Alibi V.15 No.35 • Aug 31-Sept 6, 2006 

Council Watch

Floods, Frauds and Furies

A view from the Sandias of the heavy rain that bombarded the city Sunday, Aug. 13, which flooded several Downtown neighborhoods.
A view from the Sandias of the heavy rain that bombarded the city Sunday, Aug. 13, which flooded several Downtown neighborhoods.
Wes Naman

The Aug. 21 Council meeting saw a full chamber of folks revved up and ready to rumble over workforce housing and land restrictions.

Representatives from the Southwest Organizing Project and the Department of Health complained about the city jerking their permit to stage a break-dancing, graffiti-painting, band-blasting event promoting men's health on Civic Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Getting Pumped

Recent flooding hit Barelas, Santa Barbara/Martineztown and Downtown particularly hard. One Downtown resident said she'd heard five excuses for all the water: It's a 100-year flood, the pumps aren't working, the pumps aren't turned on, the drainage design is outdated and debris is blocking the drains.
Questioned by Councilor Isaac Benton, Municipal Development Director John Castillo said lightning had shut down one pumping station and ongoing construction the other. Benton asked if firefighters hanging around the stations could help people place sandbags. Chief Public Safety Officer Nick Bakas seconded the idea. Benton's comment that slinging sandbags could be considered part of an AFD fitness program drew Bakas' praise for the overall fitness of Fire Department employees. (That calendar!) Pumps aren't as cute as pandas (or firefighters), but wouldn't you think they'd rate as a higher priority?
What's Your Name? Who's Your Daddy?

Councilor Sally Mayer's bill tightening regulations for petition signatures requires affidavits that must be signed by volunteers, candidates or businesses that collect those signatures. The City Clerk must check whether each signer's name and address matches voter rolls.
One speaker called the bill "another effort to undermine democracy." Council President Martin Heinrich said the bill was stricter than state law, which doesn't check signatures. Election expert Mark Shoesmith warned of "phone book parties" held to make up fake names. The bill passed unanimously. Signers who aren't carrying their voter IDs could have a problem remembering whether their cards show nicknames, middle initials, post office or street addresses. My husband, who goes by his middle name, has seen himself officially listed at least 10 different ways.
Dreaming the (Im)Possible Dream

A bill sponsored by Councilors Debbie O'Malley and Isaac Benton allocates $10 million in capital improvement funding every two years for affordable housing, if approved by voters. The bill calls for permanent affordability in both rented and owned housing, which requires some restriction on homeowners profiting from selling houses at much higher market prices.
Eighteen speakers supported the bill while five supported affordable housing but objected to limiting equity to keep house prices from skyrocketing. Benton stressed buying ever-more-expensive land as quickly as possible. The bill passed 6-2, Councilors Craig Loy and Ken Sanchez opposed, Brad Winter absent, which should override a possible veto by Mayor Martin Chavez. During public comment, Brianna Encinias said, "How can I afford to build equity [in a house] if I can't even afford to buy a house?" Bingo. Building equity is a terrific goal, critical for pulling people out of poverty, but in this instance, worrying about it seems like fretting about what you'll wear to the Academy Awards before you've even landed a role.
You'll Hardly Feel This

Councilor Don Harris moved a bill authorizing a corridor study of the Tijeras Arroyo area and interim moratorium on subdivision approvals. Several area residents opposed the study, which might recommend building a road down the arroyo. A speaker from an adjacent tech park said a road was necessary for future traffic.
Chief Operating Officer Ed Adams estimated that residential development and the tech park might increase the area's daily trips by 37,000 in the next 20 years. O'Malley mentioned previous studies, which apparently recommended no road. The bill passed unanimously. The tech park folks are the next best thing to rocket scientists. Wouldn't you think they could comprehend "bus" or "carpool" or "ride a bicycle and save your gym fees"? More roads aren't the only solution to too many people, too many cars and inadequate planning.
Volcanic Debate

Twenty landowners and lawyers protested Councilor Michael Cadigan's Volcano Heights Sector Development Plan for the Westside area between the escarpment and the volcano cones. Most complaints centered on last-minute plan changes that left no time for debate, uncertain regulations for commercial development and restricting the lots' building footprints, which speakers characterized as the city stealing their land.
Dr. Lou Columbo of Council Services said planning was difficult because the 3,500 acres had 1,700 property owners, and many of the original sales would be illegal today. Cadigan described problems with drainage, said the city wasn't stealing anybody's land and slammed the Environmental Planning Commission for not producing required information. Council President Martin Heinrich called for a continuance at the Sept. 6 meeting. Volcano Heights landowners long ago bought then-isolated properties for very little. At last, a plan is making it possible to build on that land, but from the reactions, you'd think the landowners were watching their dogs being tortured. A 1-acre lot contains 43,560 square feet. To take the worst case, if you can only use 32 percent for a building footprint, you can still build a house with 13,939 square feet on just the bottom story.

CORRECTION--In the Aug. 17-23 “Council Watch,” we mistakening wrote that that at the Aug. 7 Council meeting, “The police department unloaded old German Shepherds at bargain basement rates.” In truth, Animal Services officers presented dogs from the animal shelter that were up for adoption, as they do at every Council meeting. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.