Praises were sung at the Monday, Feb. 7 Council meeting about the way city employees handled weather-related problems. Councilor Rey Garduño started the accolades, and others chimed in, thanking police officers, the fire department and street workers for keeping the city safe during some of the coldest February days in New Mexico’s recorded history.
Councilors Dan Lewis and Isaac Benton introduced a measure that limits how bright electronic signs can be, how fast they can change and where they are located. Residents complained that the multitude of electronic signs popping up around the city is distracting to drivers and that it constitutes visual pollution. The measure passed, and restrictions will be in place until the end of June. In the meantime, more permanent regulations will be drawn up. A task force took a look at the existing electronic sign regulations and sent recommendations to the city’s Environmental Planning Commission. The committee suggested electronic signs should not be allowed in residential or historic neighborhoods.
Councilor Debbie O’Malley introduced a memorial to designate several railroad intersections as quiet zones. Vista del Norte subdivision residents, including District Court Judge William Parnall, spoke in favor of silencing four public railroad spurs near Jefferson and Paseo del Norte. The spurs are railroad car loading areas, and they serve a gypsum plant, a lumberyard, the Albuquerque Journal printing plant and a Water Authority chlorine storage site. Parnall said the quality of life has diminished in the area since deliveries began happening between midnight and 6 a.m. every night. The graveyard schedule was implemented to avoid conflict with the Rail Runner’s daytime routes.
“The trains moving are not a problem. It is the four intersections where they blow their horns,” Parnall said. “They are very disruptive and start drilling your brain after a while.” Most of the railroad intersections throughout the city have been designated quiet zones. Added safety measures in quiet zones cost about $100,000 per intersection.
In other business during the short meeting, councilors approved a measure that seeks bids for a Washington lobbyist. Councilor Brad Winter said the same man, John O’Donnell, has been doing the job for 20 years. He is paid about $90,000 annually.
“I am not saying anything bad about our current lobbyist,” Winter said. “I think it would be good government to see what else is out there and if the amount we are paying is in line with other municipalities.”
Winter previously suggested the city sack O’Donnell in December 2009.
Councilor Trudy Jones introduced a measure that would allow new city buildings to comply with the 2009 Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code instead of the more restrictive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. LEED certification is a rating system that calls for an independent, third-party verification that a building is environmentally responsible and a healthy place to work. The city requires all of its new construction to be LEED-certified, while private construction must comply with the less strident 2009 code. Former Mayor Martin Chavez was a proponent of innovative green buildings. One of those buildings is the new Albuquerque Police Department’s Northwest Area Command. Benton, who is an architect, said there are some good aspects of LEED certification. It requires that people are able to open a window to get fresh air, as well as the use of local materials and services. Jones’ measure passed.