Editorial: Having a vote to vote on ART is political pandering

Apparently things are running so well in the land of Bernco Bernie – what with a serious budget crisis and a deepening scandal involving abuse by jail guards – that a trio of commissioners has decided to do what it can to muck up things in the city of Albuquerque.

On a partisan 3-2 vote, Commissioners Debbie O’Malley, Art De La Cruz and Maggie Hart Stebbins muscled through a move to put a non-binding, politically motivated question on this year’s general election ballot.

The question – which could go into a civics book as an example of how government should NOT work – would ask city voters if they would like a chance to vote for or against the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. To be clear, they will not be asked if they do or don’t support ART, but only if they support getting to vote for or against ART somewhere down the line.

It’s ridiculous in its premise, since ART is a city project years in the making and supported recently by the City Council on a 7-2 bipartisan vote. Bernalillo County has zero say in the matter.

It would be like the City Council approving a municipal ballot question asking voters if they want to vote on whether the county should spend $13 million to move into new office space Downtown.

So who wins as a result of the county ART decision?

Not the federal government, which is funding most of the project after vetting the nine-mile network of bus-only lanes and median bus stations on Central from Coors to around Louisiana.

Not the Albuquerque City Council, which voted recently to accept an additional $69 million in federal money for the project.

Not Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, who has spent six years championing the project and sponsored more than 20 public hearings on its merits.

Not business groups and businesses on record as supporting the project, including the University of New Mexico and Presbyterian Healthcare Services.

Not Albuquerque residents, who are paying $20 million of the project’s price tag.

Not ART construction crews, who are set to start work next month.

Not voters, who once again are being handed a ballot bait-and-switch courtesy of O’Malley, Hart Stebbins and De La Cruz.

It’s the same trio that put nonbinding marijuana and mental health tax questions on the ballot in 2014. As with those questions, the ART question will have no force of law and will only take up space on an already crowded general-election ballot. In addition to president, every New Mexico congressional district and state Senate and House seat is up for grabs.

But at least in the mental health case, the county used the results to justify imposing a tax hike. In the case of ART, the county has zero to do with the project.

This amateur stunt won’t even help ART foes, except to give them a political talking point, because no matter what the results are, they will not stop construction.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who voted against the ballot question along with fellow Republican Lonnie Talbert, says, “I think a ballot is the place for decisions and choices, and not polls.” He’s right.

So back to the original question: who wins with Bernalillo County’s exercise in ART futility on the Nov. 8 ballot?

Answer: Nobody but a trio of partisans attempting to pander to ART opponents.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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