It was a hive of activity at the April 6th regular Albuquerque City Council meeting. The gallery was full with a line of people waiting to get in as others left. The meeting went long, ending just minutes before midnight. Dozens of men, women and children wore name tags with “Somos 1 ABQ” or “We are 1 ABQ” in support of an immigration memorial on the agenda.
One could almost hear the cha-ching when councilors gave the thumbs up to sell about $90 million in general obligation and tax revenue bonds. The money will fund myriad voter-approved projects from sewer, street and infrastructure improvements along with upgrades to libraries, senior centers, affordable housing and the BioPark, plus money for many other public places, spaces and projects.
But not all of those funded projects were met with applause. Tucked into one of the bond sales are matching funds needed for the city to apply for a Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts Grant that would begin the process for a major revamp of the Central Avenue bus corridor. Some Nob Hill residents said the plan is not in the best interest of area businesses or residents.
Councilors introduced a bill that would dissolve the city’s Open Space Trust Fund to free up money to buy new parcels of open space soon. Currently, the city’s $11 million trust fund can only be used to generate interest—about $65,000 yearly. Councilors Dan Lewis and Don Harris co-introduced the bill saying the $11 million should be used now to purchase land that may not be available in the future. The bill also gives the okay to check out the possibility of selling pieces of city-owned land outside Bernalillo County. City Parks and Recreation folks have a $95.5 million “wish list” of 16 properties, from the Bosque to the Southwest Mesa escarpments to the Tijeras Arroyo. The bill goes to the city’s financial analysts and should be back up for approval in May.
Somos 1 ABQ
Councilors approved a memorial on a 5-4 party line vote that reaffirms the city’s commitment to Civil Rights, recognizes the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs, workers and families, and urges Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Councilor Dan Lewis called the memorial partisan. Councilor Trudy Jones said this memorial makes a political statement and is inappropriate for the council. Councilor Ken Sanchez said this was not a political statement, but fact. Democrat Councilors Rey Garduño, Klarissa Peña, Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson joined Sanchez in passing the memorial.
The best part of this discussion was the handful of immigrants who bravely spoke to the council, some in Spanish with a translator, some speaking through tears, about family members being deported.
Reporter’s take: The best part of this discussion was the handful of immigrants who bravely spoke to the council, some in Spanish with a translator, some speaking through tears, about family members being deported. Albuquerque joins dozens and dozens of cities and counties across the country voicing support for President Barack Obama’s immigration policies to move forward. Our councilors did this as more than 70 cities and counties joined in support to overturn a federal judge’s restraining order preventing President Obama’s immigration policy implementation. Whether this city’s act was a partisan, political or factual memorial doesn’t matter, as immigrants are a vital, hardworking, important and welcome part of our neighborhoods, our city and our state, in every generation, and this generation is no different.
More sun and wind please
Councilors pulled their support for the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s plan to replace 836 megawatts at the San Juan Generating Station with more coal, nuclear and a small amount of renewable energy sources. More than 30 people signed up to speak out on this issue. Some were in support of the PNM plan, but most wanted PNM to take another look at its plan and come up with sustainable energy options, such as solar and wind, that use less water. Republican Councilor Winter joined the five Democrats to pass this resolution on a 6-2 vote.
Reporter’s take: It is a no-brainer for the city to send the state’s largest power company a message to get on board with more solar and wind energy and a lot less fossil and nuclear fuels. Councilors on both sides of the political aisle said they are looking out for rate payers, not shareholders. Good to hear, since the electric giant is asking for changes that will last at least 25 years. Burque councilors joined Santa Fe councilors in sending the message to the state Public Regulation Commission to deny PNM’s plan.
Some potentially tasty, green lease agreements were approved between the city, Los Poblanos Fields Open Space, Rasband Dairy, Inc., Rio Grande Community Farms and Skarsgard Farms to grow fruit and vegetable crops and do wildlife farming on the Los Poblanos Fields in the North Valley.
The city’s newest library was named the Central & Unser–Patrick J. Baca Library. It is named after longtime educator, Westside city councilor and Bernalillo County Commissioner Pat Baca who passed away in November.
No time left
Councilors postponed approval of the citywide Bikeways and Trails Facility Plan that will link up our sprawling metropolis from the Foothills to the Bosque with safe, well-connected bike trails.
They also deferred a bill that would outline how the city will go about spending money or making any changes in the Rio Grande Bosque.