While wearing pink, city leaders gave out big bucks to stop underage drinking, more bucks to spiff up a Downtown hotel and high-fives for the cops—all at the Oct. 21 regular meeting of the Albuquerque City Council. Why were they wearing pink? To recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month. Yay for all Burque boobs!
Is a kinder, gentler party patrol possible? A total of $280,000 was allocated for the “party intervention team” to fight underage drinking, drug use and party violence. The proposal was spawned after the recent death of a Sandia High School student who was shot and killed at a homecoming house party. There have been at least 20 shootings connected to house parties this year alone. The measure passed on a 7 to 2 vote with Councilors Klarissa Peña and Isaac Benton casting nay votes, saying the city administration has not fully outlined the programs details.
Several young people addressed the Council, saying maybe the Council should take into consideration the input of the young people who would be impacted by the party patrol.
“The solution is not to incriminate the youth of new Mexico,” said one young man. He added that a punitive approach to the problem is a way to get some kids into the schoo-to-prison pipeline. Councilor Brad Winter, who sponsored the original party patrol bill way back in the day, countered by saying these types of party patrols have worked in the past.
A big chunk of the money—$150,000—will go to the cops to bring in more officers to target parties when such shenanigans are happening. Marketing and educational programs will get $50,000 and a project manager will get paid $80,000. Youth will have a seat at the table when a new Rapid Accountability Program is created. The party intervention team will connect kids caught to intervention services instead of criminalizing them. Councilor Don Harris said, “They will not be slapping cuffs on kids for smoking a joint or drinking some beer.”
Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement, “Our Party Intervention Team will break up unlawful parties to keep kids safe from violence and hold parents and homeowners accountable for contributing to dangerous incidents. We worked with the City Council and the community to fix issues from past approaches.”
In 2007, a federal judge issued a ruling that the city’s party patrol officers who entered a home without a search warrant had violated the owner’s Constitutional rights. “I lived through the knee-jerk reaction of the first go-around of the party patrol. It traumatized our young people, padded the pocketbooks of APD while violating the constitutional rights of our citizens—shame on you all. Please review the definition of insanity,” one gentleman said during public comment time. Mic drop?
Deputy Chief of Staff Liz Armijo gave a report on the most current crime stats through midyear, except the shooting numbers which are through last week. After this next cadet class graduates in March 2020, the department will reach over 1000 officers, Armijo said. Here is a rundown of the stats she presented to the council:
• Traffic stops have doubled since 2017. She said this means officers are encountering more issues in the community that they can reach proactively.
• Auto burglary saw a 37 percent decrease since 2017.
• Auto theft also saw a 37 percent decrease in 2017.
• APD doubled the number of bait cars in the community.
• Commercial burglary is down 16 percent since 2017.
• Residential Burglary is down 24 percent since 2017
• Robbery is down 57 percent since 2017.
• Rapeis down 11 percent compared to 2017.
• Aggravated assault is down 5 percent from 2017.
• Shootings with injury saw an 8 percent overall decline.
• Shootings resulting in homicide are up 5 percent with 41 homicides in 2018 and 43 to date in 2019.
Councilors approved the issuance of $22 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds to spiff up Arrive Hotel, the historic Downtown hotel formerly known as Hotel Blue located at Central Avenue and Eighth street. The funding will restore the hotel’s 135 guest rooms, add a ground-level coffee shop and bar, a renovated pool and patio, new landscaping and a food truck court to take advantage of Burque’s amazing cuisines on wheels.
One of my favorite parts of City Council meetings is the public comments. Here is just a bit of the wisdom the public imparted to city leaders.
• One happy human reminded us that, “We are beings of light. Invested in humanity and love has already won.” Yay! We all needed this good news.
• Another young woman excitedly pimped out the virtues of the weekend Railyard Market and reminded us that there are only two more weekends left. If you have not gone this year, get out there because you’re bound to find something totally cool and wonderfully local.
• Regular commenter and activist Geraldine Amato told attendees that, “The federal president who is high on show business is not in charge.” That was good to hear.
• “I don’t see myself reflected at this table,” said an articulate young man.
• “Our young people should not be political pawns; bandages do not cover up bullet holes. I urge you to involve the voice of youth,” said one youth advocate who has worked with teens for many years, as she tried to calm her sweet baby which was voicing its own opinion about the matter.