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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Excites ABQ Voters? It's Ol' Man River, Plus: On The Heh Ride; Mayor Hopeful Throws Populist Punches At Berry And Media 

In the bosque
If a slow poke economy and a police department crisis isn't enough to rouse some interest tin the ABQ mayoral race from  Mr. & Mrs. Albuquerque, what is? Try Ol' Man River. Or more precisely, the bosque along that river--the mighty Rio Grande,

Hundreds of concerned Duke City residents recently jammed into a public hearing on Mayor Berry's controversial redevelopment plan for the bosque--the ribbon of green vegetation that extends for 200 miles along the river and through the heart of ABQ.

Hundreds more are expected when there's another public hearing on the proposal at the ABQ Museum September 18. Berry did not show for the first one meeting, opting to send representatives to deal with the combative crowd.

So why are so many citizens giving Berry some rare grief? Reader and environmentalist Roxanne Allen frames it this way:

This plan has the potential to destroy one of our irreplaceable, signature features. Even if "developing" the bosque were a good idea, this is the worst possible time to go tearing it up, in the middle of a drought and when it has been stressed by the lack of the flooding it depends on to nourish the trees.

The 8 to ten foot wide "trail" the mayor proposes will require many more feet of clearance on either side to accommodate heavy construction equipment and will form a permanent fragmentation of the habitat for animals. Construction will take many months, and the wildlife will be disrupted. The beauty of the Bosque is its quiet and lack of man-made structures in the middle of the city. And even though it is of particular interest to our area, it really reflects on and contributes to the whole city. Imagine flying into Albuquerque without its ribbon of green! There's a good source of information on the Facebook page Rio Grande Bosque.

While the Mayor says he wants to make the bosque more accessible for residents and attract more tourists to the city, the river and its environs have a deep, emotional attachment for many. They see it as natural splendor to be enjoyed as it is. There's even a petition circulating urging city councilors to halt the Berry plan. 

The next meeting over the bosque is September 18 and it promises to give us the kind of debate over the city's future that has been so profoundly lacking in the mayoral contest. Speaking of which...

DEBATING DEBATES

One of the reasons for that lack of debates is the stingy number of mayoral forums. Gosh, we used to have a dozen or more back in the day. With Berry nursing a big lead in the polls he has copped out on a number of forums. Then there's the apathy. For example, groups like Temple Albert that usually sponsor mayoral debates are taking a pass this year.

As for TV debates, there are going to be three of them but two are buried in the Sunday ghetto--KOB will host one at 10 a.m. Sunday September 22, KOAT will have theirs at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 29. KRQE won't even have one.

Public TV KNME will have a mayoral debate at 7 p.m. on September 30, but the station lacks the audience of the other networks. That debate will also be up against Monday night football.

Why can't the major TV stations surrender one hour of prime time to give the public a real chance to get a look at the candidates for mayor of the state's largest city? There's no good reason--except that it woulds cost them a couple of bucks.

THE HEH RIDE

Paul Heh
Republican mayoral candidate Paul Heh has some media criticism of his own:

In Tuesday's Albuquerque Journal, the paper reported how ‘the slow-recovering" economy claimed another victim: the John Brooks Supermart in SE ABQ is closing. 

I’m not sure what is more disturbing to me. The fact that another 40 people are now out of jobs or the paper’s audacity to sugarcoat our city’s horrible economy by describing it as ‘slow-recovering.’

For over three years Mayor RJ Berry’s failed policies remain buried in the city’s daily newspaper...

The paper's concealment of the economic doldrums this city is in is not going to get us back on our feet or "around the corner" as RJ likes to describe it. We need new ideas and bold action. We need transparency because pretending we don't have major problems while they stare us in the face is not a healthy course of action. Incumbent RJ is one of those major problems and it's time to replace him."

Heh's pull-no-punches, populist approach has appeal, but who's hearing it? Not many. The 66 year old retired APD sergeant has negligible campaign funds, but he does have fire in the belly--a rare commodity indeed in the sleepy world of city politics.

Heh is polling in the low single digits, but his aggressive approach is what some Dems say Pete Dinelli needs to do to rescue his longshot campaign.

COUNCIL CAMPAIGN

We're starting to hear from the pack of city council candidates. Six council seats are up for election this cycle:

11 candidates for Albuquerque City Council took the stage to appeal for votes and talk a little bit about how to improve the city’s economy. NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association, hosted the event so many of the candidate’s responses were about development and how city government could help.

The council is controlled 6 to 3 by the GOP. The Dems say they have a shot at turning that into a 5-4 majority for their party.

MAC WATCH

A reader writes of the news that former GOP ABQ City Councilor Mike McEntee may seek the GOP nomination for the right to take on Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham next year:

Joe, you wrote that Mike McEntee was an aviation consultant. He has actually been employed with the City of Abuquerque's Municipal Development Department for the past several months as a project coordinator...

And if Mac doesn't jump, maybe we can bring back 2010 GOP congress nominee Jon Barela to fall on his sword?

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