The “groundbreaking research” Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry commissioned on crime — the city’s No. 1 issue — may sit on a shelf unused when his successor takes office Dec. 1. Why? The two candidates headed for a mayoral runoff election next month, two-term Republican city councilor Dan Lewis and Democratic state Auditor Tim Keller, said the information about crime concentration likely won’t guide their crime-fighting plans if elected.
Two polls are out on Albuquerque’s mayoral race. And it looks like there will be a runoff, with State Auditor Tim Keller running in the lead. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, voters will then decide between the top two candidates in a November runoff election. The first round of voting takes place on October 3. A KRQE-TV poll released earlier this week showed 22 percent of registered voters would support Keller in next month’s mayoral election.
A few things happened on the news front over the weekend that we’re deciding to wrap up the relevant details in quick summaries below:
—It looks like the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will likely get some federal cash after all. In Washington D.C., Congress has agreed on a spending plan to avoid a government shutdown that includes $50 million for ART. That’s $19 million short from what the city asked for, Dennis Domrzalski at ABQ Free Press reports. —As of Friday, nine mayoral candidates qualified for the Albuquerque ballot. One more candidate, Stella Padilla, is roughly 500 valid signatures away from getting on the ballot.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry’s administration is voicing confidence that $50 million in federal funding will come their way to help finance the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project. That’s at least what the city’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan said Monday evening at a city council meeting. He mentioned that former President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget recommendations include “a $50 million earmark” for the bus rapid transit project and that even though Congress hasn’t approved a budget, the money is still “currently on the legislative docket to be passed.”
ART, now well into construction with torn roads and narrow lanes that hold back traffic in the heart of Central Avenue, is projected to be 10 miles of dedicated lanes in the street for a rapid bus system with 20 stations. The project is slated to be up and running this fall, but it’s drawn controversy among some residents and business owners along the route, who have blamed slow sales on the project’s construction. More controversy came last week when President Donald Trump released his budget recommendations for fiscal year 2018, which freezes all funding for a Federal Transit Administration grant program for local public transportation projects—including ART.
Voters in Bernalillo County get to vote on a question regarding Albuquerque’s controversial rapid transit project—but the results will have little to no effect on the project itself. The ballot question asks voters if they are in favor of putting the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project to a vote in future elections. Even if the majority of voters in the county are in favor of voting on ART, the Albuquerque City Council would not be required to add the proposal to any future ballots. The actual question asks voters, “Are you in favor of giving voters residing in the City of Albuquerque municipal limits the chance to vote in support of or opposition to the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project?”
Even if the question receives a resounding ‘yes’ when results come in next week, there is nothing on the ballot that can stop the project from moving forward. The question’s sponsor County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said she wanted to send a message to Albuquerque Mayor Berry on behalf of business owners who still oppose the project.
Because of a disagreement between the Albuquerque City Council and Bernalillo County Commission, it’s not clear which ballot initiative voters will get to vote on—or if either will even be on the ballot. During a Bernalillo County Commission meeting last week, commissioners did not discuss either of two recent ballot initiatives sent to them by the Albuquerque City Council. In fact, neither even appeared on the agenda. One initiative, prompted by a successful petition drive, would require some employers to provide sick leave to employees. The other would increase public campaign finance dollars to Albuquerque mayoral candidates.
The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday temporarily barred the city from taking any action to build Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. The move came in response for an emergency order to stay a decision on Friday by a federal court judge to deny ART opponents a preliminary injunction halt ART they had requested. The appellate court in Denver enjoined the city from taking any action on ART until its judges have a chance to fully review a request by the plaintiffs to bar the city from proceeding with ART construction pending their appeal of Friday’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales who denied their request for a preliminary injunction. The court ordered the Federal Transit Administration and the city to file their responses to the defendants’ motion by 4 p.m. Tuesday. “The city is specifically directed to include in its response information on the nature and timing of any demolition or construction related to the ART project that is planned between now and the close of business Wednesday,” the appellate court order said.
A federal court judge gave Mayor Richard Berry the green light to begin construction on his $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project down Central Avenue. U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the project as had been requested by ART opponents. Gonzales ruled that the Federal Transit Administration and the city did all the environmental and historical studies as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The city said it hopes to begin construction on ART next week and that the project should be completed by the fall of 2017. Berry hopes ART will spur billions of dollars in real estate development projects along ART’s 8.75-mile-long corridor.
City officials have long and often argued that the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project had to be run on dedicated lanes down Central Avenue in order to qualify for a “Small Starts” grant from the Federal Transit Administration. It has been those dedicated bus lanes and the reduction of general auto traffic on Central to two lanes in each direction between Louisiana and Coors that has caused much of the opposition to ART. The project’s opponents have also said that the city never considered an alternative to running ART down the middle of Central on dedicated lanes. This article originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. But more than two years ago a planner in the city’s transit department emailed his superiors to tell them that his interpretation that ART had to be run on dedicated lanes in order to get a Small Starts grant was incorrect.
Mayor Richard Berry says the city has received approval from the federal government to immediately begin construction on the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. The federal OK comes just days before a hearing next week on two federal court lawsuits seeking to stop ART. The city will hold off on beginning ART until after a judge rules, Berry said. The approval to spend federal grant money came in the form of a “Letter of No Prejudice” from the Federal Transit Administration, which allows the city to spend up to $59 million in federal grant money on the project. The FTA issued the letter on Monday.