It has been reported that the opponents of the ART Bus project have now decided to drop their Federal lawsuit to stop the project. (See Albuquerque Journal, Opponents drop lawsuit against ART; Lawyer: Clients will still raise concerns on project, page A-1)
The dismissal is disappointing but not at all surprising given the Federal District Court and Court of Appeals rulings denying the injunctions and the amount of construction that has gone on.
The Berry Administration supposedly paid $250,000 in taxpayer money to out of state attorneys to defend the lawsuit.
I would not be at all surprised if the Berry Administration now becomes vindictive and seeks the award of attorney’s fees and costs for defending the federal case against the Plaintiff’s federal lawsuit.
ART BUS FUNDING IN JEOPARDY
Yolanda Gallegos, one of the attorneys for the plaintiff’s is quoted as saying “a new mayor will inherit this unworkable and irresponsible juggernaut and the citizens of Albuquerque could be left holding the bag”.
It is indeed becoming more likely than not that the citizens of Albuquerque will be left holding the bag with millions diverted from other city projects and essential services to complete the ART Bus project and pay the contractor Bradbury & Stamm.
The appropriations conference committees in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have recommended cutting the Federal Transportation Grant grant by anywhere from $19 million to $23 million.
When it’s all said a done, and the City does not get any money from the federal government, it will be up to the new Mayor and City Council to find the money to complete the project.
REVENUE BONDS LIKELY SOURCE FOR ART FUNDING SHORTFALL
Berry and the Albuquerque City Council thus far have used $13 million dollars in revenue bonds to pay for the ART Bus project that was not voted upon by the public.
It was reported that Mayor Berry and the Albuquerque City Council have borrowed over $63 million dollars over the past two years to build “pickle ball” courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing the voters. (For full story see January 2, 2017 Albuquerque Journal “BYPASSING the Voters” page A-1).
The $65 million dollars was borrowed with the Albuquerque City Councilors voting to use revenue bonds as the financing mechanism to pay for big capital projects.
Revenue bonds are repaid with gross receipts tax revenues.
The Mayor and City Council have become enamored with revenue bonds because they can literally pick and choose what projects they want to fund and build without any public input or vote whatsoever, so long as they have seven votes on the city council.
Normally, multi-million dollar capital projects are funded by using general obligation bonds which require voter approval.
What the Mayor and City Council do not like are the complicated requirements associated with general obligation bonds and the fact that they must be voted upon by the public.
General obligation bonds have major safeguards to protect the public with restrictions in place on how the bond funding must be dedicated and used.
General obligation bonds also include public budget hearings while revenue bonds do not.
Using revenue bonds for major capital projects that are repaid with gross receipts tax revenue cuts into revenues that should be used for essential services such as police protection, fire protection and government operations and personnel.
CARRYING THE MAYOR’S WATER
Diane Gibson is my city councilor and she said at a neighborhood association meeting she was tired of “carrying the Mayor’s” water on the ART Bus project but still refused to put it to a public vote and vote no on the appropriations for ART.
I for one am tired of Diane Gibson’s failure to represent her constituents and do anything worthwhile for her Council District other than holding monthly coffees and attend neighborhood association meetings to tell people there is nothing she can do.
All the candidates for Mayor need to be asked if they supported the ART Bus project as is and want to “carry Berry’s water” after he is gone, what they intend to do with the project, how can it be modified and reduced in scope, how will it be paid for and if they intend to dismantle the project as much as they can and restore Route 66 once elected.
City Council Candidates running for reelection like Diane Gibson, Ken Sanchez and Don Harris need to be reminded that they voted to spend money for the ART Bus project that has yet to be appropriated by congress and that they refused to put it on the ballot for voter approval.
City Councilor Pat Davis told his constituents at a forum he sponsored that there was nothing he could do about the ART bus project and he refused to put it on the ballot for a public vote.
Voters need to remember that City Councilor Pat Davis and Ken Sanchez voted to support ART, and who both now say they are considering running for Congress to replace Mitchell Lujan Grisham.
Frankly, Albuquerque does not need politicians willing to carry water for poorly designed and useless legacy construction projects and use sneaky funding sources to bypass voters.