Round and Round

2

By Carolyn Carlson

—A proposed roundabout at Candelaria and Rio Grande was hotly debated by the public at the Monday, March 18 Council meeting.

Newly appointed Councilor Roxanna Meyers halted the roundabout plan in late February. She said her decision was based on conversations with constituents and results from a survey she conducted on her website. Councilor Isaac Benton has said he wouldn’t scrap the roundabout idea just yet, and he’s not willing to throw away more than $1 million in federal traffic safety grant money that has already been designated. He’s thrown his hat in the ring for the 2013 election to win representation of the area handed over to Meyers after redistricting.

Commenter Virginia Trujillo said the intersection is not dangerous. “We understand Councilor Benton is putting together a resolution to hold back the discussion and decision until October but the stats are not going to change in that time.” She added that she has lived near Rio Grande and Candelaria for 40 years and “can’t remember seeing one fatality at that intersection other than maybe one way back when.”

Former District 6 City Councilor Alan Reed said he wants the roundabout project to move forward. He mentioned that he brought a few friends who agreed with him and pointed at more than two dozen people in the gallery who stood up in a show of support. Studies and statistics show roundabouts are safer, cleaner and more efficient, he said.  Plus, slower traffic and less polluted air make properties values go up, Reed concluded.

Schultz and APD

Families of men killed by officers of the Albuquerque Police Department were more direct and empowered during their public comment. Several made reference to a verdict handed down on March 15 in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. The family of Kenneth Ellis, III, an Iraq war veteran who was killed in 2010 by APD, won $10 million. Others commenters talked about on Police Chief Ray Schultz’ announcement that he plans to retire in July. Neither Schultz nor any of his brass attended the meeting—a rare occurrence.

“It is a shame that he gets to pick his own retirement date. He is a convicted civil rights abuser,” Eli Chavez said. (Watch what else folks had to say.)

Ruined Houses

Four nuisance abatement items were approved. Safe City zoning officials said the houses scheduled for destruction are“so ruined, damaged and dilapidated” that they’re a menace to their neighborhoods. Three of the condemned properties are in the Councilor Rey Garduño’s Southeast Heights district. Another is in Councilor Trudy Jones’ mid-Northeast Heights district.

Compass Take

One of the houses slated to be torn down caught fire and claimed the life of an elderly woman, then caught fire again a month later. The other houses also have rough histories. It’s time to make room for new life in their neighborhoods.

Saving Lives

A measure to pull an item out of committee and rush it to the Council’s April agenda was up for approval. It would allow the appropriation of almost $1 million for paramedic equipment to all of the city’s 22 engine companies. Albuquerque Fire Department Chief James Breen said this will double the likelihood of saving lives.

With Councilor Don Harris absent, the Council narrowly—5 to 3—approved the bill that bypasses the Finance Committee. The councilors who objected said they’d heard about communication problems among rank-and-file firefighters over the added equipment.

Compass Take

The hesitation to bring the paramedic equipment bill to the Council table faster doesn’t make sense. Breen said the department is also able to add a paramedic to each fire engine. Final approval would double the number of paramedic response units to 42 and help save lives. As Councilor Mike Cook said, “It’s a no brainer.”

Bond, City Bonds

$42 million in gross receipts revenue bonds were approved for issue and sale. City Treasurer Cilia Aglialoro said the bond sale held Monday was a great success with high demand for the city’s bonds.

Compass Take

It’s encouraging to hear from Treasurer Aglialoro that international financial bond markets consider Albuquerque a good investment.

*****

The next City Council meeting is set for Monday, April 1 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers in the basement of City Hall. Watch it on GOV-TV Channel 16, stream it live or make a personal appearance and sign up for your two minutes of participation.

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  • Isaac Benton

    Opponents of the roundabout have stated that they were not involved in the process of its inception, design and funding. Instead of asking that their concerns be addressed, many are demanding that the project be killed. I am a strong proponent of traffic calming measures that make neighborhoods safer, have completed many such projects over my 7 ½ years on the Council, and have several others in process. Although I would like to better understand the concerns expressed by opponents, I am less concerned about the desires of motorists who show disregard for the neighborhoods through which they speed. We all need to work together to support each other’s neighborhood safety.

    Although it is apparent that some concerns about the roundabout design remain and need to be addressed, I strongly oppose an abrupt 180 degree reversal, represented by Councilor Meyers’ R-163, to give back $1.15 M in traffic safety funds plus $300,000 of City matching funds, and abandon 6 years of effort to make this intersection safer.

    I do not accept the validity of the so-called poll that was conducted, nor do I believe that popularity or shouting contests should decide such matters. Computer modeling of the roundabout function is available on the City Council website, and may need to be presented by the engineers and discussed with those who may not comprehend it. This engineered modeling by the design engineers illustrates the actual performance of the roundabout at peak hours.

    My bill R-161 allows us to keep our grant funds for another year, so that we can analyze the implications and precedent of returning the safety grant, and address remaining legitimate concerns of nearby residents.

  • Rio Grande resident

    Thank you Issac Benton.