President William H. Taft signed the proclamation declaring New Mexico the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912.
Rita Powdrell, president of the African American Museum and Cultural Center, spoke of the state’s history at the Council’s Wednesday, Jan. 4 meeting. "We are proud to be part of the jigsaw puzzle that makes up New Mexico," she said. One of the centennial events is an appreciation day for retired African-American boxer Bob Foster on Jan. 21. Some consider Foster to be among the greatest Light Heavyweight boxers in history. He was born in Albuquerque in 1938.
On a more somber note, one by one, councilors read parts of a heartfelt proclamation thanking Iraq War veterans, some of whom were in attendance.
National Guard Maj. Gen. Kenny Montoya also offered gratitude to the many Vietnam veterans who are always the first in line to cheer a homecoming. “They weren’t welcomed home during their time, and I think they made sure that same mistake didn’t happen again,” he said.
The Council postponed hot items, including an evaluation of the police oversight system and the third quarterly report from the Independent Review Office, which handles complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department.
Without so much as a whisper, Council members let the city’s archaic teen curfew law slip off the books. It had been around since 1994, but the New Mexico Supreme Court found the law unenforceable and illegal in 1999.
Urban DesignCouncilors debated adding more residential dwellings—but not houses—along three key city transportation routes: Central, Montgomery and San Mateo. This would sprinkle in some living spaces along the heavily commercial roads.
Councilors listened to staff presentations on allowing ground-floor apartments as well as units above businesses along enhanced public transit routes. Most councilors indicated they generally like the idea. Councilor Debbie O’Malley said she wants to investigate how this type of development would work in her North Valley district, perhaps along Fourth Street. Overall, councilors said they want more details before approval can be considered.
There are many benefits to mixed-use urban design, including the potential for an evolution in retail choices, better security and, eventually, nicer-looking buildings. There is good reason why live/work setups exist all over the rest of the globe. The Council should work out the zoning jargon bugs and then get out of the way. Soon architects and builders could make even strip malls look good.
Money for Mental HealthNew Mexico Solutions sought a $665,000 contract for a third team of mental health professionals to handle an additional 48 seriously mentally ill city residents. Robin Dozier Otten, director of Family and Community Services, said this is an important program that is being run efficiently and effectively. But, she added, it's overloaded. She said the city would be reimbursed in part by state and federal Medicaid money.
Councilor Dan Lewis picked apart the amount being spent—while also saying he thinks these types of programs are important. He said he is curious about why so many teams are needed and thinks the Council needs to look at making cuts to these kinds of expenditures. Councilor Rey Garduño countered by saying he would rather fund these programs than pay incarceration costs for mentally ill people who have nowhere to turn. If the city cuts funding, he said, costlier, less compassionate police and jail time are the alternative.
This is a gentle reminder that a local government’s function is to provide basic infrastructure as well as social infrastructure for all citizens. Taking care of people who can be fragile or dangerous is key to the overall health of a place. Money spent on mental health treatment is one of the best investments a community can make.