Dec 9 - 15, 2010 
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Council Watch

Lewis Calls for TSA Replacement

By Carolyn Carlson

The Council elected Don Harris as its president during the Monday, Dec. 6 meeting. Councilor Rey Garduño will step in to do his turn as vice president. Former President Ken Sanchez will serve as chairman of the Committee of the Whole. Other appointments were tabled until the Dec. 20 meeting.

Councilor Dan Lewis flexed his muscles a bit by introducing a measure to consider using private contractors to replace Transportation Security Administration employees at the Sunport. The resolution will not be heard until the next Council meeting. It asks the city administration to look into replacing the TSA, a little-known option authorized by the federal government. Lewis said a private contractor could mean less intrusive screenings. City and state officials have expressed their skepticism at the idea of contracting out the job.

On a side note, Lewis has said he is considering taking on U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich for his Washington seat in the 2012 election.

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

Downtown Bucks

Issue

After 10 years, the Downtown Business Improvement District tax is up for renewal. The tax generates more than $700,000 annually. This money is administered by the Downtown Action Team, which provides additional trash pick-ups, street cleaning and graffiti removal in the area. The group provides other visitor hospitality and marketing services as well. The tax must be reaffirmed every 10 years by a petition of at least 51 percent of the Downtown property owners. Each property owner gets one vote.

Council's Take

Councilors listened to more than a dozen people speak on either side of the issue. The Downtown Action Team board submitted a petition with the required number of property owner signatures. A couple of property owners who oppose the tax said their businesses get fewer services than those along Central, and they pay more taxes than the smaller businesses, so they should have more votes. For several hours, Councilors listened, asked good questions and unanimously approved an amended version. Harris proposed to change the renewal to every five years by petition and added a review by the City Council every two and a half years.

Reporter's Take

Listening to the Downtown business and property owners argue their positions left me wondering why they can’t get over themselves and work towards the common good. The two factions are even involved in a lawsuit to change the way the tax burden and vote allocation is determined. Kudos to Councilor Debbie O’Malley for smacking down the big guys demanding they get more votes because they contribute more money. Ditto kudos to Councilor Harris for his amendment that includes mediation to resolve the perceived problems brought up by the two sides. Over the course of the last 10 years, the Downtown Action Team has helped to polish up Burque’s backbone, making it a more pleasant place to work, live, dine, shop, and catch great theater and music. The tax is a good thing, and taxpayers citywide should expect both sides to get along, forge agreement in mediation and drop the litigation.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Issue

Councilors were asked to approve a change in the city’s Capital Improvement Plan by shifting $1.3 million in capital outlay money. The shift would move resources from Warehouse 508, the city’s Downtown teen center, to improvements to the BMX facility located near Isotopes Park, and to the Holiday Park Multigenerational Center in the Heights. Councilor Isaac Benton said the cash going to the BMX park would help fix a noise and dust mitigation design problem. Councilor Trudy Jones said the Holiday Park center is in need of safety improvements.

Council's Take

Councilor Brad Winter wanted to know why the rest of the Council was not told there was capital outlay money available, which he says each of the council districts could put toward uses of their own. “It would have been kind of nice if we could have discussed this, and it would not have been a surprise,” Winter said. Benton and Jones didn’t offer any answers as to why they got the money and the others did not. Other councilors stayed quiet and in the end, even Winter approved the money shift.

Reporter's Take

I was dismayed to hear of the million-dollar cut to the Warehouse 508 future budget. The teen center is a vibrant, innovative place offering the city’s youth a place to do art, music, film-making and many other creative options. The dust and noise generated by the BMX riders are a problem for nearby residents. I’m sure the improvements to Holiday Park are needed as well. I just question doing it at the expense of vulnerable teens. Winter is right that the entire Council should have been involved in deciding where the swapped bucks will go.
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