Alibi V.14 No.19 • May 12-18, 2005 

Council Watch

Cars and Money

Councilor Martin Heinrich (l) wants city residents to vote on a minimum wage increase this fall. According to a local news report, Councilor Sally Mayer (r) called the proposal an “outrageous get out the vote gimmick” that “just makes me sick.”

A crowd at the May 2 Council meeting supported higher minimum wages and cruising, but opposed Bush's Social Security privatization and a four-lane Montaño. Councilor Eric Griego was out of town. And it was Kristmas for Ktech Corporation as Councilor Tina Cummins' bill, authorizing $25 million more in industrial revenue bonds for the corporation, passed unanimously.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Is My Boss Worth 301 Times as Much as Me?
Councilor Martin Heinrich introduced a bill to raise the city's minimum wage to $7.15. Businesses would get credit for covering health care costs and other benefits, and businesses employing fewer than 10 people would be exempt. The bill is not scheduled until May 16 but the proposed raise dominated public comment. One speaker referred to himself as a small businessman and expressed dismay at the bill. Nine other speakers supported the proposal.
One speaker said Albuquerque should take the lead since the Feds weren't doing anything. Another said that businesses always claimed the sky was falling when minimum wages rose, but it never happened. Two people said the $5.15 minimum wage would now be between $8.50 and $9 if it had kept up with inflation. Carter Bundy of AFSCME said nobody wanted Albuquerque businesses to succeed more than city employees, whose wages depend in part on tax revenues.In 1982, CEOs of large U.S. corporations made, on average, 42 times as much as a company worker. Today the multiplier is 301, with bonuses and stock options raising it to 531. The "marketplace" might have raised wages 15 years ago, but no longer. With companies automating, outsourcing, and importing foreign workers, there's no dependable floor under American wages. A vote on the minimum wage may not be the answer, but it would trigger needed debate about our growing economic inequality.
Send All Your Money in a Brown Paper Bag
Councilor Miguel Gomez sponsored a memorial urging the U.S. Congress to reject any proposals to privatize Social Security accounts or to cut benefits. One high school student said that if Americans have to put their Social Security money into corporate stocks, there would be no incentive to hold corporations accountable. An AARP representative warned about indexing benefits to prices instead of wages. Carter Bundy said the transitional costs of $2 trillion to $5 trillion would be bad for business and for New Mexico.
Council President Brad Winter asked, "Why will Washington care what we do?" Bundy said U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson was in a tight spot on the privatization vote and might listen. Mayer said that Social Security was "very, very, very special" and she believed it was broken. Gomez said 401k plans actually lost money over the decade. Heinrich said his parents put their savings into company investments and took a beating. With Griego absent, Cadigan said the Council would tie 4-4 on the bill and requested a second hearing. A majority of Americans, noticing that the Yellow Rose of Crawford has been dishonest or wrong about almost everything, already oppose privatization. But one thing puzzles me. We hear endlessly that baby boomers will retire, leaving a smaller cohort of workers to carry the load. Why does no one mention that, a couple of decades later, the demographics will turn favorable again when baby boomers die off and our large cohort of children, the "echo boomers," are supporting the smaller in-between generation?
Let's Ride Around and Talk
Loy said his bill allowing the Council to ban cruising in designated areas would reduce pollution, crime, traffic and blocked access routes. South Valley resident David Vargas of La Familia car club said, "We used the very same arguments against the Wal-Mart you approved in front of my house." Ten other car club members opposed the bill.
Luisa Casso of the Downtown Action Team brought business owners to support the bill, saying that traffic congestion scared off customers. Gomez objected to criminalizing legal behavior instead of targeting lawbreakers. To allow time for councilors to talk with car clubs, Heinrich called for a deferral. It passed 6-2, Loy and Cadigan opposed.In the era of flash mobs, it's hard to imagine this bill doing much besides temporarily shifting cruisers from locations like Downtown to other, previously quiet routes. And it's hard to imagine a ban on cruising that survives a court challenge the first time a middle-aged Anglo drives an Escalade up and down Central all weekend without hassle.
Four-Lane Shell Game
Months ago, Mayor Martin Chavez ordered Montaño Road to be restriped from two to four lanes except for the stretch across the bridge, which requires permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. Chavez did not notify O'Malley, the district councilor, but later O'Malley's bill passed, requiring an independent traffic study before the restriping proposal moved forward.
Cadigan's bill called for immediate action toward securing permits. O'Malley's bill called for going through previously legislated steps before restriping. Cadigan tried unsuccessfully to pass a floor substitute to O'Malley's bill negating all previous laws regarding Montaño. Cadigan and O'Malley's competing bills both passed 6-2. OK, so the traffic study will probably be ignored unless it calls for four lanes. And we understand that roads trump all else with Cadigan's constituents. But didn't the Council majority speak at length just a few weeks ago about the importance of following the letter of the law concerning Coronado Center redevelopment?