© 2023 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Residents had much to say at recent city council meeting

Peter Goodman


April’s first city council meeting was quite a ride!

I hoped to urge the council again to schedule a work session to consider a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. (City officials said we should make our CPOC proposal more specific, so we drafted a model ordinance to get conversations started. The mayor, or four councilors, could place it on the agenda.) Miyagashima had promised a work session then reneged. He also insisted no four commissioners wanted the work session.

Meanwhile, I heard that conservative critics had made sexist remarks about the women councilors, while the critics claimed councilors were arrogant and laughed at one speaker. (Video neither shows nor disproves that latter; it’s focused on citizens when they speak.) Numerous conservative social media posts urged fellow citizens to speak out against the council, while councilors and their supporters told friends about the attacks on them.

Public input took hours. Critics toned down their comments, disavowing any sexist intentions. Councilors said that they welcomed debate. Folks thanking the councilors greatly outnumbered the critics. The day’s agenda and councilor comments illustrated the range of matters the council studies and decides, few of which involve the “culture wars” issues that angered critics.

Critics were upset that the council recently renamed Squaw Mountain Drive something less demeaning. “Squaw” is on some federal list as insulting. Whether it’s sufficiently hurtful to enough people to warrant the change is open to discussion. But the critics’ argument that only street residents’ views should matter is weak. Residents should be heard; but if the debate concerned “N-word Avenue,” no one would suggest letting residents decide. Too, citizens elected each of these councilors over conservative opponents.

Some “Catholic but not Roman,” from T or C, amazingly full of hatred for a supposed follower of Jesus, fumed over New Mexico health facilities assisting victims of Texas’s draconian new abortion law. (“Murdering babies!”) He shouted about his faith, as if convincing us of his sincerity were the issue. He sounded just as passionate in his faith as Osama bin Laden or any Taliban official; but we separate church and state.

The councilors were treated to an outpouring of love and respect. If any had mocked citizens in March, they didn’t do so April 3.

Hours later, four councilors indeed requested a work session on the CPOC and police accountability. Two volunteered to help arrange expert speakers from cities with successful CPOCs. The Mayor now backtracked (again), saying “I can’t just call a work session,” and suggesting the idea first be vetted by legal staff and one of his committees that meets privately. Councilor Tessa Abeyta stated that she wasn’t one of the four, but reminded the Mayor that the city charter says four councilors can put this on the schedule.

The Mayor said secret advisory boards (not capable of doing a CPOC’s work) and OIR, the out-of-state agency the City contracts with, would suffice. (CPOCs offer advantages OIR can’t. In some cities OIR reports to the local CPOC.) One councilor commented that shifting an important transparency issue to a secret committee didn’t sound right.

Afterward, I’m told, Mayor Miyagashima had a new objection, demanding to know in advance how much a CPOC would cost. That’s a reasonable question he hadn’t really raised before – and one that obviously will depend on what form of CPOC the council might resolve to adopt.

I hope he listens with an open-mind at the work session. Meanwhile, congratulations, councilors.

Peter Goodman's opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.