Councilor Debbie O’Malley’s resolution to require the city to comply with existing policy on funding two 65-foot towers failed.
On Oct. 17, subdued councilors met after the recent, balance-shifting municipal election. Not that party labels have meant much recently, with a Democratic mayor depending on Republicans for automatic support. Maybe more appropriate, if oversimplified, categories would be “Corporatists” versus “Populists.” The Alibi waits with great interest to see whether the city will now get more Pop grassroots or more Corp trickledown.
After revisions forced by an ACLU challenge, Councilor Craig Loy's bill requiring cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights passed unanimously. The new bill drops the $50 administrative fee for alleged violators, and it allows citations to be reissued to someone other than the vehicle's owner if the other person was driving.
Councilor Eric Griego introduced a blizzard of bills before his unsuccessful mayoral run. His bill calling for better bus services for handicapped people passed unanimously. Another bill establishing a Department of Youth passed 5-4, Councilors Tina Cummins, Sally Mayer, Loy and Michael Cadigan opposed. Griego called for second hearings on bills promoting wireless facilities for the city and a Martineztown community center.
Griego's bill prioritizing Southwest Mesa needs and Westside traffic planning drew support only from Griego and Councilors Martin Heinrich, Debbie O'Malley and Miguel Gómez, failing to override a mayoral veto.
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O'Malley versus the Two Towers Councilor O'Malley tried to put a resolution on the agenda requiring the administration to comply with existing city policy on funding two 65-foot towers. The towers will be erected at the I-40 and Rio Grande intersection to commemorate the city's Tricentennial. O'Malley said the towers' original $370,000 cost had risen to $843,000, and that the Council was supposed to review art project funding. Chief Operating Officer Ed Adams said the art project had acquired more artwork, walls and lighting, and that material costs had risen.
Councilor Heinrich said the Council was supposed to review projects that exceeded their budget by more than 10 percent. City Attorney Bob White said the towers were an "on-call construction project" with no mechanism for a review of cost estimates. Heinrich said he'd prefer Councilor O'Malley sit down with the administration. O'Malley tried unsuccessfully to pin down Adams on whether the towers were an art or landscaping project. The motion failed 4-3 to make the agenda; Councilors O'Malley, Gómez and Griego supporting.
At the previous Council meeting, John Castillo of the Municipal Development Department denied the need for Council oversight on the grounds that the towers were landscaping instead of art. Drawings show huge tapered columns said to be based on traditional tinwork, topped with corbel shapes. One can't judge the impact of gigantic works from tiny drawings, so they could look very cool or they could look like giant, Colonial Deco lava lamps.
Hey! Who's Your Estimator? People living near the Rio Grande Zoo protested the administration's alleged decision to eliminate a planned parking garage, saying that zoo visitors were parking in their yards and driveways. Speakers said the administration had allocated $5 million for the garage, spent $1.1 million of it elsewhere, and now considered the garage, recently estimated at $12 million, too expensive. Speaker Ron Romero said the language of the project specified that money be spent on a multilevel parking facility, streetscape and street planning.
Chief Financial Officer Gail Reese, referring to project money spent at Tingley Park, said the administration's position was that Tingley Park was part of the zoo. She said that residents incorrectly "walked away from the table thinking a promise had been made" regarding a parking facility that would add 400 spaces. The city plans to add another 150-space parking lot instead. Councilor Griego said Ray Darnell, director of the Albuquerque Biological Park, told neighbors they were definitely going to get a parking garage.
Concrete and steel prices have risen, but not enough to justify a near tripling of costs in a couple of years. Councilors mentioned the figure of $15,000 per parking space. If accurate, that figure should have steered the original discussions toward a figure of $7-$8 million for the facility, so the initial guesstimate must have been drastically low-balled. And, apparently, the project has acquired amenities like Imelda Marcos buys shoes, further boosting the cost.
Put Your Head Between Your Knees Several speakers criticized the city's new All Hazards Emergency Operations Plan. Jeanne Pahls said the document did not acknowledge the "2,510 weapons of mass destruction" stored on Kirtland Air Force Base. Pahls also said the plan had no effective way of notifying the public of an emergency and relied on I-40 and I-25 as evacuation routes.
Councilor Heinrich, a mechanical engineer who has worked at nuclear facilities, said there was a lot of confusion concerning the process. Council President Brad Winter said there would be a public hearing on Nov. 9. Reese said the Citizens Satisfaction Survey showed citizens were more concerned about natural disasters like floods and fires than about terrorists.
Long-term activist Dorie Bunting asked the pertinent question, "Why do we need all these bombs in the first place?" Check out the two-part plan here and here.