Alibi V.13 No.35 • Aug 26-Sept 1, 2004 

Council Watch

With a Bang and a Whimper

City Councilor Debbie O’Malley proposes a pay increase for the wage-starved council members.
City Councilor Debbie O’Malley proposes a pay increase for the wage-starved council members.
Stacey Adams

At the Aug. 16 Council meeting, one sign read "Weapons of Mass Destruction? Iraq: 0, Albuquerque: 2000." The sign supported speakers from the local peace advocacy group Stop the War Machine, who cited the world's largest caché of nuclear weapons stored about a mile from the Sunport runways.

SWM called on councilors to set up an evacuation plan in case of an accident involving our very own Motherload O' Death. So there, do President Bush a favor and have yourself an orange alert moment, imagining the worst.

A bill putting Albuquerque/Bernalillo County unification on the November ballot passed 8-1, Councilor Miguel Gomez opposed. Gomez and Council President Michael Cadigan said they supported the concept but not the current proposal. The Council also approved a loan making up a shortfall in the city's lodgers' tax revenue.

And in Round XX of the spitting match between Councilor Tina Cummins and former Councilor Greg Payne, Cummins sponsored a bill repealing Payne's 2003 bill that called for competitive bids for marketing the woefully underused Albuquerque Convention Center. Cummins' bill was deferred until September.

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IssueCouncil's TakeReporter's Take
Watch Them
At the last meeting, Councilor Eric Griego proposed the creation of an Inspector General's office. Griego said concerns about more bureaucracy, along with the recent departure of Internal Auditor Debra Yoshimura, pointed toward restructuring the current audit department to include inspection functions.
An oversight committee for the new office would build on the current Audit Committee. The new group would include a CPA, a lawyer, a law enforcement expert and a management professional. Present members of Audit Committee would fulfill their terms. The bill was deferred.The new plan sounds more efficient, since the close relationship of auditing and investigating city operations would require intense cooperation anyway. The challenge will be keeping both functions independent of overt, covert, spoken and unspoken influence from various city entities.
Pay Them
Councilor Debbie O'Malley sponsored a bill putting a proposed pay raise for councilors on the November ballot. If approved, councilors would receive one third of the mayor's salary, or about $31,000 yearly. The Council president would receive about $40,000. O'Malley said Santa Fe city councilors get $17,264 per year and Las Cruces councilors receive $19,442. Albuquerque currently pays just over $9,000. The proposed pay raise would take effect after current Council terms ended.
O'Malley said a living wage would allow people with moderate incomes to run for Council. Councilor Brad Winter worried about putting too many items on the November ballot. Councilors Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins said their e-mails supported the raise.

Councilor Martin Heinrich wrote a want ad: Ethical person wanted. Job requires 30-60 hours a week to manage $1 billion budget. Currently pays $4 to $6 per hour.

The bill passed 6-3, Cadigan, Griego and Winter opposed.

The majority of councilors seem to do their homework, which makes the job essentially full-time with multiple long meetings per week, constituent services, plowing through e-mails, horse trading, working on legislation with Council staff, and reading bills. For a taste, try reading through just one meeting's worth of bills. Enable cookies, go, and dig through the Legistar software until you find a meeting agenda with the attached text for bills.
Pave Them
Several election bills drew debate because of their role in extending Paseo del Norte through segments of the Petroglyph National Monument. At issue specifically was whether to include Paseo funding in the general road bond bill. Last year the entire road bond package was voted down, apparently to kill the controversial Paseo extension. Road opponents wanted to give voters the chance to vote separately on the Paseo project. Road supporters wanted to keep Paseo in the bill, forcing voters to accept or reject the entire road funding package. In this latest version of the debate, most of the same players showed up and said basically the same things.
Griego sponsored a substitute bill allowing voters to allocate the $8.7 million in question to extending either Paseo del Norte or Unser. It failed 5-4, Griego, O'Malley, Gomez and Heinrich supporting. O'Malley argued the sacrilege of the road. Heinrich delved into irregularities regarding environmental law. Gomez objected to District 5 getting more than District 1.

The three realtors on the Council, Cummins, Loy and Mayer, chit-chatted. Winter searched in vain for universal happiness. Cadigan alternated between pushing the road through with deft arguments and falling into a 1000-yard stare. The Council voted 5-4 to keep the Paseo extension in the road package, Griego, O'Malley, Gomez and Heinrich opposed.

No matter how well designed the proposed Paseo extension, it's still an intrusion where there should be none. If someone builds a public bike trail through your bedroom, it doesn't matter much whether the trail is sunk below the level of your floor, with noise walls and landscaping. It's still a public route forced through your privacy.

If the road bond passes, the Paseo extension will lock in unsustainable growth patterns and screw over Native Americans once again. The road will offer traffic relief to residents in the immediate surroundings for about five years, and then increased traffic will clot it up all over again.