Alibi V.19 No.44 • Nov 4-10, 2010 

Council Watch

Red-Light Cameras Remain

There’s been something missing from City Council meetings since the last election: the wagging tail of former Councilor Sally Mayer’s “pet project.” Homeless dogs and cats are no longer led into the Council chambers by Animal Welfare Department employees. Mayer's featured shelter animals were available for adoption at a reduced fee to those attending the meeting or watching on GOV TV. The creatures always brought a more congenial air to the chambers, put everyone in a better mood for a minute or two, and were truly bipartisan. The item is still listed on the agenda, so maybe there’s a chance that some of the city’s furry friends will return to Council meetings.

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Got My Eye on You

Red-light cameras were back at the Monday, Nov. 1 meeting. The devices were turned off this year due to contract negotiations with Redflex. The Arizona-based company is seeking a contract extension. Under the terms, Redflex would continue to charge its fee, but the cameras would no longer cite speeders. There would also be three fewer cameras, reducing the total to 14. Councilors discussed a study by the University of New Mexico’s Institute for Social Research. It showed there has been an overall decrease in serious injury accidents at some intersections. But there was also an increase in rear-end accidents at the same intersections, according to the study.
On an 8 to 1 vote, councilors approved offering Redflex a 16-week extension with several new conditions. It is up to Redflex to “take it or leave it” while the city decides what to do about the red-light camera issue long-term. Councilor Dan Lewis stood alone in opposing the extension, saying he does not support the program, and there are traffic control devices that can be operated locally. The other Council members said the cameras make the city’s streets safer and gave the administration and Redflex four months to work it out. I am not a fan of speeders or red-light runners. But I don’t like the economics or the big-brother implications of the camera program. The power to film citizens for legal and punitive purposes shouldn't be given so easily to private companies. Why is the city paying Arizonans with Albuquerque tax dollars for red-light cameras? Lewis is right: There are other traffic-calming options available at far lower cost. A local option would employ Burqueños and wouldn't punish the taxpayers for the benefit of an out-of-state company grossing millions of dollars.
Shuffling Papers

The inspector general does not answer to the mayor or the Council but to the director of the Internal Audits Department. The position was created to act independently and sniff out waste and abuse by city employees, officials, venders or contractors. Two pieces of legislation were proposed to make the inspector general answer to the Board of Ethics instead.
Most councilors seemed to like the idea of making the inspector general a more independent and effective position. But the Council tabled the measures until more analysis is done regarding the impact of putting oversight into the hands of a citizen-staffed board. Councilor Rey Garduño sided with Councilors Brad Winter and Don Harris, who said the legislation just pushes the position from one area to another with little gain.

Remember Janet McHard, the city’s inspector general who appeared in Council Watch two months ago? In September, she professionally and eloquently spoke to the Council on the success of her tip hotline, which allowed people to report fraud anonymously. Well, the week after that meeting she was let go by Audit Department Director Carmen Kavelman. No reason for her dismissal has been given. McHard told the Council the hotline was receiving good, solid tips that were leading to exposing fraud and waste in city government. Rumor has it that the mayor might bring McHard back to follow up on those tips.