Playing Dress Up
Making sense of the Rachel Dolezal controversy
County Commission Offers Alternative to Berry's Tender Mercies
On Friday, Aug. 29, Mayor Richard J. Berry made history. In his YouTube communiqué debut, Berry became the first Albuquerque mayor to veto an election amendment. According to Berry's statement, R-14-91 contained proposals he couldn't "in good conscience" allow Albuquerque citizens to vote on. Translation: Berry claims his ethics prevented him from permitting us to weigh in at the polls on a) raising sales tax one-eighth of a cent—to fund social services for the addicted, homeless and mentally ill—and b) to reduce criminal penalties for the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.
R-14-91 also contained ballot initiatives to a) grant the City Council approval authority over the Mayor's hiring of police and fire chiefs, b) change the voter-initiative process to prevent costly special elections and c) a bond proposal to fund "metropolitan redevelopment." In layman's terms, Berry's veto was a political strong-arm tactic to get the City Council to drop the tax increase and penalty reduction initiatives. Otherwise, these other three issues wouldn't get to voters. And it worked. On Wednesday, Sept. 3, the Council compromised (read: caved).
And that, as they say, could have been that. But on Friday, Sept. 5, the Bernalillo County Commission issued a press release calling for voter input on the tax increase and marijuana penalty reduction initiatives that Berry nixed. In the release Commission Chair Debbie O’Malley said, “It’s critical that we hear directly from the people about how to move forward on these two issues that have such a major impact on our community. We need to look for ways to divert people with serious mental illness out of jail and into treatment instead. This issue impacts all of us and Bernalillo County residents are ready to talk about solutions.”
In the same release, Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins states, “Better access to mental health services and marijuana penalties are clearly on the minds of Bernalillo County residents. Both of these issues have a significant impact on public safety and county government so it makes sense to give the voters a say in this community discussion.”
The County Commission will convene on Monday, Sept. 8, at 10am to make a final decision on which questions voters will get to address. That's where you come in. O'Malley and Hart-Stebbins want your input on the tax and marijuana penalty initiatives. Based on the overwhelmingly critical responses to Berry's veto video and the veto post on his Facebook page, many of you have something to say. So say it. If the Commission adds these initiatives to the ballot, all Bernalillo County residents—not just city folk—will have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in creating local public policy.
These are difficult times for our city, and we appear to be at a crossroads. It's easy to be cynical. But rather than reposting memes—especially those featuring Mark Twain's belief that voting makes no difference—take a few minutes this weekend to engage your representatives on issues that matter to you. To facilitate that conversation, scroll on for quick links to contact O'Malley and Hart Stebbins. Use your voice. It's more powerful than you know.
Click here to email Debbie O'Malley or call her at (505) 468-7027.
Click here to email Maggie Hart-Stebbins or call her at (505) 468-7108.
The Revolution Will Not Be Posted On YouTube
Berry's historic veto endangers Albuquerque's future
Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry made history yesterday. In addition to debuting a YouTube communiqué strategy, Berry became the first mayor in Albuquerque's history to veto an election amendment. According to the announcement, Berry vetoed R-14-91 because he couldn't "in good conscience" allow citizens of Albuquerque the opportunity to vote on a) lessening criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in quantities of one ounce or less and b) raising the Albuquerque gross-receipts tax rate one-eighth of a cent to fund social services for addicted, mentally ill and homeless citizens.
In this historic address, Berry cites his unwillingness to sign a bill that would raise taxes without any "clear and concise plan" on how to spend resulting funds and "flying in the face of state and federal law" by decriminalizing the possession of an "illegal drug." And the big, bad "illegal drug" is ... marijuana, a drug so innocuous even notoriously conservative local media outlets refer to it by slang terms like "pot" or "weed."
Deferring a vote on lessening penalties for possession of marijuana—which is a far cry from actually decriminalizing marijuana—is rather short-sighted, but the greater injustice in this veto is stalling funding for a citywide crisis of addiction, mental illness and homelessness. These three issues—which overlap and are at the root of immense suffering, both for those grappling with these afflictions and those impacted by resulting crime—must be at the core of any "urban renewal" strategy.
The City Council can override Berry's veto with a vote of 6 to 3. Three other ballot initiatives—granting the City Council approval authority over the Mayor's hiring of police and fire chiefs, changing the voter-initiative process to prevent costly special elections and a bond proposal that would fund "metropolitan redevelopment"—are also included in Berry's veto. Within the scope of these combined, largely progressive initiatives, consider the urgency of funding social services for our city's homeless, mentally ill and addicted residents when communicating with your City Councilor. If you're not sure who that is, find out here.
For my money, raising sales tax one-eighth of a cent, from 7 percent to 7.125 percent, is a prudent investment in the future of Albuquerque. And if lessening criminal penalties for possession of marijuana allows Albuquerque law enforcement to focus on addressing the institutional failures clearly outlined by the US Department of Justice and preventing violent crime, so much the better. Whatever your opinion of the ballot initiatives proposed in R-14-91, let your City Councilor know what you think. This is an issue that deserves your attention and civic engagement ... even on Labor Day weekend.
Why So Stupid?
On Justin Bieber and the lost youth culture
News publications went haywire over the news that Justin Bieber (you know that Bieber fever is an actual sickness) peed in a bucket before cursing former president, Bill Clinton. It was a landmark day in the career of the former tween pop star who made his mark offering slick rhymes over processed beats and landed straight in the hearts of young girls worldwide, like a wayward arrow from Cupid himself. Now I should admit here and now, before I continue further, that I've never listened to a full Justin Bieber song. I've heard snippets here and there, said “That's enough!” and changed the station without a moment's hesitation. But if you like his music, more power to you. Maybe you can explain it to me. I'd love to hear it.
Moving along … after hearing this story, I became even more intrigued with the idea of youth culture. Granted my generation was only a decade ago, I find myself sympathizing and coming up with excuses for our nation's youth all the time. And I think that's just an adult mentality in general. You witness people like Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan and the like, and find yourself either not paying attention (like me) or you find yourself constantly perusing the headlines, trying to see what trainwreck has blow-torched its carcass across the fine print of the day. And for those that don't pay attention, you simply say “Where the hell are the parents?” Because back in our day … they were the answer, if not the reason. So I ask, where are the parents? Where are those people that protect their children against the tyranny and selfishness of the world and raise them to be little warriors that think and feel and make good decisions?
People act as if this lapse in youth judgment is a recent tip of the scale. Has the trainwreck/stupid phenomena not been going on for generations? Was the late Corey Haim not going to clubs and bars, getting loaded and having his image splashed in every tabloid that had enough space to welcome it? So, why are people so critical of today's pop stars and young actors? What makes them so special in regard to past generations in terms of who did it worse? By the time I was a teenager, Macaulay Culkin (who I revered as the coolest, loudest, weirdest child to fend off burglars) was already having his mug shot taken. I didn't fret because I figured if you're going to be interested in celebrity, you should read the tell-tale signs, if not follow the comebacks. Robert Downey Jr. anyone?
And the only sane words of advice I've heard being given to these young Hollywood dilettantes were from Helen Mirren, who simply said, “Don't be up your own bum.” Simple as that. Get your heads out of your asses, get to work, cash your checks, rank up those vacation days and go about your business in a calm, leisurely manner. Unless it is your ultimate goal to look like a buffoon every time the cameras are rolling and there's a tartini to sip. Or maybe it's just a teen angst-inspired rhythm that keeps them dancing the dance of dangerous paths only to find solace in the American courtroom while hearing a judge tell them they've had it all wrong. To them, maybe authority is the answer—but also the cause. One can only wonder. But it's like that saying goes … youth is wasted on the young. Maybe there is some truth to it.
But like any grown-up just barely skimming the headlines, you can't help but feel some sort of pity for these lost Barbies and Kens who think convertibles, clothes and coke make for one hefty recipe of a good time. Don't get me wrong, clothes are nice (and essential at times), but where's the weight of such extravagances? And who does it fall on? Everyone else, unless these celebs get better tax people to straighten out the numbers. But as long as these youngsters keep doling out good tabloid headlines, selling issues of papers that usually get the facts wrong, and still make time for red carpet appearances to promote that B-movie that almost went straight to video but managed to find decent distribution, then I'm sure we have even more spicy headlines coming our way. Who knows? Justin Bieber may poop on Mt. Rushmore and say he did it all for the nookie. Or was it the cookie?
Doubts and Droughts and Bark Beetles
What’s truly to blame for recent blazes across the Southwest?
I recently read some articles that were blaming bark beetles for all the forest fires. They said they are killing the trees, making them susceptible to fires. But, in reality, the drought is causing the problems. Bark beetles do not infest healthy trees, they infest trees that have been weakened. Trees and other plants give off chemical messages called kairomones. When trees are weakened because of lack of rain or for other reasons, the kairomones change and they attract bark beetles. Then the bark beetles give off insect pheromones that tells other beetles about the food source, the dying trees. Soon the trees are infested with bark beetles. As the trees further decline, they change their kairomones and other species of wood boring beetles come in. This process continues until the tree is dead. In the natural world, this is how it is supposed to happen.
Then lightning strikes, burns all the dried wood over hundreds or thousands of acres and eventually a new forest grows. Bark beetles aren't the cause of the fires, but they are part of the process. The drought is the cause, and whether the drought is man-made or cyclical doesn't really matter when the forest is on fire and your house is in the area. However, if we are doing anything to promote global warming and droughts, we need to change what we are doing rather than jumping into airplanes to spray our forests with pesticides to kill bark beetles, which has been mentioned in some areas.
I am not an expert on climates, but I do believe the drought is over. I think what we are experiencing in New Mexico and part of Colorado is our new climate, and maybe we should plan for it, learn to live with it and not expect any serious rain in the near future.
Close to Home
UNM halts plans to build a substance abuse clinic after neighbors protest
Misinfo on Obamacare
In this week’s opinion section, Jerry Ortiz y Pino posits that the right is straight-up lying about the Affordable Care Act.
Happy birthday, (un)Occupy!
Columnist Andrew Beale just moved to the Palestinian territories, but that didn’t stop him from penning a piece about the movement in Albuquerque he passionately supports.
Yale Park at UNM
Saturday, Sept. 29, 4:30 p.m.
Walmart in the Bosque
In the edition on stands now, Jessica Cassyle Carr wrote an opinion article about the big-box megachain planning to plop a store in one of the most pastoral parts of the city.
The move, Cassyle Carr writes, shows disastrous lack of foresight. But the city’s never said no to Walmart.
This issue will be on the agenda of tonight’s Council meeting at 5 p.m. in the Vincent E. Griego chambers in the basement of City Hall. You can also view it on GOV TV 16 or at cabq.gov/govtv.
OyP: This guv is a policy wrecking ball
Jerry Ortiz y Pino opines that Gov. Susana Martinez is on a neocon crusade of destruction. But the public can’t see it yet, he writes, because the media fawns over her so.
Most voters’ impressions of a governor are shaped by media coverage. On TV, we get split-second footage: She's cutting ribbons, smiling at children, waving to crowds, and looking perky at a rally or solemn at a memorial. ... The honeymoon ain't over yet, even after 18 months.