2020 has looked very different than we all thought it would. When I first took office in 2017, one of the first places I visited was our city’s Emergency Operations Center. I never imagined I would be spending day and night in front of its many screens, on constant conference calls, pivoting with rapidly changing information on an invisible enemy, and bracing our city for the impact it would have on our community and families. For so many, this year has brought the toughest challenges of our lives.
Still, on this Thanksgiving, I am more thankful than ever to live in Albuquerque. Over the past year Burqueños demonstrated that we adapt quickly and unite to keep each other safer and healthier. Most of us are doing our part by wearing our masks, distancing and staying home. We remain true to our hometown values, seeking solace in our parks and open spaces, and dropping off groceries to our parents. As the safety net becomes a landing place for many of our residents, we step up to do more for those who are struggling in our community.
As shutdowns swept the nation, many cities and counties closed City Hall, and along with it, important services their residents depend on. We knew we had to carve our own path. We swung open the doors of our community centers to provide free COVID-safe child care for health-care and other front-line workers. We bolstered our Westside Emergency Housing Center, brought in a medical team and COVID testing, offered three hot meals a day, and for many months avoided the large-scale, unstoppable outbreaks that many cities saw. And we didn’t wait for even more folks to become homeless; we ramped up rental assistance and worked to halt evictions to keep more people in their homes.
We are grateful for our local partners and city departments who have made all the difference. Hotel partners stepped up to house the homeless, health-care workers and first responders who needed to isolate. Our Senior Affairs Department found safe ways to break through loneliness with virtual programming, meal delivery and wellness checks, and by providing more than half a million meals with top-notch drive-up services at our senior centers. Our state leadership and DOH have kept testing going in the face of great challenges. Albuquerque health-care providers have been caring not just for us, but for much of New Mexico.
While the streets were empty, we created construction industry jobs by fast-tracking more than $175 million in infrastructure projects including a new library, new community centers and improvements to roads across the city. We secured federal CARES Act dollars to fund grants and PPE for our local business owners who have been hit hardest by this virus, and prevented layoffs and furloughs for city workers.
In true One Albuquerque Spirit, many volunteers dedicated hours to making thousands of hand-made facemasks for essential workers and vulnerable populations. Signs popped up in yards and on street corners with reminders that we will get through this together. Parades of colorfully decorated cars drove around hospitals, with people shouting their gratitude to our health-care workers and best wishes for those who were sick.
Like many of you, Liz and I start the day with precious moments with the kids at home, alongside the frustrations of getting them logged on and engaged for distance learning. On the weekends, we recall the things we did last year at this time and look for ways to stay connected with friends and family. We optimistically say, “Next year in person for – insert special occasion.” If we each do our part to stop the spread and look out for each other, we can make that hope a reality.
This Thanksgiving, I am more thankful than ever to live in Albuquerque, and I know we will get through this together.