The Albuquerque City Council put on some night moves at its Monday, March 2 meeting. A lengthy agenda was tackled over the five-hour meeting, and your City reps approved $119 million in capital outlay requests, submitted a number of grant applications and annexed 1.37 acres in the South Valley, among other things. Public comment again centered on Bosque issues and the city’s treatment of homeless citizens.
The Issue: Bosque trail redux
Last week, the Council directed the Mayor’s Office to stop construction of a 1.5 mile improved trail in the Bosque between Central and I-40 pending completion of the comment process. The Mayor quickly vetoed the directive and continued trail construction, saying there has been more than two years of public input, and it was time to move forward before bird-nesting season begins. Six votes were needed to override a mayoral veto. To keep the problem from recurring, a bill will be heard at an April meeting to set requirements for public input on future Bosque projects.
Terri O’Hare, an advocate for disabled people, told the Council she has lived here for about eight years and has never been able to see that beautiful stretch of the Bosque. “We can’t roll on dirt,” she said. “If you build it, we will come.” Camilla Feibelman with the Sierra Club, among others, encouraged the Council to override the mayor’s veto saying even though the city is talking with them now, the override is the only way to ensure the city will continue to listen to their concerns. Councilor Klarissa Peña said she was concerned by the breach of trust, but since both sides are now working together and planning to address the process in April, it’s time to move forward. “I don’t want to stop this project,” Peña said. The override failed on a 5-4 vote with Democrat Peña siding with Republican Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and Don Harris saying ‘no’ to the override, while Councilors Rey Garduño, Isaac Benton, Ken Sanchez and Diane Gibson said ‘yes’.
Terri O’Hare, an advocate for disabled people, told the Council she has lived here for about eight years and has never been able to see that beautiful stretch of the Bosque. “We can’t roll on dirt,” she said. “If you build it, we will come.”
Starting construction of the trail without notifying those still engaged in discussions was a bad move. But since the last council meeting, interested parties are talking and hopefully listening to each other. I got an uneasy feeling that those wanting the Council to override the veto really just wanted to give the City administration a few more slaps on the backside. I agree this administration seems at times to not give a hoot about what the public has to say, but this might not be that fight. I give Councilor Peña some kudos for giving both sides considerable attention during comment before making her decision, regardless of their party. Peña asked for a public commitment from the administration that they would continue to listen and consider input of interested parties. City Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan said that the City is committed to continue working with the Sierra Club, the Bosque Action Team and other interested parties in the development of future Bosque trails. So with that on the record, let’s all go take a run, a walk or a roll down by the Rio Grande.
Other actions taken by the Council included:
Approved: $119 million in capital outlay bond requests that will be sent to the voters next election. The bill is packed with many great projects. Tip of the hat goes to the Councilors who worked together to come up with an extra $2 million to go towards addressing the city homeless housing crisis. Innovatively designed tiny houses could provide basic sanitation services and shelter to a transitory population. It would be worth exploring to see if a local charter school or rehabilitation program somewhere in the city that could assist with the building of the tiny houses.
Postponed: sending a memorial message to the Public Regulation Commission to deny the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s request to replace 836 megawatts at the San Juan Generating Station with other means and expansions. Applause goes to Sister Joan Brown from Interfaith Power and Light when she summed it up as an ethical, moral, environmental and economic justice decision that could impact millions of people for decades. PNM proposes to shut down two of four old coal fired generators at the San Juan Generating Station. The mega utility would like to replace it with 177 megawatts of power from natural gas, 134 megawatts of nuclear power, 132 megawatts of coal power on one of the remaining coal generators and 40 megawatts of solar power. Opponents of PNM’s plan say it should include more renewables such as solar and wind and less nuclear and coal. PNM is also asking for a long term rate increase to pay for these modifications.
Approved: taking a look at the salaries paid to ABQ Ride and Sun Van to make sure they are fair and competitive with other cities. Paying competitive wages helps the city ensure we get the best drivers out there. And as a bus rider myself, I like that idea.
Adopted: a walkability assessment for Downtown Albuquerque that makes recommendations for bicycle, pedestrian and traffic improvements along with policy recommendations to improve the livability of the area. Downtown is a perfect place to try new paths for old style community mobility. Anyone who’s spent time in European cities knows the effort is worth making. Most city centers provide pedestrian friendly plazas where people can gather together to shop, dine, have coffee or to take in the evening stroll thereby providing a deeper sense of community.