On Monday, Oct. 3rd, the Albuquerque City Council voted in favor of continued funding for safe outdoor spaces. The vote was to decide on an override of Mayor Tim Keller’s veto on an ordinance that would have reallocated the funds to supporting unhoused veterans.
Safe outdoor spaces would be city-sanctioned locations of temporary occupancy for individuals who are experiencing homelessness to camp in tents or recreational vehicles. The spaces would include restrooms, showers and 24/7 security with monitored access. There also would be behavioral, mental and social support available, and all residents would need to be working toward finding housing, according to the City of Albuquerque.
The ordinance that remained vetoed, sponsored by Councilor Dan Lewis, intended to reallocate the funds from these spaces to support homeless veterans for the fiscal year 2023. The ordinance had passed on a 5-4 vote initially, but then was vetoed by Keller; the council did not garner the six votes needed to override said veto.
During deliberation prior to the vote, two constituents showed up to comment in support of the safe outdoor spaces, referencing the function of similar spaces in Denver, Colorado. They also said that by reallocating the funds solely to veterans' support, it would risk leaving out others who need similar support.
Councilor Pete Davis voiced his concern over the reallocation as the Department of Veterans’ Services was already funded through what had been requested during the budget process and that it is important to support the unhoused community alongside that.
“Veterans have an ombudsman in the mayor's office; the homeless community doesn't … It is not fair to say, ‘I hope this works,’ and then take away the money that guarantees we have the people to do the work,” Davis said.
In his veto letter, Keller said the ordinance was, “A sad political attempt to use the unhoused veteran community as a pretext to create another barrier to addressing our unhoused challenges with every tool available.”
Councilor Lewis questioned Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael about this language.
“It was permitted when (the council) made the amendments … It only became an issue when the issue was raised, and we started moving forward with what we thought was another opportunity to do something for the homeless. It’s not the panacea,” Rael said.
Rael echoed similar statements about Veterans’ Services currently being funded as well.
Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn expressed frustration with the budget being altered after having been voted on, leading to delays in already agreed-upon projects.
“I just want to remind everyone that there is a process for setting a budget for the city of Albuquerque that we just finished. Every single meeting since, a councilor has tried to undo that budget, and we just saw it again tonight. If we had paid attention when we were passing the budget, we could have had these conversations then,” Fiebelkorn said.
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Councilor Klarissa Peña voiced her concern that the safe outdoor spaces would only be created in communities of color and ultimately voted to override the veto. Joining her in the vote to override the veto were Councilors Bassan, Lewis, Renne Grout and Louie Sanchez. Voting in favor to retain the veto were Councilors Isaac Benton, Davis, Fiebelkorn and Trudy Jones.
The next city council meeting will be held on Monday, Oct.17, both in person at City Hall and broadcasted on YouTube or GOTV.
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite