It used to be that Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis* was known as the flip-flopper at the ‘Burque government table. Not anymore: welcome to the group of flippers that are flopping about.
All it took was some loud protesting from some of her constituents for Councilor Brook Bassan to change course with her support for temporary sanctioned homeless camps in Outdoor Safe Spaces. Councilor Bassan was a strong supporter, a diligent researcher and strong advocate for the sensibility of the temporary camps which would in essence gather our homeless neighbors from parks, alleys, doorways and street corners and help them get the services that they need.
But the drama when she faced an angry mob of "not in my backyard" folks at a community center in her far Northeast Height district changed her tune. Councilor Bassan was essentially attacked for her visionary attempt to address the complex homeless issue facing not only our city but the globe.
Bassan pulled her support and said public outcry and lack of planning made her change her mind. At this week's June 22 meeting she saddled up to fellow Republican Councilors Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and Democrat Councilors Louie Sanchez and Klarissa Peña to not approve a bill to study the issue and come up with rules and parameters for the Outdoor Safe Spaces. It is easier to understand Republican Trudy Jones siding, if you will, with the Democrats to put some parameters in place. Councilor Jones is at essence as practical as our beloved, depression-era grandmother. Councilor Isaac Benton spoke truth when he said it did not make sense to not have rules, parameters or to have the idea explored fully.
The Gang of Five basically said in as many ways as possible, and some sounding very compassionate and nice, that we should be arresting and incarcerating most of the homeless because they are breaking the laws. Then, when they are out of sight we can get them some help. Well, the metro area’s detention center is barely functioning and is currently at a crisis level due to lack of staff. Additionally, local law enforcement departments across the nation are struggling to find able-bodied people who want to be any kind of law enforcement officer in the pandemic age. This reporter (who is not speaking uninformed, having lived a block off Central and Carlisle in the homeless neck of the city for 15 years) would like to see some better solutions offered up other than to incarcerate our way out of homelessness caused by mental illness, substance abuse, foreign wars and poverty.
There is an interesting glitch: the Council passed the zoning ordinance changes that allow for the Safe Outdoor Spaces at the last meeting. The Council won’t be revisiting Councilor Bassan's measure to pull it out of the zoning ordinance until August since they take a summer break for the month of July. This gives Mayor Tim Keller time to sign it and time for some Councilors to regrow a spine. Stay tuned.
*Full disclosure: Councilor Pat Davis co-owns The Paper.
The City Council will be taking its traditional July break and will head back into the chambers in August.
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