Albuquerque City Councilors learned how easy it is to save someone’s life at their Sept. 19 regular meeting. Dr. Joanna Katzman from the University of New Mexico Pain Center and the Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education Initiative kicked off national Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week by showing the Council how to use naloxone, or Narcan, an easy to use medication to reverse opioid overdoses.
Overdose death, whether from street heroin or prescription opioids, is the leading cause of death in New Mexico. We are second in the nation just behind West Virginia in the rate of overdose deaths, many of which could be prevented with the use of naloxone. One of the ways to save more lives is by making naloxone available to first responders, law enforcement, educational drug abuse programs and to individuals at risk of overdosing or individuals at risk of witnessing an overdose. For more local information log on to hopeinitiativenm.org.
Councilors called up Police Chief Gorden Eden to do some explaining about a recent report released by the court appointed federal monitor charged with overseeing reforms at the city’s cop shop. Dr. James Ginger said in a special report that the Albuquerque Police Department is failing to hold officers accountable for their use of force. He went on to say APD has a culture of low accountability and often endorses questionable and sometimes unlawful conduct by officers. For a little over an hour Councilors grilled Eden with Council President Dan Lewis asking the city’s top brass why should Albuquerque have confidence in APD after this report? Several were a little annoyed that Dr. Ginger was not around to do his share of explaining after dropping what Councilor Brad Winter called a bomb. Dr. Ginger reports to US District Judge Robert Brack.
Chief Eden did his best to reassure the Council all was good in Burque’s cop shop. “We take every report Dr. Ginger writes very seriously. We discuss it. We come up with an action plan,” Eden said. “I have a staff that is fully committed to the process. We are fully committed to the reforms.” Dr. Ginger’s report comes a couple months after Judge Brack held a barbecue lunch in his courtroom to applaud what he called progress with the police department’s reform efforts.
Council President Lewis chatted with the Alibi this week about the sometimes contentious public comment portion of City Council meetings. At the last Council meeting a speaker was escorted out after things got a bit disruptive. Lewis said he wanted to make it clear that he did not have the speaker escorted out because of the content of her comments. He stated he welcomes any and all comments as public dialogue is a key part of the City Council meetings. He does ask that those addressing the City Council follow the rules that include a two-minute time limit per speaker; time is not transferable and no signs, posters or banners in the Council chambers.
Unanimous approval was given to an admirable $45 million goal to retrofit 38 city facilities with solar technology to bring the city up to using 25% solar energy by 2025. Currently the city uses 1.3 million kilowatt-hours of energy annually yet only 2.98% comes from renewable sources. The solar investment is projected to be paid for by clean energy bonds and or the savings from the retrofits. Albuquerque joins progressive cities like San Diego and San Francisco in setting goals for switching to renewable energy for its facilities. “It is a progressive goal for a city our size,” Councilor Pat Davis said. “With 300 days of sunshine a year I don’t know why we have not done this before.”
Councilors deferred approving new stop lights along Walter at both Lead and Coal. The idea will help slow traffic past a busy hospital and in and out of Downtown. Not all of those speaking were in support; especially those along Walter itself who said it would cause backups and take away much needed on-street parking. Many wanted the light placed at Edith because it is a more suitable street. The Council agreed to have city staff take a look at the Edith idea and report back.
Councilors updated site plans for 47 acres of the old Indian School land along 12th Street between Indian School and Menaul. The land is owned collaboratively by 19 pueblos and houses the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Bureau of Indian Affairs offices, along with national businesses like Holiday Inn Express, McDonalds and now the largest Starbucks in New Mexico. The land is held in an Indian trust and retains sovereign status. The old Albuquerque Indian School closed in the early 1980s. The first development plan was approved in 2005.
The Council quickly approved a resolution to support a $100,000 grant application for trees and other streetscaping along Central through Downtown. The city will have to cough up at least $225,840 in matching monies. It’s good timing since the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will be ripping up Central from Coors to Louisiana.