Alibi V.21 No.40 • Oct 4-10, 2012 

Council Watch

Coming Out, Touching Down

City Council chambers were three-quarters full of people wanting to comment about several issues. Some protested Mayor Richard Berry’s August award from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government for bringing more transparency to the city government website. And one person spoke from her heart about supporting Thursday, Oct. 11, as National Coming Out Day, an observance celebrating people who are publicly LGBTQ. 2012's theme is "Come Out. Vote." to encourage folks to cast a ballot in November for politicians who support equality. The day was launched in 1988 by a psychologist who lived in New Mexico, Robert Eichberg.

Councilor Michael Cook introduced a bill to open up more land for balloon landings. The bill would allow hot-air balloons to touch down on home and business property to compensate for dwindling open tracts in the city (see this week's feature, page 38). The measure must first make it through the city’s Environmental Planning Commission, so it will not help this year’s pilots.

Several items were deferred—again—shortening the already slim agenda.

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The next meeting
Monday, Oct. 15, 5 p.m.
Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall
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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Zoo Boo

Mayor Richard Berry just increased the basic adult admission price at the BioPark from $7 to $10 without asking the Council. Councilors Ken Sanchez and Debbie O’Malley had a bill on the agenda to lower it to $8. Chief Operations Officer John Soladay made a presentation to the Council defending the increase, which will generate $1.3 million in additional revenue. This could help the zoo avoid layoffs and go toward a backlog of maintenance and other work needed at the 85-year-old BioPark, he said.
Some of the councilors took Soladay to task, grilling him about why the increase came out of nowhere instead of being put on ice until the next budget cycle. Others tried to defend the city’s low-income residents. “This should not be put on the backs of families,” Sanchez said. The increase is too high, added O'Malley. Soladay said there are plans in place for half-price weekends four times a year. Councilor Isaac Benton proposed offering a resident discount to help offset the increase. The BioPark operates on a $12 million budget with about $3.8 million coming from ticket sales, Soladay said. Councilors approved deferring the bill until the next meeting in order to consider other options. About three dozen people showed up in support of the $10 increase. More upkeep at the city zoo will ensure more visits, they said. Ten bucks is what people, regardless of income, routinely fork over to go to the movies, to the State Fair, to see the Isotopes. Councilors opposing the increase seemed to be reacting to the mayor not consulting them. Cash for maintenance and employee salaries is money well-spent. There are options that could be discussed, such as offering discounts to families, students, senior citizens and those on public assistance. Or the millions being socked away for the mayor’s ABQ: The Plan could be put to good use today for one of the city’s existing jewels.