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          Front Page




Mayor's Threats Draw Backlash

By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
    Several city councilors launched a campaign Monday to turn public opinion against a veto that has been promised by Mayor Martin Chávez. News conferences and demonstrations are planned throughout the week to continue the attack.
    Chávez says he will veto projects that were added to a bond proposal last week at the expense of improvements at the BioPark and the annual Balloon Fiesta.
    Councilors voted 5-4 on Wednesday to shift money to sidewalks, street improvements and other efforts, cutting funds for a panda exhibit at the zoo, a major expansion of the city aquarium and an upgrade of Balloon Fiesta Park. Chávez has since received a pledge of state help for the panda exhibit.
    Councilors Eric Griego, Brad Winter and Debbie O'Malley met with the Journal editorial board Monday to argue that the changes were justified. They said the changes provided money for basic services, and a veto by Chávez would be unnecessary and spiteful.
    Later, Griego held a news conference to further press the issue, but he misstated what the veto would cover.
    He told reporters that the West Side needs funds for renovation of West Mesa Community Center and for street improvements to help neighborhoods near Coors and Interstate 40. Actually, the mayor has said he supports both of those projects and would not veto them.
    Griego said the veto would kill funds for a "queue jumper" project that eventually could speed buses on Coors, helping deal with traffic congestion.
    Councilor Michael Cadigan, who represents the Coors area of northwest Albuquerque, said the mayor would be justified if he vetoes funding for the "queue jumper" bus project. Cadigan said the city already has money that could be used for the project, but the effort won't be ready to proceed for more than two years.
    Chávez said he still plans to veto the changes made by the councilors last week, even though the panda exhibit might have been saved because of the state help. He especially objects to a plan to divide roughly $2 million among councilors now, increased to $8.2 million during future bond cycles, for sidewalk and median projects of each councilor's own choosing.
    He said it "set up little pork-barrel funds for each one of them to spend at their discretion. I find that reprehensible— and to do it at the expense of the zoo, the BioPark and the aquarium is just bad policy."
    "We have tens of millions of dollars for roads and sidewalks," Chávez said. And Griego fought road bonds during the past two years, he said.
    Councilor Miguel Gómez, who supported the changes, said he's hoping that a compromise can be developed in coming weeks.
    "I think there's still time to find a compromise— a new piece of legislation or an amendment," he said.