On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously in favor of creating a racial equity criterion for the Capital Implementation Program (CIP).
CIP's mission is to “enhance the physical and cultural development of the city ... Through a multi-year schedule of public physical improvements, CIP administers approved capital expenditures for systematically acquiring, constructing, replacing, upgrading and rehabilitating Albuquerque's built environment,” according to the City of Albuquerque.
The ordinance, if signed by the mayor, will give the CIP access to a series of maps that show the location of underserved communities in Albuquerque. The geographical information will help determine the location of new projects, such as community centers, parks and public spaces.
An amendment to the bill was added in committee by Councilor Trudy Jones and aimed to include geographic equity as a factor. Both of the bill’s sponsors, Councilors Lan Sena and Klarissa Peña, voted in favor of the amendment.
“It would be one more tool to be looking at for this type of thing; it wouldn’t carry any more weight than the others,” Jones said.
A second amendment, sponsored by Council President Cynthia Borrego, added the word “poverty” as an additional criterion factor for the proposed equity guidelines.
“I am trying to clarify that race and poverty go hand in hand, unfortunately,” Borrego said.
Both Sena and Peña wrote in the bill that they hoped the legislation would help combat a legacy of inequities in the city.
“Prioritizing improvements for neighborhoods and communities that have been otherwise left behind is a step toward undoing this inequitable system that many of our communities live with today,” the bill reads.
The city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion’s “opportunity index map,” which includes poverty, unemployment and education levels, will be available for the CIP to use as they develop future capital improvement plans. In addition, a council district map, which shows data on poverty and race in layers, and a U.S. CDC Social Vulnerability Index map will also be available as resources.
In order to fund future projects, the ordinance will utilize money from the city’s general obligation bonds. In 2018, the Council passed legislation to specifically prioritize general obligation bond spending on projects to help fund low-income communities.
“(A resolution from 2018) included a priority for the City’s 2019 general obligation bond program to fund programs and projects in underserved neighborhoods relating to public safety, senior and community centers, libraries, housing, transportation, economic development and community enhancement,” the bill reads.
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At a Council meeting on Jan. 20, a vote on the bill was deferred after multiple councilors expressed concerns about its implementation.
“My concern is, how am I supposed to go back to my constituents and say I voted for something that, very likely, we will not see coming back into our own district?” Councilor Brook Bassan, who represents the affluent Northeast Heights, said at the time.
In the meeting on Wednesday, however, many councilors spoke in favor of the proposal.
"I want to take the opportunity to thank you ... (this ordinance) caused us all to really sit and think about how the CIP does business," Borrego said.
Councilor Isaac Benton, who voted in support, said he hoped these would not be the last conversations around the CIP.
“We need to continue conversations about the transparency and the methodology of which projects are considered,” Benton said.
Christopher Ramirez, the executive director of community advocacy organization Together for Brothers, attended the meeting to voice support for the ordinance and urge the councilors to vote in favor of the proposed changes to how city funds are invested.
“There’s been neighborhoods across our city that have been historically disinvested in — and part of that is connected to transit equity — but I hope you’ll support that work to make sure that infrastructure and capital improvement is done in an equitable way,” Ramirez, whose organization works with young men of color in Albuquerque, said.
The ordinance won’t be implemented until 2023, but Councilor Sena closed discussion on the bill with comments about how important she expects it will be for the future.
"I think (this legislation is) important moving forward ... It’ll make us a better city, and it’ll help us look at things through a different lens," Sena said.
Mayor Tim Keller also said he was looking forward to the more equitable future the ordinance could create.
“These investments in our underserved areas represent more than brick and mortar — we are building opportunity, (and) that will make our whole city stronger,” Keller said.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madelinepukite