The Mosquito and the Elephants
 Alibi V.16 No.24 • June 14-20, 2007 

Council Watch

The Mosquito and the Elephants

The mayor-Council showdown over a tax cut delay amounting to about $9 million headlined the June 4 meeting. Three other bills, all deferred, put the amount involved into context. A proposed new software system for the administration would cost $25 million. A proposed restriction on tax increment development districts in fringe developments could keep hundreds of millions in the city's tax base. And tighter energy conservation standards for construction would lower city utility bills for decades.

Teens and kids won out with approval of a city-APS-CNM property swap that provides land for a sports complex in the northwest quadrant. Councilor Brad Winter said, "This shows what happens when all the governments work together."

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
The Lesser of Two Weevils

Previously, councilors voted 6-3 to restore $9 million for the Metropolitan Detention Center and to delay a tax cut for six months pay for the funding. Mayor Martin Chavez vetoed the budget line item. Councilors first tackled a vote to override the mayor's veto.

Earlier in the meeting, Councilor Ken Sanchez tried to put two new bills on the evening's agenda. One would have repealed the Council's delay of the tax cut and one would have affected long-term financing of the jail. Council President Debbie O'Malley said both bills should go through the normal procedure and be introduced at the next Council meeting. Both efforts were defeated 6-3, signaling that the previous block of Councilors O'Malley, Isaac Benton, Michael Cadigan, Martin Heinrich, Don Harris and Brad Winter would hold the line.
Councilor Sally Mayer said she didn't support the funding but did support the jail. Councilor Craig Loy said all governments have to prioritize. Sanchez said the city needed an audit of the jail and he didn't believe the county would release dangerous inmates.

Cadigan predicted that jail overcrowding would cause federal judges to order release of nonviolent offenders such as "car thieves and meth makers." Harris said the State Legislature didn't like Albuquerque or its mayor, and that the Council persuaded the Legislature to drop an even worse bill, which O'Malley described as making the city pay 25 percent of the jail's operating cost in perpetuity. Heinrich said the Council had promised corrections workers "not to hang them out to dry." Winter said there had been "a lot of intimidation tactics to try to get some of us to change our vote." He said the mayor wouldn't give the county money because he couldn't get along with them. The veto override passed 6-3.
Benton said he'd guarantee there was mismanagement at the jail since that was the nature of government, and he didn't like the situation but would support the funding. He echoed sentiments from most of the councilors, none of whom seemed to really like either option and insisted on more oversight of the county.

Given the furor over the temporary 1/8 cent change in gross receipts taxes, it's surprising how little impact the six-month deferral would have on local wallets. Cadigan said, "If we cut taxes, the county will have to raise theirs," producing the same result to local taxpayers. To see a difference, if you live in a county area outside city limits you would have to be careful not to cross the city line whenever you shopped.
Capping Red-Light Cams

Sanchez proposed a six-month moratorium on the city's installation of any more red-light cameras, then revised the bill to allow the city to move the existing cameras around to different intersections.
Winter supported the moratorium to allow time to fix due process problems. Mayer opposed it, wanting a "wish list" of more cameras. The bill failed on a 4-4 vote, Cadigan abstaining and Sanchez, Winter, O'Malley and Harris supporting. According to Chief Administration Officer Bruce Perlman, the city had no current plans to increase the cameras from the current 20 installations anyway, so it all seems moot.
It Pays How Much? With No Job Security?

Sanchez moved to put a pay raise for councilors on the October ballot, boosting yearly salaries from under $10,000 to about $29,000. The raise would not apply to current councilors unless they are re-elected. Immediately afterward Loy proposed a ballot initiative making it harder to recall city officials. Loy's bill would require evidence of misconduct to initiate a recall election, rather than starting the process whenever five people got irritated at a councilor's vote.
Following comments that it looked bad for councilors to campaign for a pay raise, Sanchez said he had been asked by Herb Denish, husband of the lieutenant governor, to sponsor the bill because he wanted to set up a task force to support it. Loy said a recall election cost the city $500,000. The pay raise ballot question passed 5-4, O'Malley, Winter, Cadigan and Heinrich opposed. The tightened recall question passed 8-1, Winter opposed. Give these people a raise! Done right, a term as councilor is a demanding, full-time job. Currently, most people can't afford to run for Council unless they have another source of income. The recall bill won't affect the current effort to recall Harris. While I disagree with several of Harris' bills, he's been a ball of fire working for his previously underserved District 9.