The (Un)Safe City Strike Force
Imagine this scenario: You are a woman in a domestic violence situation, living in a low-income apartment building in a gentrifying neighborhood. You call APD for help when your partner attempts to hurt you. Whether the police respond or the abuser leaves is of no consequence to the Nuisance Abatement Ordinance–your apartment has now legally become a public nuisance. The city could take action on their own, or they could threaten to take action against your landlord, who, if he or she wants to avoid further action by the city, will have to agree to evict you. You have just been evicted for trying to protect yourself by calling the police, and if you are lucky enough to not get evicted, you probably won't call the police next time.
Already, residents of low-income housing are fearful of calling city code enforcement for code violations that their landlord refuses to fix because they know that they could be evicted with no more follow-up than a five-day motel voucher, and a leaky roof is better than no roof.
The amendment doesn't limit this scenario to apartments, to people of limited means or to domestic violence–your private residence could be declared a nuisance under a similar scenario, or if you called the police to report something as commonplace as suspicious persons or cars outside your house. Business owners are included, too. If you’re a shop owner and call to report shoplifting or if you are a club owner and there are reports of loud music, you, too, can be declared a public nuisance.
Lastly, note that in addition to the enumerated offenses, the entire criminal code of Albuquerque is included in this amendment as constituting a public nuisance–everything from possession of fireworks to violating a curfew. Mr. LeRoy is right that the city doesn't need eminent domain to do this, so they are more than happy to let the City Council publicly declare that they will protect property rights after the Kelo decision, as they considered on Jan. 9. The Home and Business Property Protection Ordinance states that an eminent domain action initiated by the city needs Council approval, and that it will not be approved by City Council unless it meets the definition of a public purpose under state redevelopment or eminent domain law and a finding is made that the property was blighted or a public nuisance as defined in the City Code. But this amendment, if passed, makes it a whole lot easier for the city to declare your property a public nuisance, and if that isn't enough to take it, use the now-strengthened power of eminent domain to do so.
The city will try and convince you that the naysayers are just being paranoid and that this is all for the public good, but broader concerns have been raised with the law as it exists (including Fourth Amendment concerns, lack of relocation plans and the fact that there is nothing “safe” about the Safe City Strike Force putting people on the streets) and have been ignored. There is no reason to believe that the city won't continue to blindly abuse the amazing increase in power that this amendment would afford it. I encourage any member of the public who is concerned about the effects of this amendment and the underlying ordinance to appear at the City Council meeting on Jan. 18 before 5 p.m., sign up for public comment and let the councilors know their concerns.
Get Out Of The Litter Box
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