Alibi V.19 No.14 • April 8-14, 2010 

Council Watch

White Out

After 16 years on the job, top City Attorney Bob White is retiring. White, also known as an actor in local theater, served under several mayors. He will be replaced by Rob Perry, who was former Gov. Gary Johnson’s corrections cabinet secretary.

While most residents don’t deal with Albuquerque's legal office much, it is a busy place with dozens of lawyers protecting the city's interests. Perry was appointed by the Council at the Monday, April 5 meeting.

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Dig It

Public Service Company of New Mexico appealed a Development Review Board decision to bury more power lines on the Westside. The lines would run along several streets, including Atrisco and Unser, from the new Volcano Vista High School to the budding La Cuentista subdivision. PNM contends no public purpose is served by burying power lines, and the expense of doing so will cause the big power company to raise rates for all users.
City planners have long envisioned a city where power lines do not disturb residents’ views and lines subject to extreme weather don’t cause power disruption. Councilors questioned the legal ramifications of forcing PNM to bury the lines. But ultimately, they did not buy its arguments. The Council was not intimidated by PNM’s threat of higher rates or a potential lawsuit, and it did not grant the power company’s wish to string electric lines overhead. As costly as it may be to put utility lines underground, it is way past time for Albuquerque to demand their burial. Albuquerque’s unsightly power lines may never be completely buried, but the city can certainly start with new development. The threat of litigation is a consideration, but not much of one. Even if the cost is spread over slightly higher rates, the aesthetic and safety values of buried lines are worth it. Councilors did the right thing by listening to planners and residents and telling PNM to suck it up and bury the lines.
Not on Our Dime

Councilors debated whether to continue funding KNME’s Teach and Learn Network to the tune of $70,000. The city has been supporting local TALNET channel 96 since 1995. The station is one of four public access channels, which are also partially funded by cable franchise fees. Teach and Learn provides PBS shows and educational programming, including GED and language classes. It also broadcasts school board meetings. City administration said Mayor Richard Berry does not support contributing any tax dollars to the channel.
“If we don’t help, it will go dark, and we will never get it back,” Councilor Brad Winter said in support of continuing city contribution to TALNET. Councilor Trudy Jones said that it is sad the channel may go dark, but the city cannot continue to support everything it has been funding.

Under Council rules, a tie vote causes a measure to fail. This happens when a councilor is absent, as Michael Cook was on Monday. Spilt on a 4-4 vote, the Council cut out TALNET’s supplemental moneys and suggested KNME look to Albuquerque Public Schools, the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College for cash.
This may be the first of many cuts coming down the city’s budget pipeline that could directly impact residents’ quality of life. Teachers and students use TALNET to supplement their work, and residents watch the varied and quality programming.

To say the city cannot come up with $70,000 to keep the channel alive is ridiculous. Mayor Richard Berry created new public information jobs that cost the city more than $140,000 annually. The entire metro area and surrounding counties get much more benefit from channel 96 than from the mayor’s new spin doctors.