Alibi V.13 No.53 • Dec 30-Jan 5, 2004 

Council Watch


City Councelor Sally Mayer busts out an a cappella version of the Ethel Merman classic “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
City Councelor Sally Mayer busts out an a cappella version of the Ethel Merman classic “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
Singeli Agnew

The Dec. 20 council meeting was called to order by new Council President Brad Winter, chosen along with Vice President Miguel Gomez in a special session on Dec. 15.

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The inspector general is watching you
Saying he "very reluctantly" moved a compromise bill, Councilor Eric Griego described his second floor substitute watchdog bill as creating one major and one minor change from previous legislation vetoed by Mayor Martin Chavez. The minor switch changed the name of the entity from the Office of the Inspector General to the Office of Internal Audit and Investigations.
The major change allowed the mayor to appoint, subject to Council approval, two of five members of the Accountability in Government Oversight Committee that will oversee the office. The mayor and Council will take turns appointing people to replace current Audit Committee members as they retire. The new committee is charged with hiring an Inspector General. The bill passed 9-0.There's no reason to suspect that current Audit Committee members are anything but scrupulously ethical, which is good because they will be in charge for quite a while. Eventually the four appointed members of the new body will choose a fifth member, but we should have an Inspector General long before that.
More yard, more weeds
A bill in the pipeline amends the zoning code to allow smaller residential lots and shallower front yards under certain conditions. The bill encourages vehicle access to garages from rear alleys, and setting front garages far enough back not to dominate a house's street-side view. The bill only allows the changes if they do not degrade the cohesion of an established neighborhood.
Senior planner Paula Donahue said the bill encourages walking and the use of backyard garages. Eastside neighborhood groups worried the bill would lower their property values and foster crime. Saying the bill was not beneficial to his District 8, Councilor Craig Loy said, "We celebrate our diversity, so different areas should look differently." The bill was postponed until February. As someone who ran a design and drafting business for many years, I found the new regulations somewhat confusing, because they cover so many different situations and zoning categories. Take a look yourself. Access, click on the A-Z button and go to "Planning Department." The underlying idea is sound because the city desperately needs less expensive housing solutions that use less land.
Restriping the zebra
Mayor Martin Chavez stirred up a storm Dec. 10 when he announced that portions of Montaño would be restriped from two to four lanes the next morning. When the Montaño Bridge was built, part of the agreement was to keep the bridge at two lanes until problems at the Montaño intersections at Second and Fourth Streets were resolved. Members of a Fourth Street and Montaño group got a court order to stop the work. Councilor Debbie O'Malley's bill delayed the work in her district pending a further study of area transportation problems by an objective body. O'Malley favored studying three lanes for the road, with one lane reversible from carrying eastbound traffic in the morning to carrying westbound during the evening rush hour. She described how four lanes on Montaño on either side of the river would narrow to two lanes across the bridge.
O'Malley compared the situation to an hourglass, saying however big the two ends, traffic still has to pass through the bridge bottleneck. Her "report card" gave failing grades to the administration for safety, traffic management, public involvement and quality of life. Cadigan criticized O'Malley's "mocking tone" and said stacking cars on Montaño was better than stacking cars making left turns on Fourth Street. "People won't be able to live like they live in Moriarty," he said and deferred to the director of city street programs, Ed Adams. Adams said the restriping was part of a package of mitigation issues for expected traffic problems resulting from the rebuilding of the I-40 and Coors interchange. The final bill calls for studying broader options, gives the Mid-Region Council of Governments more clout than the city, reduced funding from $200,000 to $150,000, and requires a detailed contract from MRCOG. The bill passed 7-2, Cadigan and Loy opposed. So, how far can a resident's property value and quality of life be degraded because someone else wants faster vehicular transportation? The question came up for the third time regarding a bill creating additional, temporary bus routes through portions of Districts 1, 3 and 5 to alleviate traffic problems caused by rebuilding the I-40 and Coors interchange. Residents of Districts 1 and 3 complained that the routes, planned to begin the following morning, went through residential neighborhoods, increasing traffic danger and overburdening narrow sidewalks. Eventually a bill passed allowing the buses to begin their new routes on schedule, with the city further studying the routes and stops.