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District 2 Newsletter

August 17, 2018 Newsletter from City Councilor Isaac Benton

Hello Neighbors,

The next City Council meeting is Monday, August 20 at 5:00 pm in the Vincent Griego Chambers, basement level of City Hall:  Agenda

Legislation

Top Golf / Veto Override:  The Council voted 7-2 (Harris and Winter opposed) to override the mayor on his veto of the Top Golf public private partnership.  Although Top Golf will not provide extremely high-paying jobs, it will provide similar average paying jobs as call centers that receives City economic development funds in the past, and a new one supported by the Mayor and approved by Council at the same meeting as the Top Golf project.  In addition to jobs, the project will generate new grt and property taxes on a property that has sat vacant for 14 years.
 
In terms of land use, Top golf is a perfect fit - the site is a hole in the ground that used to be a water park, with low visibility from roads and thus otherwise unlikely to be developed any time soon.
 
Clawbacks and other public protections to the deal were worked out in collaboration with the Keller administration during the enactment process. We appreciated their suggestions and incorporated some (but not all) of them.  Council support for the project long preceded this administration, so we are grateful that they have now acknowledged that that it's been decided and pledged to move it along now.
 
I'll always support local business (that is the main reason that I support walkable/bikeable communities, complete streets and neighborhood revitalization). But we need local business AND investments from outside. Both provide needed jobs, and Mom & Pop alone will not pull Albuquerque's economy back to better health.
 
I also hope this discussion will no longer take precedence over more important community discussions such as solutions to the homelessness and behavioral health crisis.

Single Site Supportive Housing R-18-59: To those of you who have written or called about the proposed homeless housing at St. Martin's on 3rd Street NW, thanks for your input. I'm very aware of and sympathetic about the impact of the homeless population on area businesses and residents. I bought my first home at 5th and Granite NW 1979 and lived there for ten years, both before and after St. Martin's came to the neighborhood. I'm well aware of the increases in the street population and the severity of the community's behavioral challenges since then. Contrary to some false characterizations of my intent, I honestly seek solutions not only for the homeless but for businesses and residents affected by their presence outside their doors.
  
Nearly three years ago, the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County came together to form the Behavioral Health Initiative to find new solutions to the behavioral health crisis in Albuquerque. We convened experts, physicians, first responders, providers, families, and people living with mental health and/or substance abuse issues to identify and design programs that are most needed in the metro area to address the unmet needs of people living with the behavioral health issues related to homelessness.  The need for "single-site" supportive housing projects was identified through this public process and made a priority.
 
It's important to note that "Single-site" does NOT mean all homeless services of the community will be on the site - that is an entirely different priority for evaluation and emergency overnight shelter. Single-site means housing with supportive services and security on-sit for the most severely in need of housing. The City and County identified $2 million each in funding for this first single-site project in the spring of 2017. Now the NM Mortgage Finance Authority's $4.9 million in grants for the project is available only until the end of August to help build this housing; that is why I cannot support a deferral.
 
How would it be that housing 42 of the most vulnerable people on the street will make the problem worse?  No new day services for the rest of the "street population" will be offered at St. Martin's as a part of or a result of this project; therefore it will not attract more homeless to the area but rather take some off the street. The project will serve a targeted population of the most vulnerable and in need of help. Single family homes, small group homes, and Section 8 apartments are not appropriate housing for them because they need more regular counseling in order to stabilize their lives.
 
Without question, St. Martin's, other homeless providers, the City and  the County need to do more to lessen the impact of the homeless "day  services" on the surrounding area. That is acknowledged in the draft development agreement and in my resolution to be heard on Monday.  I have prepared an amendment to the resolution that the City will commit to improve street lighting, infill missing sidewalks, control alley access and work with neighbors on other security measures.
 
Unfortunately, Albuquerque does not have a caring rich benefactor on the level of San Antonio's oilman and favorite son. I visited that project and it has challenges of its own.  We can't wait for an expensive "mega-project" that will solve all of the problems at once. This is an important step forward.

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Sincerely,
Isaac Benton
City Councilor, District 2