Albuquerque City Council zoomed through a five-plus-hour virtual meeting Dec. 5 with an agenda a mile long. Councilors did not agree 100 percent on all things but some managed to stop safe spaces for homeless folks then green-lighted noise cameras before moving on to sending a message to the state Legislature to reinstate qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
Safe Space Flip Flop
Councilors found themselves in the same situation again, debating whether to try out the idea of providing safe organized spaces for some members of the homeless population. This time, on a 5-4 vote, the Council voted to remove from the zoning code all references to safe outdoor spaces. There have been several attempts by Councilors Brook Bassan, Dan Lewis, Louie Sanchez, Renee Grout and Klarissa Peña to stop any legislation supporting this idea.
Councilor Bassan has been the most outspoken, from both sides. Bassan did her homework and was a full-on strong supporter then, after getting some public pressure, flipped to work extra hard to stop people who are trying to help our unhoused neighbors. She tried to extend the olive branch by saying that there were two safe open spaces up and running.
Councilors Isaac Benton, Tammy Fiebelkorn, Pat Davis and Trudy Jones have been consistent in their votes supporting a tryout of this idea.
Public comment at this meeting was pretty much all in support of keeping safe open spaces as a tool to use to offer services to homeless residents. Sarah Malone spoke in support of safe open spaces and gets the mike drop award for the meeting when she ended her comment by saying that if the Council removes safe open spaces from the zoning code then maybe a new motto is needed: “Albuquerque, New Mexico, where there are parks for dogs, cemeteries for dead people, but no safe outdoor spaces for unhoused human beings,” Malone said.
Karl Holme, from an Albuquerque hotel association, said he was speaking in support of taking away the option of safe open spaces by removing it from the zoning code. He was the only member of the public to speak in support of taking away safe open spaces.
Mayor Tim Keller has indicated that he will whip out his veto pen again like he did the last time. He has been strong about trying to use every means the city can to address homeless needs. This reporter agrees that we as a compassionate community must try all means we can to address the human crisis in homelessness that exploded since COVID changed our way of life.
Noise Cameras and Reinstating Cops Qualified Immunity
- Councilors approved a noise ordinance that will test a program to detect loud vehicles with specialized cameras. Councilor Benton said this can help the police department deal with the epidemic of aggressive driving behavior. The vote was 7-1 with Councilor Peña throwing down the nay.
- On a 5-4 vote, Councilors approved sending a message to the state Legislature to reinstate qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. The state Legislature took away qualified immunity to have more law enforcement accountability. All of the public comment was in opposition of sending this message. Several speakers took on Councilor Sanchez’s contention that restating qualified immunity would encourage more people to apply to be cops. Speakers said the data shows that is not correct and agencies with qualified immunity have just as much of a problem with recruiting.
The next meeting of the Albuquerque City Council is set for 5pm on Mon., Dec.19. For more information, agenda and meeting links. go to cabq.gov.