Business / Council Compass / Economy

Too Sexy for My Cage

By Carolyn Carlson

Looking for somebody to love this Valentine’s Day? The city’s Animal Welfare Department is offering any pet older than 4 for $14 from Feb. 9 through Feb. 17. The “I’m Too Sexy For My Cage” promotion aims to get folks to adopt older animals who have a harder time finding homes. So add a little love to your home and save a furry one from being euthanized.

Alan Armijo, former city councilor and county commissioner, was invited by Councilor Brad Winter to address the Council about problems with the Police Oversight Commission at the Monday, Feb. 4 meeting. Armijo was on the Council in 1997 when there were similar issues raised about police shootings. Armijo recommended the Council work on finding out what is working and what is not within the oversight commission.

A profile of Albuquerque will be on CSPAN on March 2 and March 3. Representatives from the network told councilors that filming the show has been a great experience.

Topic: Fatter Paychecks

A voter-mandated minimum wage increase drew Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, to the meeting. She and other restaurant owners asked the Council to get involved, reject the vote, remove the increase for tipped employees and put a cap on future yearly increases. Otherwise, they said, the city’s restaurants are going to be hurt. Wight said she knows of four businesses (who did not want to identified) that have already closed their doors. Restaurant owners including Terry Keene, Myra Ghattas, Dan Garcia and Rudy Guerra said the wage hike gives a raise to servers, who already make the most money in their establishments. This takes cash and benefits from the other employees, they argued. The restaurant owners said the average take-home pay for their tipped employees ranges from $10 to $25 an hour. The minimum wage for tipped employees used to be $2.13 and was raised to $3.83 at the beginning of the year. Non-tipped employees’ minimum wage went from $7.50 to $8.50.

Council View

Councilors Trudy Jones and Dan Lewis reminded everyone that the Council couldn’t change the wage as it was mandated by the voters in November and went into effect Jan. 1 Councilor Don Harris said even though it was sad to see the voters approve the hike, if the Council tried to kill the increase, it would look like local politicians were not listening to citizens. City Attorney David Tourek said short of a business filing a lawsuit against the city and a judge overturning the raise, there is not much the councilors can do.

Compass Take

Some people make big bucks waiting tables, but not all servers are lucky enough to work at a restaurant that consistently draws good tippers. Raises are always hard to swallow for employers. Still, this was decided in the voting booth. It is not a good idea to question the will of the voters, no matter how sad it makes a politician. Business owners are going to have to make adjustments.

Topic: Clean Team Broke?

The Downtown Action Team is running out of money because some businesses are not paying their share of the bills. DAT, a nonprofit, keeps streets, sidewalks and gutters clean. The city exacts fees from Downtown businesses for the team. But the city has not collected all that is due. Debbie Stover, DAT’s executive director, asked the City Council to cough up the $183,000 that’s owed and then collect it from the businesses more aggressively—rather than have workers absorb the deficit.

The DAT was created in 2000 to oversee the Business Improvement District, which was established to fix up Downtown. Ten years later, Downtown businesses voted to renew the district, though there was some opposition.

Council View

Councilors deferred the issue. They will take it up at the Wednesday, Feb. 20 meeting. Councilors said they needed to look into whether this is merely a quick fix or a good use of taxpayer money. Tourek said the city is trying to collect past-due amounts. The city was sued by the owners of the Albuquerque Plaza Office over its $200,000 past-due balance. Business owners pay about .58 cents per every $100 of their property’s tax value.

Compass Take

I work Downtown, and the Downtown Action Team folks keep up with the trash and vomit left by weekend revelers. Instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, maybe a fee review could be done and adjustments could be made. The DAT is a benefit to the entire town, as many visitors and city residents venture Downtown every day to do business, go to court, shop, eat or enjoy a night out. If you go early, however, you’ll see folks cleaning up the refuse left behind. The alternative is the whole city foots the bill. Truly, the DAT fee is just price of being a Downtown business.

Quick Hits: Trains and Art

  • Councilors approved a resolution making the development of the Paseo del Volcan corridor a high priority.
  • Councilors approved funds for urban enhancement projects, such as art in schools, festivals, fractal exhibitions, growers’ markets and flamenco dancing—all of which make living in Albuquerque great.
  • Councilors also passed a resolution expressing support for continuing to allow Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to pass through New Mexico as it travels between Los Angeles and Chicago.

The next Albuquerque City Council meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. Watch it on GOV-TV 16 or cabq.gov/govtv.

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