To Be Hair Fair: In the last meeting’s coverage, this reporter poked fun at Councilor Dan Lewis for his snappy Easter haircut. It failed to mention Councilor Brook Bassan’s recent barrette wearing, Councilor Klarissa Peña’s fairly new short bouncy bob and who can miss Council President Isaac Benton’s lightening white locks buzzing around like he’s channeling Einstein. Councilor Louie Sanchez still sports his cop crew cut so say what you will about that look. Councilor Trudy Jones has the classic senior citizen short, white-haired coif. Councilor Pat Davis trimmed up his shagginess while Councilors Renee Grout and Tammy Fiebelkorn don’t have much going on hair-wise, yet. Maybe they will surprise us. 

In General: Burque has a new city landmark. The Albuquerque City Council approved the Barelas Community Center as the newest landmark along with making some progress with plastic bags and then deferred a wad of city business.

Helping Those In Need: One of the highlights of the evening was a Safe Outdoor Spaces presentation made by our Heading Home homeless helper folks and representatives from the Colorado Village Collaborative. This is tied to some proposed changes to the city’s zoning rules to allow for these kinds of programs.

Since December 2020, Denver has had a partnership with the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC) to provide several outdoor spaces for people dealing with homelessness. The temporary tent villages are staffed, provide security and resources such as bathrooms. The CVC presenter said this came out of the pandemic to mitigate the impact of Covid among Denver’s unhoused neighbors in order to extend access and to relocate people camping in public spaces into a safe-managed, service-oriented location.

These are not walk-up programs. Residents are screened before they are admitted. The temporary villages are artistically walled off from public view, provide security for both residents and neighbors, provide food, meals, water, laundry, showers, electricity, daily wellness screenings and many other outreach services. They are designed to move residents into permanent housing and services so they do not have to camp under tarps or in tents on the sides of roads and parks. Las Cruces has a similar program titled Camp Hope.

This idea brought out diverse public comment from those in support of new ideas to help with the heartbreaking and growing homeless population on the streets of Burque. One eloquent speaker said she chooses to live on the streets, as do many others. Others said this was an innovative idea to meet people where they are now. Others included representatives from some neighborhood associations who said in a nutshell that it was a good idea just not in our backyards (NIMBY).

Homelessness is spread out from the foothills, down the streets, into the bosque, then spills to the western mesas. The wisest thing said was we have to meet people where they are at in order to help them. Check it out here for yourself at safe-outdoor-space.

Zoning Out Homelessness and Cannabis: A lengthy discussion, with much public comment, about proposed changes to the city’s zoning document, was deferred to the next meeting. The most passionate item seemed to be not allowing cannabis to be sold within and in a 10-block radius of Old Town. 

A number of folks come out to oppose the idea of dealing in weed because it would tarnish the image of the historic Old Town. Seems like cannabis, or at least hemp, was a part of early Albuquerque. Seems like some sort of compromise could be made to allow at least one dispensary that highlights the history of cannabis in Albuquerque. Smoking in public is illegal so no worries of someone lighting up while walking around the plaza.

Speeders and Bag Police: Watch out speeders, the Council approved an automated speed enforcement program and fund for all those civil tickets that will be issued now that speed cameras are out in force. Councilors declared that speeding was a nuisance and an effective way to teach those lead foots a lesson was with strategically placed speed cameras. They said this is a cost-effective way to do this task. The revenues from the speeders will cover the cost of the program and other things.

Beefing up the city’s recycling program was approved by the Council. Those pesky single-use plastic bags mess up the recycling sorting equipment so this resolution tries to address that problem and creates a plastic-bag task force to develop ideas for a plastic-bag policy that does not piss off consumers, retailers and takes into account negative impacts on the poor and disabled and addresses any public health concerns about reusable bags. The city partners with a private recycling firm now but the goal is for the city to run its own recycling program.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a live, in-person meeting at 5pm on May 16. Attend in person or watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.