Alibi V.16 No.52 • Dec 27-Jan 2, 2007 

Council Watch

The TIDDs Roll In

After boycotting the last meeting, Heights councilors (along with District 1's Ken Sanchez) showed up on Dec. 17 to bestow a Christmas present on the Southwest mesa.

Jason Daskalos' mixed-use project on Central across from Shogun restaurant was back for the fifth legal tussle with the neighborhood, this time over the extent of a landscape buffer strip. The Council ruled in the project's favor.

Mayor Martin Chavez vetoed Councilor Isaac Benton's bill declaring a moratorium on West Central construction until planning was complete. Benton moved a revised bill that passed unanimously, limiting the moratorium to six months.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
It's a So-So Day in the Neighborhood

A bill introduced months ago by Councilor Don Harris allows recognition of multiple, overlapping neighborhood associations in the same area. Seventeen representatives of existing associations opposed the bill; one speaker supported it.
Councilor Sally Mayer amended the bill to extend it from Harris' District 9 to the entire city. At Harris' prompting, Councilor Michael Cadigan said overlapping associations in Taylor Ranch hadn't been a problem. Harris moved a 30-day continuance. Opponents said the bill was a recipe for confusion and a way for developers to split neighborhoods. Council supporters portrayed it as a way to open the governing process to people disenfranchised by cliquish boards. No doubt it's both, depending on the specifics.
Open Land—the Horror, the Horror!

Tax Increment Development Districts (TIDDs) were designed to encourage revitalization of inner-city areas by diverting increases in gross receipts and property taxes from city and state funds to developers to build infrastructure. The state recently allowed TIDDs to be used for fringe development on raw land. Two weeks ago, councilors voted 4-1 to restrict TIDDs to their original purpose, a move that would most immediately affect the 55,000-acre SunCal development slated for the old Atrisco Grant lands on the Southwest mesa. The mayor vetoed the limitation.

While opponents of the extension dominated the previous meeting, this time SunCal employees and others showed up in force with free pizza and "I Support TIDDs" buttons. Fourteen people supported Councilor Michael Cadigan's bill limiting TIDDs, five opposed it. Ed Romero, former U.S. ambassador and Martin Chavez finance committee member, said SunCal hired him two months ago as a senior adviser. As did others, Romero praised the planning SunCal had done for the development.
Councilor Rey Garduño asked why county commissioners wanted to give TIDDs to SunCal when they couldn't afford a jail. Councilor Ken Sanchez said the Westside deserved equal treatment with Mesa del Sol, where councilors approved TIDDs.

Councilor Debbie O'Malley said the current state TIDD law is bad policy, and "If we move forward with this, we're suckers." Benton warned against compounding Westside problems. Councilor Trudy Jones said they were not voting for or against SunCal but for a vision of how they wanted the city to grow. O'Malley said SunCal had done some good planning, but "I don't want to subsidize it." Responding to Garduño's concern about water, O'Malley quipped that he must not have heard the latest plan to "drag a big iceberg down the Rio Grande. By burro." Cadigan questioned whether fringe TIDDs violated the anti-donation clause. The attempt to override the mayor's veto failed 5-4, Cadigan, O'Malley, Benton and Garduño supporting the override.
It's easier, quicker and cheaper to build on flat, raw land than to fit new structures into existing neighborhoods. Logically, developers would rather do the former, as well as benefit from economies of scale.

SunCal TIDDs won't suck existing funds from the city since they're supposed to be receiving tax revenues that don't yet exist. What they are very likely to do is further encourage developers to build in SunCal rather than in existing areas that badly need revitalization. (Hello? Districts 9, 8, 7 and 1?)

Cadigan said, "I guarantee, 15 years from now, that [SunCal] land will be developed, TIDD or not." Probably. What happens will depend more on broader economic, resource and environmental conditions than on City Council actions.

Alibi reader commented that the City Council has little power to control what happens in the mega-development because more than 90 percent of the land is outside city limits and the County Commission recently approved TIDDs. The effects on all city-county residents are basically determined by the county's action.
Still Watching You, Still Fining You

Mayor Martin Chavez appointed a task force to study his controversial STOP project. The committee reports on Jan. 15 regarding red-light cameras' procedural problems, fee structure and effectiveness at preventing accidents. Winter sponsored a bill putting a moratorium on camera-generated fees until the report.
When several mayoral allies ditched the last meeting, the moratorium passed 3-2 with Council President Brad Winter, Cadigan and Garduño supporting, O'Malley and Benton opposed. This go-around, the moratorium failed 7-2, Winter and Cadigan supporting. Another bill, sponsored by Winter and Mayer, sets up a separate fund for the fees passed unanimously, which should help at least one of the program's problems. While the cameras apparently boost, then reduce, citations at the specific intersection, it's completely unclear whether they reduce actual accidents.