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Albuquerque didn't want to hear it

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Dear HCN,

I was most interested in Bruce Selcraig's article on the pending water crisis facing the city that never listens (HCN, 12/26/94). I was enticed by the city manager, Richard Wilson, in 1971 to assume the position of planning director of the combined planning programs of Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Planning Commissions. One year later Wilson was fired by the then city commission with the only charge being that he was not aggressive enough. I made the mistake of letting that commission talk me into taking over Wilson's job. I say mistake because as a professional planner for over 30 years before Albuquerque, I learned the hard way that effective long-range planning has been and still is something that the controlling interests of that city will never allow to threaten to destroy the greedy rip-off they have successfully gotten away with.

I was fired by that same city commission after almost four years as city manager for being "too aggressive." During those years I did my dead-level best to try to instill some concern for the future of that city. I had real concerns about land use, developer subsidies by the city, the already looming potential water crisis, and the "handing out of building permits like balloons' as Mr. Selcraig put it. It was all to no avail with the puppets of the power bosses in control.

But my firing led to a public meeting that had to be moved to the civic auditorium to hold a crowd of some 1,500 people, 90 percent of whom were against my leaving. A majority of those present went out the next day and started a petition for the creation of a charter commission for the purpose of changing the form of government to a "strong" mayor/council. This scared the good ole boys enough that they had the city commission immediately set up a charter commission that they thought they could control. Surprisingly, they could not. Eventually the people voted in the mayor-council system that got rid of the three commission members responsible for my firing.

There is a hell of a lot more to this story, but to shorten it I will conclude with the fact that I ran for mayor in the first election after the new system was installed. There were 33 candidates for mayor and I won the primary, but not with enough votes to avoid a runoff with an old-time politico. I lost by about 1,200 votes out of the over 50,000 cast.

So you see that while Mr. Selcraig did an excellent job pointing out the water danger Albuquerque may soon be facing, the causes have roots that run very deep.

Herb H. Smith

Denver, Colorado

The writer is a retired professor, writer and consultant.

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