Alibi V.28 No.14 • April 4-10, 2019 

County Matters

Basketball, Bullets and Alvarado

Commission provides reasoned leadership

Steven Michael Quezada
BernCo District 2 Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada
Eric Williams Photography

During the unpredictable month of March, Bernalillo County Commissioners put the ink to a $45 million renovation of their new digs, honored some top-notch high school basketball players and stayed strong and silent on the backlash against statewide firearm background check legislation.

Excellent Basketball

Commissioners gave some well-deserved respect to the Atrisco Heritage Academy boys basketball team and the West Mesa High School girls basketball team for their outstanding performances at the recent state high school basketball tournaments. Both teams brought home the bling of the 5-A Championship trophies to their West side schools. This is the first time the West Mesa girls have won the state title and they did it by beating powerhouse Hobbs. This is a repeat performance for Atrisco Heritage boys who took the championship home last year as well.

Meh’s the Word

Commissioners resisted lots of pressure to debate and jump on the bullets of a couple dozen rural New Mexico counties by declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties.

A handful of folks at the Commission’s March 26 meeting spoke in support of keeping guns available for those who should not have them. One speaker said she did not want her rights infringed upon? What right is she talking about? No one is even remotely talking about taking away her right to own 1,000 guns and many thousands of bullets if she wants. Just as long as she can pass a background check to make sure she is not a violent or domestic offender or has a court flagged mental illness.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales came out in support of allowing more guns in the hands of violent offenders and mentally ill people. He said he thinks there are enough laws on the books to deal with unlawful guns. Hmmm … gun and crime stats don’t quite support that notion. But the Sheriff’s spokesperson did say that Gonzales will support whatever laws the state puts in place.

An attempt was made by Republican lawmakers to repeal by referendum and put the background check measure to the voters. But our state constitution does not allow repeals of public safety laws. Those opposing the background checks say the checks will interfere with the rights of regular citizens to buy guns. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham countered that all New Mexicans have a constitutional right to be safe in our homes and communities.

I don’t get it. We own guns. But I’ve been shocked by the number of local sheriffs, not to mention citizens and elected officials, who think it is okay to continue to put guns in the hands of people who should not have them. The new statewide legislation passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor does not say anything about keeping, or taking, guns away from people who can legally have them.

There is plainly no impact on the Second Amendment of requiring sensible background checks, which is now a state law. Why would any county take the position they are not going to follow state law, and think the mentally ill or known violent people should be able to buy guns without law enforcement at least getting a chance of knowing about it via routine background checks?

Kudos to the commissioners, both the four Democrats and the lone Republican, who have said they support common sense public safety gun laws. Double Kudos to the Albuquerque Police Department who supported the statewide background check legislation for all gun sales. This is what proactive government and law enforcement does to keep us safer. Ignorance combined with political posturing has never kept anyone safe.

New Digs

Forty-five million dollars can do more than just put lipstick on a pig. The big bunch of bucks will soon transform the 8-story, 280,000 square foot Alvarado Square into the county’s dream building. The new digs will house about 900 county employees with City of Albuquerque worker bees who have been sharing space at 1 Civic Plaza .

Alvarado Square was vacated by PNM a couple years ago, leaving the large building on the south side of Downtown up for grabs for a paltry $2.7 million. The renovation will include building a new commission chamber in an adjacent building. The project is being funded in part with $37 million in gross receipts tax bonds, $5 million in general obligation bonds and $6.9 million from the general fund. This one building will bring most county services under one roof instead of scattered around the city.

The Commission wants to make sure the expensive renovation stays on track so they gave themselves more oversight on the project to keep it within budget. Good idea, since this is probably the single largest purchase County lawmakers have ever made.

This and That

Commissioners appointed Dr. Joanna Katzman, Dr. Paul Ramo, Dr. Vanessa Jacobsohn and Margaret Lovell to the DWI Planning Council. They also named Paul Chavez, Robert E. Doucette and Ryan Cangiolosi as new members of the Code of Conduct Board.

Commissioners also approved the continuance of the Healthcare Gross Receipts Tax of 1/16th of one percent to use for homeless, behavioral health, substance abuse and mental health initiatives. Recent data shows there are just under 3,000 New Mexico people counted as part of an annual homeless survey. Nationally, there were about 552,800 people without homes across the United States.

April Bernalillo County Commission meetings:
Tuesday, April 9 and Tuesday, April 23 • 5pm
Vincent E. Griego Chambers
Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Center
1 Civic Plaza