Posts Tagged ‘City Council’

Interesting Partisan Choice

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

It seems to me that Democrats on the Albuquerque City Council are out of touch with mainstream Duke City residents:

Mayor Richard Berry’s new immigration policy survived — just barely — a City Council challenge late Monday.

An effort to overturn the policy failed by one vote after dozens of speakers weighed in passionately on what role, if any, City Hall should play in the debate over illegal immigration.

The vote came after Berry announced last week that everyone arrested in Albuquerque will have their immigration status checked, regardless of nationality. Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will work out of the city-county Prisoner Transport Center, where arrestees are taken before transportation to the local jail.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that they are out of touch with most of America.  This vote played out on strictly partisan lines with the four Democrats voting to strike down the immigration policy.  Luckily, there are no longer enough Democrats on the City Council for them to be successful.  I’m the last one to hope for a Papers Please America. But, I’m also not a criminal. If you’re in this country illegally (a criminal act in and of itself) and breaking additional laws to boot, I don’t see any reason you should get to hide your immigration status.

Doomed to Repeat History

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. Ten years ago a transportation tax increase was pushed by former Mayor Jim Baca. The idea was to raise money to improve the city’s transportation infrastructure. It was a hard sell at the time, but one of the “selling points” was that it was a “temporary” tax increase with a ten year sunset provision.

At the time of the increase, an editorial took issue with the fact that a temporary tax would be pushed to fund what is usually considered one of the few justifiable roles of local government:

Keeping the city’s streets and intersections in good repair isn’t a special project for a special tax; it is one of the most basic of city services. If City Hall had been doing its job (for many years before Mayor Baca came into office), street maintenance would already be getting done from the existing revenue sources Bregman and Brasher propose to harness.

About six years after the tax increase was passed, an audit found that the money was being mismanaged by Mayor Martin Chavez’s administration:

After nearly six years, a quarter-cent tax for transportation has not caused an increase in the passenger service provided by the city bus system, a new audit says.

The tax has provided $28 million for the Transit Department, and $21 million should have been used for enhancing bus service under a policy approved by the City Council, the audit says.

However, the Transit Department “is not currently complying with this expenditure requirement, because the amount of passenger service being provided is currently at approximately the same level as existed prior to Transit receiving these quarter-cent tax funds,” says the report from the city Office of Internal Audit and Investigations.

Then, in 2006, Mayor Marty Chavez and some City Councilors try to sneak a tax extension in while folks were focused on the Election Day at hand:

November 6th, 2006… the day before the election where Democrats took over both the House and Senate, the Albuquerque City Council passed an extension to the Transportation Infrastructure Tax. The Council and the Almighty Alcalde used the cover of the election to rail road the public and shove a tax hike through for the primary purpose of building Marty’s little train.

The move outraged the public and a huge political brouhaha ensued. Months later bowing to public pressure, the council pulled the extension and created a marketing, uh… “task force” to sell, uh… “study” the trolley. All of that took place almost exactly two years ago.

Well, very few people were buying what Mayor Marty was selling, namely the need to build a very expensive trolley system down Central. Oh sure, the Mayor tried everything he could think of to convince folks it was a good idea. He even paid consultants to sell the idea:

Now, there are a couple of points that really ought to jump out at you. First and most obvious is that the only way this can be funded is by extending a tax on everyone that was supposed to expire.

The next eyebrow raising fact requires a little basic math. Keep in mind that the Albuquerque Metro Area population is up to around 800,000, and is expected to reach a million before long. Yet, this Streetcar is only going to be used by about 5,000 people. Put another way… 99.5% of the people are expected to pay hundreds of millions of dollars (these things never come in on budget – think train), so 0.5% of the population can ride a streetcar instead of taking the bus.

Mind you, whether you call it a streetcar or a trolley, or a light rail system, the reality is that we already have an economical way for the public to travel, and it’s called the bus. If the Mayor and City Council really wanted to improve public transportation they would just increase bus routes. It’s cheaper and heck of lot more flexible to deal with changing population centers in a growing city.

Oh, I know. No one wants to ride a bus right? Wrong!

Even with gas prices plummeting from a July high of $4 per gallon to the current price of $1.84 per gallon — the lowest gas prices have been since 2004 — bus ridership in the Duke City is still up from this time last year.

So, where does this bring us? Well, the Mayor and the City Council want us to turn what was originally promised as a temporary 10 year tax increase into a permanent tax increase:

Albuquerque city councilors are scrambling to reassure voters that a proposed $37 million-a-year transportation tax won’t last forever.

Council President Isaac Benton and Councilor Ken Sanchez held a news conference Thursday and said they plan to introduce a resolution at Monday’s council meeting clarifying that the quarter-cent gross receipts tax, which will be on the Oct. 6 ballot, will expire after 10 years.

The tax was first approved in a special election in 1999 and is up for renewal this year because of a 10-year sunset clause in the original ballot question.

But the ballot question councilors approved for the extension this year does not include an expiration date, meaning the tax could continue indefinitely.

We’re supposed to forget that the Mayor has been pushing this tax increase for three years to build a trolley and believe it is for trails and roads. We’re also supposed to forget that they once promised to make it temporary. What is it they say about history repeating itself?

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it

Now, you may be tempted to argue that this isn’t really an accurate example of history repeating itself. After all, the first time, voters were asked to approve a tax increase that had a sunset provision. This time the voters are being asked to extend the same tax increase without a sunset provision, and believe it will only last ten years. Even more ridiculous is that we’re supposed to believe the sunset provision was left out “accidentally” by our elected officials.

Shifting Costs is not a Budget Solution

Monday, May 18th, 2009

The Albuquerque City Council has a budget proposal from Mayor Chavez in front of them that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in the current economic climate:

On the table now is the mayor’s $475 million proposal for basic city operations. It would shift money out of the construction budget and into the operating fund to help offset dwindling revenue from the tight economy. The measure would also cut about 200 vacant jobs from the city payroll.

“There’s not a lot of room to play around with,” said Councilor Ken Sanchez, chairman of the council budget committee.

In hearings this month, councilors have already made changes to provide enough money for regular city employees to get 3 percent raises, starting July 1.

Shifting costs from one time construction expenditures to cover recurring expenses accomplishes one thing and one thing only… a postponement of the inevitable. It just means that you are putting off the layoffs of city employees and cutting of services until after the election. Of course, we are going to have the same problem next budget year. Actually, the problems next budget year were originally reported to be even worse.

Now, I realize there may be a handful of you, probably Mayor Chavez included, that believe that the worst is behind us, and that the picture for the future is brighter. Of course, this belief has no grounding in reality:

Loan servicers are overwhelmed by the flood of applications. Mortgage investors are angry about a congressional bill prohibiting them from suing servicers that modify loans. Foreclosures are rising as unemployment soars.

I don’t live in the City of Albuquerque, but I would urge those of you that do to avoid voting for anyone not up to the task of making the hard decisions of truly balancing the City budget.

Off to a Great Start

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Sometimes you read something, and you can’t help but shake your head in amazement (subscription):

During the first meeting of Albuquerque’s new City Council on Monday, four members refused to attend because of a squabble over who should be president.

Don Harris, Sally Mayer, Ken Sanchez and new Councilor Trudy Jones boycotted the meeting. They met at Capo’s restaurant, about three blocks away, and held a news conference later at City Hall.

In their absence, the council elected Brad Winter to serve as president for the next year.

Hmm, last I checked a Council is supposed to be a deliberative legislative body. Usually, deliberation requires people to be in the room. If the liberals on the Council are able to make the others run off and lick their wounds so easily, we are in for a LONG year. I’m agreeing with the Eye on this one.

Public Funding Epilogue

Friday, October 12th, 2007

I meant to write about this earlier in the week, but it got lost in the election hoopla. There was a little article in the Albuquerque Tribune, which makes the perfect case against public funding:

Garduño is advocating an earlier reporting period, because any extra money distributed to a publicly financed candidate after the last reporting period would be given too late to make a difference.

That happened in one case this year, when incumbent City Councilor Debbie O’Malley – who was victorious in her District 2 re-election bid – received about $1,600 on Election Day.

“You can’t do anything with it. You can’t, like, put a piece of mail out,” O’Malley said. “We ran out of food (on Election Day), and we got some more for our celebration party. I ended up giving some of my people some extra money for helping out.”

Gee whiz, Councilor O’Malley, did you ever think about maybe just returning the taxpayer’s money since it couldn’t be used for campaign purposes? No, I guess not. Why should you, right? Instead, you spent it on food and handed it out as party favors. Yup, I’m sure that was in the public’s best interest.

The Making of a Political Animal

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

After reading a post over at Duke City Fix about Joanie Griffin, I was ready to write Ms. Griffin off as a viable candidate:

Joanie Griffin failed to disclose. She fibbed to the Albuquerque Journal — exactly what’s she’s been attacking her opponent for doing. Welcome to Council District 6.

On Griffin’s Journal questionnaire published September 19, she answered “No” to the question: “Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?” The answer should have been “Yes.” In 1994 Griffin and her husband were issued a state tax lien for $1,057.67.

After reading that, how can you feel anything but disgust? Then, I decided to read the Journal article Coco sourced (subscription), and I found that Coco was not entirely forthcoming with the facts:

The lien lists the Social Security number of Griffin’s ex-husband, Charles Griffin. The unpaid taxes date to 1987— two years before Charles and Joanie Griffin were married [empahsis added].

The lien, however, was filed after the two were married and jointly owned property in Albuquerque. It was filed in January 1994 and repaid by March 1994, according to county records.

Now, it can be argued that Coco is “technically” correct, and Ms. Griffin’s answer should have been “Yes” to the Journal question. But, the fact remains that Ms. Griffin never did anything to cause a state or federal lien against herself, which I’m sure is the intent of the question. Moreover, I believe it is entirely plausible that she may not have been aware of the lien against her husband for his tax issues, especially a lien he paid off within three months of it being filed.

So, where does this leave us?

Well, Coco is obviously upset (probably an understatement) by the recent push polls and campaign literature coming out of the Griffin campaign against her own favored candidate for the City Council seat, Rey Garduno. So, in an effort to “hit back,” Coco is trying to equate the actions of Mr. Garduno’s attempt to hide his conviction of shoplifting at 45 years old (subscription) with the failure to disclose a three month state tax lien against Ms. Griffin’s deceased ex-husband, which happened before she married the man.

Sorry, but that’s just not going to fly.

Worse, this really is an example of Coco becoming politically intoxicated in the late hours of a campaign and transforming into the type of political animal she is going to hate to see when she looks in the mirror on the morning after the election.

Sitting Through a Candidates Forum

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I attended the Albuquerque City Council Candidate forum organized by the Albuquerque Metropolitan Board of Realtors, the Apartment Association of New Mexico, the Commercial Association of Realtors New Mexico, the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico and the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties.

You can read about it over at the New Mexico Business Weekly online. Overall, it was pretty unexciting. For the most part, people said exactly what you would expect them to say on some of the hotter topics:

Affordable housing was a hot topic given the pending $10 million general obligation bond that will be on the ballot Oct. 6. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has come out in opposition to the bond question, arguing the bill could prevent implementation of the workforce housing ordinance.

Katherine Martinez, director of government and community affairs for the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico, who is running against Debbie O’Malley for the District 6 seat, said there should be a focus on keeping housing affordable across the city by evaluating legislation that puts additional fees on the building industry that are then passed to homebuyers. Her comments were echoed by Harris and Jones, who preached incentives rather than mandates for creating such housing, and Brad Winter, the incumbent in District 4. His opponent, Paulette de’Pascal, added that there should be input from all stakeholders when creating mandates for things like affordable housing — a stance she reiterated often during other questions. De’Pascal owns Success Group International, a marketing, public relations and consulting firm.

Yup, as reported, Ms. de’Pascal was very fond of using the phrase “input from all stakeholders.” So, I’m guessing that must have been something she learned during her studies.

This is not to say there weren’t a few amusingly bizarre moments. For example, Joan Griffin commented that she was in part motivated to run because she was tired of hearing about “men picking up men in public restrooms.” I kid you not, she did say that line.

Then there was Paulette De’Pascal’s claim that she has “no enemies other than her ex-husband as widely reported in the Albuquerque Journal.”

Oh, and I almost forgot, Councilor Debbie O’Malley decided to try and “discredit” her opponent Katherine Martinez by pointing out that O’Malley’s family has deeper roots in the North Valley. How backwards is that? Maybe Councilor O’Malley would like to pass a city ordinance barring any recent migrant from another state from voting or seeking public office until their family has been in New Mexico for two or more generations.

I’m glad I live in the East Mountains. If you want to experience what I sat through, radio station KANW-FM 89.1 will broadcast a recording of the forum Sept. 26 at 6 p.m.

Not a Smart Move

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

The Albuquerque Journal has reported that Lt. Governor Diane Denish has decided to endorse District 6 City Council Candidate, Rey Garduño (subscription):

While [Mayor Marty] Chávez wouldn’t comment on Denish’s motivation for the endorsement, he said in reference to Garduño’s conviction in a 1988 shoplifting case, that “given his background, it’s unusual.”

[Lt. Governor Diane] Denish said she was aware of the shoplifting case— in which Garduño pleaded no contest and was found guilty— but said it didn’t dissuade her.

Garduño didn’t reveal the incident on his initial response to the Journal’s candidate questionnaire.

This seems just plain foolish to me. First, you’ve got to wonder what the Lt. Governor is thinking by stepping into this fight. Second, could she have picked a worse candidate to endorse? As near as I can tell, partisan politics aside, Mr. Garduño has two strikes against him.

First, you’ve got a guy running for office, on the taxpayers dime I might add, who was caught shoplifting. Sure, it happened almost 20 years ago. But, he was 45 years old at the time… FORTY-FIVE YEARS OLD AND SHOPLIFTING (subscription):

A police incident report said a Sears store employee accused Garduño of putting a $200 telephone in his bag and leaving without paying for it.

The charge was a misdemeanor and he was issued a citation.

Garduño said the incident was a misunderstanding. He had bought light bulbs and a lamp at Sears and was looking at the phone, he said. He didn’t intend to leave the store without paying, he said.

“It’s not something I planned to do,” Garduño said. “It was a mistake.”

Garduño said he didn’t recall being found guilty. He thought the charge was to be dismissed if he agreed to go to school.

We’re not talking about the mistake of an immature kid. We’re talking about a man, who at 45 years of age, gets caught trying to walk out of a store with a $200 phone. Then, he makes matter worse by running for office and not owning up to his petty theft until he is caught again:

He said Tuesday that he misunderstood the question. A campaign spokesman said Garduño would submit an updated response to the questions. The campaign had thought the 1988 citation was akin to a traffic ticket, not a misdemeanor, the spokesman said.

I’m sorry. We’re supposed to believe shoplifting is “akin to a traffic ticket?” Yet another great example of the caliber of candidates we get when the taxpayer is footing the bill for the election.

What’s Worse Than Tax Holiday

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I wrote not long ago about how ridiculous New Mexico’s back to school tax holiday is because there is little rhyme or reason to the exemptions. Well, leave it to Santa Fe City Council to top that absurdity:

The City of Santa Fe, New Mexico, has a budget shortfall of $200,000 that it needs to fill. Every city, county and state faces this dilemma, and there are only two policy options: cut spending or raise taxes. To no one’s surprise, the city council has chosen to raise taxes, but people should be surprised at the dreadful choice of tax the council has made. Instead of a tiny hike in a broad-based tax that most people in the city pay, it has chosen to violate every principle of sound fiscal policy by raising taxes on specific “unhealthy” products.

Yeah, that’s brilliant.

A City Council Candidate’s First Misstep

Monday, June 4th, 2007

I always encourage candidates for office to blog. I think it’s a great way to get your story out there and keep your potential constituents engaged. I like to point out that when I ran for the State Legislature in 2004, my campaign website (not a blog at the time) had about 750 visits between January 2004 and June 2004. In order to get those visitors, I knocked on hundreds of doors and spent over $20,000 in campaign materials.

The next year, I turned that website into the blog you’re reading today, and between January 2005 and June 2005, I ended up with over 10,000 unique visitors – without spending a single dollar. That’s right, I went from 750 to over 10,000 readers in the same six month period. Today, those numbers are larger, much larger.

Now with all that said, one of the rules a candidate should follow, if they’re going to blog, is to stick to the truth. See, in the blogosphere it is just too easy to be called to task if what you’re trying to do is build a campaign on outright lies.

Here, let me give you an example.

A woman named Paulette de’ Pascal is running in District 4 for Albuquerque City Council. From her bio and her picture, she seems like a nice enough lady, and you have to applaud her decision to blog. As I’ve pointed out, it’s a nice low cost way to communicate, and it will make a great complement to all of the out of pocket expenses she is already able to avoid by opting to run her campaign on the taxpayer’s dime. Not the way I would go, but hey, those are the new rules, so more power to her.

Ms. de’Pascal started out her campaign blog with a nice first post:

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Paulette de’Pascal,
Candidate for City Council, Albuquerque, NM, District 4.
Please feel free to share your issues and concerns with me.
It is my intention to communicate your interests, as your Councilor.
Thank you.

Unfortunately, it took less than a week for Ms. de’Pascal to depart from the niceties and begin to go quickly downhill:

Before I close today’s blog, I’d like to touch on the desire of our current City Councilor who does not agree with our Mayor on lowering the the sales tax. For some of our constituants, a lower tax would mean the difference in the type of bread, milk or cereal they buy, every penny adds up.

Now, I’m not one to have a problem with pointing out an opponent’s record. That’s just part of politics. The problem is that City Councilor Brad Winter, the councilor to whom Ms. de’Pascal is referring, did agree with “our Mayor” on lowering the sales tax. And, I know because I took to task the one Republican Councilor who did not support the tax cut.

I’m also pretty sure that Ms. de’Pascal is aware of Councilor Winter’s actual voting record. After all, the vote and position of all the candidates was very clearly reported in the Albuquerque Journal (subscription):

Craig Loy, Sally Mayer, Ken Sanchez and Brad Winter voted against delaying the tax reduction. Voting to delay were Isaac Benton, Michael Cadigan, Don Harris, Martin Heinrich and Debbie O’Malley.

She is probably also aware that it was Councilor Brad Winter that sponsored another 1/8 cent tax cut that went into effect on January of this year. And, I’m sure she knows that Councilor Winter was one of three city councilors to oppose a tax extension championed by “our Mayor” to build a streetcar.

So, what could Ms. de’Pascal possibly be thinking? After all, this does not exactly launch her campaign in the most positive light. Maybe she figured she could leverage the negative and slanderous ads that were recently run by some unknown entity billing themselves as the ‘Citizens for Responsible Budget:”

Why are City Councilors Brad Winter and Don Harris voting to raise out taxes? Good question. Brad Winter and Don Harris ran as fiscal conservatives, promising to cut city spending and taxes. Now they are going back on their word voting against a tax cut and making those campaign promises look like a lot of hot air. City Councilors Brad Winter and Don Harris opposed the tax cut and voted for more spending at a time when Albuquerque’s economy is booming and tax revenues are at record levels. Call Brad Winter and Don Harris at 768-3100. Tell them to keep their word to Albuquerque voters. When candidates Brad Winter and Don Harris said they would cut taxes and spending, was it the truth or just a campaign gimmick? Call Brad Winter and Don Harris at 768-3100. Tell them to hold the line on spending and cut taxes. Remember, Brad and Don, it’s our money, not yours.
Paid for by Citizens for Responsible Budget.

Well, I’m glad to see public funding of campaigns is off to such a great start. Now we, the taxpayers, get to pay for the campaigns in order to leave more money for front groups to spend in slander campaigns. It’s a beautiful new day.