Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Growth Fueled City-County Tug of War.(Final)

Byline: Kate Nash Journal Capitol Bureau

Albuquerque Losing Hold on Zoning, Water Utility

Bernalillo County Commissioner Tim Cummins was so frustrated last summer by what he saw as a lack of communication that he tried to get in touch with the Albuquerque City Council by mail.

In his letter last June, Cummins asked the city to include the county in its discussion of the controversial Planned Growth Strategy, a comprehensive plan to guide city development.

The fact that he sent a written request to the council, just one floor away in the City-County Building, illustrates the breakdown between the governments on growth and planning issues.

And it's just one example of what some say led to the Legislature's passage and Gov. Bill Richardson's signing of two bills that boost the zoning and water policy authority of the county at the city's expense.

Egos and personalities also played a role.

And, the measures found strong support among Albuquerque-area business and development groups which like the county were still smarting over the council's passage of the Planned Growth Strategy last fall.

The people unhappy with the city found a powerful friend in Santa Fe: South Valley Democrat Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon introduced the bills.

The drama in Santa Fe also made for some unusual bedfellows as the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Aragon against Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez.

"I can't imagine our governor could have done anything more hurtful to the city of Albuquerque," Chavez said after Richardson signed the bills over his objections.

Those involved say the power shift didn't happen overnight.

"I don't think there were any final straws, that there was one event that triggered it," said County Commission Chairman Tom Rutherford. …

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