Money matters dominated the Monday, May 21 meeting. Councilors approved a $475 million budget and put the question of $50 million in bonds for the Paseo del Norte interchange on the Nov. 6 ballot.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg stopped in to talk to the Council about the investigative grand jury process police officers go through after they shoot someone. She said she was surprised that everybody did not understand investigative grand juries.
An investigative grand jury has no power to file criminal charges and can only determine if the shooting was justified or not. She went on to say she has full faith in the process but understands the media and the public’s concerns. She promised take a look at other options. Brandenburg talked at a pretty fast clip about how the process is fair and leaves the door open to criminal charges. Councilor Dan Lewis countered that she shouldn’t be surprised by the questions since all shootings have been ruled justified.
The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Monday, June 4, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv.
Gas Station FumingNeighbors of the Smith’s gas station at Constitution and Carlisle have been voicing concerns at Council meetings for months [“Fuel to the Fire,” May 3-9, 2012]. Councilors Isaac Benton and Trudy Jones offered an amendment to the zoning code that toughens regulations. Andrew Webb, policy analyst for Council staff, explained this would require future stations to design their property to keep traffic from backing up into the street, with an allotted area for cars waiting to refuel. The amendment also requires companies to create buffers between stations and homes by planting trees or constructing walls.
Residents near the Smith’s station have complained about traffic, fumes and fuel delivery. But nothing can really be done there, Benton said. “We can’t go back.” Instead, he added, the Department of Municipal Development may redesign the intersection to improve conditions. In the meantime, the amendment passed unanimously to mitigate damage next time around.
I bet we all drive by a couple of busy Smith’s stations just about every day. There are always a bunch of cars jockeying for pump position. The city is correct to take a look at the intersection, which squeezes four lanes of Carlisle into two right at the Smith’s station. I guess planners did not anticipate the popularity of discounted gas and the resulting trouble, but kudos for trying to alleviate the pressure on the neighborhood.
Big MoneyThe 2012 budget was about $475 million, bigger than last year’s $467 million budget, reflecting a slight increase in the city’s revenue. Mayor Richard Berry included $3 million to pay back Paseo del Norte rebuild bonds that have not yet been approved by voters. The budget was approved 7 to 2 with Councilors Rey Garduño and Ken Sanchez voting against it. In addition, $2.9 million was teased out of the overall budget and set aside for Berry’s ABQ: The Plan ventures.
Benton and Garduño tried to chisel away at the mayor’s pot, with unsuccessful amendments to increase bus driver pay and add more staff to the Animal Welfare Department and libraries. But the Republican contingent hung together, creating the usual 5 to 4 vote split and smacking down the Democrat amendments that tried to get workers more pay.Benton was able to snag $100,000 from the mayor’s ABQ: The Plan stash to fund professional development for firefighters.
It is getting tiresome watching four councilors’ good ideas get beat by the right-wing voting bloc. There was some consensus across the political aisle with Councilors Debbie O’Malley and Benton voting for the budget. Funding for city programs stayed about the same as last year. The budget also includes a 1 percent raise for city employees making less than $50,000 a year. This sounds pretty lean, but hey, something is better than nothing. Too bad some of the social, teen and homeless programs Berry cut in 2011 weren’t restored.