At a community meeting Monday night, Councilor Patti Bushee spoke about a tentative plan to raise liquor taxes by up to 5 percent.
The money would pay for services to treat alcoholism and drug abuse, which Bushee says are few and far between in the city. Her proposal stems from the ongoing vagrancy crimes near the Railyard, which have included public defecation, public urination and aggressive panhandling.
"We know that this problem is a revolving door," she said at the meeting. "It's not going away until we treat the root causes."
Bushee started holding public meetings about the problems last month. At the moment, her plan is essentially a rehash of a liquor excise tax in Gallup, which Bushee says
has been successful in curbing alcohol problems there.
Bushee conceded that she was early in the stages of drawing out specifics. She says she doesn't like how Gallup is allowed to use much of its revenue from the tax on administrative costs. But she still sees a need to take action.
"All I know is they've got more than what we've got today," Bushee says.
Bushee's planning to get referendum for the excise tax on the city ballot for March elections, if possible. She says she intends to address it in city council as soon as Wednesday if she can.
Most who attended the Monday evening meeting gave positive reactions to the idea. But Randal Peifer, who's been homeless on and off for 20 years, told Bushee that alcoholism and homelessness would always compliment each other.
"I'd like to say there's a complete solution, but there isn't," Peifer, an alcoholic, said at the meeting. "I've been assaulted and I've also assaulted other homeless people. Alcohol was always involved."
He mentioned that more frequent community meetings could help. "We can reduce this problem, but we'll never solve it," he said.
Excise taxes are imposed on retailers, who usually make up for them with sales taxes on buyers.