Year in Review
Best and Worst of 2010
Worst: Dream Act fails
Jeff Drew jeffdrewpictures.com
Immigration took center stage around the nation after Arizona passed SB 1070, a law that would have required state law enforcement to question people suspected of being in the country illegally. Protests erupted nationwide. The immigration debate filled the mouths of politicians, particularly during election season, with most calling for comprehensive federal reform. One such measure was the Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for those who came into the states illegally at a young age. Because the topic had grown so political and polarizing, the bill failed in the Senate on Dec. 18.
Worst: A citizenship check
This summer, Aviation Police Chief Marshall Katz pulled over Ramon Eduardo Dorado Mendoza for going 75 mph in a 55 zone on I-25 near the Lead/Coal exit. The traffic stop became an inquiry into Mendoza's immigration status when Katz asked for a Social Security number. Though the Albuquerque Police Department has rules against irrelevant citizenship checks, the police who patrol the Sunport don't follow the same regulations. Mendoza and his father were escorted to the border that July day by Border Patrol agents. Mendoza had been in the United States since he was 4 years old and didn't have a criminal history.
Worst: City's agreement with la migra
Immigration and Customs Enforcement was allowed to set up shop in the Prisoner Transport Center. Since May, everyone who is arrested in Albuquerque has to have a face-to-face with an agent. Civil rights advocates point out that everyone who is arrested—not just convicted of a crime—is forced to talk to ICE. Other advocates took issue with the policy, saying that sometimes victim and aggressor alike are arrested during a domestic violence dispute, especially when there's a language barrier.
Best: The Hispano/Mexicano debate
It all began in March when ¡Ask a Mexican! columnist Gustavo Arellano asked a New Mexican: Alibi writer Joe Baca. Arellano asked whether people still called themselves "Hispanos" out here, and Baca replied that some “wannabe Europeans” in northern New Mexico mistakenly believe they're “descendants of the Spanish royal court.” Since then, the paper's seen a flurry of letters from people planting flags on this cultural battleground. Some of our readers tell us Nuevo Mexicanos certainly are the relatives of Spaniards. Either way, the Alibi's glad to see this historic fight play out in its pages.
Liza and Derek Minno Bloom moved to Albuquerque from New York City. After observing an arrest in Burque—which led to Derek being arrested himself—they decided to start a group that would witness police interactions with civilians. Albuquerque's Copwatch began holding meetings in the fall. By the end of the year, the observers had gone out five times, and the reaction, says Derek Minno Bloom, has been mostly positive. "We have also seen that a lot of people are not aware of their rights,” he says, “so it has been good to have lots of conversations about our rights." The police department has, for the most part, been respectful, he adds.
Worst: Officer-involved shootings
As of press time, 2010 saw 14 officer-involved shootings, and nine of the people shot by police were killed. For comparison, there were six shootings in 2009, five in 2008, eight in 2007, five in 2006 and three in 2005. In November, a mother begged the City Council to take a look at police training. Her mentally ill son died in July at the hands of the Albuquerque Police Department.
Worst: Systems fail an Iraq War veteran
Kenneth Ellis III had stopped participating in an inpatient Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder program. The VA Medical Center wouldn't comment on why he left, but his mother says he had been kicked out. He was pulled over on Jan. 13 because his car had the wrong plates. In front of the 7-Eleven at Constitution and Eubank, the 25-year-old Iraq War vet stepped out of his vehicle with a gun to his head. He was talking to his mother on his cell phone. Albuquerque police shot him when he refused to drop his weapon. He died, leaving behind a 4-year-old son.
According to data released in November by the Veteran Affairs Department, the suicide rate among young male veterans went up 26 percent from 2005 to 2007, the most recent years for which information is available.
Worst: Emcore shooting
Robert Reza entered the Emcore Fiber Optics office building on Monday, July 12, and shot six people. Michele "Scrappy" Turner and Sharon Cunningham were killed.
Worst: 3,000 deaths in Juárez
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, is about a four-hour drive from Albuquerque. And it's become known as the murder capital of the world. As of Dec. 15, 3,000 people had been killed there in 2010, reports CNN.
Best: A computer lab in the South Valley
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
Volunteers and youth at the La Plazita Institute built an open-source lab that was Frankensteined together from the scraps of donated hardware. It's available to the entire community and will do its part to help close the digital divide between middle-class America and low-income minorities.
Best: World Naked Bike Ride
"Less Gas, More Ass" read one painted body on a warm June day in Santa Fe. About 20 riders in varying states of undress rolled through the capital to protest dependence on oil and to bring awareness to cyclists' safety. It was the first World Naked Bike Ride in New Mexico, though they happen globally. Too bad Santa Fe's City Council voted months later to alter its indecency ordinance. Men and women are banned from exposing their butts or genitals, and women can't show their nipples in public under the new law.
Best: Bicycle descansos
The Duke City Wheelmen Foundation continued to fight for roadside memorials dedicated to cyclists killed by careless drivers. “Ghost bikes” have been installed around New Mexico, despite objections from city and state officials. Debate ensues over whether the bikes count as descansos, roadside memorials protected by state law. Either way, the ghost bikes have continued to go up, serving as reminders to drivers and as places of remembrance for family and friends.
Worst: BP's oil geyser
On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 workers. But the oil continued to gush for three months, and around 205.8 million gallons of crude spread over the Gulf of Mexico before the geyser was capped. The far-reaching environmental effects remain unknown, as do consequences for BP. But fisherman in Grand Isle, La., were eager to talk about the immediate economic aftermath with the Alibi.
Best: Cement plant gets all neighborly
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com
After years of back and forth, American Cement made an agreement with the people who live near its Albuquerque transfer station. American Cement was looking to operate around the clock, but more than 100 residents spoke up about poor air quality, health concerns and increased traffic. They reached an amenable agreement: The cement company installed bag leak detectors to monitor silos 24 hours a day. Excess emissions are reported to a panel made up of neighbors.
Best: Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed
After 30 years in the service and the Reserve, Lt. Col. Steve Loomis was discharged from the military just five days before he was eligible for retirement. A 1997 arson investigation at his home dug up evidence that Loomis is gay.
On Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, he sat down in front of the TV and tuned into C-SPAN, though he's not a regular viewer of the channel. "It's got to be one of the most boring things I've ever seen," Loomis says. He was waiting for the U.S. Senate to vote on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "The vote happened, and I damn near cried,” he says. His phone started ringing. Friends and fellow vets from across the country began calling to celebrate.
It's one of the civil rights victories that will define this generation, says Jesse Lopez, president of Albuquerque Pride.
Best: A rainbow over Taos
Robert Quintana worked for months to bring Taos its first gay pride festival. He died at age 29 just weeks before the event. But friends, family and fellow organizers, including Albuquerque's LGBT leaders, helped put the celebration together anyway. In late August, Taos celebrated its first official pride weekend in Quintana's honor.
Worst: Porn festival screwed
Pornotopia, Self Serve sex shop's annual showcase of positive pornography, was given the runaround by the city's Zoning Enforcement. A month before the festival, Molly Adler and Matie Fricker discovered their one-time "special use" permit for the Sunshine Theater had been shot down. The Self Serve owners planned a protest show with burlesque, music and satirical skits in early November. But the city told event organizers that zoning enforcers would attend and scrutinize the event, so that was canceled, too.
Worst: Iraq War protesters lose to APD
On March 20, 2003, a protest began in front of the UNM Bookstore and turned into the biggest clash between civilians and Albuquerque police in at least a decade. Over the course of about an hour and a half, hundreds of war demonstrators faced off against police in riot gear. Officers launched tear-gas grenades, and some protesters were shot with pepper-spray pellets.
Eleven demonstrators filed suit against the city and the Albuquerque Police Department. They waited almost seven years for their day in court. In 2010, they testified that their civil and constitutional rights had been violated, and that APD's extreme reaction had a chilling effect on free speech. The jury returned a verdict after three hours of deliberation: None of the charges stuck.
Best: Paolo Soleri demolition halted
Though the Santa Fe landmark was slated to be torn down in August, it's still standing. Spokesperson Edward Calabaza says the Santa Fe Indian School heard from Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, who offered to find resources to preserve the Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre. The school, which owns the building, will hold out on demolition until that funding is found, Calabaza adds. It will cost about $4 million to renovate and put a roof over the deteriorating structure, he says, and another $9 million for labor and ongoing maintenance.
Alumni, concert promoters, city councilors and the architect Paolo Soleri himself came out against the theater's destruction. Fellow architect Bart Prince wrote a column for the Alibi in July upon hearing of the Paolo Soleri’s planned destruction: "The creators have been the few who have used their minds to bring forth something from nothing. The destroyers use emotion and force to turn something into nothing.”
Best: Sunshine Portal opens
Who has the biggest salary in state government? What is New Mexico spending your tax money on? Find those numbers and more at sunshineportalnm.com. The portal kicks down government's door, says Sarah Welsh, director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. The site was launched six months ahead of schedule in mid-December and allows anyone to keep an eye on the government's wallet. (And while you're at it, check out Mayor Richard Berry's transparency site for the city at cabq.gov/abq-view.)
Drug Policy Reform
Best: Felony checkbox banned
The Drug Policy Alliance lobbied the Legislature for a measure that should give former inmates a better chance to find a job. As of May 19, it became state law that employers can't include questions about felony convictions on applications. They can still ask about felonies further along in the interview process.
Worst: Legislature fails to pass ... a lot of things
At the close of the 30-day session, a budget compromise hadn’t been made, which meant a $600 million shortfall hadn't been addressed. Plenty of other issues languished during the session, too. Drug treatment instead of jail time didn't make it through the Senate, though proponents estimated it would have saved the state a fat wad of cash. A domestic partnership bill grew to 900 pages to soothe gay marriage fears, but it still failed—partly because it was simply too long. The ethics commission everyone was sure would survive got worked over and lost during crunch time. Let's hope the 60-day session that begins Jan. 18 produces better results.
Worst: Third parties shoved off the ballot
During the 2010 election, ours was the only state in the union without an independent or third-party contender in a statewide race. New Mexico's restrictive ballot access rules make it tough for non-Dem or non-GOP candidates. "If you're minor party, you have to go out and get thousands signatures in a short amount of time," says Richard Winger of Ballot Access News. "Then each candidate has to go out and do it. Pretty soon you're asking people to sign their name and address 20 times. New Mexico is the only state in the country that says a qualified party has to have their nominees go out and do that."
Best or Worst? The new guv
New Mexico elected Susana Martinez, who campaigned on staunch Republican values. She's being heralded as the state's first female governor, though that honor technically goes to Soledad Chávez Chacón, who was guv for two weeks in 1924. (Chávez Chacón may have been the first female governor in the country.) Martinez will take the reins from Gov. Bill Richardson in 2011, and only time will tell which category her tenure falls in. Check back next year.
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