Monday, October 03, 2011
Election Eve In ABQ: Sportsplex Displaces Red Light Cameras As Campaign Hot Button Issue, Plus: How We Voted And Why, Also: The Way Forward On Paseo
What happened to the red light cameras? In an interesting twist, what analysts thought would be a major driver of City Election '11 has been relegated to the back seat. Instead, it is the $25 million sportsplex proposal--not the cameras--that has turned out to be the hot button issue and is providing the emotional punch on this election eve.
Redflex, the company that operates the red light camera program, has pumped in over $140,000 to convince voters to allow them to keep snapping pics of red light runners at busy intersections. It has hardly raised an eyebrow even though that appears to be the most money spent on any issue or candidate in tomorrow's election.
Anti-red light fever went into remission some when the program was suspended for a time and resumed with fewer intersections monitored by the square shaped cameras that have an Orwellian feel.
The city is no longer making big money from the red light runners the cameras catch. GOP City Councilor Dan Lewis calls it the biggest scam" the city has ever seen.
The vote on the cameras is "advisory," meaning even if voters say they want the cameras taken down, the city council and Mayor would not have to comply.
With over $140,000 in campaign lit being dropped and the $25 million sportsplex bond sucking up most voter rage this cycle, will the once hyper-controversial cameras fly under the radar and get a green light?
HOW WE VOTED
We don't endorse candidates in this corner, but we do take a public stand on bond issues and other ballot issues for our city and state. We cast an early vote Friday afternoon at the busy Juan Tabo and Montgomery voting site.
We appreciate the effort behind Mayor Berry's "ABQ the Plan" but believe it was the victim of rushed thinking and political machinations. It should be sent back to the drawing board.
Our main objection is not the $25 million bond issue to rebuild Paseo Del Norte/I-25 or even the $25 million for the controversial sportsplex. It is the arrogance of the city fathers that forces us to vote on these bonds together when they are in no way connected.
We're adults out here, not children to be told they must eat their spinach to get their dessert. Voters deserve the opportunity to vote separately on bond issues of this magnitude but the administration and its council supporters have been too clever by half.
We also question the financial projections the $50 million in Berry Bonds rely on. The Mayor assumes a 3% increase in city gross receipts tax for the fiscal year that began July 1. But gross receipts tax collections have not risen to that level for the first two months. Not to say they won't, but these are hardly the plush times that merit a bond issue based on gross receipts instead of the traditional property tax.
We urge a "No" vote on Bond #12.
TEA PARTY: NO SPORTSPLEX
It's pretty late, but the ABQ Tea Party has finally made its stance known on Mayor Berry's controversial sportsplex bond--they are against it:
The Albuquerque Tea Party (ATP) stands for Fiscal Responsibility: ...The bond issue to fund the Paseo del Norte interchange and the sports complex does not meet this standard. A reasonable city council and mayor would have allowed the voters to approve or disapprove each proposal separately. Therefore, we recommend that voters reject the bond issue as notice to the governing officials of the City of Albuquerque that the citizens will not stand for this kind of disgraceful manipulation. The interchange project does need the full attention of city government, but our elected officials would rather play Russian Roulette with the voters: take it all or leave it!....
Earlier the conservative Rio Grande Foundation also came out against the sportsplex bond. The conservative groups find themselves aligned with the labor unions on this one. Labor is opposed to the Sportsplex/Paseo bonds because they don't like the idea of taking money out of the city's general fund to finance the bonds. They argue the money could go for city employee salaries and other operating expenses in a time when budgets have been cut back.
As for rebuilding Paseo, that $25 million in bond money, if approved, would need to await matching funds from the state and/or federal governments But the recent special session of the Legislature refused to appropriate $50 million for Paseo. We need more exacting leadership and better planning in what will ultimately be a rebuild costing over $300 million. Governor Martinez, Mayor Berry and other key policy makers need to sit down and come with something that resembles something more than a wing and a prayer. They need to build rural NM political support and also more fully involve the state's congressional delegation. We need a team effort not the current scatter shot approach that will keep traffic backed up and motorists fuming amid the gasoline fumes.
THE SPORTING LIFE
As for the sportsplex, the problem for the Mayor is timing. He has made some good arguments about how this facility could attract regional events that could spark tourism. This deep recession is not the time for the city to be taking this kind of risk or putting up this kind of cash for a nonessential project.
Where are the market studies backing up the Mayor's contention that a sportsplex would mean more tourism? He gives other cities as examples of where these sportsplexes have been successful, but there has been little concrete marketing info circulating during this campaign to assure us that this project doesn't represent a long-shot gamble.
On the $164 million in other bonds on the ballot, we were supportive--but not entirely. We voted "no" on the $11 million senior and community center bonds. The idea being that we should pause to catch our breath with these centers. But in the main these bonds are going to improve the city, put people to work and spark some badly needed economic activity.
JONES VS. PAYNE
The Alligators weren't kidding when they reported that the campaign of Trudy Jones was working mightily to spike turnout in her far ABQ NE Heights city council district. Stats compiled courtesy of political consultant Neri Holguin show a whopping 27 percent of the voters in Jones' District 8 cast early or absentee ballots (not counting Friday's early turnout).
Jones is being challenged by fellow Republican and former City Councilor Greg Payne. It has been an often vicious campaign, featuring Payne's rivalry with Jones political consultant Jay McCleskey who is putting well over $60,000 to work on behalf of Trudy. Conventional wisdom has it that a lower turnout would benefit Payne, thus the big get-out-the-vote drive by his rival.
With a big turnout and big money working against him, a win by Payne would now qualify as a major upset. No polling has been released on the race, but insiders say Jones has put out 11 mailers.
In city council District 4 in the NE Heights, which also features a competitive council race, early and absentee turnout is running at 19 percent of those eligible. In council District 1 on the city's west side it's as though there is hardly an election. Only 4% of eligible voters had cast early or absentee ballots through Thursday.
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