Council Watch: Car boots and crematoriums
 Alibi V.19 No.11 • March 18-24, 2010 

Council Watch

Count Us In

City employees gathered en masse to let the mayor and Council know they want to be part of the budget-tightening dialogue. More than a hundred rank-and-file workers— firefighters, police officers, clerks and others—showed up, and union representatives spoke, asking to be a part of solving the budget shortfall. They said Mayor Richard Berry assured their inclusion in the discussion, but so far that hasn't happened.

At the last meeting, Councilors Brad Winter and Dan Lewis sponsored a bill that ordered the city to take all necessary action—including legal action—to evaluate the validity of Ed Adams' employment agreement. Adams is a former chief operating officer who was moved to the Municipal Development Department but allowed to keep his $147,000 annual pay. The measure passed 5-4 but was vetoed by Berry.

His veto survived its first attempted override at the Monday, March 15 meeting when Winter failed to corner the two-thirds vote required. The Council voted 5-3 to move on to other city issues. Councilor Don Harris was absent from the meeting.

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Issue Council's Take Reporter's Take
The Boot

Jacob Vigil's car tire was clamped after he failed to pay the fee in a privately owned Downtown parking lot. The lot guy wanted a big chunk of cash to remove the boot. So Vigil took matters into his own hands and cut off the clamp himself, causing a chain reaction of legal headaches. Vigil said he came before councilors to bring this predatory business practice to their attention. To prove his point further, he brought 200 signatures on a petition asking the city to make private booting illegal.
Councilors pretty much brushed off Vigil when he spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. But this did not seem to bother him. He said booting was a business practice equal to seizure of property, and the city should take measures to ban it. Vigil said he will continue to bring this issue to lawmakers until they do something. He said other cities and countries have outlawed this extortion. It’s been said that private business owners have the unlimited right to decide how to conduct their businesses. That argument is solid—unless their practices intrude on the rights of others. That’s when regulations become necessary.

Placing a boot on a vehicle, rendering it immobile for a less than $10 infraction, requires regulation.

When the government boots something, it’s equal to seizure. In the civil arena, this could be considered "conversion of property." That means, basically, that the lot owners are making the vehicle their own, and they owe the owner payment for it. Complicated legal stuff.

There's a simple solution for controlling a paid lot: Staffed booths or lot attendants work just fine and can avoid the booting issue altogether.
The Crematorium’s Neighbors

Residents living adjacent to Direct Cremation & Burial Services on Fourth Street told the Council they were concerned about pollution emitted during the cremation process. They said people living nearby often suffer stinging in their eyes and noses. “The human body is full of carcinogens that are released when they are burned,” said neighbor Joan Ferrell. They urged the city to take a look at a zone change and a pending air quality application to see if it is appropriate to locate a crematorium in a populated area.
Councilors appeared taken aback by neighbors' comments that they “inhale each and every body burned.” Councilor Isaac Benton asked about the zoning that allowed the crematorium to be located on Fourth Street between Candelaria and Menaul in the first place. He was told that under the property’s manufacturing designation, there are few restrictions on the type business that can operate there. Council President Ken Sanchez thanked the residents for bringing the matter to the Council’s attention. This prods the prickly issue of where to put unsightly or distasteful businesses in the city. While I can’t imagine any neighborhood wanting a crematorium next door, those services are necessary. So where do they belong? In the middle of a cemetery or other unpopulated area, where there is sufficient space for the smoke plume to disperse without being breathed in by unsuspecting people in the vicinity.