The regular City Council meeting Wednesday, September 7 was a long one, just shy of six and a half hours. In that long, arduous meeting, Albuquerque City Council voted to keep Safe Outdoor Spaces for our homeless neighbors legal. Councilors also put off the important agenda item of redistricting that will set new council district boundaries.

Where Should the Homeless Go?

A week or so ago, Mayor Tim Keller vetoed a moratorium on moving forward with temporary safe outdoor spaces where homeless people can sleep in their cars or in tents with security and services provided on site.

Six councilors were needed to override his mayoral veto, but only five did. Councilor Trudy Jones quietly cast the vote that mattered. She supported the moratorium when the council approved it 6-3 last month. But she was in support of the Safe Outdoor Spaces idea prior to the moratorium vote. Bet her cohorts were a little bit disappointed she didn’t toe their line.

Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn gave some heartfelt insight into her life when she spoke about being a homeless teenager living in her car. Fiebelkorn spoke on the verge of tears, about all the many, many reasons a homeless person might be afraid, or not want to go into a shelter. She said this about being a homeless teen, “It was scary, it was shameful.” She said she would go to school early to clean up and maybe steal a shower before class. She said she stayed late at her job doing extra work to kill time and use the restroom before heading out for the night. She said she was lucky because she had a car to sleep in. But every night she would then have to find a safe place to sleep near somewhere one can use a bathroom. “You lock all your doors, you cover yourself with a blanket because you don’t want people to see you,” she said. “And then the next morning that starts over again.” She said someone special helped her get to where she is now. And because of that she wants to help people right now in our community who are experiencing the same thing. 

Councilor Brook Bassan, who has done some major flip-flopping of her own on this matter, went on and on in a dramatic fashion about how compassionate it is to deny the temporary Safe Open Spaces to the homeless.

Then there was Councilor Dan Lewis. He said in his Sunday morning preacher voice, that everyone he has talked to in his Westside district is against Safe Outdoor Spaces. He also quoted some numbers regarding a similar safe outdoor space program in Denver. He said that city was spending $6 million on 375 tents for one year. This was pointed out to be misleading as he did not give all of the financial information. Albuquerque city administrators said the $6 million is what Denver budgets for the program which includes moving the safe space sites every six months and having to install utility and electric power lines to the sites each time. They also said these costs are not something that is going to be done here. Councilor Lewis said he quoted numbers from a Denver newspaper article. Lewis said that for the money that Denver was spending on this, it could rent two-bedroom apartments for $1,500 in downtown Denver for a year for all 375 or so people living at the safe outdoor spaces. Councilor Fiebelkorn said she was going to do some research on apartment costs there. According to a quick search, the average cost for a two bedroom apartment in Denver is about $2,300 and up.

Then Councilor Louie Sanchez took a break from talking about outdoor spaces and started reminding people that the police department when he was in it was not as bad as it is today. Well, a quick look at the years he spent at the department which according to his own bio he started in 1988 at APD and retired in 2014. A newspaper search of those 25 years show they were consistently riddled with turbulent times, scandals of all kinds, too many shootings, officer misconduct and so much excessive use of force that in 2014 the Department of Justice had to come in to take oversight of the department. Just as then Lt. Sanchez retired from it.

Councilor Jones joined Councilors Fielbelkorn, Isaac Benton and Pat Davis to allow the city to continue to explore this idea for helping get our homeless population off the streets. Councilors Bassan, Lewis, Sanchez, Renee Grout, Klarissa Peña continued with their opposition to this idea.


  • In further attempt to stop the Safe Outdoor Spaces from happening, there were enough votes to re-designate some General Obligation Bond money that was proposed for outdoor spaces to be used to provide support for homeless, or near-homeless, or precariously-housed veterans. It was made clear that it was not all the homeless, just the veterans. While it’s a good idea to take care of our former military members, it should not be a choice of one type of homeless, or another.
  • The Council deferred the important item of changing the City Council boundaries to the Sept. 19 meeting. There are eight maps on the table. Citizens can check them out at
  • Councilors approved $95 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds for a company called Sandia Peak Grid which specializes in battery energy storage system facilities.
  • Councilors also approved the development of an improvement plan for the Central Avenue corridor. Guess this means they will take a look at how to improve the now sad cement gash that runs through our city’s heart.

The next meeting of the Albuquerque City Council is set for 5 pm Wednesday, Sept. 19. For more information, agendas and meeting links go to