How do the unseen, the unheard, and the invisible among us influence public policy?

Do the unsheltered families living in their cars have a voice in our city’s housing policies? Does the unemployed young addict have any say in how the public transportation system works? Do the undocumented laborers have any influence in the issues that might directly impact their lives, such as healthcare and education?

The answer, we all know to be true, is that our federal, state and local governments govern with a rarefied slice of the public’s interest in mind. Those who are gainfully employed or successfully retired, usually with a college education, with a roof over their heads and a car (nowadays a Prius) in the driveway, are the voices that government officials and elected leaders hear from, along with the paid lobbyists and corporate shills. These are the people who show up to city council meetings and air quality control board hearings, while the great majority of our community is absent.

Progressives have a responsibility to recognize these empty seats at the table and make sure we do everything in our power to lift up their concerns at every opportunity. Monday, May 15th at 5:00 pm is such an opportunity at the Albuquerque City Council.

City leaders are grappling with the lack of affordable housing in our community with an estimated 1,300 people experiencing homelessness on any given night and half of Albuquerque renters pay more than 30% of their income on rent. In 2021, rents in our city increased 21%. The problem is complex but the city has a number of proposed reforms that might help. We know one culprit are the investors who gobble up the housing stock for AirBnB and short-term rentals. They drive up housing prices and remove many units from the market. The city wants to limit the number of short-term rentals and add other requirements to make sure we’re focused on the needs of our community and not an investment haven for Californians.

The renters and unsheltered persons in Albuquerque would benefit from this amendment (O-23-69) but the only people who stood up to speak about it at the first hearing were real estate folks and property owners, and they spoke against it. I plan to speak in favor of these changes on May 15 and hope others will join me.

—Lora Lucero


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