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~ Local ~

Mayor announces 2004 agenda. Last week, Mayor Martin Chavez announced his list of 2004 New Year's resolutions.

The 26 items ranged from the politically pragmatic (increase the police force to 955 sworn officers), to the culturally enriching (the new Japanese Gardens at the BioPark will enable kids to “understand marvelous, contemplative nature,” the mayor explained), to basic capital outlay (finish the balloon museum, open more community centers, build new fire sub stations), to the humane (reduce rates of euthanasia at city animal shelters) and finally to the it's about time! (Tingley Beach will get a makeover, starting in March).

In summary, Chavez said: “Crime must come down, jobs must be created, water must be available.” Holding up a copy of the book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Chavez added that modernizing Albuquerque's economy should mean making the city “a place where creative people want to be.”

Junior, we've got good news and bad news. The good news is the city will break ground on a new skate park on the Westside. It ain't Dogtown, but considering there's nothing much to do out there for teenagers, the park is a nice start. The city also plans to open a new public natatorium on the West Mesa that the mayor said has been in the works since he was in the state senate.

The bad news for those already oppressed by the odd manor of adolescence is the mayor wants to “establish youth curfews” this year.

That, however, might be an unrealistic goal since a recent state supreme court ruling deemed teen curfews unconstitutional and the state Legislature has refused to make amendments to the children's code in the past few years. Although the upcoming 30-day session is supposed to deal with budgetary issues exclusively, the mayor said city officials will be lobbying for an amendment this year that would allow the city to put a “citation system” in effect for youth ages 17 and under caught on the streets after a yet-to-be-determined hour.

Getting the most out of your tax refund. With tax season officially starting this week, folks that are hoping to get a refund should remember these four words: earned income tax credit. That's the message championed by the local ACORN chapter, a national organization that advocates for housing and education opportunities for low-income families.

It's an important message for everyone in the city according to Matthew Henderson, ACORN's local director, who said Albuquerque's economy misses out on $1.25 million in unclaimed earned income tax credits annually.

By comparing data compiled by the U.S. Census and the Internal Revenue Service, Henderson said an estimated 7,300 families and individuals in Bernalillo County that filed their taxes last year, still failed to file for the earned income tax credit. “These families are definitely not aware that this is pretty serious money we are talking about,” said Henderson.

At a recent press conference, Henderson joined with City Councilors Miguel Gomez and Eric Griego reminding residents to pursue the maximum refund if they qualify and also advised folks to at least consider the option of free tax service.

“First, we want to make sure people know they are eligible (for the tax credit),” said Councilor Griego. “It's basically a low-income deal and in some cases it is a substantial amount. Second, people need to be fully informed before they pay exorbitant amounts to have their taxes done.”

Henderson said free tax filing services are available at TVI, the AARP booth at Winrock Mall or at designated community centers. (Call the city at 764-6400, or TVI 224-300, at the end of January for specific locations.)

~ Nation ~

Willie gets political. Country music icon Willie Nelson will release a song this week that criticizes the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and challenges folks in the country music industry that think protesting the war is unpatriotic to think again.

The song, entitled “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” poses the question: “How much oil is one human life worth?” and delivers a strident chorus: “Hell they won't lie to me/ Not on my own damn TV/ But how much is a liar's word worth/ And whatever happened to peace on earth?”

The 70-year-old musician said he wrote the song on Christmas Day because “there was nothing but bad news … a lot of babies dying and mothers crying.”

Nelson performed the song at an Austin concert on Saturday, Jan. 3, that benefited Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. He said he likes Kucinich because the candidate supports family farmers.

According to a Reuters news report, when asked if his song might upset some country music fans, considering the backlash against the Dixie Chicks when lead singer Natalie Maines criticized president Bush earlier this year, Nelson said, “I hope so.”

“I got it out of my system. I was able to say what I was thinking,” Nelson added.

Nelson's grammy winning career has been recognized for his long list of hits, songs like “Crazy” performed by Patsy Cline, duets with the likes of Julio Iglesias and Ray Charles, not to mention his long-standing appreciation for cannabis and ability to overcome financial troubles.

Compiled by Tim McGivern. Call 346-0660 ext. 255 with news tips. E-mail your guest editorial or letter to

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