Alibi V.15 No.39 • Sept 28-Oct 4, 2006 

Council Watch

Balancing the Scales

A rendering of Mayor Martin Chavez’ proposed Metro Park, which will sit north of Civic Plaza
A rendering of Mayor Martin Chavez’ proposed Metro Park, which will sit north of Civic Plaza
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City councilors at the Sept. 18 meeting made final decisions on a couple of issues that require difficult balances between competing rights. Councilor Michael Cadigan's bill authorizing the city to purchase or condemn 56 mobile home lots at Del Rey Mobile Home Park passed unanimously. The bill, aimed at preserving affordable housing, will only go into effect if private negotiations fail.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
No. You Can't Do That.

Councilor Brad Winter said he appreciated all the cooperation during a year of working on his ethics bill. He said his work on the governor's ethics task force showed that issues were the same at the state level. The bill bars councilors from voting on matters involving most campaign contributors. Saying councilors didn't keep handy contribution lists, Cadigan verified that staff would notify councilors if an upcoming bill affected any of their contributors.
Cadigan said he eventually wanted ballot measures on banning all contributions from corporations or city contractors. Councilor Ken Sanchez said issues that concerned him were taken care of, although he believed "we cannot legislate ethics." The bill passed 8-1, Councilor Sally Mayer opposed. Mayer had previously objected to a provision barring councilors from voting to award a contract to one of their campaign contributors who was not the low bidder. The bill, which also bans most gifts and protects city workers from being coerced into campaigns, seems pretty nonpartisan, which is a nice change. Typical attempts to Clean Up Politics always seem be focused on outlawing whatever sources are perceived as the other party's cash cows, or jacking the inconvenience level confronting voters up high enough to whittle down the other party's voter base.
Ornament or Playground?

Councilor Isaac Benton carried Mayor Martin Chavez' proposal for Metro Park, a primarily ornamental park to replace the parking lot just north of Civic Plaza. Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman said the park would incorporate Internet links to Sister Cities and movie screens along with landscaping. The one-block park will cost $4.8 million. Benton said he supported the proposal but emphasized the need for a primarily green area to "cool off."
Cadigan said soccer and other sports fields were a bigger priority. Winter suggested a shopping mall for the tax revenue. Councilors Loy and Sanchez supported Chavez' idea as boosting tourism. Sanchez said it would be a great place "to get away from the courthouses." Perlman said the inspiration was Millennium Park, a sort of Keanu-Reeves-plays-Frank-Gehry facility in Chicago. Mayer and Loy said the administration had undisclosed plans for soccer fields. The bill passed 7-2, Cadigan and Winter opposed. Civic Plaza's concrete expanse makes people feel like bugs on a sidewalk, and the stage doesn't effectively focus sound and energy. Acacia Park in downtown Colorado Springs is an interesting model for a facility that combines ornamental, green and play features. Neither the one-block Acacia or downtown was successfully pulling in people until the extraordinary Uncle Wilber Fountain was built. Nowadays, you can hardly see Uncle Wilber through the surrounding crowds.
Patching Holes in Mother's Lifeboat

Benton moved a bill increasing the amount of capital improvement bond money set aside for energy conservation and efficiency from 1 percent to 3 percent. The new money would go to various renewable energy systems along with setting up the criteria to select them.
Wayne Evelo of the Energy Conservation Council stressed the quick payback on initial measures such as energy efficient lighting. Another speaker said the program protected us from future energy shocks. Cadigan called for evaluating conservation gains in evaporative coolers versus refrigerated air. The bill passed 7-2, Loy and Harris opposed. To quote speaker Jerry McFarland, M.D., "The sky is indeed falling." We need to be reducing fossil fuel use at Manhattan Project intensity. Congratulations to those who've been swimming upstream against incredible resistance to get us this far. Maybe the next round will not be argued on immediate monetary profit.
Kendra's Conundrum

A city version of Kendra's Law passed following a delay to digest more information on the effect of similar bills. The law calls for Assisted Outpatient Treatment Programs that force certain mentally ill outpatients to either take prescribed drugs or be involuntarily committed.
Many speakers mentioned the city's enormous shortfall in services for the mentally ill. They stressed that the bill only addressed a tiny segment of the need. APD Detective Liz Thompson estimated about six people at any one time in Albuquerque would fit the screening criteria. The bill passed 8-1, Councilor Debbie O'Malley opposed. It's maddening to think of recent tragedies that could have been forestalled by treatment. On the other hand, forcibly administering psychotropic drugs is chilling. I wish the Council had added some sort of sunset or review provision, as they have frequently done on other scary bills.