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City OKs adoption of orphan signs for art

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque city councilors are ready to adopt some orphan signs.

They approved an ordinance Monday aimed at making it easier to install public art on old, abandoned signs.

A nonprofit group, Friends of the Orphan Signs, already helped put the idea into practice inside the old Sarape restaurant sign, just east of the Nob Hill core. But Monday’s ordinance change is intended to make it easier to carry out future projects through the city’s public art program.

City Councilor Isaac Benton, a co-sponsor of the proposal, said vacant signs along Central Avenue are great opportunities for public art.

“If you look up and down Route 66,” he said, “you see these orphan signs. The sign post is there. The structure is there.”

But the sign itself is either outdated or just a shell.

Councilor Don Harris, also a co-sponsor of the proposal, said his district features an enormous, old sign for Chevron gas near Tramway and Central.

“Now we have the authority to do something – hopefully really special – with that large landmark sign in the district,” he said.

The ordinance change won approval late Monday on an 8-0 vote and now heads to Mayor Richard Berry.

It would make it clear that public art may be placed on privately owned free-standing signs or exterior walls through a simple lease or similar agreement. An earlier project was done through an easement, a more complicated legal arrangement, city officials said.

The city’s “1 percent for the arts” program would pay for the work. Artists would submit proposals when the city had a sign it wanted to lease and the art would be removed when the lease expires.

In other action:

• Rey Garduño won election as City Council president.

Garduño, a Democrat, represents much of the university area and Southeast Heights. He’s a frequent presence at community marches and similar events.

Brad Winter, a Republican from the Northeast Heights, will serve as vice president and Klarissa Peña, a Democrat from the West Side, will serve as chairwoman of the council’s budget committee.

• The council failed to override four recent mayoral vetoes, one of which centered on a new inspector general ordinance.

The proposal included a confidentiality section shielding some records from public disclosure until a final investigation report is approved. The mayor objected.

Gerald Kardas, chairman of the city committee that oversees the inspector general, said Monday that his committee “never suggested the confidentiality provision.”

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