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 V.21 No.12 | March 22 - 28, 2012 

Council Watch

Lord of Dogtown

During Blaze's eight-year career, he sniffed out more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana, 500 pounds of cocaine, 60 pounds of meth, 50 pounds of heroin, and 5,000 OxyContin and ecstasy pills for metro area law enforcement departments. Blaze, a canine with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, was honored with a proclamation and a large rawhide bone at the Monday, March 19 meeting. “I don’t think we have given out a bone before,” said Council President Trudy Jones, while Blaze and his handler Sgt. Jeremy Bassett received hand and paw shakes.

A special meeting to discuss the Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange has been set for Monday, March 26 at 5 p.m.

Another meeting is slated for Wednesday, March 28, at 5 p.m. for public comment on the Downtown Neighborhood Sector Plan. Go to 1.usa.gov/DowntownSector for more info.

The next full meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, April 2.

All three will be held in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall.

You can also view them on channel 15 GOV-TV.

Send your comments about the City Council to carolyn@alibi.com
Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Paseo Potato

A proposal was on the table to sell $50 million in gross receipts tax revenue bonds to help fund the Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange rehabilitation. The bonds would be paid off over 25 years with cash from Albuquerque's gross receipts taxes.

In the October 2011 election, city voters turned down funding $25 million for Paseo. A supermajority of seven councilors is required to bypass the voters on this issue and pass the $50 million bond plan.

The city wouldn’t be the only entity paying for the rebuild. Gov. Susana Martinez and the state Legislature approved $30 million for the project, and Bernalillo County is going to ask voters to consider chipping in $5 million of county cash toward the rebuild.
Councilors Debbie O’Malley, Isaac Benton and Rey Garduño said an expenditure and a debt this large must be approved by citizens. Councilor Brad Winter—whose district includes the interchange—said what voters were really rejecting in October was the sports complex, which was tied to the Paseo money on the ballot. “It would be a crime if we don’t push this,” he said.

Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry said if the Council did not pass the proposal at the meeting, the city would risk losing $15 million in federal grant money. O’Malley, Garduño and Benton all said they support the Paseo project but are not going to second-guess the voters. With their objections, the Council couldn’t achieve the supermajority needed to pass the measure. Councilors deferred the decision until a special meeting called for 5 p.m. on Monday, March 26.
This Paseo project is a hot potato. The three holding out on behalf of voters are right to do so. We're talking $25 million, and Bernalillo County is bothering to ask constituents before it offers one-fifth that amount. A debt this large should be decided by those being taxed.

Paseo is unique in another way, as it passes through the Village of Los Ranchos. Los Ranchos held the cards in the right-of-way negotiations when the road was built, and the village rejected big truck traffic. Oddly, Los Ranchos has been silent on the rebuild.

No one ever wants to talk about adding smaller neighborhood river crossings to alleviate the many traffic problems of a city bisected by a river. Paseo needs some work, but does it need to become a major artery for the state, handling heavy truck and industrial traffic? Isn’t that what I-40 is for? Maybe it’s time to take a broader, more visionary look at crossing the Rio Grande.
Other Morsels

• Putting a cell phone tower on a PNM pole at Balloon Fiesta Park was back on the agenda after councilors deferred it at their last meeting so they could get some safety answers.

• The Council also considered hiring an outside firm for about $200,000 to weigh in on how city departments can run more efficiently. The city administration said it would be good to have another set of eyes offering input.
• O’Malley said she spoke with ballooning experts who said there would be no problems with radio interference or safety. The Council unanimously approved the tower addition.

• The four Democrat councilors said Albuquerque does not need an outside firm to tell it what to do, and department directors should be able to make those decisions. Republicans voted in favor of hiring folks to examine the workings of the city.
• By taking the time to get answers, councilors can be assured they made the right decision.

• Maybe Mayor Richard Berry should send his directors to a much more affordable seminar on how to run municipal and public service departments effectively.
 
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