By Carolyn Carlson
— Albuquerque City Councilors had a packed house at the Monday, March 4 meeting, and people wanted to talk about a variety of issues ranging from roundabouts, capital outlay ideas and legal balloon landings. Applause broke out when the Council voted 7 to 0 to uphold the denial of a big-box retailer on the river where Walmart has been trying to set up shop.
Newbie Councilor Roxanna Meyers took some heat from the public over her unilateral decision to pull plans for a roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande Blvd. Meyers conducted an Internet survey to help her decide. Some people said they were pleased to see her make a good decision, while others said she had no right to pull the plug on a project that had made it through layers of city processes.
Issue: A Million Bucks Here and There
City Councilors spent at least an hour discussing the city’s 2013-2022 Decade Plan that sets capital improvement projects for future voter-approved, two-year bond elections. This year, $115 million was on the table. Mayor Richard Berry’s proposal included $3.25 million for the Rio Grande bosque component of his “ABQ: The Plan” roadmap. The mayor also asked for $2 million to fund a public-private joint venture that would bring businesses together with university-based research and technological innovation. The project is modeled after a joint venture project in Florida called Innovation Square.
Councilors completely chopped out Mayor Berry’s multi-million dollar dreams for the bosque, carved out $500,000 from his Innovation Square project and spread it around for other projects such as affordable housing, Westside parks, and improvements on East Central and Paseo del Volcan. Councilors had eight amendments to sort out before they settled matters on a 7 to 2 vote with Councilors Brad Winter and Michael Cook opposing. Council President Dan Lewis said he felt there was a good proposal on the table. Councilor Ken Sanchez said it was impossible to fulfill all the needs of the city.
For nearly two hours, Councilors heard public comment and wrangled over nickels, dimes and millions. It was painful at times. A couple of years ago, the city was flush with about $164 million for public projects, and councilors seemed to get along better. Housing, roads, parks and the city’s endless need for repairs to existing facilities got some of what they need. One item of note: Issuing new bonds doesn’t result in tax increases, because new bonds are issued when old ones are paid off.
Issue: City Biz Bits
- A zoning appeal requested that councilors either uphold or overturn the land use hearing officer’s recommendation of a denial for a big-box store near the intersection of Coors and Montaño on the Westside.
- Councilors were also asked to bring the law books up to date and make it legal for hot air balloons to land within city limits.
- Councilors Don Harris and Isaac Benton sponsored a bill supporting state House Bill 77 requiring a background check for a firearm transfer at a gun show.
- Councilors Rey Garduño and Roxanna Meyers abstained from the big-box store vote, citing perceived conflicts of interest. Garduño was photographed at a protest for the proposed Walmart. Meyers did not say what her conflict was.
- Councilors quickly approved hot air balloon touch-downs in the city, though this doesn’t mean balloons can land on private property without permission.
- Support for HB 77 passed 5 to 3 with Councilors Dan Lewis, Trudy Jones and Michael Cook voting against background checks at gun shows. Jones said she was voting in opposition not because of the legislation’s content but because she doesn’t think city councilors should tell state lawmakers what to do.
- It has been a no-brainer for long-time residents that either bank of the river is not a good location for a big-box store. There are at least two Walmarts to choose from within a couple of miles. The Coors/Montaño location is perfect for a development that highlights small business ventures integrated into community use.
- The council’s hot air balloon landing vote should make city fly-overs more attractive to balloonists; perhaps the former proposed big-box store location next to the river will now catch a few balloons of its own.
- It’s alarming that three councilors voted against safer gun marketing, sales and ownership. Gun shows are a largely unregulated source of many hundreds of deadly weapons, and the city has a public safety role to play.
The next city council meeting is set for Monday, March 18 at 5 p.m in the Council chambers in the basement of City Hall. Watch it on GOV-TV Channel 16 or at http://www.cabq.gov/govtv, or make a personal appearance and sign up for your two minutes of participation.