Albuquerque city council fails to override veto of ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City councilors were short one vote Wednesday night to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto of a pause on the application process for “Safe Outdoor Spaces.”

The city council voted 5-4 Wednesday during a meeting.

It took a lot of discussion time, but Safe Outdoor Spaces have the green light once again. It all came down to the vote from City Councilor Trudy Jones, who flipped her vote from last month. Jones voted for the moratorium then and for the mayor’s veto tonight. 

The discussion about the veto went on for more than an hour. Those attending heard from more than 15 people who signed up to comment, and from several councilors who spoke both for and against Safe Outdoor Spaces.

Councilor Brook Bassan who we’ve spoken with many times over the past few months about this issue– was the first councilor to move to override the mayor’s veto, and closed the discussion with a lot of points about the current state of the city. 

“I believe Albuquerque is becoming a sanctuary for criminals. and I do not think it can continue. People do not feel safe and they’re pleading with us to help, they’re pleading with us for behavioral health treatment, drug addiction, they’re pleading with us to help with homelessness, I get that. I believe that we’re trying our best I believe that we’re really trying hard, but what we’re not doing is recognizing that even if every tool in the toolbox is what we have, maybe there’s only a right tool for the job,” said Bassan. 

City Councilor Pat Davis, who has supported Safe Outdoor Spaces from the beginning, spoke about rules and guidelines for these spaces he recently became aware of. He used examples like the opaque fencing they all need to have, and services that will be mandatory for each space.

The Family and Community Services Department Director underlined more rules as well. 

“It is not a walk-up facility people have to sign an agreement, it is not just come and go there are rules associated with this. There’s a roster where people– so you know who needs to be in there and you need a roster for safety reasons,” said Carol Pierce. 

A representative from the mayor’s office sent a statement after Wednesday’s vote, saying: 

“Albuquerque needs more tools, not less, to address the homelessness crisis while keeping our neighborhoods, parks and businesses safe. Council initially created Safe Outdoor Spaces as one tool among the many needed to help people move off of the streets, and this new approach should be allowed to go forward.”

So what’s next? There is one approved Safe Outdoor Space on metal near the Big-I, and six others are either under review or waiting for review.

But there’s still the issue of funding that could get complicated, the city set aside $750,000 in this year’s budget for this pilot program. But councilor Dan Lewis asked to redesignate that money for homeless veterans.

The council moved to approve R-22-65, which will designate Safe Outdoor Spaces funds to support homeless, near homeless or precariously housed veterans in Fiscal Year 2023, which runs from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

MORE: Albuquerque’s Safe Outdoor Spaces: What is at stake?