Mayor calls out Paseo project critics

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry is calling out the three city councilors who've thrown up a roadblock on his plan to begin rebuilding the Interstate 25-Paseo del Norte interchange.

They want the interchange overhaul to go on the ballot, but the mayor wants everyone to call those city councilors and let them have it.

Berry needs seven of nine city councilors to fast-track $50 million for the project without it going to the voters. Now he only has six councilors on board, and he says that could cost the city millions.

Tuesday the mayor sent out an e-mail asking constituents to flood Debbie O'Malley, Ray Gardu o and Isaac Benton's voice mail and inboxes with opinions on how the city should handle the road re-do. He says the councilors are just playing politics.

The councilors want voters to drive the improvements and decide if they'd like to approve spending sales tax revenue on the interchange. That money is mainly used for public safety.

O'Malley says this is the first time a chunk of funds this size would be appropriated from that budget without voter approval.  It's ridiculous the idea would even be considered without a vote, she adds.

"This isn't my checkbook, and it isn't the mayor's checkbook," she says.  "This is the taxpayers checkbook, and we need to ask them if they want to spend this money.  This is a lot of money."

The project would issue bonds to be paid off over the next 25 years.  It's also going to rack up $25 million in interest.

Berry says delaying a vote puts $10-$15 million in federal grant money in danger.

"They are looking for strong state, local and county support, and without those councilors supporting it, that may put that money in jeopardy," Berry said.

City councilors who refused to vote on the issue at Monday night's meeting say Albuquerque can reapply for the grant and hasn't been guaranteed to receive it in the first place.

Berry believed he had the necessary votes to pass the project going into Monday's meeting. He says it was Benton who backed out.

Benton tells KRQE News 13 he's all for the Paseo project, but he's always thought it should go to the voters. He says the mayor must have misunderstood.

Benton said his decision had nothing to do with the Republican-backed redistricting plan that cost him his seat on the council.

There is a special council meeting Monday night to try for a re-vote, but the councilors say they do not plan to change their minds.

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