Alibi V.14 No.21 • May 26-June 1, 2005 

Council Watch

Give Us Another Tool

A bill sponsored by Councilor Loy could give the Council authority to designate No Cruising zones.
Lorrie Latham

At the May 16 meeting, Councilor Martin Heinrich's bill, cosponsored by Councilor Miguel Gómez, calling for purchase of land for the Clinton P. Anderson Open Space passed unanimously. Councilor Eric Griego's bill, authorizing an update of the Barelas Sector Development Plan, also passed unanimously. But audience emotion focused on a proposed boost in the minimum wage.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
A Two Dollar Bill
Heinrich's bill would allow Albuquerque citizens to vote on a proposed minimum wage hike from $5.15 to $7.15, with credits given to employees who provide benefits, and employers with fewer than 10 workers exempted. The bill was postponed until a special meeting on May 25. Margaret Aragon de Chavez, Albuquerque's former first lady, was first up of the bill's 12 supporters, and said that as an educator she saw the painful result of people trying to raise children on the minimum wage.
Two speakers said 14 states had already raised their minimum wages. Luis Roberto Sosa said, "The Feds only care about the ruling class." A couple of speakers challenged councilors to live on the current minimum of $41.20 a day. Santa Fe City Councilor David Coss talked about new business coming into Santa Fe since they instituted a "living wage" in 2003. UNM economist Allen Parkman predicted a minimum wage of $7.15 would not help locals, but would attract workers from Rio Rancho and Los Lunas. While commuters from other areas already pour into Albuquerque, it's possible that more might arrive, particularly people who can't do math. Suppose outlanders make $2 more per hour for eight hours, a daily gain of $16. But they've possibly spent two extra hours commuting, equaling $14.30. If they travel an average of 20 extra miles each way, the IRS business travel allowance of 37 cents a mile indicates they've spent another $14.80, totaling $29.10 in extra expenses versus $16.00 in extra wages.
When Is a Contract Not a Contract?
Griego sponsored a memorial encouraging New Mexico's congressional delegation to fight for better interim and long-term funding for the Albuquerque Indian Health Center. Griego said the Feds had put the facility on the chopping block, and if it closed, patients would have to go to the UNM Health Sciences Center, which is already crowded beyond its capacity.
Speakers emphasized that Indian Health Center funding was a contractual agreement, not charity. Statistics quoted show that of 46,000 Native Americans living in Albuquerque, 25,000 went to the center last year, and 17,000 had no medical insurance of any kind. The memorial passed unanimously.And the U.S. Army just awarded Halliburton $72 million in bonuses on their Iraq contracts, apparently for not furnishing sufficient MREs, grossly overcharging for fuel shipments, and misplacing a whole lot of taxpayers' money. We are all in a world of hurt, with the Indian Health Center one of the first to feel the pain.
Oooooh, Let's Borrow $2 to $5 Trillion More!
Gómez's memorial urging Congress to reject Social Security privatization again drew fervent comment from the public, although councilors remained silent. Eight people supported the bill. Rose Shaw compared privatization to the crash of United Air Lines' pension fund.
Rosamund Evans of the Gray Panthers and Alliance of Retired Americans recalled the "poor farms," orphanages and asylums common during her childhood. She stressed that local officials would bear the brunt of resulting cuts. The bill passed 5-4 on party lines, with Councilors Craig Loy, Brad Winter, Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins opposed.In a follow-up interview, Evans speculated that Bush persisted in pushing privatization because two-thirds of Wall Street investments are in pension funds. With corporations falling behind in fund payments, a transfusion of Social Security money would keep the whole thing afloat a little longer.
Catch 22 on Route 66
After speaking with car clubs, Loy moved his bill giving the Council authority to designate No Cruising zones. The bill defines cruising as "passing the same point three times in two hours." After such action, a driver could be fined if found guilty of any of a series of acts, ranging from soliciting prostitution to having intent to cruise. Five speakers supported the bill and five opposed it or requested that the city provide alternate recreation before restricting the practice.
City Attorney Bob White said the bill's language was based on other laws that survived appellate court challenges. Police Chief Ray Schultz said it gave the law another tool. Griego asked Loy how he could criminalize hailing, arm waving or horn blowing to draw attention. Loy said he was actually trying to target someone "flipping a bird," but he couldn't think how to word it. The bill passed 7-2, Griego and Gómez opposed. There's a real problem here. But this bill's standard of criminality seems terribly slippery. Suppose you are stopped by an officer who asks if you are contributing knowingly to traffic congestion. If you're not lost, of course you're knowingly driving down whatever congested street you're on. And if both cruisers and other drivers are using that street, why are cruisers guilty of traffic congestion but not the other drivers?