County Matters: Living In The Plastic Age

Bernco Bans, Builds And Brings The Bosque

Carolyn Carlson
5 min read
Living in the Plastic Age
BernCo Commissioners Hart Stebbins and Pyskoty (Eric Williams Photography)
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Bernalillo County Commission said bye-bye to single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam containers at its June 25 regular meeting. The ordinance won’t go into effect until the new year and it goes a bit further than the recent measure passed by the Albuquerque City Council.

The Age of Plastic

The commission voted 3 to 1
to ban retail and restaurant single-use plastic bag distribution in unincorporated areas of the county. Commissioner Lonnie Talbert opposed and Commissioner Steven Michael Quezada was absent, leaving Commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Charlene Pyskoty to take a bold step.

The county measure follows a tighter ban passed in April by the Albuquerque City Council that prohibits some businesses from distributing plastic bags but left restaurants out of the ban and did not include foam to-go containers. A couple city burrito dynasties opposed the inclusion, saying it would raise costs and that to-go chile products may be more messy to serve as a consequence. Commissioner Talbert tried to amend the county proposal to exempt restaurants but that did not go over well. Businesses can charge up to 5 cents for each bag or container provided to a customer. While the ban goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, businesses can use up their existing stockpiles, they just can’t continue to purchase them.

Bag It, Dude

If you haven’t already gathered up an adequate supply of canvas and other types of multi-use grocery bags plus take-out or whatever bags, just do it. The reusable bags can be had all over. Many places, such as Trader Joe’s, have colorful, fun, inexpensive bags. If you don’t have any, then take back your single-use plastic bags from the last visit and use those. As for to-go containers, there are plenty of options for restaurants, from aluminum and sturdy cardboard to multi-use plastic containers. Most folks we know would happily pay extra for environmentally friendly everything.

Home of the Tiny Village

Commissioners gave
formal approval to a 30-year lease and operating agreement with the Albuquerque Indian Center to allow construction of a 30-unit Tiny Home Village. The five-year operating agreement is for $230,000 a year. The property will offer transitional housing in 120-square-foot homes complete with a bed, desk/table and storage area. A community building will have other necessities such as a commercial kitchen, restrooms and shower areas, office space and other common areas. There will be onsite support services as well as a security fence, one entry point and a 24/7 gate guard. The funding comes from voter-approved general obligation bond money, state money and health care gross receipts tax that we all agreed we wanted so we could begin to address homelessness. The village should be completed by next summer.

The idea of placing these tiny home villages in spots around the county, mainly within the Albuquerque city limits, brought out the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) folks. Kudos to the nonprofit Albuquerque Indian Center for stepping up and offering its property at 105 Texas Street SE. This is an effective fusion of helpers. Albuquerque Indian Center already has its feet on the ground, working with a number of homeless, Native Americans included, living on the streets. This neighborhood is an area where the displaced already seek shelter. BernCo has the money to fund a well-staffed, multi-service project to address the root causes of chronic homelessness. Check it out at:

Sick Leave Deferred

deferred voting on a controversial paid sick leave bill for county businesses with at least two employees. The deferral will allow the public to comment on some new language, such as changing “paid sick leave” to “paid time off.” Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said the changes will align the policy with current metro-area business practices.

While the worker bees are in support of earning time off—there are many employers who say it is bad policy to offer one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours per year for every employee. A number of big business groups spoke in opposition, saying this would put businesses in the unincorporated county at a disadvantage because they would have to compete against Albuquerque businesses that do not have to provide sick leave. But the supporters were out in equal numbers, calling paid sick leave an essential benefit.

Best citizen quote of the night: “Capitalism likes the low road … but the low road dumps that cost on our community. It’s on our families and our children.” The commission will take this issue up again at a future meeting.

County Chatter

• Bernalillo County @ Alvarado Square is the new name for the soon-to-be-renovated building that will house hundreds of BernCo employees. The former Alvarado Square building that housed PNM at Fourth Street and Silver will undergo a $45.7 million transformation.

• Registration is now open for artisans, value-added producers/growers, food trucks and both amateur and professional cooks for the Chicharron Challenge for the 4th Annual Bosque Chile Festival on Aug. 17 at National Hispanic Cultural Center. For more information, go to

• Summer Fun Days are happening every Sunday from noon to 5pm at the Bachechi Open Space at Rio Grande and Alameda Boulevards. If you have not been to this open space gem, then take the kids, grandkids or your inner child and check it out. For more information on this and other spectacular open space areas, visit

Please note: There are no full County Commission meetings in July.

The next meeting of the Bernalillo County Commission

Tuesday, Aug. 20, 5 pm

Vincent E. Griego Chambers

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Government Center,

1 Civic Plaza NW

View the meetings on GOV TV or at

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