Alibi V.20 No.51 • Dec 22-28, 2011 

Council Watch

Un-Green Time Machine

Neither rain nor snow nor sleet kept more than a hundred people away from the Monday, Dec. 19 Council meeting.

Rolling back the city’s energy conservation code drew the crowd for more than two hours of discussion during a statewide blizzard. The Council was weighing a measure that would replace strident, eco-friendly building regulations with the state’s more relaxed 2009 energy code [“Building Code Backpedal,” Oct. 6-12].

Folks also showed up to comment on the fate of Albuquerque’s public access TV. The contract for channels 26 and 27 was taken away from Quote ... Unquote, Inc., the nonprofit that’s operated them for 30 years. A company called uPUBLIC was awarded the gig instead. But given the storm, the Council pushed back discussion of the issue.

Outgoing Council President Don Harris ran his last meeting, noting that his time as council president was the peak of his political career. Councilor Trudy Jones will take up the president’s gavel with Councilor Debbie O’Malley acting as vice president. Councilor Dan Lewis will step in as budget chairman.

The Council pared down the agenda significantly due to the weather. The controversial reappointment of Independent Review Officer William Deaton was postponed.

The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall.

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Lewis and Jones co-sponsored a bill to nix green building rules adopted under former Mayor Martin Chavez. The Lewis/Jones bill replaces it with the state’s more relaxed code.

Jones pointed out that builders could still meet the tougher standards if the marketplace prefers more eco-friendly structures. But the state code, she said, offers international minimums from 2009, in line with other municipalities.

The greener code requires higher quality windows, appliances, insulation and lighting. Supporters of the switch say the city’s old regulations cost more in construction for only a little annual energy savings.

Opponents of the move say the strict building regulations reduce pollution, resource consumption and utility bills. It adds up, they argue, over decades.
Councilor Isaac Benton, an architect, said the city should be a leader in energy efficiency while decreasing environmental impact. Benton took exception to comments that the strict Albuquerque code was poorly written. Democrat Councilors Rey Garduño, Ken Sanchez and O’Malley sided with Benton. “Let’s do the right thing instead of going backwards,” Garduño urged.

Republicans Jones, Harris, Lewis, Brad Winter and Michael Cook supported the change, saying it will make the city a friendlier environment for builders. They said the city should be in sync with the state so there is one standard for developers. The state code replaced the city’s code on a vote of 5 to 4, split along party lines.
It is shortsighted of the Council to favor increasing short-term profit for a few businesses over long-term environmental benefits for everyone.

Several builders spoke in favor of the eco-friendly code, saying it promotes green jobs, better built housing and less pollution, while benefiting future generations. The views of these builders with direct hands-on experience were rejected by the five Republicans, who agreed with other construction companies that complained about the rules.

Garduño suggested implementing the 2012 International Building Code, which would at least have the city moving forward instead of backward. The city could have gone even greener by taking a strong, visionary stand and requiring future buildings not only to have good windows but solar panels, rain harvesting systems and wind energy use built in.
Other Items

• The Council approved seeking bids for streets, drainage and sewer improvements in the Volcano Cliffs area near the petroglyphs.

• A nine-month moratorium on new auto-related businesses was imposed on west Central from Rio Grande to Atrisco.
• Several members of the public stayed late to encourage the Council to approve the bill, which will get construction going for the 330 property owners in the far Westside area. Councilors unanimously approved the measure. O’Malley was excused.

• The moratorium passed unanimously with little discussion.
• This is the beginning of the end of the wide-open sacred spaces near the city’s volcanoes. Property owners have a right to develop their land. Let’s hope they do it respectfully.

• Good idea. There are a number of tire, radiator and other auto shops along this stretch leading to the city’s BioPark. It would be nice to add in other shops, restaurants and maybe even a Bosque bike rental center.