Taking It to the Streets
 Alibi V.14 No.22 • June 2-8, 2005 


Taking It to the Streets

Dear Alibi,

This spring, Mayor Chavez and the Community Policing Program distributed a survey regarding homelessness, panhandling and prostitution in our neighborhood. We are deeply disturbed by the implications underlying the survey. Whether it merely inadvertently reinforces the prejudices of some of the city's residents or actually represents the city's own latent or patent prejudices, the survey's language and assumptions bear scrutiny and critique.

This survey seems to contain two assumptions that we find both biased and offensive. First, the questions imply that people who are homeless or panhandling are the "problem." In reality, homelessness and poverty are the problem, and the problem will remain, no matter where we force the poor and homeless to flee. In fact, in some respects, we are the problem, because we, as a community, have done too little to truly solve the social, economic and health issues that are the foundation of homelessness and poverty.

The second implied assumption is that any decent citizen who is fortunate enough to be housed and employed would of course call on the police if approached by a homeless person or a panhandler. While the survey asks whether the police were able to "resolve the problem" and later asks whether police behavior was "positive" or "negative," the operative terms remain undefined. Is it "positive" for the police to make sure someone sleeping in a park is warm enough and then leave the person alone? Or, is it "positive" to rouse the person physically and to then make sure that they never come back to the neighborhood? The results from this survey cannot discern the difference between the two, and, without knowing the difference, the City and the Community Policing Program cannot know what we, the public, want.

Most importantly, contacting the police is ultimately ineffectual--they cannot solve the underlying issue of homelessness. We have to do that. We do not want homeless people, panhandlers, and prostitutes to disappear from our neighborhood only to move elsewhere. We want the issue of homelessness solved. We want for everyone who desires a home, decent food, a job and healthcare to have these things.

We believe that the survey was well-intended, but it is a symptom of our communal blindness, nonetheless. If we blithely check boxes and think the "problem" is solved simply because we don't have to deal with it, we are ethical failures. The measure of any community is how it takes care of its poor, sick and powerless. It is great to see the city working with homeless advocate groups. Let's hope that together we can treat the disease and not just the symptoms.

Diane H. Cummings and Tom Peckham

Vanishing Vistas

Dear Alibi,

When driving north on I-25, coming from Lomas, one enjoys an unobstructed view of the Sandias to the right. No high buildings close to the interstate obstruct the view. Or have, until now.

Today, when approaching the Jefferson crossing, a seven-story high-rise monstrosity, in the process of being built at the very corner of Jefferson and I-25, hits the hapless driver like a brick on the head. Someone told me it was going to be another Holiday Inn.

Do we have any active city planning, any architectural or building permit committees or any aesthetic experts in our city administration? Are they awake? With their eyes wide open? Go drive by Jefferson on your way north on I-25 and take a look. This might well be just the first of more high-rise buildings to our right, soon totally obstructing the mountain views. Also watch the magnificent roadside publicity placards further north on your way, to your right. Such beauty, such good taste!

Dagmar Pfander

Integrity on the Air Waves

Dear Alibi,

Thank you for your interview with Greg Palast. As our country heads ever faster into its tailspin, it is more important than ever to get reliable news. The administration's spin machine, the subservience of commercial American news producers and increasing pressure by the administration on public broadcasting make that ever more difficult.

Greg's description of the difference between BBC and American news sources is right on target. I have listened to the BBC World Service for many years, exclusively on short wave radio until last year, when I found that I can get BBC news programs from a Santa Fe public radio station. BBC interviewers ask follow-up questions that you hardly ever hear in U.S. media, and the news is far more comprehensive and less servile to U.S. leadership. As I write this letter, a segment is being aired about abuse at Guantanamo that you would never hear from an American source.

The problem is that the Santa Fe station can only be received on a very good radio near a northern window. Over the last few years I have implored KUNM more than once to carry BBC, but sadly they haven't given us that opportunity. It's a loss to the community.

Helen Wright

Piss ’n' Balsamic Vinegar

Dear Alibi,

What the *&%$#@ happened to Gwyneth Doland? Her food section was my favorite part of the Alibi. Now she's gone and I'm pissed. I thought the Alibi was supposed to be about local happenings—is food industry news suddenly not interesting? Is the campaign to support local restaurants and bars no longer worthy? I don't get it—she was one of your best and most entertaining writers. And her insider knowledge was compelling to many of your readers. And now she's gone? That blows.

Liza Wheeler

Editor's note: If you're still hungry for Gwyneth's unmatched insight, humor and wit, check out this month's edition of Desert Living Magazine, and a weekly column in the Santa Fe Reporter slated to begin in mid-June.

Letters should be sent with the writer's name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to letters@alibi.com. They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.