Free money, gun safety and eyes on the sheriff met Bernalillo County Commissioners when they faced down a dense agenda upon their return Aug. 11 to the Zoom government table.
There is about $1.5 million still available for small businesses struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At its August meeting, the commission approved a second round of CARES grant applications. The first application window began June 22, and 178 businesses submitted applications the first day. During the first round the county rejected about 80 applications and funded 345 grants totalling $3.2 million. Those getting the up-to-$10,000 grants were food service, short-term lodging and fitness places, among other small businesses. To get some free money, businesses must be either for-profit or nonprofit in Bernalillo County, have a business license, not more than 50 employees and no more than $3 million in annual taxable income. For more information on the grant program, go to www.bernco.gov.
Creating a nine-member board to keep a citizen eye on the sheriff’s department will be heading back to the commission table in September for a final vote. Commissioners approved, on a 3 to 2 margin, to get public input on an ordinance to create an advisory panel that would look into the Sheriff Department’s four operational P’s: policies, practices, processes and procedures. It would also give the civilian board the power to call in outside experts to take a closer look through audits and other reviews.
Needless to say, Sheriff Manny Gonzales is not a fan of this idea and said it was unnecessary and an overreach. Instead, he said the commissioners should do a ride-along with a deputy to see just how in touch the Sheriff’s Department is with the community. Earlier that day Sheriff Gonzales had a chit-chat with the person occupying the White House under the guise of President about progress being made by the federal agents who look like storm troopers prowling metro-area streets. After the pair’s conversation, the top Orange Meanie tweeted a shout-out to Gonzales. Ugh.
Commissioners Lonnie Talbert and Steven Michael Quezada gave the thumbs down to the idea. Luckily, Commissioners Jim Collie, Debbie O’Malley and Charlene Pyskoty said that it sounded like a good idea to have citizens involved in the process. Yay!
Back in June 2018, Commissioners Talbert and Quezada asked for a citizen dialogue on gun safety. Bernalillo County contracted with New Mexico First to hold some community conversations about gun safety. Three public dialogues, each with different target questions regarding gun issues, were held in December 2018, January 2019 and June 2019. An interesting note in the presentation is that less than 15 people participated in each of the sessions and, of those attendees, most were advocating for more gun rights not more control. Both Commissioners participated in each of the sessions.
The first session asked what responsible gun control looks like. The top themes were: better gun storage and locks; buy back incentives; more mental health services, school safety programs and an increased capacity for background checks.
The next session asked what gun safety training and education should look like. Here is what rose to the top: free in public schools and public places; public health practitioners part of the educational framework; gun dealers get free training; and have clear messages about gun safety. The final dialogue was about how to best secure firearms. The top ideas were gun dealers should show buyers how to use the guns; have affordable or free gun safe options; offer affordable or free off-site gun storage; and provide more group education and safety training. The hoped-for outcomes are pretty much all of the above. We will have to see what comes about with all this, or if it just becomes another study for the circular government file cabinet.
The South Valley MainStreet got $60,000 in county bounty to establish a scope of work for the area along Bridge between Five Points and the river and along Isleta from Bridge to Hardy. By putting up this money, the county will be able to leverage the cash for technical assistance to redevelop and revitalize the historic Bridge Boulevard area. MainStreet programs are public-private economic development initiatives designed to provide on-the-ground support for businesses within their geographic boundaries.