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 V.13 No.7 | February 12 - 18, 2004 

Payne's World

The Show That Never Ends

Undermining the planned growth strategy

I may be the only who feels this way, but the most offensive part of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl fandango (which overshadowed the event's "family-friendly" advertisements for beer, erectile dysfunction and flatulence) was Timerblake's apparent belief that he's some sort of hip-hop gangsta from the hood representing his homies. Watching Timberlake (of suburban Memphis) crotch-grab his way around the stage you got the sense that his ’tude is about as natural as the silicone in Jackson's breasts. A few years ago, Timberlake was singing high tenor for the Mouseketeer Club but overnight (did Mickey "dis" him on the mean streets of the Magic Kingdom?) he's acting like he's got the same street cred as Dr. Dre, Eminen and 50 Cent.

But that's entertainment—rarely does it have anything to do with the real world. Either way, there's never a dull moment in the world of the 15-minute news cycle. Following are a few other random observations on the show that never ends.

The "Don't ask, don't tell" county commission. In it's latest effort to promote sprawl, the Bernalillo County Commission refused to assess $157,000 in impact fees to a RV sales and service center that's locating near the Tim Cummins property on the far westside of town (west of Paseo del Volcan and 1-40). Impact fees are normally charged to help the county and the city offset the cost of providing roads, drainage and other infrastructure but, in this case, the county just didn't need or want the money (see if that's their song when they vote to raise residential property taxes again).

The action took place the same time the Alibi ran it's cover story on the low-wage Swedish mattress manufacturer that's locating in the same desolate location—with the assistance of a $56 million dollar property tax abatement from the county (interesting approach: The Swedes pay nothing in property taxes while the locals pay through the nose). One thing is clear: This county commission is absolutely committed to undermining the Planned Growth Strategy and are supremely confident they'll never be held accountable for doing it.

Another interesting aspect of this commission is the way some county commissioners quietly leave the commission chambers before votes on these development deals take place. Are they recusing themselves because of a conflict of interest? Is there an irritable bowel issue that needs immediate attention? Who knows? Given the superficial level of reporting the county gets from the city's major news media, we probably never will.

Who do these guys think they are, city councilors? The fluorescent green Uptown cones originally planned for the intersection of 1-40 and Louisiana are headed for the ash-heap of Arts Board history thanks to a last minute action by the City Council. The majority of the Arts Board (with the notable exception of members like Barbara Lohbeck and Mark Amo) displayed a breathtaking lack of interest in the public's overwhelmingly negative reaction to the 36-foot tall by 64-foot wide jolly green coffee filters. In fact, it appeared the arrogant Arts Board majority viewed the controversy as a battle of wills between themselves and taxpayers. They lost—and that's a good thing.

While funding for the cones would have come from a variety of sources (federal, state and the city's 1 percent for the arts program) the use of $300,000 of your tax dollars—and the character of the area—was still at stake. The downside, however, is that city councilors on a 7-2 vote decided the solution to making the Arts Board process more responsive and less political is to get themselves involved in the selection of arts projects.

Yeah ... no potential problems with that idea!

The Real Real Deal. Democratic presidential front-runner John F. Kerry has made his alleged fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his campaign. But recent news reports suggest the former lieutenant governor to Michael Dukakis isn't just as addicted to campaign cash and special interest friends as any other Washington, D.C. insider. He may be more addicted.

First there's the story in the Washington Post that Kerry raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years. Then there's the Michael Isikoff article in Newsweek ("Cash and Kerry") detailing Kerry's involvement in the foreign fundraising scandals of 1996.

As a refresher on that one, illegal campaign contributions from the government of communist China were funneled into various political campaigns during the 1996 elections. Among those receiving this largesse through an operative named Johnny Chung were then-President Bill Clinton and now presidential hopeful John Kerry.

Charles Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity (which released the report on Kerry's fundraising over the past 15 years) stated, "The idea that John Kerry has not helped or benefited from a specific special interest, which he has said, is utterly absurd."

Lewis went on to say, "Anyone who gets millions of dollars over time, and thousands of dollars from specific donors, knows there's a symbiotic relationship. He needs the donors' money. The donor needs favors. Welcome to Washington. That is how it works."

And that, as they say, is life in the big city. Until next time ...

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Payne, a former city councilor, can be reached at greg@alibi.com.

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