At the close of the Nov. 16 city council meeting, Albuquerque City Councilor Rey Garduño’s 8-year career as a dedicated city leader was adjourned with a click of the gavel while the old song “Happy Trails To You” played in the background. Garduño represented District 6 which takes in the Southeast Heights and served as council president for the last year. Councilors took turns giving thanks to Garduño for being a dedicated public servant and colleague, and then he received a standing ovation. “When I first started I didn’t know what was expected and now I do, and that’s why I am leaving,“ he joked. “And like that great philosopher from San Francisco said, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Just kidding; it has been a great eight years.”
One Last Word
True to his nature of standing up for those whose voices often go unheard, Garduño called out the city administration for not appointing enough Hispanic surname residents and women to the many city boards and commissions. He said out of 329 appointees there are only 60 Spanish surnames. He said the city needs to do a better job of appointing people more representative of the community, or they will continue losing resident morale. “I want to leave thinking we are going to look at this seriously,” he said. Councilor Klarissa Peña assured Garduño that she would carry this issue forward.
The city council declared November as the month of Holly Holm. One by one each of the councilors read part of a proclamation over the phone to Holm’s promoter Lenny Fresquez. We all feel some local girl pride in the way Holm sent zias circling around Rousey’s head with those powerful Burque-trained moves.
Robots took center stage for a short presentation by some smart young people. The students were from the Albuquerque School of Excellence, a public charter school that focuses on STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math). The school’s RoboRave robotics team will be representing New Mexico in Japan at an international competition. The students showed off their programming and robot building skills by sending the homemade creatures through some complicated maneuvers involving ping-pong balls.
We all feel some local girl pride in the way Holm sent zias circling around Rousey’s head with those powerful Burque-trained moves.
Underground street racer John Von was back all dressed up with an apology for being a bit cocky at the last city council meeting where he shocked several councilors with admissions of racing through city streets in the dead of night. This time Von came prepared with some 2013 federal highway automobile crash data and claimed that 31% of fatal crashes are caused by impaired drivers, 29% from speeding generally and that people over 65 are responsible for 17% of fatal crashes, while drag racing is responsible for less than one percent. Councilor Trudy Jones, who was not a race fan at the last meeting, asked Von a simple question.
“Mr. Von what do you want?” Jones asked.
“I really want [legitimized racing at] Double Eagle airport,” he said. “[Drag racing] is happening all over the country; just not here in this state.”
“You are not saying you want us to legalize drag racing on the streets of Albuquerque?” she asked.
“No, that would be silly,” Von said.
“That’s what I thought,” Jones responded. A lighter exchange followed, Von went on giving some details of how airport racing works across the county.
Maybe this will start a conversation towards a compromise. Hey, who doesn’t like to watch a drag race? It’s a good idea to let the racers loose out at Double Eagle airport.
Chilling on the Streets
Dinah Vargas, a tireless advocate for the city’s homeless, reminded the council that while the feel good winter homeless programs are being touted, there is still a huge problem with unsheltered people on the city’s streets. She said the faces of those on Burque’s streets are changing. “I saw a grandma at Central and Ladera panhandling,” Vargas said. “Since when do we have our grandmas out there panhandling?” Vargas acknowledged the city for opening the winter shelter at the old jail on the West Mesa a bit early this year. She said the winter shelter does give some a few hours of warmth but it does not let families stay together and is operated like a jail. The shelter gives the boot by 6am with a long bus ride back to Downtown. Providing shelter to the homeless, or near homeless, is a daunting job with every effort appreciated. But Vargas reminds us that we are sheltering real people, not statistics.
Councilors divided themselves along party lines over a resolution on how to go about implementing improvements to the Rio Grande Bosque. The hot button issue came up last year when the city jumped the gun in the public vetting process and installed the first phase of an improved pathway into the Bosque at the Central bridge. The Bosque Action Team and the Sierra Club had been working with the mayor’s administration on the path and said they were not contacted when the city decided to plow a trail without notice. The entire Bosque trail improvement project stretches from the Central bridge to the Montaño bridge. It is being implemented in phases. It seems that after working with the Bosque group for months on the resolution, the mayor and his minions now have a problem with the agreement. The mayor’s Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan, said the Bosque working group took too long and now the timelines are too tight because workers have to be out of the Bosque by April 15 for the spring bird nesting season. He also said the Bosque Action Team is difficult to work with and is not a benefit to the taxpayers. Riordan said the administration wants to move forward with their timeline for phase two and do not support the consensus resolution. This was a bit of a surprise to Councilors Isaac Benton and Ken Sanchez who have worked hard on getting all the Bosque stakeholders to work together. The consensus resolution which requires the city to wait for the Bosque Action Team’s approval did pass on a Democrat 5 to Republican 4 party line vote, but will likely be vetoed by Republican Mayor Richard Berry.