Council approves $140M infrastructure plan - Albuquerque Journal

Council approves $140M infrastructure plan

The $140 million infrastructure plan approved by the Albuquerque City Council includes $5 million for improvements at the Albuquerque Police Department’s Southeast Area Command.(Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Albuquerque City Council has finalized the details of a $140 million infrastructure plan that will go to voters in November, including major investments in an East Central fire station, a southeast area public safety project and a West Side multigenerational center.

But the package passed without complete consensus as the council remained divided over process, a proposed sound wall project and what some saw as insufficient support for affordable housing.

The council approved Klarissa Peña’s capital improvement legislation 6-3 Monday after two hours of debate and multiple amendments. The package features more than 100 line items, but it will go to voters this fall in the form of about a dozen broadly framed general obligation bond questions. (See the accompanying box for some of the plan’s biggest-ticket items.)

Peña, the council’s budget chairwoman, contended that her plan addressed community concerns about affordable housing by pulling in additional dollars from the city’s federal COVID-19 relief funding. The bond package includes $3.3 million for affordable housing, but the legislation earmarked another $3.4 million more from federal relief money, plus $3.3 million to help homeowners fix code violations.

The councilor also said her plan supported projects in all nine city council districts.

“I didn’t create complete, across-the-board equity, but I worked to achieve balance,” Peña said of her proposal, which itself was a revised version of a plan Mayor Tim Keller proposed to the council in January.

Keller also celebrated the council’s decision, saying the projects it prioritizes will help make Albuquerque “a place where hard-working families can get ahead and kids can grow up safely.”

“We’re moving from pandemic survival to recovery,” he said in a statement.

While Council President Cynthia Borrego complimented Peña for her efforts “trying to get everybody (on council) together” – a process Borrego likened to herding cats – the legislation failed to win complete support from the council.

Pat Davis, who joined Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson in voting against the package, said he was concerned that the plan diverted money from citywide pots – such as those for roadwork – into “a couple of City Council districts.” The council, for example, removed $2.9 million from Keller’s proposed citywide street/signal/median allocation, but added $1.75 million for specific projects on the West Side.

Benton, meanwhile, said he thought the council acted too quickly. By ordinance, the council has until its first April meeting to approve a package.

“It was rushed out of the (council’s budget committee) and it was rushed out of the council,” Benton said in an interview. “It was a really, really, really bad process.”

The pace, he said, undermined a two-project proposal he introduced during Monday’s meeting. Benton suggested an amendment to shift $2 million from other sources toward 12th Street roadway/pedestrian upgrades and toward a new sound wall to protect the San Jose neighborhood from railroad noise – something he called an “environmental justice” issue in an under-served area.

Councilor Lan Sena asked Benton to split his proposal into two amendments so the council could consider each project separately. Benton said rules prohibited him from doing that until the next meeting and proposed that the council delay the infrastructure vote until it reconvened on April 5. But only Davis and Gibson supported the postponement and his two-project amendment ultimately failed.

Gibson said she voted against the whole $140 million package in part because she thought Benton should have had time to tweak his proposal.

“The sound wall in San Jose in particular would improve the quality of life for the residents,” she said in a statement to the Journal.

Benton and Davis also struck out in their bid to increase affordable housing beyond what Peña and Keller proposed.

“We can and should have done more for housing,” Davis said.

Affordable housing divides council

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