On September 7, the Albuquerque City Council voted “NO” to override Democrat Mayor Tim Keller’s veto of a one-year moratorium on the application process for “Safe Outdoor Spaces”. In order to override the veto, 6 YES votes were needed. The 4 who voted NO to override were Republican Trudy Jones who joined Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and Tammy Fiebelcorn. The 5 who voted YES to override the veto. Were Republicans Brook Bassam, Renee Grout, and Dan Lewis who were joined by Democrats Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez.
A “Safe Outdoor Space” is a lot, or a portion of a lot, developed to provide designated spaces for occupancy by tents, recreational vehicles, and/or light vehicles. Designated spaces are provided to occupants at no charge. A safe outdoor space offers social services and support facilities. The Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) limits Safe Outdoor Space camps to 40 spots and a total of 50 residents each and makes them a temporary use where operators can run them for two years at a selected sites with the possibility of a single two-year extension.
On September 12, the on-line news agency New Mexico Sun published the following editorial commentary written by Bob Reuel:
HEADLINE: Councilor Trudy Jones homeless tent camps: Flip-flop of epic proportions
It is extremely disappointing and disheartening, when our City of Albuquerque Councilors are not responding to the will of their constituents. I live in District 8 represented by my Councilor Trudy Jones, and she epically flip-flopped on her vote for the Safe Outdoor Spaces – Homeless Tent Encampments (SOS), three times in a matter of weeks.
How is this possible?
This SOS policy is deeply flawed in a number of ways, with homeless tent camps scheduled to be installed next to neighborhoods and in the epicenter of our most fragile business districts, for which I and many others, reached out to Councilor Jones to oppose.
It is most certain that our citizenry favors taking care of our homeless population in a thoughtful and planned out manner, but let’s be honest, it cannot be at the expense of our personal safety or economic security, which the SOS clearly violates. Councilor Jones should be fully aware of her constituent’s opposition to the SOS, particularly if she read the most recent Citizens Perception Survey, that indicates only 9% of respondents believe the City is doing a good job with the homeless.
If Councilor Jones was truly committed to the mandates of her constituents, she would have been steadfast in her position to not only oppose the original SOS resolution that she voted for, but also to override the Mayor’s veto of the one-year Moratorium for the SOS, that she voted against.
To put this into perspective, Councilor Jones voted for the original resolution to allow SOS homeless tent encampments to be peppered in and around our City at two encampments per district with 50 occupants per camp. I live in the far northeast heights and would like to know where Councilor Jones intends to approve the importation of 100 additional homeless occupants, injected into our neighborhoods, which will exacerbate an already critical mass of homeless that now disrupt, corrupt and destroy the property and wellbeing of law-abiding citizens.
How is it that an issue as sensitive to the health and safety of our neighborhoods, economic viability of our businesses and survivability of our City, is being played off like a political football? Councilor Jones first voted Yes on the original SOS resolution, but due to the backlash from voters, saw the light and voted Yes for a one-year Moratorium of the SOS, to allow policy makers time to reexamine the impacts of the SOS in more detail. Without notice of her intentions and without regard for her constituents, Councilor Jones then flipped her vote again, to allow the mayor’s veto to stand for the dissolution of the one-year Moratorium, which now delivers the green light for the SOS encampments to move forward. This is nothing short of a quid-pro-quo between Councilors and the Mayor, whereby deals are cut behind closed doors and transparency of our policy makers is completely sealed off from public view.
I implore Councilor Jones and all other Councilors, to not only listen to the objections of their constituents to this most egregious SOS policy, but also respond to the will and mandates of their constituents, and vote down any future SOS actions meant to facilitate Homeless Tent Encampments, and keep our neighborhoods and business districts safe and viable.
Bob Reule, a lifetime resident of Albuquerque for 68 years, resides in the NE heights. He attended Eubank and Mitchell Elementary, Madison Jr High, Sandia High School and UNM. Bob owns and operates a family-owned local business since 1958.
The link to the New Mexico Sun article is here:
HEARING SCHEDULED FOR SEVEN APPEALS ON SOS FOR “VICTIMS OF SEX TRAFFICKING”
On August 8, the City Planning Department approved the Dawn Legacy Point application for a Safe Outdoor Space homeless campsite at 1250 Menaul, NE which will be used by woman who have been “victims of sex trafficking”. The City Planning Department unilaterally reviewed the application behind closed doors with no notice to surrounding businesses or neighborhood associations, no public hearing and no public input. The application was “fast tracked” by the Planning Department to approve the application just 8 days before the City Council was scheduled to repeal the Safe Outdoor Spaces zoning use on August 16.
Less than a half mile from the vacant land and within walking distance from the property is Menaul School, a private boarding school for 6th to 12th graders. Directly across the street from the property is the T-Mobile Call Center and a Quality Inn & Suites. Going West on Menaul and one block from the property is Carrington College and two apartment complexes. Immediately East of the Freeway is the massive TA Travel Truck Stop on University that can accommodate parking of upwards of 150 semitrucks. Within law enforcement circles, the truck stop is known for prostitution and illicit drug activity. Immediate south of the truck stop on University Blvd is the Crown Plaza Hotel.
The vacant land borders Sunset Memorial Park to the West. It has been reported that workers daily patrol the cemetery grounds, monitoring the activity of homeless people who have taken to lounging in the various meditative shelters provided for grieving families. The homeless are known to use the various fountains throughout the park to wash themselves or use the fountains as a toilet, despite there being an easy-to-find portable toilets located at the northeast end of the park.
Seven separate appeals of the Dawn Legacy Point “Safe Outdoor Spaces” homeless tent encampment have been filed asking the City Planning Department to reverse its decision and deny the Safe Outdoor Space application of Dawn Legacy for 1250 Menaul. The 7 appellants are:
Santa Barbara Martineztown Neighborhood Association (AC-22-11, PR-2022-007490, VA-2022-00233)
Albuquerque Boca Hotel Limited Partnership dba Crown Plaza Albuquerque (AC-22-12, PR-2022-007490, VA-2022-00239)
Greater ABQ Hotel & Lodging Association (AC-22-13, PR-2022-007490-VA-2022-00240)
Beth Brownell, Stronghurst Improvement Association (AC-22-14, PR-2022-007490-VA-2022-00238)
LifeRoots Inc. (Law Offices of Brian A. Thomas) (AC-22-16, PR-2022-007490, VA-2022-00242)
Menaul School (AC-22-17, PR-2022-007490-VA-2022-00243)
Reule LLC (Robert D Reule) (AC-22-18, PR-2022-007490, VA-2022-00239)
The City of Albuquerque Land Use Hearing Officer has now scheduled a hearing on all 7 of the above appeal cases on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 9:00 am in the Vincent E. Griego Chambers at the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Government Center, One Civic Plaza NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102.
The public is encouraged to attend and give support to the appellants.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Republican Albuquerque City Councilor Trudy Jones should be absolutely ashamed of herself for her flip flopping of major proportions in voting to uphold Mayor Keller’s veto. In the context of the 1250 Menaul safe outdoor space for victims of sex trafficking, she should know that woman who are victims of sex trafficking need permanent housing that is a safe place to live and be provided with far more stable housing than a tent in an open area. A tent encampment for victims of sex trafficking is nothing short of inhumane treatment of woman who have been victimized. Encouraging victims of sex trafficking to live in tents is nothing more than victimizing them again. What is being created at 1205 Menaul, NE is a location for victims to become victims once again. There is no common sense to it and it’s just plain crazy.
The actual location is troubling and has the potential of becoming a magnet for crime, prostitution or illicit drug trade. It’s located in close proximity to a truck stop known amongst law enforcement for prostitution and illicit drug activity. It’s directly across the street from a major call center, a motel suite and is walking distance of Menaul Boarding School and apartments. Occupants of the ‘Safe Outdoor Space’ will not confined and would be free to go and come as they pleased and could easily wind up uninvited wherever they want to go. This includes the truck stop and disrupting the peaceful use and enjoyment at nearby locations or engaging in illicit activity.
The millions being spent each year by the city to deal with the homeless with the “housing first” policy should be more than sufficient to deal with housing the homeless, yet Mayor Keller demands and wants more from the public in the form of Safe Outdoor Spaces. Safe Outdoor Space encampments violates the city’s “housing first” policy by not providing a form of permanent housing and with reliance on temporary housing.
Safe Outdoor Spaces are not the answer to the homeless crisis. “Safe Outdoor Spaces” will be a disaster for the city as a whole. They will destroy neighborhoods, make the city a magnet for the homeless and destroy the city’s efforts to manage the homeless through housing. The homeless crisis will not be solved by the city, but it can and must be managed. Safe Outdoor Spaces represent a very temporary place to pitch a tent, relieve oneself, bathe and sleep at night with rules that will not likely be followed.
The answer is to the homeless crisis is to provide the homeless the support services, including food and permanent lodging, and mental health care needed to allow the homeless to turn their lives around and perhaps become productive self-sufficient citizens.