The latest dust-up around Albuquerque is over whether the City Council should be able to approve financing for the Paseo del Norte project or whether the issue should be held off and put before the voters in November. Mayor Berry says that Council needs to act now so costs don’t go up and the project is not unnecessarily delayed.
We at the Rio Grande Foundation tend to be big supporters of direct democracy and giving the public a say on major financial decisions, especially when it comes to tax hikes. This project, however, does not require a tax hike. Of course, one could have said the same thing about the Rail Runner, at least initially. Needless to say, I think the Paseo/I-25 project is far more valuable. Ultimately, there is some level of trust we must place in our political leaders.
Oh, and on the issue of giving voters the final say on major infrastructure projects, Benton and O’Malley were on the other side of this issue back when the streetcar was the topic of discussion. As reported in the Albuquerque Journal, they supported pushing the streetcar forward, at least initially without voter approval. Only after a grassroots effort showed that significant opposition existed to the streetcar did Benton, O’Malley, and Mayor Marty back off, not only a public vote, but the project in its entirety.
I tend to think that Paseo and I-25 is just the kind of basic public works project that government should undertake. If there were a serious outcry on the part of the citizenry, I might endorse a public vote, but there is none and Benton, O’Malley, and Garduño are just gumming up the works.