Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Talk About This Town: 2014 As A Seminal Year For ABQ; Appalling Murders Of Homeless Spark Reader Outrage, Commentary And Solutions  

2014 will go down in ABQ history as a seminal year--the year when the full force of the social conditions crisis haunting this place hit like a jackhammer. It began with the shocking fatal police shooting of homeless James Boyd and the subsequent federal intervention in APD by the US Justice Department. It then transitioned to the appalling murder of 9 year old Omaree Varela and now to the horrific slaughter of two homeless men with cinder blocks as they lay on mattresses at a vacant lot near a busy Central Avenue intersection.

All of these gut-wrenching events catapulted ABQ into the world news headlines. They were that disquieting. In short, we have become a very different city than what many of you grew up in or came to know after moving here.

Our Tueday blog explored these themes and more as we attempt to move the discussion from denial to doing. The readers respond.

From ABQ, Michael writes:

Apathy is thy middle name when it comes to New Mexico and Albuquerque. Simply put, our city and our state are both devoid of leadership. Leadership takes courage, and the willingness to fight for a better future. Can you point to anyone in government or the business community that demonstrates those qualities? I can't. It also requires a media willing to challenge the power brokers. To hold their feet to the fire and hold a mirror up to those in power so they can see where they have gone wrong. But that too is gone. How can we expect the average New Mexican to create a better life in this kind of climate? You can't. No wonder so few people view casting a ballot as a way to make a difference. It is hard to get motivated with such an absence of leadership.

You are right that the state Permanent Fund should be tapped for early childhood. So much of our tax dollars, especially in education which represents half of our spending, are now handed over to out of state companies. Once those dollars leave our state they are gone for good. Instead of building an economic infrastructure for generations to come, we are left with boarded up neighborhoods, towns, and cities. 

Retired ABQ newsman Rodger Beimer writes:

I wonder if State Sen. John Arthur Smith--"Dr. NO"--and his buddies at the state legislature are paying attention? They’ve got the financial authority to start making changes--how long will it take? Our social services and educational institutions are filling the roles of foster parents in many cases so let’s recognize that and fund them appropriately. It’s the least we can do as a society. And t’s not just an Albuquerque issue. How many reports of incidents in rural and small town New Mexico occur every day, going unreported in the media because there isn’t any media to report? When does the rainy day come that forces release of Permanent Funds to better our state? Or are those funds so permanent that all that can be done is look at the bank balances and say, “Good job, we’ve got lots of money in there.” Isn’t it raining now?

Reader Robert Palacioz writes:

Joe, A great big "Brazo" for having the intestinal fortitude to speak the truth! Remember, this does not fall on deaf ears but is slowly sinking into the people who are apathetic and in denial. There are no quick solutions....but the early childhood programs coupled with families being given the "tools" to remedy their dysfunction can and will happen. When our beloved New Mexico hits rock bottom the only way is up! Money comes and goes but the children will always be with us....they are our responsibility.


W. Peifer of ABQ writes:

Helluva good job Tuesday! Not the usual fare, by a long shot, but a really great commentary. Well done!

Reader Liz Bustamante writes:

Great work, Mr. Monahan--I wish you were not the only one out there afflicting the comfortable, though.

Reader Phil Parker writes from Mexico:

Hey Joe. Very nicely written piece . My wife and I had our first baby last year and we moved to a beach town in Mexico. A lot of our friends and family said we shouldn't come here because it's dangerous. It is not more dangerous than Albuquerque, where cops kill and their politicians bosses shrug it off. Those kids' mugshots look terrifying—there's your soulless faces of the city. Also, we have better medical care here and we pay the doctor directly. It's lovely here. I still read your blog. Keep up the great work.

Richard Randals writes:

Why is it some think ABQ’s problem is a state problem? You guys are big boys take care of it and stop blaming the state. Albuquerque has gotten themselves in this position, why should the state pull your bodies to safety, you did it, not us. As for early childhood programs, the parents of these children don’t want to learn, that’s why they dropped out of school and chose to have sex instead and continue on the 4th. 5th., or sixth generation of welfare. How do you teach those who do not care and never have? Throw money at it, that’s the fix? parents. .  have not been held responsible for their actions and do not want to learn. Can’t read, can’t add, can’t write, it’s ok you can drop out and we will take care of you. That social promotion really worked, right? It’s too late New Mexico. It just makes me want to throw-up, how about you?

Reader Louis J Lafrado, Ph.D writes:

Joe, I just finished reading the post on the murder of two homeless men in Albuquerque. The three youth are indeed sociopaths. But in this political climate there has been little more than a peep from the politicians. Is this the level we have fallen? Where the act of three miscreants can go without response from either gubernatorial candidate? A tepid response from the city’s ineffectual mayor is the best, we in the metropolitan area, can hope?

Where is the outrage? Where are the parents? The wanton disregard for human life is rotting this metro area and this state from within. It was after all just the deaths of two homeless men for whom a city cannot develop sufficient passion to scold let alone castigate three misfits. Three children who are also lost to society now.

Thank you for raising your voice over the din of silence and ignorance.


ABQ attorney Miguel Suazo writes:

Joe, The heinous beatings of our most unfortunate are clearly the product of extensive self-neglect by the New Mexico community on multiple fronts. Poverty, children having children, lack of opportunity, few examples of success for our least fortunate, poor long-term planning and failure to compete with our surrounding states on business development incentives are just some of the causes. Most importantly, I feel that we have failed to pick-up each other. I think that your Tuesday posting helps invigorate an important debate about the NM that is and the NM that we have dreamt of for decades.

. . . The most striking thing I saw from the many talented people with whom I spent my early adult years was that they were reared by families and communities with a sense of what is possible and a yearning to strive. As a mass group many New Mexicans lack that. Yet, there are plenty of examples of home-grown success—but we need to teach people to search for those influences or else they become more apt to gain fulfillment by indulging their most primal and evil inklings, as did these 3 youths. 

I think that tapping the Permanent Fund is necessary. If it’s there for a rainy day, guess what, it’s raining and it has been for a long time. . . We need to think about how we can spend that money on ourselves in a way that will yield a return on that spending. You have to spend money to make money. You have to take risk to get reward. Early childhood education is just the tip of that iceberg. 

Amanda Bergamo writes:

Joe, I just have to say, Why are we as a culture (in NM) so afraid to hold people accountable for their own choices that create outcomes such as death and catastrophes? Bad behavior is not OK! Just finished reading your post from today and had to get that out!

Reader Chris writes:

You have written many excellent pieces, but none of them tops Tuesday's. It is excellent. You not only have exposed the soul of ABQ but suggest some possible (and realistic) solutions.

Unfortunately, we lack the leadership that is up to the task--including not only the city administration, but also the NGOs and the middle and upper class citizenry which has the economic and political resources to make a difference. Our local media could be of great positive influence but instead focuses on scandals, crimes (real and alleged), fires and other sensationalist tabloid features. Moreover, we have a corrupt "law enforcement" system that would rather play army against the "civilian" citizenry and engage in publicity stunts than "protect and serve" the citizenry.

I am a 13th generation New Mexican and a fourth generation Albuquerquean, but my family and I are seriously considering leaving. Two of our doctors have announced they are leaving this city because of the rampant anger, conflict, meanness and corruption so noticeable here. Too bad it has come to this in the Duke City.

Thanks for the comments. Apathy was crushed here today. . .

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