For six years, the Alibi had consistently and accurately reported on the truth about pervasive cruelty at Albuquerque Animal Services that was exposed due to my landmark civil lawsuit (Britton v. Kotchian) filed in 1999. The Alibi has always included the fact that after hearing horrifying witness testimony about animal cruelty, District Court Judge Robert Thompson ordered the city to bring in the Humane Society of the United States to evaluate the shelters. Kudos to Christie Chisholm for her temerity in openly criticizing city officials for their false promises and inaction. I also thank her for reporting on the miserable conditions she witnessed. However, I am mortified and feel profoundly betrayed that the crucial historical facts of my lawsuit and six-year battle against the city were omitted in her article, "Still Tired of Waiting" [Newscity, June 30-July 6].
A reader new to this subject could get the wrong idea and surmise that the city voluntarily had HSUS come in. Nothing could be further from the truth. The other "animal activists" who were so generously quoted had absolutely nothing to do with my painful and costly litigation and struggle to reform euthanasia and the other cruel animal handling practices at AAS. Viki Elkey's group, APNM, actually fought me every step of the way. Speaking of groups, everyone's was mentioned, except mine. I am the president of a nonprofit humane organization called Justice For Animals. I alone am responsible for the discovery and exposure of cruelty at Albuquerque Animal Services. The article only fleetingly mentions me as a generic animal activist who requested euthanasia tapes. Just because my fight against the cruelty at AAS was ugly and has lasted six years, is no reason to rewrite history in one of your articles. Thank you for letting me vent.
Where does Mr. Wessel [Letters, "Heartbreak Hotels," June 30-July 6] get his information? He claims that rents have remained "stagnant" in Albuquerque. This is just not true. According to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (www.hudclips.org), rents in Albuquerque for a one-bedroom apartment have increased by 15 percent in the last five years, and rents for a three-bedroom apartment have increased by 20 percent. This compared to a zero percent increase in the minimum wage since 1997.
Let me be clear: Absolutely no one should live in substandard and unsafe housing, but simply tearing a place down without addressing the social problems that have come to roost within its walls—precisely those that our community has ignored for decades—isn't a solution either. It won't make my neighborhood safer, even if it would make space for pretty new lofts and attractive businesses.
In response to a letter from Mr. Cameron about Central motels, Mr. Wessel claims that "when a building does come down, the city works with residents to find them housing. No one is left on the street unless they want to be." He cannot possibly know--as the city itself doesn't know—how many people have been displaced or the composition of the households effected, including whether they are disabled or if they have children or where residents went after they were forced to leave. The "assistance" he refers to, by the way, consists of sending a few to local homeless service providers, where if they are fortunate, they receive a seven-day voucher for, wait for it, another motel! If they happen to qualify for subsidized housing, the wait is two years or more. Hardly solutions. I can only surmise that Mr. Wessel genuinely, if mistakenly, believes what he writes after accepting it unquestioningly from someone at the city. And he has the temerity to label others as "naïve." Speaking of which, perhaps I am the naïve one, as I had hoped to believe that beating up on the poor and disabled would have fallen out of fashion by now. He apparently needs to believe that everyone living in motels is both intellectually inferior and morally deficient so he can justify his callousness. I can think of a few reasons why people live there. Perhaps they are disabled and have a monthly income totaling $561 from SSI and haven't been able to save up enough money for the first month's rent and security deposit required to rent an apartment. Perhaps it is because the $500 apartment Mr. Wessel cites as affordable would consume virtually their entire income, leaving $15 per week for food, transportation and medications. Even for those able to work full time at minimum wage, a $500 apartment would take over 60 percent of their pay, twice of what's considered "affordable." Perhaps others have concluded that by being able to pay weekly, they can have a roof over their head for at least part of every month. Or perhaps they screwed up 10 years ago and have a criminal record from a drug possession charge when they had an untreated mental illness and now can't pass a background check. Writing these residents off as not "smart enough" (and whatever implications we are to infer about their rights or worthiness) is not only flat-out wrong, it misses the point entirely.
No one should have to live in unsafe housing. And neighborhoods have a right to be free of nuisance properties. The point is that for those individuals and families that, for whatever reason, call these places home and who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to move, they deserve proper notification and assistance finding a better, more affordable place to live.
Random Letter of the Week!
I could never understand why the Alibi was named the Alibi. For years I thought it was weird and inscrutable. Why? Why ... the Alibi? Then, one day, I really wanted an Alibi ... are you getting the idea? I was driving around in my car and wanted to know when a concert began. Thoughts were going through my head as follows: I want an Alibi. I need an Alibi. Where can I get an Alibi?!" So then, and only then, did I finally get it.
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