City councilors reject Safe Outdoor Spaces, pass free bus fares and more

City councilors reject Safe Outdoor Spaces proposal, pass Air Board proposal

The Albuquerque City Council shot down, again, a proposal for Safe Outdoor Spaces, while passing changes to the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque City Council rejected a Safe Outdoor Spaces proposal but made free bus fares permanent and passed a proposal on the Air Board.

The Safe Outdoor Spaces proposal has been in the works for a little over a year. It failed multiple times and again Wednesday night, as many people said they didn’t want it near their homes.

The proposal would’ve designated certain areas where homeless people could camp with supervision and rules. The new resolution tried to make the application process easier as well.

City councilors also passed new requirements for how the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board operates. Four of the seven members must now consist of:

  • Licensed engineer
  • Physician
  • University or college representative
  • Representative from a private industry

All of those members must also have a background in air pollution.

“Not good governance. This is about checks and balances, being open and transparent and having a board full of professionals,” City Councilor Dan Lewis said.

Around 180 people signed up to speak. Those opposed believed the proposal was more about controlling the board, instead of good governance.

The proposal requires the board to host open public meetings and reduces its regulatory powers.

Councilors also made the zero-fare structure permanent for buses in Albuquerque.

Opponents expressed concerns about safety with free buses, which Councilors Dan Lewis and Renée Grout echoed. They also expressed concerns about the permanent nature of the proposal.

“I’m not going to vote for this or make it permanent. I don’t want to restrict the council years down the road from being able to make changes in that regard,” Lewis said.

Councilor Grout said she was happy with the more open access the free buses provide. However, she noted APD’s finding that 30% of people detained used the bus to get away.

Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn, a sponsor of the ordinance, rebutted.

“The idea that 30% of the folks that were shoplifting got away on a bus means, I assume, 70% of them got away in cars. And we are not taking away free streets,” Fiebelkorn said. “I think, again, it’s really important to remember free fares expand access to our community to people who don’t have access to our community right now.”

In the end, the proposal passed 6-3 with Lewis, Grout and Louie Sanchez in opposition.