Alibi V.13 No.18 • April 29-May 5, 2004 

Council Watch

Agenda Whacking: A Contact Sport

Councilor Eric Griego had his head shaved by the St. Baldrick's organization to benefit research against children's cancer.
Singeli Agnew

The 800-pound gorilla—another vote on the Paseo del Norte road extension—failed to materialize at the April 19 council meeting. Putting the bill on the evening's agenda would have required a 6-3 majority, and Council President Michael Cadigan did not attempt it.

Councilor Martin Heinrich's bill streamlining approval of city service and housing contracts when there has been no change in cost, service or contractor passed unanimously. Eric Griego's bill adding a 1 percent hospitality tax on lodgings also passed unanimously. The money will fund improvements on the Convention Center and market Albuquerque as a convention and tourist destination. Administration bills raising fees and regulating liquor sales at city golf courses passed.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Less Hair, More Care
Council attendees wondering why Griego sported a new look soon found out. Along with about 300 other city residents, he had his head shaved by the St. Baldrick's organization to benefit research against children's cancer.
Arlene Sanchez, speaking for the Albuquerque St. Baldrick's chapter, said over 300 city people, including 130 police officers and 45 firefighters, lined up for a pate-polishing to raise over $60,000. For more information, the website is kids may not understand the implications of a cancer diagnosis, but they understand that it's scary when their hair falls out from chemotherapy and radiation. And it helps when a bunch of grownups decide to go bald, too.
Road Kill
A bill listed on the Consent Agenda authorized the city to pay engineering firm Bohannon-Huston about $50,000 to design a half-mile access road from Paseo del Volcan to the future location of the multi-national Tempur-Pedic mattress factory, a business venture that's already received a shower of tax and utility breaks.
Councilors approve all Consent Agenda in a single vote unless a councilor requests an item be removed for further discussion--which Councilor Debbie O'Malley requested for the access road bill. County Commissioner Tim Cummins donated 40 acres of land for the factory, and the various taxpayer-funded improvements will surely increase the value of his surrounding holdings.The Jan. 29 memo from the mayor's office to the Council reads, "Should this project not be approved, the City will impede the development of a business park, and economic growth." This interesting wording implies that taxpayers are obligated to fork over goodies with both hands to business ventures, and it's the city's fault if a corporation fails.
Roaming Homing
Barrett House, a foundation that shelters homeless women, never received certain FY04 Community Development Block Grant funds because Downtown neighbors opposed a proposed new facility. Fearing the federal money would disappear, Cummins suggested a location in her District 9, and Mayer sponsored a bill designating the $500,000 grant for renovating a building for Barrett House near Eubank and Candelaria. About 20 people spoke supporting Barrett House.
Following debate, Mayer's bill passed unanimously. But previously the Homeless Advocacy Coalition had brought suit against the city because of irregularities in the process. Lost in the shuffle was money for an emergency shelter for homeless men, desperately needed after the former shelter at the state fairgrounds closed. O'Malley's separate bill directed the city to look for another $500,000 to fund a men's emergency shelter, a condition of settling the HAC suit. The bill passed unanimously. Representatives of both Barrett House and the Homeless Advocacy Coalition stressed support for each other's programs. But there's just not enough money to go around. By a conservative estimate, 3,000 people are homeless in Albuquerque every night, over a third of them families with children. During a year, over 10,000 people become homeless for some amount of time. The longer intervention is delayed, the harder it becomes to help homeless people back to a life of stability.
The Big Tent?
Mayer pulled two bills off the Consent Agenda, one paying $5,000 in bills from the Economic Summit in March and one allocating money from the quarter-cent safety tax to social services. Saying "I need to ask a lot of questions," Mayer said she had problems with the Economic Summit being characterized as a Council project. She said she had never heard about the funding and had not been allowed to sign onto the Summit.
Cadigan said it was within Director of Council Services Laura Mason's authority to approve the money from Council Service funds, and that Mason had asked for and received a letter from a majority of the Council authorizing the funds. Heinrich said he'd seen criticism that the Summit sponsors were anti-business, and now he was seeing criticism for supporting economic development. Griego said the process had been very open on both issues.A similar debate erupted later over allocating the quarter-cent safety tax money, information covered in depth at the previous Council meeting. It's hard to see how Mayer could be unaware of the two issues. And there was no evidence that any interested councilor was barred from participating in either matter. But if an initiative is portrayed as sponsored by the City Council, all councilors should have the opportunity to formally vote on it.