City Councilor Eric Griego puts his arm out while other councilors listen in.
At the April 5 meeting, city councilors unanimously passed the administration's latest version of a sex offender bill, which deletes three provisions in a previous bill struck down by the courts. The extension of a moratorium on walls built along streets until new design standards are finished also passed unanimously. Councilor Sally Mayer was absent.
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Just Because I Say So Last year the City Council voted to issue a contract to Albuquerque Partnership, a nonprofit social-service provider that coordinates efforts against substance abuse in several underserved neighborhoods. The mayor cut the funding; the Council reinstated it. The mayor changed the scope of the contract but kept the same funding, $188,000. The Partnership wouldn't go for the new contract and has brought a lawsuit against the administration, with the Council named as an "involuntary plaintiff." Members of the Partnership have showed up regularly at Council meetings saying they haven't received the money allocated in the contract they signed.
Councilors Debbie O'Malley and Brad Winter sponsored a bill requiring the mayor to release the funds and specifying that the Mayor's Office not spend taxpayer funds to fight the lawsuit. Chief Administrative Officer Jay Czar said the mayor planned to veto the bill.
Councilor Eric Griego said the Albuquerque Partnership had received "almost unanimous support" from its District 6 neighbors, adding that he had been reluctant to get between the mayor and the group but "this is getting ridiculous." O'Malley said the pending lawsuit would just spend more of taxpayers' money, and that withholding funding from non-profits put them in a hard position. Councilor Craig Loy said he didn't believe the contract was the most appropriate use of funds but didn't offer specifics. Council President Michael Cadigan, who tried to block putting the bill on the agenda, opposed the measure, saying the pending litigation raised questions about the separation of powers between the administration and the Council that needed to be answered by a judge. The bill passed 5-3, Cadigan, Loy and Councilor Tina Cummins opposed. Gomez questioned having the same company do both the audit and the work recommended by the audit. Michael Passi of Family and Community Services said that the renovations were required to pay for themselves in energy savings. The bill passed 6-2, Gomez and O'Malley opposed.
Councilor Miguel Gomez asked why the administration had singled out one particular contract to block. Czar said that question had already been addressed. When pressed, he added that there was a whole array of issues. Councilor Heinrich also asked Czar to "explain the mayor's concerns." Czar said many of those questions have been answered in the past, and he was hesitant to answer because of the lawsuit. Czar seems to have much better hair and a much better brain under it than poor Scott McClellan, Bush's Stonewall the Press Secretary, but they're starting to sound alike with this "I've already answered that question" routine. The underlying feeling at City Hall seems to be that the real reason for withholding the funds was personal animosity between Chavez and the Albuquerque Partnership leadership. The case will be heard by Judge William Lang in state District Court on Friday, April 16.
Have We Got a Deal for You! Griego moved an administration bill authorizing the city to enter a lease-purchase agreement with Citizens Conservation Services, Inc. to use federal funds to do an energy audit and carry out conservation measures on properties owned by the Family and Community Services Department.
Loy said that some kids couldn't use school buses because they spent few nights in the same place. Winter verified that the budget included the $2,000 this year and $3000 next year for the program. The bill passed unanimously.
Steve Morgan of Citizens Conservation Services said the work will focus on remedies such as replacing light bulbs, installing low flow toilets and changing to more efficient heating and cooling systems--a focus almost entirely on replacing equipment.
Leaving No Child Behind Councilors Craig Loy and Brad Winter sponsored a bill providing funds for homeless kids to ride city buses to school. The bill refers to 3,000 homeless children in Albuquerque between third and 12th grades.
A presentation by museum staff showed over 300,000 visitors to the museum area in the past five months, and not many posted speed limits. The administration supported the bill. The resolution passed unanimously.
When you're homeless, everything beyond just trying to survive the day seems insurmountable. The bill lifts one tiny burden--getting your kids, if you have kids, to school, if they have a school.
Leaving No Child on the Street Responding to District 2 constituents, O'Malley moved to authorize a traffic study for the museum area near Old Town. There's no provision for large numbers of children to safely cross busy Mountain Road from the museums to Tiguex Park.
These terrific facilities, intelligently grouped for maximum local and tourist use, should have the best of traffic safety planning, which may not be crosswalks, since some studies hint that using crosswalks is more dangerous than jaywalking.