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 Oct 15 - 21, 2009 
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Council Watch

The Councilor and the Grapes

By Carolyn Carlson

An empty chair stood where outgoing City Councilor Michael Cadigan should have been during the Wednesday, Oct. 7 Council meeting. Cadigan took a thrashing from political newcomer Dan Lewis the day before, losing his Westside seat in the municipal election. The Build Unser Road Now group complained his absence meant the road project Cadigan championed is now dead.

Mayor-elect R.J. Berry waltzed through the chambers talking with attendees. He visited with Council members briefly as they headed for their dinner break.

A couple of dozen people addressed the Council regarding the coming eviction of the city’s public access channel studios. Quote... Unquote, Inc., the nonprofit that runs channel 27 and Encantada TV channel 26, was told to check out of the old Bernalillo County Courthouse by Dec. 31 because the county wants to regain use of the entire building. City representatives have said they are going through an inventory of city buildings to find a space for the studios.

Laura Dale, a volunteer with Quote... Unquote, Inc., said the public access channels provide venues for people who otherwise would not have a voice.

Vanessa McDaniel, 16, an intern, said her life changed for the better when she came to work with the people at the studio. Kenneth Knoll, founder of Southwest Communications, said he has been involved for many years with public access and the nonprofit is a trailblazer and a model for successful public access channels nationwide. The issue was put on the Monday, Oct. 19 agenda.

Several items were approved without any lengthy discussion. The Council extended a moratorium on any significant construction or demolition along Fourth Street from Marble north to Solar Road. It also formed a community gardens study group to expand the number of city gardens and gave the green light to begin the sector planning process in the International District.

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

The More You Know

Issue

Councilor Rey Garduño’s Sunshine Bill requires an easily accessible online form for making public record requests. It would put more databases online, allowing the public to parse capital outlay projects, industrial revenue bonds, who gets how much city money and who receives tax breaks. The bill asks for a public list of city employees who are dubbed “double-dippers"those who receive a pension from the Public Employees Retirement Association and a city paycheck simultaneously.

Council's Take

There was little discussion about this bill, but then again it does not look good when public officials want to keep things secret. Garduño said he was not introducing this bill to expose anyoneincluding those drawing dual paychecksbut to bring more transparency to government. He said headlines about local government officials betraying public trust have left a bad impression with taxpayers, and this bill is intended to take a step toward bringing that trust back.

Reporter's Take

The more information easily available to the public, the better, even if providing it causes a few headaches for city administration. Understanding government contracts, audits, budgets, tax breaks, bonds, etc., can be tricky, so the city should have clear online explanations and someone available to answer questions. As for double-dippers, it seems like a privacy issue to release their actual names. While I am sure there is a fair amount of cronyism going on, there are likely numerous double-dippers who are the best people to do their jobs.

Light for Light

Issue

Outgoing Councilor Sally Mayer asked for a couple of traffic-slowing devices in her district. The first is a stoplight located at Claremont and San Pedro NE. The second is an innovative pedestrian signal on Lester NE near a busy Super Wal-Mart. The devices are called HAWKs, or High-Intensity Activated Cross Walks. When a pedestrian pushes a HAWK’s button, lights flash at a driver’s eye level. They also take into account that elderly people cross the street slower than younger folks and allow more time. These HAWKs are being used in Tucson, Ariz., but have not been used in Albuquerque. The resolution states these types of signals significantly improve pedestrian safety. They cost about $50,000 apiece.

Council's Take

Mayer said both areas have pressing safety concerns, as each of the locations handles a high volume of cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. Several councilors gave her a hard time for not going through the city’s traffic engineering department before bringing the measure to the Council. Councilor Trudy Jones said they are skating on thin ice when they start taking over the staff’s jobs. Councilors pushed Mayer to almost having to beg before finally giving in on the traffic light. But they postponed the fancy crosswalk until the city’s traffic staff checks out the devices.

Reporter's Take

Councilor Debbie O’Malley gave Mayer a high five for just outright asking for a solution to a problem in her district. O’Malley said when it comes to making streets safer it’s better to ask than not to ask and have something bad happen. It seemed Mayer really wanted to get these projects done for her constituents before she leaves office. And since Garduño got a couple of stoplights for his Nob Hill district, her request was only fair. With all the crazy, speeding, impaired drivers out on the streets, walkers and bike riders need all the safety measures they can get.
 
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