The Journal - of course - made it front page news and the councilor's response was, shall we say... a bit bizarre and involved a "fetching" Bolero jacket and tulip skirt (ABQ Journal - Subscription). The whole affair ended Cummins race for a time, but she was back in by mid-July (ABQ Journal- Subscription).
Ultimately the race ended in a runoff between Cummins and her nearest rival Don Harris. Harris prevailed and now faces probably his easiest contest to date.
The questionnaire debacle was played out on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal and Tina Cummins failed miserably in her efforts to get beyond the questionnaire crisis. It was a game changer that gave voters a couple of good reasons to doubt her abilities and therefore send her packing.
Friday's Albuquerque Journal delivered what can only be considered a game changer for District 5 hopeful Dan Lewis. The incumbent and off-again on-again candidate for his own seat was found largely responsible for a "temporary taking" of 7.7 acre parcel of property on Albuquerque's west side (ABQ Journal - Subscription).
The property in question was the previous home of the Westside Equestrian Association who had a very favorable lease with the original owners that required them to pay $1 per year plus property taxes. The original term of the lease was 20 years - a period that ended June 26, 2002.
In 1993, the original owners sold the property to R. Edward Robertson, Sandy W. Thompson, Baron Brumley. The new owners decided to sell the parcel at end of the lease with the Westside Equestrian Center for a handsome profit. Not surprisingly, the decision didn't sit well with the equestrian center or the nearby Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association - who wanted to be the last ones into paradise before the gate was permanently closed.
[Sidebar]The only thing blocking the sale of the property was an SU-1 Special Use for an Equestrian Center zoning requirement. When the new buyer - Jude Baca - offered to buy the property from Robertson, Thompson, and Brumley, he made his offer contingent upon a zoning change to SU-1 Special Use PRD for 43 single-family residences.
Despite what you may be hearing about the eeeevils of capitalism, profit is a good thing. Land owners should be able to make a fair return on their property either through sale or development. That fair value should be determined by the market and not artificially set by government through regulation and restrictive zoning.
The site development plan and the zoning change was presented to the city's Environmental Planning Commission for review and ultimate approval. During the EPC process, the court found that Councilor Cadigan was in communication with WEC and that "[he] and his family were invited to the WEC to take buggy and horse rides in an attempt to influence him to vote against the Zone Map Amendment." Councilor Cadigan was also found to have attended facilitated meetings involving the controversial project.
Cadigan - an attorney and officer of the court - should have known that his actions would become a problem if the final decision of the EPC were to be appealed. The EPC decided in favor of the developers and the land owners and the decision was promptly appealed.
[Sidebar]The appeal of course went to the city council where Councilor Cadigan served as chairman of the Land Use, Planning and Zoning (LUPZ) committee. The LUPZ committee decided to send the appeal to the full council where the appeal was upheld and the zoning change denied. Councilor Cadigan worked Councilors Payne and Griego and voted himself in the 5-4 decision. Had Cadigan properly recused himself from this vote, the appeal would have failed and both the zoning change and the sale of the property would have gone through.
This is one of the problems with the city's land use process. The Decisions of the EPC are appealed to the city council. The proceedings are quasi-judicial and are intended to determine whether or not the EPC's decision was correct under the law. However, the council is a political body and that consistently gets itself into trouble because the councilors overturn the EPC for political reasons. Frankly, it costs the city quite a bit of money and that money came from us.
In his decision, District Court Judge Ted Baca found a number of problems with among them:
1. The actions of the City in refusing to uphold the decision of the EPC and to grantAs a result, the judge awarded Robertson, Thompson, and Brumley $136,500 for being wrongfully denied the interest on the sale of their $650,000 property. The court also called into question Councilor Cadigan's veracity when he asserted that he could not remember the WEC buggy ride used to lobby him for his support.
the zone map amendment were wrongful.
2. Petitioners established their right to a zone map amendment by showing changed
3. The actions of the City in refusing to grant the zone map amendment were
4. Petitioners were deprived of all economically viable uses of the property for a
period from August 5, 2002, through February 72005. Consequently, the City's refusal to grant the zone map amendment constituted a temporary taking.
5. The zoning designation of equestrian center was so restrictive that the wrongful
refusal of the City to grant the zone map amendment deprived Petitioners of all economic use of
7. In light ofthe Council's quasi-judicial role, Councilor Cadigan should have
recused himself from the appeal hearing at City Council on August 5, 2002.
8. In light of the Council's quasi-judicial role, Councilor Cadigan knew or should
have known he should have recused himself from hearing the appeal at the City Council hearing
on August 5, 2002.
9. If Councilor Cadigan had recused himself, the appeal would have been denied,
and the zone change would have been approved on August 5, 2002.
It all comes down to this... Councilor Cadigan was found to have wrongfully involved himself in a process that amounted to a temporary taking of private property. His actions not only cost us $136,500, but call into question the councilor's ethics, veracity, and sense of fairness.
In light of his decision earlier in the year to exit the political stage after being unable to qualify for public financing, we wonder how much he really wants the job. After wrongfully involving himself in a land use dispute, manipulating council votes in a quasi-judicial proceeding, and potentially lying about his actions prior to his vote, we wonder why anyone would want him to continue as their councilor.
This incident very well could be the game changer that Dan Lewis is waiting for. It certainly gives voters a very compelling reason not to vote for Councilor Cadigan and could be the reason that Dan Lewis becomes the next District 5 Councilor.
----- Update -----
One of the provisions of District Court Judge Ted Baca's decision was that the court retained jurisdiction over legal fees. KRQE is reporting that those legal fees could reach as high as $400,000 (see it here). The city could have to pay for the entire tab, making the city's legal fund - filled with our tax dollars - over a HALF MILLION DOLLARS lighter. [Hat Tip: Ched Macquigg]