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Forget new taxes; time to cut ART losses and move on

Realizing that the upcoming city fiscal budget is facing a $40 million dollar shortfall, City Council members are acting like deer caught in the headlights. What’s not being stated is more disconcerting than what is. City councilors – elected officials – have gained the public trust and squandered it with some bad decision-making.

(That includes) the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, betting that there would be a federal match of dollars yet to be confirmed. … None of them are standing up on their hind legs to admit the mistakes.

They’re advocating an increase in gross receipts tax … rather than fixing mistakes where they can without employee furloughs, cutting budgets to Animal Welfare, 311 information, and other departments, etc. Perhaps now is the time to cut our losses on this deal while they have the opportunity to do so rather than further putting good money after bad.

Let’s cut the contract with the electric bus company on breach-of-contract terms that there are reported problems with the charging systems and bus batteries, meeting the delivery terms for all the buses ordered, and other matters that have dogged this part of the ART project while we have the chance. That’s $22 million of the estimated $40 million shortfall taken care of in one whack!

We can use our long buses in place for the time being and at least derive some temporary closure to the public and business owner discontent from traffic disruption, reduction of parking places and unrealistic completion time on Central Avenue. This would allow for focusing on increasing ridership through better marketing of this Route 66 corridor. This may not meet the total desired effect of the original vision of the ART project but makes what’s been done to date usable, leaving the door open for electric buses from a more reliable company or improvements down the road.

There may be ways of saving the city money, especially the settling of lawsuits against the city rather than fighting them in court being that the city is self-insured. We have a new city attorney appointed by Mayor Tim Keller. Hopefully, he will make good decisions on picking battles that reduce the cost of the city’s risk management. The city has a reputation of having no spine for litigation, which continues to make it an target for expensive settlements.

Many folks are complaining that the City Council is too eager to vote on a gross receipts tax increase for one; and secondly, not allowing this decision going to public vote. Rarely does it occur that once gross receipts have been raised that they go down. The same can be said for other taxes on communications, utilities and fuel. The City Council should have gone through the mistakes process first and foremost to us citizens, then thoroughly examined ways to cut the budget without compromising successful programs and compromising city employee paychecks. The City Council, while in ‘blind panic’ mode, had an obligation to further consider options that are more sensible. A gross receipts tax increase should have been the last thing to consider.