A Conversation with Councilor Mayer on TIDDs

I'm again disappointed that the city council doesn't see things my way. It's not fair!-- no, honestly- however predictable the vote to reform Tax Increment Development Districts on Monday, it is really unfortunate how the Council continues to proceed with TIDDs as the answer to all our woes, with so little understanding of the tool's ramifications. See the SWOP Blogger for a great accounting of recent TIDD developments.

I thought I'd share an email exchange I'm having with my city councilor- one of five who voted against reforming TIDDs. My first communication was sent to her just before Monday's meeting, urging her to support the reforms. I've pasted her response that came in my inbox today. I just couldn't resist responding back to her comments. I'm compelled to hold her accountable in some way- but I know this email exchange will do little to sway her.

::: MY original Action Email urging her vote for the TIDD reform bill that failed on Monday:::
Dear Councilor:

I appreciate the time you took yesterday to visit our Kiva Monte Park Neigborhood general meeting. It is refreshing to have a councilor so engaged in our community.

Regarding the issue of Tax Increment Financing, I strongly urge your vote in support of O-08-11. I'm one of many voters in your district who supports better growth, but I don't support huge tax subsidies for large private developers on the fringe.

Tax Increment Financing is a tool best used to help spur redevelopment within the already-built city. I'm concerned about how TIF in Albuquerque's fringe area has the very real potential of luring jobs, economic activity, homebuyers and neighborhood vitality away from the existing community.

I'm also concerned about continuing to build large sprawl subdivisions further away from the city. Global warming is a serious challenge, and making people drive further is a step in the wrong direction to addressing this threat meaningfully.

The city should get out of the business of paying developers to sprawl, causing more problems for our families, our environment and our local economy.

For these reasons, I hope you will vote for the needs of your district over the needs of private developers.

Gabriel Nims

:::Councilor Mayer's Response to my email action note:::
Dear Mr. Nims,

Thank you for taking the time to send me an e-mail. There is no need to thank me for going to your neighborhood meeting - it truly is my favorite part of my job. I'm glad your neighborhood has reformed itself.

By now you know that I voted against 0-08-11 and that it was defeated 5 to 4. We already have good TIDD legislation in place that allows the Council to decide on a case by case basis which TIDDs we want to approve and which we want to turn down.

You and I have different definitions of fringe areas and sprawl. I consider the sprawl/fringe areas of Albuquerque to be outside of the City limits - Los Lunas for example. Those are the areas that some of our policies have caused growth to occur in but that the City receives no taxes from. Los Lunas residents still come to Albuquerque to work, drive on our roads, pollute our air but we get nothing in return - no property taxes and very little gross receipts tax.

I will agree with you that it is "our" fault that people are driving further. Our policies have made new homes in Albuquerque much more expensive than those outside of Albuquerque. Stopping people from buying homes in Albuquerque doesn't stop people from buying homes, it just causes them to buy homes in Los Lunas. There is a saying that has become so true here "you drive until you qualify" qualify for a loan on a home you can afford. My policies aren't causing people to drive further yours are.

Much of the NE Heights is further from downtown than much of the proposed west side development. I personally think all of Albuquerque should be treated the same way, that is why we have city limits. All Albuquerque property owners should have the same rights and expectations.

I work hard to be sure our District gets a fair share of the limited resources available. Respectfully, I take issue with your last sentence. I always vote for the needs of my District by doing what I believe to be best for all of Albuquerque. District 7 is not an economic island. Well developed areas benefit everyone. 0-08-11 unnecessarily shuts the door on possible opportunities. I'm confident that as a Council we are capable of making the right decisions where TIDDs / Tiffs are concerned.

Sincerely, Sally Mayer

:::My most recent response to her reply which I cc'd to all councilors:::

Councilor Mayer:

I appreciate the time you've taken to respond to my note. While your decision was predictable, it was no less disappointing, but the time you've taken to explain your interpretation of the city's complicated growth dynamic is appreciated.

You are correct that sprawl plagues not just Albuquerque, but outlying communities as well. Sprawl is more defined by the type and impact of homogeneous developments than it is by geography. To place the blame of sprawl and rising housing costs on the city's progressive growth policy is clearly a misdirection- and entirely consistent with the misinformation too often being distributed by area developers and their respective advocacy/professional organizations.

First, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, the West Side etc, were condoning and creating sprawl development long before any meaningful growth policy was adopted by Albuquerque's Council. Further, the Planned Growth Strategy, although adopted, has yet to be fully implemented. There is so much more in the economics of development that impacts where and how growth occurs that it is a simply a cop-out to point the finger at growth management policy as the sole culprit.

Also- I'm curious that you display such concern for housing affordability in the Albuquerque area. Certainly "drive 'til you qualify" is an unfortunate reality for many working families in the area- which is why the Workforce Housing Opportunity Act created a new framework for addressing this issue. I don't recall your vocal support for that measure as it came through in 2006. In fact, I recall your comments at one council meeting questioning the whole idea of whether or not there is a true need for affordable housing in Albuquerque at all.

Growth management policy, impact fees, permits, etc. are all part of the developer's cost of doing business in a particular area- and the developer must adapt the product to absorb those additional costs and, to some extent, pass those costs along to the consumer- but a developer would not be in business long if he/she continued to produce developments that the consumer cannot afford to buy. Simply put- the market is a much stronger determinant for development than policy- this has been proven over and over again.

Lastly, you mention that we get nothing in return for allowing sprawl in los lunas, rio rancho, etc, except the impact of those residents driving on our roads, polluting our air and giving virtually nothing, in terms of GRT revenue. Putting aside the issue of the need for ABQ to take a leadership role in regional planning, I want to ask you how this scenario is much different from using TIDDs closer to home, but still on the fringe? By every account- the city council has relegated its authority and awarded a huge chunk of the city's future tax revenue for use by private developers, yet the future residents of these communities will be impacting the city in the same way you say the folks in los lunas, etc already are.

Neither proponents nor opponents of the TIDD issue can say with certainty how this will impact the economy, environment and social fabric of our city. It is still very speculative, but you and others on the council see no problem with forging ahead, against more wise and thorough understanding of this complicated and powerful tool. My only course, then, is to assume that you value development for development's sake over the careful scrutiny of policy that may impact the future health of your district and the whole city.

Again, thanks for your time and consideration and I hope we can continue thoughtful dialogue about this city's well-being.


Gabriel Nims
District 7 Constituent

Views: 29

Comment by brendisimo on April 23, 2008 at 11:22pm
Wow, the twisted logic of Sally's letter is astounding and her lack of a meaningful vision (along with the 4 councilors that voted with her) is sad. How can she really believe that the best way to use tax-payer money is to subsidize sprawl developments on the fringe?! If developers want to build more homes in open space, then they should have to do so in a truly competitive way. The way I see it, a reformed TIDD policy might actually make more affordable housing a reality within the city's core by helping to subsidize development in blighted areas where basic infrastructure is already in place. We should be using resources to make our city more sustainable and affordable, not to subsidize the next Phoenix . Lastly, saying Albuquerque shouldn't do anything proactive about sprawl because "Los Lunas" hasn't either is like saying the U.S. shouldn't do anything about global warming because "Bulgaria" hasn't either. Give me a break!
Comment by shotsie on April 24, 2008 at 6:12am
What I would suggest, instead of TIDDS, is to incorporate a special, secondary tax that would just benefit a particular area, to pay for the infrastructure and schools. The costs for upgrading or adding infrastructure would be amortized over a longer period of time, and not upfront, all at once. This way, the general population isn't paying for new infrastructure, the builders can (deviously as possible, I'm sure) build and advertise the homes cheaper (and hopefully disclose the additional tax), and the general tax payer doesn't get stuck with paying for new subdivisions that compete with his/her housing value. At the end of the TIDD's period, the tax rate would go down to the city's current rate. This way, the city receives it's full tax base to pay for necessary services, the new subdivision gets all the infrastructure it needs (including the schools, dammit!), and the costs are passed to the residents of that subdivision. Win-win!
Comment by bleve on April 24, 2008 at 9:13am
If one of the biggest proposed developments in the country on the outskirts of Albuquerque, where there is currently no infrastructure doesn't qualify as sprawl then Sally, please enlighten us as to what is... oh yeah, Los Lunas. Give me a break, she doesn't even address the issue and tries to divert it to housing costs... who voted for this lady? Why no mention to the city's own plan on growth. Paper thin politician... absolutely no substance and no vision, or even worse... seeing the issue clearly and selling out to other interests.
Comment by bg on April 24, 2008 at 9:53am
When Sally next has an election, please vote for a better candidate. Maybe Marianne Dickinson will run again. She would have tipped the balance the other way.

And she could have a much more informed "dialog." This is so egregious, but so typical of how Sally "sees" it: "I'm glad your neighborhood has reformed itself." Cripes!!
Comment by Camian on April 24, 2008 at 10:11am
Thank you so much for posting this discussion. We just moved from Mayer's district, and I was very hopeful that Marianne would beat her, but no luck that round.

I sent a letter to all the councilors regarding this issue a few months back and got basically no response, so I'm glad you've at least got a dialog going. Keep us posted, if you don't mind!
Comment by chantal on April 24, 2008 at 12:19pm
BigDan, please read this: Being a good web citizen

We've been doing this for 3 years now and the vast majority of our readers want us to moderate the discussion in order to keep things constructive and intelligent. If you can't participate under these guidelines, we'll ask you to leave.

I hope you stay, though, because I personally enjoy well-articulated dissent. If you can refrain from insulting people and calling them names, I think you have a viewpoint worth sharing.

It's your call.
Comment by bleve on April 24, 2008 at 12:37pm
Reminds me of a drunk uncle who's had one-too-many cans of coors.
Comment by mombat on April 24, 2008 at 1:00pm
Thanks Sarah, couldn't have said better it myself-
Comment by Phil_0 on April 24, 2008 at 6:08pm
@Jeff - exactly. Sally Mayer's (somewhat crumbling) central-ABQ district should conceivably have lots to gain if TIDDs were restricted to the areas they were originally intended for, but she lines up with the sprawl folks every time. Yet another reason why folks in District 7 need to have a good hard think about their options before the next election. Even better, maybe Sally will run for mayor, get trounced, and let someone a little more tuned in take the reins.

Sorry, Big Dan, I don't think an adolescent flamefest constitutes an "opposing viewpoint" anywhere beyond the Jerry Springer show. But hey, at least you had a few giggles. For what it's worth, Rio Rancho is less than 30 years old, so I think the jury on whether it's sustainable or not is still out. I know for a fact that RR city government is desperately approaching farmers and other land owners around the state in hopes of buying water rights as their own reserves dry out. Couple that with 20-year-old infrastructure that's already proving itself inadequate and hmmm...you might have some problems. But hey, why worry? It's so much easier to stick your head in the sand, have another cheeseburger, and gas up that SUV while you think up your next zany riposte. Bon apetit...
Comment by bleve on April 24, 2008 at 6:35pm
... as we were saying.


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