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 V.13 No.13 | March 25 - 31, 2004 

Council Watch

As the Credits Roll

Cindy Wilson of the B-52s joined the fun at last week’s council meeting.
Singeli Agnew
Cindy Wilson of the B-52s joined the fun at last week’s council meeting.

Like watching the credits for LOTR: Return of the King, the March 15 council meeting made one aware of the thousands of people working off screen as city employees, outside experts, volunteers, neighborhood groups, consultants, boards, committees and interagency coordinators. Reports on the 2025 Metropolitan Transportation Plan and the Middle Rio Grande Regional Water Plan represented two of the largest efforts.

Councilor Debbie O'Malley, who has recused herself from votes concerning Housing and Urban Development funds because of her position with the Sawmill Community Land Trust, announced she was resigning from the Land Trust so her district would not be at a disadvantage in seeking other HUD funding. Councilors Sally Mayer and Craig Loy were absent.

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

IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
A Stitch in Time Saves How Many?
After voters approved a quarter-cent rise in gross receipts tax for public safety last October, an ad hoc committee began work on allocating the money that does not go directly to police and firefighters--about $4.7 million out of the total anticipated $26 million. A committee report outlined how the money will be distributed to various social service agencies on the strength of their competing proposals.
Bill sponsor Eric Griego said the money was balanced between treatment, prevention and intervention for the overlapping special needs groups served--young people, substance abusers, victims of violence, seniors and the homeless. However, about $3 million goes to treatment programs, which ad hoc committee member Joan Shirley said left too little for prevention and intervention.Social services and their funding have been compared to a funnel. The wide end of prevention serves many people. The small end of treatment serves fewer, more severely damaged ones. Is it better to spend smaller per capita sums on more people to keep them from falling into the wide mouth, or to spend large sums on those who've reached the emergency point?
The U.S.S. Enterprise
City operations designed to pay for themselves are called enterprise funds. Council President Michael Cadigan called on Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese for a rundown on the U.S.S. Enterprise budgets for fiscal year '05.
Reese said the air quality, aviation and refuse disposal funds are financially healthy, the parking fund is losing money, and golf courses are surviving private competition and downward national trends.Cures for the city's money losing Downtown garages, such as raising rates for competing surface parking, seem worse than the disease. Rent garages out for flea markets? Parking for apartment dwellers? Storage cubicles?
The Kinks at Graham Central Station
The new Graham Central Station nightclub, located in the old Ross Dress for Less building near San Mateo and Montgomery, doesn't have enough parking spaces to legally accommodate its customers unless it counts some of the other spaces in the shopping center lot.
Albertson's Food and Drug protested an earlier decision that allowed the nightclub to open, saying that clubbers' cars were encroaching on Albertson's customers' spaces. Graham Central Station said their customers only use the spaces at night when other stores didn't need them. The Council voted 5-2, Cadigan and Councilor Miguel Gomez opposed, to require new parking agreements from the nightclub.Couldn't neutral observers just watch the parking lot a few nights to see whether nightclub parking was actually inconveniencing Albertson's shoppers? In any event, the decision marked the Council's first vote on a ruling from Steven Chavez, confirming the recommendation of the newly appointed land-use hearing officer.
Dogtown
Owners may let their dogs run off-leash in only two or three city parks. Griego sponsored a bill that sets policy for new off-leash areas. The city's Parks and Recreation Department and its advisory board will write guidelines for the new off-leash areas that restrict them to underused areas or underdeveloped parks and require public input for each proposed site.

The off-leash areas cost about 20 percent more per acre to maintain. A second Griego bill sets up a funding source using money from dog owners' licenses and fees.

Fourteen people spoke about the parks. Eight opponents, mostly from religious groups who use Coronado Park for homeless outreach, protested closing the park to their activities. Griego said the city has no plans to close any park, and that the bill specifically stated that off-leash areas "shall not displace current activities." Asked how much of the park the outreach groups needed, one speaker said, "All of it." O'Malley said a major street split Coronado Park into two distinct sections suitable for the two activities. Another speaker said, "People should come before dogs." Gomez said parks for his underserved District 1 should have higher priority than dog parks. Both bills passed 6-1, Gomez opposed.A modest proposal: Let's all ditch aggrieved accusations that so-and-so "cares more about dogs than people." Or cares more about silvery minnows than people. Or trees. Or spotted owls. Or oil company profits. Regardless of the issue, this sort of bumper-sticker comment invariably frames the question inaccurately. And like comparing someone to a Nazi, it's a rhetorical penny on the tracks, derailing progress toward a workable solution by implying that the other side is acting in bad faith.
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