Councilors wasted no time as they sped through their Monday, Nov. 2 meeting and put off many items for the incoming Council to deal with. They did, however, manage to spend several million dollars in less than two hours.
The biggest chunk of change allocated was $2 million in law enforcement grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. That cash is headed to the Albuquerque Police Department to help t ackle gangs, upgrade equipment and improve police services. The city coughed up another $50,000 to help run the programs.
About $6 million of federal housing money will pass through city coffers to acquire and rehabilitate three dozen foreclosed houses. One bill gives a developer money to buy foreclosed homes in the Westgate area, then fix them up and sell them to approved low-income buyers. Another bill permits a property management company to buy foreclosed units such as duplexes, fix them up and rent them to people with low to moderate incomes. Many of these units will be in the rebranded International District in Southeast Albuquerque.
Councilor Michael Cadigan initiated the setup of a Veterans Affairs Office with a website to assist military folks in finding jobs, housing and other services. He said many returning soldiers are young and have never really had to deal with living on their own. Cadigan said existing funds allocated to other veterans issues can be used to pay for the office.
A local baker, a granola-maker and a salsa-maker addressed the Council asking for continued financial support of the commercial kitchen at the South Valley Economic Development Center. The kitchen is used by numerous people to make goods sold at various farmers’ markets, La Montañita Co-op and Whole Foods. After sampling some salsa, the Council dropped $50,000 to help keep the local food entrepreneurs in business.
Councilor Sally Mayer got more than $50,000 for an innovative pedestrian crossing light called HAWK (High-Intensity Activated Cross Walk) on Lester NE near a busy new Super Wal-Mart. Councilor Cadigan was bothered by the HAWK acronym and suggested they pass a law eliminating forced acronyms in government.
The Council approved a partnership with the flood control folks to begin a $377,000 project to install gutters and sidewalks on Sunset Gardens Road between Atrisco and the Arenal Acequia. (Kudos to the city for finally getting this done. I grew up near there in the '60s and '70s and spent many an hour walking that crumbling street to the long-gone Sunshine Market next to the old Lotaburger.)
The Council tweaked the term limits for the city’s Board of Ethics and Campaign Practices to allow only two consecutive four-year terms. Some members have been on the board for a decade or more, and the Council felt it was time for new blood.
Topping things off, more than $450,000 was spent to do the upcoming 2009–2010 audit of all of the city’s financial dealings. That might sound like a lot of money, but it’s a big job and takes lots of time to troll through city financial documents totaling thousands of pages.
The next meeting is Monday, Nov. 16, the last for outgoing Councilors Mayer and Cadigan.