Alibi V.28 No.7 • Feb 14-20, 2019 

County Matters

Never Known Questions

City residents look toward solutions

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico
City of Albuquerque

Ah, good old Albuquerque, where February will fool you into thinking that spring has arrived, where a still-fresh city administration filled with educated, progressive technocrats and deep-thinking leaders will surely remove the obstacles holding us back.

Well, spring will get here; and change, though it’s on the horizon, will be slow. We’ve dug a pretty deep hole for ourselves, after all.

As 2019 takes root and prepares to bloom all over Burque, questions remain about the essential issues facing the city. But while some of these underlying reasons for our town’s high crime rate and middling economic standing have been and continue to be progressively addressed by Mayor Tim Keller and a City Council led by progressives like Klarissa Peña and Pat Davis, others, notably the ART project, seem to have disappeared from the discourse.

Clearly there are myriad issues facing the city. It’s hard work to even think about all the things we need to do together to keep Albuquerque on-track in the midst of things like the state education crisis or a federal administration hellbent on backwards thinking and corruption.

For the moment, we’re going to set those hot-to-the-touch items aside. Maybe they’ll cool off in the next couple of weeks as the Legislature reaches its peak, as special counsel Mueller finishes his report and a newly empowered US House of Representatives begins to flex its oversight muscles.

That said, partners, here’s an old-fashioned roundup of that stuff in the city that Weekly Alibi has been following the past week—while looking off into the distance, into the future, hopefully of course.

ART

There has not been much news about progress made—or otherwise—with respect to the ART project. A quick survey of news sources shows that only three recent published items exist on the matter. But is no news good news, as the ancient dictum prescribes?

In January, a columnist at the local daily reported on a suggestion by one of her readers that the city’s current buses—which have doors that are not aligned with ART station parameters, there’re on the wrong side of the bus—should be used, even if they have to run on the wrong side of the street.

A few days later, even more ridiculous news surfaced when the teevee news characterized ART as the “source of a lot of running jokes,” further stating that “It’s no secret that people in Albuquerque are sick of ART,” in a piece about an ART parody vehicle that keeps popping up on Albuquerque streets.

Of course we ran a very compelling op-ed about ART recently too. The author, UNM and N.M. National Guard alum Winston Spencer was critical of the lack of technological embrace manifested in a project that was essentially designed around electric buses.

The vehicles chosen to replace the ill-fated BYD electrics—made by New Flyer, a Canadian company—run on natural gas, a nonrenewable energy source that has a deleterious effect on the climate, especially when it is extracted from the ground. A huge methane concentration is currently hovering over the Four Corners as testament to that outcome.

How that fact fits in with the new urbanist vision at the heart of ART remains to be adequately explained.

LEAD

In much more conclusive and therefore heartening news, the city has recently embraced a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion in order to better deal with crime in the city. Though the actual implementation of the program hinges on the approval of the DOJ monitor assigned to Albuquerque, the county—where the plan saw its inception through BernCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins—has already moved forward with funds to hire case managers for LEAD.

Under the new program, diversion and not incarceration will be the priority for police and sheriff’s interactions involving low-level criminals and crime. Weekly Alibi spoke to Pat Davis about what the program meant to Burque and its citizens and the City Councilor from the International District—where the LEAD is designed to be initially activated—responded at length, telling our reporter, “We won't arrest our way out of poverty or addiction. Instead of tagging low-level offenders with an arrest that follows them the rest of their lives, we're looking for ways to interrupt their path and give them a fresh start.”

When asked to elaborate Davis continued, saying, “It's smart for police and budgets. For the same amount of time and money the system invests in one arrest, warehousing them in jail, and months of court hearings and supervision, we're investing all that up front in diverting them to a program with case managers and support that helps them address the underlying issues and avoid the lifelong cycles of incarceration that keeps them from finding housing stability, jobs and healthier living.”

Paid Sick Leave

Back in the summer of 2017, Weekly Alibi’s editorial board—which is mostly a cat named after a character in a Saul Bellow novel—wrote an award-winning editorial on the importance of implenting paid sick leave for workers in this city. We struck a progressive, even democratic socialist tone by writing in the conclusion that those who argue against providing such “run the risk of looking like craven capitalists at a time when our city and nation crave leadership imbued with a sense of shared purpose and moral responsibility. To be clear, providing for the health of our citizens through this ordinance is the first step in re-humanizing government services and business practices.”

Well we certainly stand by that statement and are encouraged that City Councilor Davis has submitted legislation to the City Council that would reintroduce the issue to leaders and citizens in our burg. Though the proposal has not yet been vetted in committee—Davis is waiting to find out how similar statewide legislation fares in this year’s legislative session—it’s a good step forward for the city.

This is especially true given the findings of research commissioned by the Council which found, among other things, that 90 percent of Albuquerque residents with incomes under $15,000 per year lack paid sick leave and that 36 percent of Burque workers employed by private businesses did not have paid sick leave as an option when illness inevitably struck.

The research report, conducted by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research is particularly critical of the leisure and hospitality industry here in town, strongly implying that lack of paid sick leave—which sometimes results in ill employees coming in to work out of fear of being canned—has the potential to be a public health issue.

The report also struck an inadvertent chord for worker’s rights by discovering through the scientific method that 83 percent of workers in El Duque are in favor of a paid sick leave ordinance, while 57 percent of local employers are steadfastly against such a measure.

Clearly current cultural zeitgeist is available to be drawn upon in such a situation as this. Citizens all over the nation are standing up to the regressive direction taken by the Trump regime, even electing a Democratic House of Representatives to provide oversight and consequences; it would be way cooler if the leadership class—much like Davis and his cohort—recognized the importance of a healthy working class in engendering a sustainable solution for workers in addition to the other work being done in the name of progressivism.

UNM

Though not a matter to be legislatively considered by the Keller administration—or by political progressivism in general—the debacle at the UNM department of athletics is embarrassing to both proud alums of the institution, this reporter included, and citizens of Albuquerque who have been treated to scandal after scandal at the state’s flagship university for nigh on 30 years now.

In what sounds like the latest charges being brought against Uncle Junior on “The Sopranos” teevee show, former UNM athletic director Paul Krebs has been charged with crimes like money laundering, tampering with evidence and fraud.

Though a supposed fundraising trip to Scotland in 2015 set off the crime detectors at the state Attorney General’s office in the Krebs’ case, it’s become clear that the perennially losing Lobo football team is just a symbol for massive dysfunction at the same school.

The University of New Mexico has presented this city’s citizens with a slew of unseemly, felonious and university-damaging shenanigans. Folks like UNM Anthropology professor Cristobal Valencia and former president F. Chris Garcia—who must carry the name “Burque Pops” around his neck like an albatross for all eternity—are pariahs and Krebs may soon face that unfortunate school-staining reputation too.

Given the latest news from the Roundhouse, that our new progressive minded governor has just appointed five new regents to UNM, that formerly Lujan Grisham voiced her criticism of the institution in certain terms, telling the Santa Fe Reporter just before she was elected that she was “not satisfied with the work of any of the regents” we are hopeful that these appointments provide an opportunity to restore the dignity and lawfulness of an otherwise beloved college.

Because spring’s right around the next bend, isn’t it?