The recent disclosure of the state allocation of capital expenditures and where each legislator prioritized his or her recommended list would have not have been controversial if Rio Rancho Mayor Tom Swisstack hadn’t breeched normal capital outlay protocol and been susequently censured by the governing body for requesting money for “A Park Above,” a handicapped-accessible playground planned for the city.
“A Park Above” was not one of the city’s official projects on its priority list of capital requests.
Most state legislators are proud to disclose how their recommended allocation for capital projects will benefit specific communities. In this case, not quite so much.
Gov. Susana Martinez allocated $300,000 to “A Park Above” in capital outlay money, and another $183,000 came from severance tax money.
The Observer asked each state legislator from our area to disclose their recommended allocations. Most representatives didn’t have their allocations immediately available and were reluctant to report numbers that might be incorrect.
But apparantly, some also thought they would receive retaliation for supporting or not supporting projects by citizens who disagreed with their recommendations.
Questions arose over whether their individual lists should be considered a public record that should be readily available.
Gwyneth Doland, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation For Open Government, advised us to go to the website nmlegis.gov/lcs/legislatorsearch.aspx and look at the final piece of legislation each legislator had submitted to get the list of his or her recommended capital outlay.
Yep, it’s there. If you really want to know what each elected representative supported in general terms, go there to find out his or her recommendations.
But that legislation doesn’t specify how much each actually allocated to specific projects. It just speaks in general terms. Legislators have specific dollar amounts they can allocate, and those are the numbers we’re looking for.
Voters should keep in mind that each legislator’s territory overlaps different towns, cities and counties, and he or she might be asking for something in his or her territory that voters in Rio Rancho don’t support. In addition, they pool their dollar allotments to better leverage projects.
That appears to be what happened with “A Park Above.” Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, who represents northwestern Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, allocated as much as $183,000 to the project, even though he doesn’t represent the Rio Rancho area. And he wasn’t even sure of the dollar amount.
In general terms, three of our local representatives and senators listed “Rio Rancho All Inclusive Park” as a capital outlay project they suggested supporting at the level of $951,703. But, getting your hands on a document that actually illustrates their financial commitments doesn’t seem to be available from the sources we checked. Our elective representatives need to make those records available to their constituents.
It’s all about being transparent and honest with the public. It should not be something to be ashamed of.