aviation plant on South Broadway and reviewed a fiscal report on dust and noise improvements at the city’s BMX facility.
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Laterz, ValleA resolution would display Council support for the incorporation of a large chunk of the South Valley to be called Valle de Atrisco. The incorporation movement does not need city approval, but this memorial shows the Council will be a good neighbor. The proposed boundaries are jagged, bordering both sides of the southern portion of the Rio Grande and jutting out to the southwest mesa.
Councilor Don Harris said he has some concerns about the financial loss to the city but overall thinks redistricting is a good idea if taken slowly. Councilor Ken Sanchez believes the residents of the South Valley will support a separate city if the fiscal studies are positive. Councilor Michael Cadigan raised concerns about which city would keep the Wal-Mart (and its tax revenue) on south Coors. Still, the show of support was unanimous.
I like the idea of this area becoming a separate entity. I hope the movers and shakers on this issue are doing due diligence in looking at the financial impacts for the old city and the new city to make sure there is enough money to go around. The Atrisco area, roughly south of Central, east of Coors and west of the Rio Grande, was established around 1692 as a land grant known as La Merced de Atrisco. This settlement predates La Villa de Albuquerque by 14 years.
Not a Flying Car, But CloseThe Council considered a memorial bill showing support for state legislative efforts to create a new class of electric, medium-speed autos that would be allowed on designated state roadways. Picture a little car that goes between 35 and 50 mph, costs about $15,000 and has a range of about 35 to 50 miles per charge.
Councilors liked the idea of a fast, safe electric car. Cadigan asked about its safety. Garduño said he was proud that local resident Paul Watson opened a ZENN electric car dealership in his district. Councilor Debbie O’Malley summed it all up by saying, “This is the future.”
It’s good to finally see some alternative energy vehicles popping into the market. And how cool is it that a local guy opened a dealership in our city?
Never Say ForeverIn a feel-good moment, the Council declared its intent to limit the quarter-cent transportation infrastructure tax to a max of 10 years if voters approve it in the Oct. 6 election. The question of whether to extend the tax is already on the ballot. This measure just gives it a sunset date. The tax has been in place since 1999 and funded such improvements as the Rapid Ride.
The unanimous vote made it loud and clear councilors intend to limit the tax and allow future residents to review it in a decade. Sanchez said this is simply a clarification that there would be an end to the tax. He said there seemed to be some confusion about this issue among voters.
Most people won’t miss the 25 cents for every $100 spent. It adds up to raise about $37 million a year. About 59 percent goes to roads, 36 percent to transit service and 5 percent to bike paths and trails. Thanks to this Council, the tax can't be used to build or operate a rail system unless voters approve it first.