ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The debate over what to do about Albuquerque’s homeless problem is intensifying. A city councilor who once backed the idea of city-sanctioned homeless camps is now explaining her ‘about-face’ on the issue.
Councilor Brook Bassan once championed the homeless camps—or what the city calls ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces.’ Now she’s proposing a complete repeal of the idea, or holding off on a decision. However, some councilors and the mayor say this is an urgent matter and action is needed.
“I thought sanctioned encampments were going to be a step in one of the top three priorities that my constituents indicated was theirs. It’s clearly evident that this is not the approach that they want and that we need to take a different one,” Bassan says.
In a press conference Wednesday, Bassan explained why she no longer supports city-sanctioned homeless camps after public outcry and is proposing to repeal the addition of them in the integrated development ordinance (IDO)—meaning: no encampments created until they can discuss the issue again in early August.
Story continues below
- Trending: More $250, $500 tax rebates heading to New Mexicans in July
- New Mexico: Santa Fe National Forest closes multiple recreational sites
- Crime: Authorities searching for I-40 shooting suspect
- Albuquerque: Multiple agencies try capturing mountain lion seen in Albuquerque
“We will have discussion on it then and we can vote on whether or not to put a moratorium on the implementation of approval of Safe Outdoor Spaces for a year or until the IDO is updated,” Bassan says.
Bassan says the public outcry against the encampments shows they need to get more public input, and that they need to slow down. However, other councilors say the city has already spent a long time trying to find solutions and the city-sanctioned camps is the idea that rose to the top.
“The city council passed that legislation to authorize them a few weeks ago. Now there’s a resolution that directs the mayor to go talk to stakeholders to develop the rules and bring that back to the city council after our July break so that hopefully we can improve the rules,” says city councilor Pat Davis.
Davis says the mayor has not yet signed that legislation—and says you can’t repeal what hasn’t been signed. He says the ball is in the mayor’s court now. “The debate tonight will be, are we ready to have the mayor bring us those rules? Or, do we pass this moratorium and pause moving forward in order to get more input and more time?”
With Bassan’s decision to reverse course, the outlook for the legislation is bleak: “Not dead, but on life support. If the mayor signs it, that means he’s committing to bring us the rules and try to make these work. If Councilor Bassan is successful tonight these may be on pause for another year and nothing will change,” Davis says.
The mayor agrees, saying in a statement that the situation won’t be resolved without solutions from council, and going back and forth on legislation isn’t helping anyone.
“Vacillating by passing legislation and then immediately repealing it doesn’t help anyone. Council is the land use authority for our city and we need them to put forward solutions. Right now, when Coronado park is cleared every two weeks, people have nowhere to go except right back to the park, and that won’t change without solutions from Council.”Statement from Mayor Tim Keller’s office
“I had an idea. It’s not one that’s well-received and I respect that and I will not go forward with supporting it,” Bassan says.
Wednesday night, a resolution directing the city to develop the rules for these camps is up for discussion, but that could be deferred if Bassan’s proposals move forward.