Alibi V.18 No.35 • Aug 27-Sept 2, 2009 

Council Watch

We’ll Get Around to It

The Monday, Aug. 17 meeting opened with a stunner— Councilor Sally Mayer announced she had removed her name from the October election ballot. Mayer said she would be moving to Chicago in January for six months to a year. Mayer said her daughter’s family needed her. “My son-in-law has been a wonderful stay-at-home dad but now he has a job,” and the working couple needs Grandma to babysit. Mayer’s decision leaves one District 7 candidate still on the ballot and one write-in candidate, neither of whom she endorses.

The Council unanimously approved Councilor Don Harris’ bill setting aside $400,000 in Open Space money to acquire land in the Tijeras Arroyo. The parcel helps create a wildlife corridor and preserve the watershed. Councilor Michael Cadigan was excused.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
Oh, Let’s Just Get Rid of It

Councilors Ken Sanchez and Trudy Jones sponsored bills eliminating impact fees for one year on “Green Path Developments.” They would apply to four types of construction: public safety facilities; roadway facilities; drainage facilities; and parks, recreation, trails and Open Space facilities. The bills also reduce fees to 50 percent on everything else. A Green Path Development is defined as receiving a city permit that requires meeting stringent standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency, such as LEED Gold or Silver, or Build Green New Mexico Silver.
Two speakers said city residents would have to pay more taxes to make up for the lost revenue. Benton passed around maps showing that in spite of impact fees, home sales are stronger on the Westside than in older parts of the city. Jones said the bills were not about sales but jobs, and that 50 percent of the city’s lost jobs were in construction. Councilors Rey Garduño and Debbie O’Malley wanted to know where the money would come from to replace fee revenues. The bills were deferred until Sept. 9. Even the city’s best homebuilders are having a tough time, and the demand for commercial space is low. It’s no secret that builders and realtors have tried repeatedly to get rid of impact fees, that Jones is in real estate and that Sanchez promotes pretty much all development on the Westside. Perhaps there is room for a compromise bill that would significantly reduce fees on only green buildings that do not require huge expenditures for sprawling infrastructure.
No More Marty Galleries?

Cadigan and Mayer sponsored an ordinance forbidding the likeness of any elected city official to appear on city advertising. In response to O’Malley’s question on whether the bill would apply to the city’s website, Council Services Director Laura Mason said the bill’s distinction between advertising and public service announcements was unclear.
Harris objected to bills “crafted for one person” and wanted to postpone action until after the election. Sanchez said the mayor “is selected to be the face of the city.” Councilor Brad Winter said, “I get tired of seeing the mayor’s face everywhere in the city, but this needs to be better defined.” The bill was deferred. Harris has a good argument that laws shouldn’t be aimed at an individual. Martin Chavez has been mayor for so long. It’s hard to tell whether the city’s unrelenting Marty-o-rama everywhere is a personal tactic, or if it results from the nationwide slide into personality-driven infotainment.
Chicken or Egg? Trains or Studies?

O’Malley sponsored a bill requiring any city action on a light rail or streetcar transit system to come before the Council. The city would be unable to spend money on studies without the Council’s authorization. Studies would have to focus first on routes and economic impact. No money could be spent on design or construction without voter approval. O’Malley said the administration felt the bill as written restricted it from “pursuing federal funds.”
Benton moved an amendment that would limit the ban to “locally generated funding” and also allow preliminary studies. Although O’Malley supported the amendment, it failed 4-4 with Winter, Mayer, Jones and Harris opposed. Mayer moved an amendment banning any use of federal funds for streetcar or rail systems. That amendment failed 5-3, Harris, Winter and Mayer supporting. The administration opposed the bill itself, which was deferred. This basically good idea may be so divisive because it has a three-way chicken or egg problem. Voters can’t make reasonable choices without studies, yet studies cost more money. The key to successful transit systems is connectivity, but putting a network of connected transit modes in place at once costs too much. A public transit system requires population density to survive financially, but the system needs to be in place to draw in population.