Council rejects bill for safe outdoor space planning - Albuquerque Journal

Council rejects bill for safe outdoor space planning

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Safe outdoor spaces may be allowed in Albuquerque as soon as Aug. 1, but the city may not have any operating rules in place to guide them.

Though there are two bills now pending before the Council that could eventually repeal safe outdoor spaces – legal and managed encampments for people who are homeless – that legislation will not be voted on until at least mid-August.

In the meantime, the Integrated Development Ordinance update the Council approved earlier this month could take effect. That bill enabled safe outdoor spaces, passing on a 5-4 vote. But one of the original supporters, Brook Bassan, changed course this week and filed legislation to revoke safe outdoor spaces, making their ultimate future uncertain.

Some councilors cited those proposals and the likelihood they could pass as they voted Wednesday to reject a bill that would have required city staff to develop operating procedures for safe outdoor spaces.

Isaac Benton, who co-sponsored the bill, questioned the wisdom of that decision. He warned that it did not make sense not to have rules ready.

“It’s important to recognize once the zoning ordinance is in place, even if it’s changed later, then it’s in place and people can apply to start one of these,” he said.

But Bassan – who joined Renee Grout, Dan Lewis, Klarissa Peña and Louie Sanchez to kill the operating rules bill – said in a written statement she did not see that as a real possibility, given the number of elements an operator would have to have in place to actually launch one.

“Although a (safe outdoor space) may technically be implemented in early August, I find it extremely unrealistic to conceive that they will truly have an opportunity for implementation that rapidly,” she said.

Also on Wednesday:

• The Council unanimously approved legislation appropriating another $49.1 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds it received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Money will go toward a range of projects and services, including an eventual youth shelter, the Gibson Health Hub’s planned medical sobering center and medical respite operations, as well as a food bank.

• The Council unanimously approved a pilot project to test a new budgeting strategy that would provide more details about individual department programs.

Co-sponsor Louie Sanchez said it has been needed for years.

“I think one of the things we’ve been lacking is true program evaluation and, with this, we’re going to see it and know it, and know where we need to be putting money and taking money away,” he said.

• The Council confirmed Lauren Keefe as the new city attorney and Diedre Ewing as the new director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency. Both were 7-2 votes with Lewis and Sanchez in opposition.

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