Memo reveals liberal gubernatorial candidate wanted severe measures to rid streets of cars

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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A memo that has surfaced on the Internet reveals that Alan Webber — a liberal Democrat who in challenging sitting Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez — once tried to rid the road of cars.

“Continue monitoring filling station construction to prevent unnecessary stations; inventory stations within the city and set an absolute limit on filling station construction,” Webber wrote in a 1971 memo.

Webber wrote the memo while living in Portland, Oregon in the 1970s and working as a staffer to a city commissioner. The six-page document — which was posted earlier this year on the website BikePortland.org — suggested that the city take extraordinary steps to discourage people from using cars.

He called for “increases in gas tax and vehicle license fees” to stop people from wanting to drive. He also said the city should essentially institute another tax on people who commute to work in cars.

“Institute higher fees for people entering parking lots between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m.,” Webber wrote, “thus specifically discouraging commuters while encouraging midday shopping, in effect levying a commuter parking tax.”

Webber, a self described “progressive Democrat,” announced his candidacy to join the crowded Democratic primary fight this week. The 65-year-old founder of business magazine Fast Company — sold in 2000 for $365 million — is expected to partially self-fund his campaign for an office once held by the libertarian former Gov. Gary Johnson.

Here are other measures promoted by Webber in his 1971 memo:

Wanted to restrict the number of parking lots that can be built
“Make an inventory of present downtown parking spaces and set an absolute limit on the number, in effect placing a lid on both on and off street parking, both private and public,” he wrote.

Wanted to make it harder to get a driver’s license
“Monitor more closely the issuance of driver’s licenses and raise the demands of the testing process,” Webber wrote.

Wanted to stop expanding roads
“Halt freeway construction in the urban area” and “halt all street widening,” he wrote.

Wanted to close city to cars if carbon monoxide levels got too high
“Maintain a close watch on downtown carbon monoxide levels with the stated intention of closing the city to automobiles at the first violation of permissible levels,” Webber wrote.

Wanted more toll booths
“Add toll booths to major entrances to the city, collecting a one-way toll on all single and double occupancy automobiles with funds received to be spent on financing and developing mass transit,” he wrote.

Wanted to make it against the law to be in car with less than 3 people
“Make it a violation of city code, punishable by police ticket, to enter the city from 7:30-9:00 A.M. with less than three persons in any standard size automobile,” Webber wrote.

In his campaign announcement this week, Webber called for fresh thinking in state government.

“We can’t keep doing the same old things with the same group of people and hope things will change for the better,” Webber said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “They won’t. And we all know it.”

The Democratic primary election is June 3. The general election is November 4.

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Alex Pappas