Alibi V.17 No.33 • Aug 14-20, 2008 

Council Watch

Easing Back In

City Councilors returned Monday, Aug. 4, from a month’s vacation. A presentation from the Albuquerque Ethics Coalition recommended improving the ethical behavior of city personnel with training based on underlying values, rather than relying on a code “buried in rules and regulations.”

Councilor Debbie O’Malley sponsored a bill to study creating a regional city-county redevelopment authority. The body would provide continuing support for large redevelopment projects regardless of changing political administrations. While several councilors were concerned about adding another level of bureaucracy, all supported forming a study group.

After months of sound and fury, Councilor Ken Sanchez’ bill bringing Albuquerque’s red-light camera program in line with state law and limiting speeding fines to $75 passed unanimously with little discussion.

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Monumental Pain

Each councilor receives about $1 million yearly for projects in their districts. Councilors Jones and Harris proposed adding $154,000 from this “set aside” money to funding a monument honoring New Mexicans killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The monument, which would be located in Veterans Memorial Park, was authorized on Oct. 15, 2007.

Charles Powell from Veterans for Peace said several of the organization’s members objected to the monument’s linking of the 9-11 attacks and the Iraq war. He said they objected to the lies, and that the monument permanently made that connection. Money should go to “suffering, living veterans,” Powell said, adding that veterans worked with council staff on the wording of the original bill but learned too late that objectionable wording would be on the monument itself. He asked that the Council not pass the bill.

Benton thanked Powell for his service but said it was Jones and Harris’ own set aside money to use as they wished. Harris said it was terribly important for the families of the fallen to know their sons and daughters died for a noble cause, and the monument should focus on our brave troops instead of political issues.

Garduño said Veterans for Peace concerns were legitimate, and the war was based on lies, whether we like it or not politically. He said he was concerned if the monument showed the twin towers, which had nothing to do with Iraq. Mayer said the Council had already had that discussion. Garduño said he was not on the Council then.

Benton said historical accuracy was important, and he would have deep concerns if the monument connected the Iraq War and 9-11. O’Malley said we needed to be honest about our involvement. The bill passed unanimously.

According to the original discussion, the monument includes five life-sized, empty uniforms standing in a circle, the names of New Mexico’s fallen, a beacon, and scenes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Flight 93 crash site.

Evidence continually mounts showing the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 or weapons of mass destruction. Whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, our troops have pursued the job given them with heroism and endurance. It does not honor them to permanently tie their sacrifice to a political lie.

The overall design of the monument sounds powerful. A reasonable compromise to change details would not significantly diminish it. Else, some future day when this nation returns to its senses and its founding principles, we may find ourselves chipping away the embarrassments as Santa Feans chipped away reference to “Savage Indians” on the plaza war memorial.
Greening by Degrees

Last year the Council approved energy conservation standards recommended by the mayor’s Green Ribbon Task Force. A requirement to install more efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment in commercial and residential buildings drew protests from various factions.
Councilor Isaac Benton proposed the task force meet again just long enough to review and improve the HVAC requirements. Mayer said she hoped all the builders complaining would become involved with the process. The bill passed unanimously. If a reasonable compromise to the HVAC controversy can be crafted, then the postponed standards can go into effect—possibly without any increase of carbon emissions. New equipment, however efficient, requires energy to make. The emissions used to manufacture it is added to the total. 
You’ll Never Miss That Half Percent

Councilors O’Malley and Rey Garduño moved to put an ordinance on the evening’s agenda concerning labor-management negotiation impasses that last more than 15 days. The bill, which amends a city ordinance, requires involuntary binding arbitration on non-economic issues, even if one party does not wish to go through the process. The measure comes up as the city is negotiating a new contract with city employees.
Rev. Trey Hammond of Albuquerque Interfaith said the city’s contracts with most city employees expired. While the Council budgeted 3.5 percent raises for city employees, Hammond said the administration was only offering a 3 percent raise. O’Malley wanted to bring the negotioation time-limit bill up for immediate action at the Council meeting. But Councilors Sally Mayer, Brad Winter, Trudy Jones and Don Harris stalled it, voting to first send the bill through a committee hearing. The bill would have required a 6-3 majority for immediate action. Without citing actual numbers, Chief Administrative Officer Ed Adams said the city placed various options on the bargaining table. The city needs to look at all expenditures, not just wages, in its quest to rein in spending. In the last few years, government actions have drastically shifted the economic balance against wage earners, installing an anti-worker labor secretary and more.