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Hello neighbors,

I’m sending a special edition newsletter this week to highlight three important items:  The IDO, the recently-adopted pedestrian safety amendment to the traffic code, and a reminder to apply for the next NeighborWoods project in District 2.

Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO)

The next hearing will be Monday, November 13.  You can review the IDO draft as well as approved amendments and proposed amendments for Monday’s meeting online.  Public comment at the meeting will be taken on new/proposed amendments only.

The City has held hundreds of meetings since 2015 to engage the public in the process of drafting this overhaul of the existing outdated and dysfunctional zoning code.  The first full draft of the IDO was published  14 months ago.  After five public hearings, the Environmental Planning Commission recommended approval with over 300 changes to the submitted draft, many in response to public comment.  The public continued to have opportunity to comment prior to and through four hearings by the Council’s Land Use Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) committee, where 32 more amendments were passed.

The full Council has passed additional amendments in response to members of the public who chose to provide constructive questions and comments.    All this demonstrates that the public’s voices are not being ignored.

With regard to the number of amendments, in no way do they indicate that IDO is flawed; to the contrary. No legislation is perfect coming out of the gate, the legislative process always includes refinements, and anything of this magnitude will need many.  Covering a complex subject, the IDO indeed is complicated – however the existing system is much more complicated and is failing us.  Importantly, unlike the current development approval system the updated Comprehensive Plan and the IDO include strong provisions for ongoing public discussion about how it works and continuous refinement. I urge you to stay involved and participate in that community planning process.

In contrast, the present system provides feedback to policymakers only through lengthy, exhausting and contentious legal appeals.  Postponing enactment of IDO is not in the public interest – as Councilor Gibson stated recently, “I think if we wait until it’s perfect, we’ll be waiting a long time.”

As our city’s governing body, under state law the City Council  is the planning policy branch of government, not the Mayor. I agree that the next mayor must strengthen the Planning Department’s capability to administer and enforce all of our codes, but the too-common mistakes and contention will only continue by leaving the current system in place indefinitely.  As an IDO co-sponsor, I strongly believe that we need to move forward on this legislation rather than adding to the already heavy load of critical issues that a next mayor must tackle. Since eight of the current nine Councilors will still be in office in December, their decisions will stand as planning policy and could not be reversed by a new mayor; instead he will participate in its implementation.

Pedestrian Safety Ordinance

Thanks to some of you for writing about the new traffic ordinance unanimously passed by the Council (O-17-51). This is not a panhandling ordinance.  Unfortunately, the Journal insists on calling this an “anti-panhandling” law.  I supported this important traffic and public safety measure.

It is a misdemeanor offence and would be enforced against pedestrians and drivers who violate it.  People wanting to hawk products, charity car washes or Girl Scout cookies in the public roadways would be equally affected.  Interactions between drivers and pedestrians should occur on the side of the road in proper parking areas and the ordinance does not prohibit that.

Our streets and traffic safety situation is often very problematic in Albuquerque; solicitation of any kind in roads is not helping it all.   I realize many people are in need. They can still safely solicit elsewhere as allowed by other city ordinances. Additionally, there are several day shelters and meal sites that are available to these individuals, as well as outreach teams to provide them with information about these and other services available.

In order to address the homeless problem, we also need to address the behavioral health crisis in our city.  I was a sponsor of a Behavioral Health Task Force several years ago that studied and identified the gaps in services and made recommendations for funding to the City and County.  I continue to be active in the efforts, including service on the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Commission (ABCGC), which is an oversight body for funding in the County’s Behavioral Health Initiative.  I will continue to strongly support funding for homeless and behavioral health services and for affordable housing.

 

NeighborWoods Spring Project

Get 100 trees planted in your neighborhood!  Our Albuquerque neighborhood forests make Albuquerque more resilient, livable, and beautiful.  This project includes assistance with selecting, planting, and maintaining up to 100 street trees along street fronts their neighborhood.  Read more and apply online – the deadline is Friday, November 17.

 

Sincerely,
Isaac Benton
City Councilor, District 2

http://www.cabq.gov/council/councilors/district-2