Saturday, August 11, 2007

It’s Hard Being Green

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Journal Staff Writer Dan McKay wrote in a copyrighted article, “Council, Official Feel the Tension,” on Aug. 6, that Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Perlman and councillors were not getting along.

Evidence of the rift surfaced as Councillors Michael Cadigan, Isaac Benton, above right, Martin Heinrich and Brad Winter, above left, sparred with Perlman during a debate over requirements for an energy efficient building code. The administration apparently has proposed a counter bill that they wish to replace the legislation co-sponsored by Benton, Cadigan and Heinrich called the International Energy Conservation Code: The Albuquerque High Performance Building Ordinance.

Benton accused Perlman of having an ad-hoc committee meet to draft the bill and that most of the members had been homebuilders. He had been invited to be a member of the Green Ribbon Task Force and attended several meetings, yet no councillors or their staff were invited or involved for the past four months.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the changes,” Perlman, left. said about the most recent council draft. “Even with my noted powers, I have not been able to see the floor substitute.”

“OK Spidey,” Council President Debbie O’Malley said.

“Councillor Benton wasn’t invited to your party and you say he wasn’t invited to his,” Councillor Craig Loy said to Perlman, while asking for a deferral, “and I know you’re Superman.”

“This has been deferred for six months,” Heinrich, right, said in opposing another deferral of the matter again. “We’re fiddling as Rome burns,” he said.

“I brought this bill to the Green Ribbon Task Force,” Benton said. He gave copies to David Burcholtz, the city’s contract bond attorney who was drafting the administration’s bill, and also to Planning Director Richard Dineen, who then asked for a deferral.

Dineen spoke and waved two administration-generated reports at the council. He said they were the product of the Green Ribbon Task Force and were consensus legislative drafts that were ready to be submitted at the next introduction. He said he wanted to make peace, but went on to say that Councillor Benton says he wasn’t invited to our task force, while we weren’t invited to your process.

“Obviously, there was a decision not to invite me,” Benton said.

“You gave us time over the summer break,” Dineen said of the administration’s efforts during the council’s July recess to finalize their drafts. He said if given one more deferral; that they could integrate both of them.

“I’m not convinced this has been a good-faith initiative,” Heinrich said.

“Process, process, process and not one word that there is anything wrong,” Cadigan said about the language of the bill. Consensus among homebuilders is not the same thing, “We represent regular people,” he said.

The deferral vote failed on a 4-4-1 vote, with Councillors: O'Malley, Mayer, Loy and Winter voting for, while Benton, Heinrich, Cadigan and Harris voted against. Ken Sanchez was excused for a family emergency.

“I find this disingenuous,” Perlman said as he wagged his finger at the council accusing them of not working with him. Homebuilders who sat as members of the ad-hoc committee are also citizens, he said.

“We would be happy to read off the names and where they came from,” Perlman said of the members of the Green Ribbon panel.

We have been, “whittling, not adding, for the last two months,” Benton said of the bill, based on hearings and concerns of the homebuilders who pointed out that some the requirements for some energy efficient appliances were not commercially available.

Harris, above right, with Loy, wanted to reconsider the deferral, but only a councillor who voted in the affirmative may make such a motion. Winter made the motion to reconsider, which passed. Winter went on to move for a two-week deferral.

“I could support a two-week deferral,” Benton said, “but no longer.”

“This is now a tactic,” Cadigan said, as he accused the administration of saying that they had not had time to see the floor substitute, though it was included in the bill book delivered to the administration late last week and was also available on-line.

“Our job is to make public policy,” Cadigan said and he was loath to grant a deferral because, “the mayor will hold a press conference, announcing a consensus bill, in a grab to claim credit.”

The deferral passed, 7-1-1 with Councillors: Mayer, Benton, Winter, Cadigan, Heinrich, Loy and Harris voting for, while O'Malley voted against. Sanchez was excused.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

“It’s Green!” to quote the inimitable Mr. Scott, the chief of the fictional Federation Starship USS Enterprise, NCC 1701, engineer played by actor James Doohan. It’s also the new logo used by the City of Albuquerque to denote compliance with the mayor’s energy plans. Here it’s seen on a new flex-fuel Chevy Tahoe being issued to field sergeants at the police department.

On the “Mayor's Open Line - Viewer Call-In Program,” aired live on Wednesday evening, Mayor Martin J. Chávez ran excerpts of earlier press conferences. He described having a “Green Ribbon Committee” put together a proposal that he wants to supplant the council’s bill.

The councillors have been working on the proposal since August 2006. It was first discussed and then introduced February 21, 2007, and is in its third revision.

Chávez has been touting his efforts to make the city green. Some of his claims are dubious, at best. Last week; a national Mayor's Climate Protection Award went to Albuquerque. Sounds great -- our fair city protecting the climate better than 90 other cities that were entered in this contest. Standby -- it’s not for the city, only our government. However, it’s a start.

The city is now replacing its fleet with alternative energy vehicles.

The Chávez administration appointed the Green Ribbon Task Force as an ad-hoc committee. There is a problem; the work of the committee has now been reduced to a legislative proposal, thereby making their efforts subject to the state’s open meetings act requirements. The task force failed to comply with any of those requirements. The members were not approved by the council as other committee appointments are. They were purely political.

As Perlman said, “We would be happy to read off the names and where they came from,” in telling the council of the makeup of the Green Ribbon panel; it’s time to do so. It’s also time to make the task force’s work public, not waiting to put it on the agenda just days before the next meeting.

This is the beginning of the landscaping project at the Big-I, July 31, which was delayed from the 2002 reconstruction. The $10 million is being equally divided between the city and state.

The project is needed and overdue. Without the landscaping, erosion is constantly eating away at the dirt around bridge foundations.

Maybe trying to turn more of the city green will also help stem the erosion of Chávez’ credibility.

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