O’Malley Move Draws Fire from Taxpayer Group
Albuquerque City Council President Debbie O’Malley was sponsoring a resolution that would appropriate $224 million for a controversial streetcar project – until taxpayers caught wind of it late last night.
After an email blitz by Stop Wasting Albuquerque’s Taxes, city analyst Tom Menicucci says the resolution, listing councilors’ transportation priorities from 2008 to 2013, will be deferred until May 7, and the $224 million streetcar project will not appear on it after all. Other amendments to Resolution 07-210 may be made as well.
“The council is deferring (the resolution) tonight so next week we can put in an amended one, Menicucci says. “We made some additional changes.”
Changes were planned a week ago, but all of the changes were not completed in time for tonight’s city council meeting, he says.
“I don’t think it would have been deferred had we not exposed it,” says Silvio Dell’Angela, president of the taxpayer group SWAT. “I think they got caught and now they’re in damage control.”
SWAT has been a vocal critic of Mayor Martin Chavez's proposed $300 million streetcar project. The group is demanding an independent transportation needs analysis be done before the project gets taxpayer funding.
Dell’Angela says he sent at least 300 emails out when the $224 million line item was discovered in the transportation project list. The email reiterates the group's call for city councilors and the mayor to disclose any financial interests they might have in properties that would be served by the streetcar.
In part, the email says:
“Whether you support or oppose the streetcar is not the issue here. No fiscally responsible city government respectful of its citizenry would impose such a tremendous burden on taxpayers without completing an honest comprehensive study that would first confirm such a huge expenditure is required. Merely providing more public transit "choices" is not a justification for imposing such a tax burden.”
Debbie O’Malley did not return calls for comment before the city council meeting.
Menicucci says the streetcar project and a $38 million reconstruction of Lead and Coal avenues are among the items that will be moved over to the longer range 2030 transportation list that typically includes projects eligible for federal funding.
So when the public sees the May 7 agenda, the Transportation Improvement Program funding should include two separate project lists: one short term from 2008-2013 and the long-term one extending out to 2030 that includes all the projects the city thinks it will do on “regionally significant streets.”
The short-term list can be amended every two years, while the long-term one can be changed every four years, Menicucci notes.
See entire project list here.