City Council, Mayor Keller’s Budget, and Why You Should Stay Awake

The Albuquerque City Council “Committee of the Whole” will meet later today to discuss and hear presentations from City Departments concerning the 2019 Capital Budget and latest “Decade Plan.”

So what? Why should anyone care? 

Well, despite the mind-numbing that invariably comes about when one hears/reads the word “budget,” not to mention the Orwell-meets-Huxley expression “Committee of the Whole,” this is important stuff. As an aside, it’s interesting how the most important things in public policy are often wrapped in the most mundane and mind-numbing words and phrases.

Evidence of importance? How about $127 million? That’s Mayor Keller’s proposed 2019 Capital Budget, itemized here along with proposed/estimated future year funding out to 2027. Overall, tonight’s presentation and discussion will cover some $738 million in Government Obligation Bond funding out almost a decade.

I know, “Government Obligation Bond.” I can literally see you falling asleep while reading this. But $738 million? That should keep everybody awake and interested. Tonight’s meeting is the next step toward formal City Council approval of this whole kit-& caboodle. It’s a public meeting and you can watch it online. Because you’re interesting like that.

Speaking of interesting, let’s take a quick look at two lines in the proposed 2019 Capital Budget.

2019 GO DMD Streets

First we have $400,000 going to “ADA Sidewalk Improvements.” The latest version of the draft American Disability Act (ADA) Transition Plan estimates, in 2017 dollars, that fixing all the City’s public right of way ADA violations will cost somewhere around $420 million dollars. Meanwhile, $400,000 is .3% of the overall proposed 2019 budget of $127 million. Not three percent; decimal point 3 percent!

It is important to point out that future years proposed funding for ADA improvements add up to almost $14 million in the budget out to 2027 (although that is still only 1.9% of the proposed total, and 3.3% of the estimated, in 2017 dollars, cost of fixing all the violations) and that other funding sources, such as federal grants and authorizations might (repeat might) be forthcoming. Still, $400,000 for 2019 is laughingly minuscule.

You might not know much about the City Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP), but it’s a program worth knowing about. As stated on the City’s NTMP webpage:

The goal of this program is to address speeding and cut-through traffic on local residential streets using a set of traffic-calming tools. These include physical tools, such as lane narrowing, turn restrictions, and curb bulb-outs, as well as non-physical tools like radar speed signs and targeted enforcement.

Through a formal petition process, residents are empowered to garner neighborhood support that forces City traffic officials to design corrective measures to slow drivers down in residential areas. What a great idea!

The problem is funding. Hmm…the problem is almost always funding, isn’t it?

The $400,000 budgeted for NTMP is sufficient to do a few of the traffic studies that follow collecting of petition signatures, but only a few. Then there’s the problem of funding the corrective measures such traffic studies might recommend. The NTMP Policy Manual does a great job of listing all the possible corrective measures (e.g., chicanes, radar speed trailers), but $400,000 isn’t nearly enough to pay for implementation of significant recommendations.

The lack of funding is particularly important when keeping in mind the City’s avowed Complete Streets policy/ordinance. In short: How can we slow drivers down and make our streets truly “multi-modal”? By having traffic studies that lead to implementation of Complete Streets precepts. But Complete Streets has zero funding and NTMP only $400,000, so….

    1. Implementation of Complete Streets is largely blocked due to lack of funding for traffic studies;
    2. NTMP implementation is blocked because its dinky budget only pays for a few traffic studies and installation of a few slower speed limit signs (which we know don’t work).


And all this is why you should drink the sufficient amount of coffee necessary to either drop by this evening’s “Committee of the Whole” or watch it on TV/online. Actually there are a plethora of reasons to get involved when throwing around figures like $127 million and $738 million. It’s the little things.

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