It was a packed room filled with lovers and a few haters that greeted the Albuquerque City Council at its May 6 regular meeting.
On a party line vote of six Democrats to three Republicans, $250,000 was approved to help support the many local organizations working with the asylum-seeking migrants coming through our city on their way to their sponsors. Councilor Pat Davis’ resolution will provide funding through the Mayor’s office to administer grants and contract with established nonprofits, specialized service providers, and faith-based organizations that provide temporary shelter, food, water, emergency transportation, toiletries and children’s services.
The money will also pay for emergency overtime for city employees doing this type of coordination. None of the funds can be used for legal services. All of the adult migrants, most of whom are women and children, have gone through the legal system and have ankle monitors to track them.
The big bucks are nice but the real shining stars were the nearly 40 people who showed up to support the city taking the moral and financial action to help in this humanitarian crisis.
Archbishop John Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe opened the public comments with a shout out to all those who have already stepped up. “We have had so many spontaneously come forward to help the migrants coming into Albuquerque,” Wester said. “The law permits them to seek asylum. And we need to help them because of the terrible atrocities happening in Central America.”
Wester’s plea for some financial assistance was followed by a parade of Burqueños, including faith-based leaders from just about all of our area churches and synagogues. They shined their love lights, letting the Council know they are stepping up to help and so should city government. Many of these speakers are on the front lines helping the migrants when they get off the bus and have been moved by their horror stories. There were some very eloquent speakers quoting the Bible, the Statue of Liberty, Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, among others. “We have the moral obligation to welcome the stranger especially thoselegally seeking asylum,” one speaker said, summing it up.
As expected there were a handful of haters who said we should be taking care of our own homeless, especially veterans, and our own children living in poverty. One said something about separating church and state. Councilor Trudy Jones joined them, saying she will give some of her own money to help but she won’t approve city money because it is the duty of private citizens and churches to step up.
Wow. Where has she been hiding? As Councilor Cynthia Borrego politely reminded the room—and thereby Councilor Jones—the private sector has stepped to help the nearly 2,000 asylum seekers who have already passed through the city since mid-February. She went on to say that these same groups also continue to help our own homeless and they reach out to veterans who are lost in the cracks of the federal government’s seesaw politics. “Who are we really? We are all dreamers,” Borrego told those gathered in the City Council chambers.
In a statement Mayor Keller released after the vote, he said he was pleased with the funding approval and that this was not an either or situation; there are significant projects underway to address taking care of our own homeless, veterans and vulnerable children. “We are going to continue our public safety work while also standing for the families lawfully traveling through the Duke City to join their spouses around the country and to seek a better life.” The $250,000 is 1/4000th of the city’s billion dollar budget and comes from a fund that can only be used for one-time expenditures.
After nearly two years of negotiations, a 10-year contract with Comcast Cable to run its spiderweb cable system along city right of ways was up for approval. The more than 100-page contract included the city collecting 5 percent of the gross, the maximum percentage allowed under federal law. In addition it includes an increase of 62 cents per subscriber per month. This is up from the current 44 cents being collected. This pot of money is used to operate the local public, educational and government access channels. Channel 16 is operated by the city and channels 26, 27 and 96 are public access channels.
Not all the money collected goes to the community cable channels. Most of the money is held in an account to be used for various cable, internet and broadband infrastructure maintenance in the city, school and government building.
Councilor Ken Sanchez reminded folks that this was not the contract to run the public access cable channels. That contract is still under negotiation.
While not as exciting as helping asylum seekers, the Council dealt with a chunk of city business including acceptance of the latest report showing $544,079 in expenditures related to the Albuquerque Police Department’s court ordered settlement agreement during the period from July 2018 through September 2018. They also awarded the contract for city employee health care to Presbyterian Healthcare, authorized the contract to build a new fueling station, amended city rules of procurement and appointed Waylon Chavez to the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund and Christopher Ramirez to the Transit Advisory Board.