Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In The City: Cash Crunch Means Shriveled Bond Issue To Fix Things Up, Plus: More Roundabout Debate, More Cop Problems And A New News Outlet  

In the city this Wednesday...There never was much buy-in for Mayor Berry's "ABQ: The Plan," a package of quality of life projects that include improvements around the Rio Grande. The City Council is starting to put a leash on the initiative that is near and dear to Berry. It's no wonder. It's competing for sorely needed funds for basic improvements in our aging city. Come October, voters will be asked to approve a bond package of only $115 million. That's down an alarming 30 percent from the $164 million ion bonds voters approved in 2011.

City Hall says property tax revenue that is used to pay off bonds was diverted in past years to finance general operations, leaving less bonding capacity. But another major contributor to the diminished capacity is the popping of the housing bubble. The value of many city homes are down considerably and that means less property tax revenue to back bonds.

It all goes back to jobs. We get more of them, we get more demand for housing and then we get the rising housing prices that will mean higher property taxes that will mean a healthier bond package. But the ABQ area is still fighting recessionary winds. The jobs are not coming:

The state gained 3,500 jobs in the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31, but the Albuquerque area lost 1,400 jobs for a negative 0.4 percent job growth rate, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions said...

In 2011 the city actually asked voters to approve $214 million in bonds. That included the now infamous $50 million in "Berry Bonds." They were proposed for repairing the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange as well as a hyper-controversial $25 million sportsplex. Because you could not vote against the sportsplex--part of Berry's "ABQ: The Plan,"--voters turned thumbs down on the entire $50 million. A bond featuring only the Paseo improvements was approved by voters last November.

No one is setting off alarm bells yet about the city not being able to afford vital repair projects, but the Republican-controlled city council's wariness of Berry's "The Plan" sends the signal that there is concern.


Round and round they go over the proposed roundabout for the intersection of Rio Grande and Candelaria in the ABQ North Valley. (Wasn't that pronounced dead recently?) ABQ Dem City Councilor Ike Benton who is running for election in the distinct that includes the roundabout, writes:

It was incorrectly reported in the ABQ Journal that I am in favor of the proposed roundabout at Rio Grande and Candelaria. The opponents of the roundabout have stated that they were not involved in the process of its inception, design and funding. I live in District 2, two blocks from Rio Grande Blvd. I use the intersection regularly, and was not involved in the process. It is apparent that the discussion needs to continue. I do not yet have a position on whether a roundabout is the best solution for the intersection. I do have great concerns about an abrupt 180 degree reversal and giving up $1M in traffic safety funds after years of effort....Computer modeling of the design needs to be presented to illustrate actual performance of the roundabout at peak hours, which can then be discussed publicly. My bill simply calls for a continuation of the discussion for one year.


What more can we say that we and others here have not already said here over the course of several years and thousands of words? Rogue behavior in the ABQ police department is going to cost taxpayers millions and millions and millions:

The Bernalillo County Sheriff says APD Sergeant Adam Casaus will be charged with vehicular homicide (reckless), and great bodily injury by vehicle (reckless) in the Feb 10 car crash death of Ashley Browder. Casaus had said he had been dispatched to chase down a drunken driver when he ran a red light and crashed into a car carrying Browder, killing her.

One of the mayoral candidates told us he checked to see how much is currently in the self-insurance fund the city uses to pay settlements for police and other wrongdoing. He says he was told it was about $56 million. We've paid out nearly $50 million in recent years and we just  had a $10 million judgment against APD. The above-mentioned  case is going to cost millions more.

What could have all that lawsuit cash done to improve the city?

Will we use the entire $56 million and then some before all the lawsuits over APD are cleaned up? We add more cash to the fund each year, but if we run out the tab would go directly on the property tax bills of city taxpayers. There's blood in a $56 million pool and the sharks are circling.


We don't know if the city will be caught in a cash crunch because of the legal woes of the beleaguered APD, but it appears Mayor Berry won't have one when it comes to his efforts to get re-elected...

We blogged this week of the $1000 a pop fund-raising lunch Berry will have April 8. It's only one of many to come. In fact, Tuesday night our campaign Alligators report that Berry attended a $500 a pop fund-raising reception for his campaign at the Hotel Parq. Its sponsors included Garrett Hennessy, who worked for Berry at City Hall for a time as a governmental liaison, and Bob Eaton, an executive vice-president at NM Bank and Trust. 


It has been over five years since the ABQ Tribune closed its doors after an 86 year run. The paper is missed by many who liked the competition and balance the afternoon daily provided to the morning ABQ Journal. One of them is ABQ's V.B. Price, one of the state's leading liberals. For many years he authored a Tribune column about local issues. Now he says he has launched an endeavor to provide more coverage of vital city and state issues. It's called New Mexico Mercury and is promoted as a "regional meeting of the minds." A number of contributors from a variety of backgrounds have joined with Price to produce the news outlet.


Maybe we shouldn't have been, but we were surprised by the quality of the production of Madame Butterfly that closed out the Opera Southwest season last week. The company brought in several notable singers from New York and they had the crowd cheering thunderously at the Journal Theatre at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

ABQ's Opera Southwest marked its 40th anniversary this year. Congrats....

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