Monday, July 11, 2022

Keller Pivots On Homeless Dilemma, Plus: What It Would Really Cost ABQ To Make Dent In Thorny Problem, Also: Follow The Money; Key State House Race Examined 

Welcome back.

The post-pandemic exhaustion here and elsewhere over ubiquitous homeless encampments has led ABQ Mayor Tim Keller to pledge a "more assertive" policy in dealing with criminal activity committed by this marginalized population in the hope that the pivot will quiet the cacophony of criticism as homelessness increases amid a continuing drug abuse and housing affordability crisis.

A crackdown may win temporary plaudits but the long-term crisis remains which is how to get more people off the streets and a roof over their heads. That's the proverbial elephant in the room that policy makers in major metros like ABQ have yet to fully face. And that's because the cost of providing such housing is enormous.  

Take, for example, the 40 unit Desert Hope affordable housing development for the homeless in Las Cruces built with $6.7 million in public funds most of which came from the NM Mortgage Finance Authority. 

At that price each unit averaged $167,500 to construct, not necessarily an unrealistic amount given that the average single family home price in the state has soared to well over $300,000. But 40 units would not make the slightest dent in the need in ABQ. Four thousand would. Using the average price of the Desert Hope units that would bring the tab to a mountainous $670 million. 

In its latest round of federal infrastructure funding, the city received $50 million and proudly announced that $15 million would go toward housing vouchers for the homeless and $20 million for affordable housing. As good as that sounds, they are fighting the elephant with a BB gun. 

Until public officials commit to finding a funding mechanism to build substantial housing units (in the thousands) or somehow make current homes much more affordable, stepped up law enforcement and temporary housing vouchers don't stand a chance of seriously clearing the streets. 

Today we've introduced the first set of numbers that the city and its citizens need to start getting their arms around, if they are to have a serious discussion about a long-term homeless solution. But the problem is not resolved in one fell swoop. From Las Cruces:

The Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority is tasked with. . . management of the property. But (that) has fallen by the wayside. Residents who live in homes surrounding the apartments have complained that since Desert Hope opened, the number of unhoused people present in their neighborhood has increased-- apparently many who are not tenants of the complex itself. Many oppose a proposed expansion of the property, which would involve the renovation of adjacent storage units. Neighbors have complained about an uptick in human feces, urine and syringes outside their homes.  Some say unhoused people sleep on or near their properties, attempt to get inside their homes through unlocked doors or ask for money. . .


In what Democrats fear could be a foul election year, they are taking heart in the latest money reports from a key ABQ House race.

No incumbent Dem state representative is more on the firing line than Pamelya Herndon who was appointed to fill House District 28 last year when Melanie Stansbury left the seat to run successfully for the ABQ area US House seat. 

Herndon faces Republican Nicole Chavez, who in the aftermath of her son's murder has become a leading advocate for criminal justice reform and has brought some star power to the table. But Herndon, an attorney and the first Black to represent the NE Heights district, is seeing leading Dems close ranks behind her and come with the cash she will need to fend off Chavez.

As of July 2, Herndon reported $105,000 in cash on hand, while Chavez reported $66,000 in cash. Not a huge difference but enough to make a difference in a close race. However, there is still plenty of time for Chavez to close the gap.

Herndon has received $2,000 from ABQ Rep. Javier Martinez who hopes to become the next House speaker and $1,000 from the PAC of ABQ Rep. Moe Maestas. The PAC of current Speaker Brian Egolf came with an in kind contribution of campaign services worth $9,600. 

GOP Rep. Gail Armstrong of the Socorro area chipped in $2,600 for Chavez. Rio Rancho GOP state Sen. Craig Brandt gave $1,000.

Earlier in the cycle Rep. Stansbury came with $10,000 for Herndon, determined to keep the seat she took from Republican Jimmie Hall in 2018 in the blue column.

In the Guv race, Republican Mark Ronchetti picked up momentum by raising $1.2 million in the June reporting period, compared to $755,000 for MLG. Ronchetti won the GOP primary with 58 percent of the vote in a five way race. However, in the all-important cash on hand, MLG continued to have a sizable lead, besting Ronchetti by nearly two to one with $2.749 million in cash to her rival's $1.415 million. 

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