A few dozen people spoke out at the Monday, Oct. 18 Council meeting on two main issues: feeding the hungry and nukes. The Council did not reply to the citizens concerned about efforts to feed some of Albuquerque’s homeless population. But councilors commented that the city will not speak against the weapons industry, which supplies lots of jobs.
|Issue||Council's Take||Reporter's Take|
|Permit to FeedThe city’s ordinance says anyone serving food to the public has to have a permit. This includes faith-based groups that provide one meal a week to homeless folks in parks or other public spaces. Members of the group Metro Campers were arrested in September while serving a regular Sunday meal that feeds scores of people on the Fourth Street Mall. Events were captured on video and posted as a YouTube clip called "Metro Campers Lunch—Highlights of the Arrest." A dozen or so citizens at the Council meeting spoke out in support of those arrested and called aspects of the food rules uncompassionate. A petition of about 200 signatures was presented calling for the city to allow the small, faith-based group to provide free food to the hungry on Sundays.||Misti Kraft told the Council that it is simply wrong to arrest someone on criminal charges for sharing food with hungry homeless people, but the Council remained mute.Rewind to the last meeting, when Councilors Rey Garduño and Ken Sanchez questioned Mary Lou Leonard, the city’s director of Environmental Health. Councilors asked whether changes to food regulations would hurt charitable groups. Leonard said the ordinance requires any entity serving food to get a permit. The ordinance is meant to protect folks, she said.||While the revamped 700-page ordinance is meant to ensure public health and standardize procedures for food production, it should not be misused as a roadblock for charity. The ordinance can't be a tool for police and the city in their efforts to render our homeless population invisible. Providing food for the hungry is compassionate, and I'm surprised our government isn't doing more to help the people doing it. Maybe an exception should be written into the ordinance. One young woman reminded the Council that if the meals provided by Good Samaritans cease, the hundreds that are being fed warm, nutritious food could be dining out of Dumpsters instead.|
|Nukes and JobsA resolution sent from Mayor Richard Berry via Councilors Brad Winter and Dan Lewis aimed to soothe Sandia Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base. It was also meant to counter the failed “reduce-the-nukes” measure sponsored by Garduño at the Sept. 20 meeting. The measure would have asked Congress to better fund the and speed up the deactivation of nuclear warheads stored near Albuquerque. Concerned residents presented a 10,000-signature petition in support at that Sept. 20 meeting. Berry's resolution said about 25,000 jobs exist in this town because of the defense industry and suggested that supporting a message like Garduño’s could jeopardize those jobs.||Garduño proposed an amendment to Berry’s resolution asking that the federal government spend $50 million mopping up Kirtland’s leaking jet fuel. The 30-year-old leak is estimated to have oozed 8 million gallons into Albuquerque’s water table. But Garduño seemed stunned when his fellow councilors could not even second his proposed amendment.Winter called Berry’s bill a way to “celebrate” all that Sandia and Kirtland have done for New Mexico and the world. Councilor Debbie O’Malley said Garduño's original resolution did not say anything about liking or disliking the labs and the base. Councilor Isaac Benton was absent at this meeting, but at the September meeting he said enforcing international nonproliferation treaties is a moral imperative of local governments. In the end, even Garduño approved the Berry resolution applauding the defense industry.||Berry’s love letter is not a reflection of the body politic. It’s unnecessary for the mayor of a city to suck up to the defense contractors in that manner. It is noteworthy that the Berry family construction business, Cumbre Construction, has benefited from more than $30 million in defense and other government contracts over the last decade, according to usaspending.gov. The Council could have had more backbone and sent this message: While the city appreciates the labs and the base, citizens also want them to lead the charge in dismantling stored nuclear warheads—and cleaning up that fuel spill.|