Extending Paseo del Norte through the Petroglyph National Monument and linking it to Unser is a dog that don't hunt. We feel the pain of Westsiders who suffer through traffic jams and pollution each day. Westside folks don't have adequate schools, parks; there's nothing for pedestrians to do, no place for kids to roam happily, and the situation just keeps getting worse. That's a shame. But guess what? Building the Paseo extension is not going to solve the problem. It's not even going to help the problem.
You see there's an old real estate saying—drive until you qualify. That means the further you go to the west, the cheaper the homes are. That is the kind of community we are already building on the Westside. The homebuilders out there don't have to build schools, parks or roads—just cheap houses. So, all this talk about dividing the city by treating the Westside differently is just bluster. The Westside has been treated differently ever since full scale residential construction began out there without the necessary planning or infrastructure to go with it. The homebuilders and politicians with financial interest on the Westside have already divided the city. And if you don't like your quality of life or sinking property values out there, you should start brushing up on the planned growth strategy and stop digging for fool's gold in the form of a road that won't fix anything. In fact, a decade from now, the only open space left on the West Mesa will be the petroglyph park, which in turn will be the only amenity you have out there that might preserve your property values. Otherwise, the Northwest quadrant will be nothing more than a generic, sprawled-out suburban nightmare with California-style traffic as far as the eye can see.
Meanwhile, the rest of the city will once again have to do without millions of dollars for road improvements and bike paths, because our civic leaders put this road to nowhere on the Street Bond question. The city should go back to the drawing board, again, and mandate a real solution based on the Mid-Region Council of Governments' recent transportation study. Gov. Richardson has already earmarked $250 million through his GRIP initiative specifically for Westside road and transportation projects that will help our Westside neighbors. Hat's off to Bill.
But we don't need a road bond that will unfairly distribute tax dollars by forcing taxpayers first to allocate nearly 40 percent of the city road improvement money to the Westside, then force the taxpayers to foot the legal bill when Native American and environmental groups fight the road in court. That will be a waste of tax dollars and we should avoid that fiasco before it materializes.
Lastly, we keep hearing some road bond supporters echoing the developers' mantra—there's no place the city can grow but to the west. Baloney. There is plenty of available space in all quadrants of the city to build affordable housing that will protect the escarpment from further degredation, alleviate Westside traffic by keeping people East of the river and build a more economically and environmentally sustainable city.
What we need is real leadership on the Paseo issue and real planning on the Westside. Right now, we have neither. Vote “no” with a capital “N” on the street bonds until the mayor and City Council get it right.