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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Rumblings Become Reality; Legal Challenges Filed Against Rapid Bus Plan Could Give Berry Bumpy Ride, Plus: Media Watch; What TV Station Web Site Is Best And What's Happening With Radio? 

Doug Peterson (Journal)
The rumblings first heard here of a legal challenge over Mayor Berry's hyper-controversial rapid transit plan for Central Avenue (ART) are now reality. Two lawsuits challenging the project--one federal and one state--have been filed, making for a potentially bumpy ride for Berry.

Reports here and here. The complete lawsuit filed in state District Court is here. The Federal lawsuit is here.

The state lawsuit was brought mainly by small fry like the owner of the Western View restaurant on far West Central. However, the owners of the well-known Flying Star restaurants are among those filing the Federal lawsuit, as well as Fox Plaza, a company of Doug Peterson and his family, major property owners along Central Ave. He has been a vocal critic of the project.

Peterson tells me he is particularly concerned about the impact tearing up Central for 17 months would have on businesses that are already reeling from the city's ongoing economic stagnation. He said:

A lot of them would go out of business. They would not be able to survive during the construction phase.

Peterson says there are markets that need the type of rapid bus project the Mayor is proposing, but they are high-density areas and ABQ is not one of them.

Berry seems obsessed with getting the project built by the time his mayoral term ends in December of 2017 but the legal battle could spoil his chase for a legacy. One of our Legal Beagles comments:

A lot will depend on which judges are assigned the cases. There are judges that tend to be very critical of city actions, especially those who see the city over reaching on things like vehicle forfeiture. In this case the lack of an environmental impact study could be persuasive because of the impact the project has on historic Route 66 (Central Ave.) It could be the Federal lawsuit that is more problematic for the city because of the allegations of violations in the federal grant process as well as the environmental issues.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The project is budgeted at $119 million, with $101 million of that coming from the Feds. But what is the status of that Fed cash? Congress needs to approve a budget containing the money and a prominent Republican business owner on Central says he does not believe it is a done deal, despite media reports to the contrary:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), has yet to officially team with ABQ to work on ART. No federal money has yet been directed or dedicated to the project. The FTA and ABQ have not even signed a formal agreement, which is the first step to funding. In the FTA’s budget request for FY17 it does state that it would direct $69 million to ART. This, however, is dependent not on Congress approving the specific project, but rather Congress approving FTA’s full budget request. This has not happened the last few years. 

It is also important to note that historically when FTA does not receive its full request, it prioritizes funding towards projects with agreements already in place and projects already underway. Something the ART is not. 

As for the politics for Berry, it seems downright crazy if he is serious about seeking the GOP nomination for Governor in 2018. The project is highly unpopular with Republicans, as are most expensive public transit projects. However, the project will keep happy the contractors who would get the work and who in the past have given Berry generous campaign contributions.

MEDIA WATCH 

As you know, media habits have changed dramatically in the past decade. No longer are viewers tethered to the 10 p.m. TV newscasts. They can get that and more on the stations' websites. So how are those sites doing? We don't have ratings for them but we can tell you  how they rank among our Alligators and news junkies. KOB-TV is far ahead when it comes to posting breaking news on their site. Their digital unit is well-staffed. KRQE-TV takes second place, with frequent updates but lagging KOB in speed. KOAT brings up the rear, often not posting breaking news on their web site until the next day.

And what's happening with radio in ABQ? We were blacked out from getting the ratings when the site publishing them stopped, but now we have them back.

The news for the political community continues to be the stunning plunge in audience for the once legendary KKOB-AM. In the most recent measurement among listeners aged 12 plus, the conservative talker received a paltry 4.4 percent of the average audience from 6 a.m. to Midnight. That's good enough for second place in the ABQ market but it's a long ways from the golden days when 770 pulled as much as a 10 audience share.

When it comes to ad revenue radio is flat to down in ABQ in the past decade. A new generation has moved on to other mediums. The fact that the number one station--hit radio KKSS-FM--scores only a 5.1 to take first place shows how the audience is fractured and probably decreasing, although we don't have those numbers.

Another thing hurting radio here and many other places is the lack of big name personalities. All of them in ABQ--some with decades on the air and making good money--were let go by radio companies trying to keep their heads above water.

Listeners have so many choices these days that radio must offer them a compelling reason to tune in. Endless commercial clutter presented without major talent isn't good enough.

There is some talent here fighting radio's troubled trend. Eddy Aragon, owner of ABQ talk radio stations 95.9 FM and AM 1600, hammers away on New Mexico's challenges weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. He's a conservative but what separates him from his competitors at KKOB is his willingness to criticize both R's and D's in the state. Bob Clark, who does a capable job of hosting KKOB's morning show, could take a lesson from that--if he and the owners of the former radio powerhouse want to recover some of their past glory.

MICHELLE TO SANTA FE

From the White House:

As part of the White House Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) Initiative, the First Lady will deliver the high school commencement address (May 26th) to the Class of 2016 at Santa Fe Indian School. Gen-I works to improve the lives of Native youth by promoting a national dialogue and programs to cultivate the next generation of Native leaders. Last year, the First Lady addressed the White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, DC. Originally founded in 1890, as a Federal off-reservation boarding school, the Santa Fe Indian School is currently owned and operated by the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico.

She's done a good job for the USA, and it hasn't been easy. She dealt gracefully with pockets of racism, been there when the President needed her and raised two children under the glaring spotlight. It's never easy being first, but those who come after her will be thankful she left an example of how it's done.

This is the Home of New Mexico Politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016

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