Sliding back into the work mode from a summer vacay can be a rude awakening. This was true for the Albuquerque City Council when it returned to the local government table after its summer recess. Councilors faced down a packed Zoom agenda with no end in sight to the COVID pandemic, and many questions of how to help the city’s struggling businesses and residents were hanging in the virtual air at the Aug. 3 regular meeting.
Places to get your food, drink and shopping on can apply to get a chunk of a $500,000 bump the city is offering with CARES Act Grant monies. Restaurants, breweries, wineries and retail businesses can apply for money to expand their outdoor dining and shopping areas into parking and even onto some streets. The city’s economic development peeps will be administering the grant money. For more information, go to the city’s Coronavirus information page at www.cabq.gov.
A controversial development, that in this reporter’s opinion is not needed or wanted, was put on hold until the Aug. 17 City Council meeting. The Overlook at Oxbow proposed development site is east of Coors and north of St. Pius X High School along Namaste Road on the edge of the protected Oxbow wetlands along the Rio Grande on the city’s near West Side. Gamma Development’s plans for the 23-acre development include 76 homes. In March 2019 the city’s Environmental Planning Commision approved the plan. Opponents appealed the decision, but the land use hearing officer upheld the EPC decision. Last summer the city council said they wanted the EPC to take another look at the development. Gamma then dropped the house count to 69 homes and got another thumbs up from the EPC. The Council will have a full hearing on the development at its Aug. 17 meeting.
Councilor Diane Gibson gave well-deserved accolades with a proclamation to Agora Crisis Center. Back in 1970 UNM students and professors founded one of the first crisis centers in the nation. A kinda new partnership with the city has Agora volunteers answering the phones for the ABQ Homeless Assistance Helpline at 505-768-4357 (HELP). Now that’s how to turn 50 in style. For more information on how to volunteer or donate to Agora check out www.agoracares.org.
Allen Cooper, a longtime local anti-war and civil rights leader was honored by Councilor Isaac Benton for his work and passion for social justice. Cooper has been a strong supporter of many civil rights and social justices causes. UNM Center for Research has set up an archive of Allen Cooper’s papers. August 10, 2020 will be Allen Cooper Day, as it is also his birthday. Councilor Benton said he was a friend of Cooper’s and he is living comfortably at an assisted living in Truth or Consequences.
The 2020 Census also got a shout-out to remind residents to get themselves counted. Albuquerque, the city proper, has a return rate of 66 percent. Bernalillo County overall is responding at a 62 percent rate. The state of New Mexico overall lags way behind at 52.7 percent, while the nationwide return rate is 62 percent. Field enumerators are out looking for those who have not responded, so there are no excuses for not being counted. It is important, and the Orange Meanies are working hard to make sure we are not correctly counted.
The resignation of Councilor Trudy Jones was called for by Jim Harvey, Executive Director of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice. In a guest column in the Albuquerque Journal on Monday, Aug. 3, Harvey said we should not confuse accountability with blatant racism. Harvey is referencing the June 29 city council meeting where the Council was debating supporting African American businesses. Harvey wrote that Councilor Jones, under the cover of accountability, questioned the ability of African Americans to even run businesses and suggested recipients should go through business training before getting the funding. Harvey is correct, Councilor Jones does not appear to ask that of other businesses getting economic support. Harvey also took the big daily rag to task and said it should not cover up for blatant racism by saying Councilor Jones was only asking for accountability. Right on.
Councilor Klarissa Peña paid back more than $4,000 for a conference she attended in Philadelphia where she combined it with a family vacation. She took three family members with her where they also traveled to New York and Washington D.C. The total trip cost $6,300 when the city bean counters said it should have only cost about $1,900. Councilor Peña paid back the difference and is calling for a review of the city’s travel policies to be more clear.
*Councilors deferred a debate on what to do with the Oñate La Jornada installation that was in front of the Albuquerque Museum until the Sept. 9 meeting.
*Adopted the Silver Avenue Bike Boulevard Review and its recommendations and improvements to the section of Silver Avenue Bike Boulevard between Yale Boulevard and Paseo Del Bosque Trail.
*Councilors made the move to tear down two nuisance houses—one is at 318 Mesilla NE and the other is at 615 Arno SE. Neighbors having to live near these two places certainly will applaud these decisions.
*This one is near and dear to my library-loving heart: Councilors happily approved designating the Main Library located Downtown as a City Landmark.