It's been six months since protests calling for the removal of statues of violent colonizers in Albuquerque, Española and Santa Fe led Mayor Alan Webber to declare that the city would set up a committee to review public art and facilitate public dialogue to address historical trauma.
Since then, the idea has been through countless committee and City Council meetings where councilors slowly shaped it into the resolution that received a unanimous vote by the governing body Wednesday night: Instead of an appointed committee, the process is to begin with community dialogue guided by professional facilitators. The final committee members will include individuals who participate in all three rounds of initial listening sessions.
The plan is based on a process used by the City of Albuquerque after June protests there led to violence.
"This process was challenging on so many levels, but I'm glad we took time to work out the details," said Councilor Renee Villarreal. "It shouldn't be led solely by the city because I think it's bigger than us… it's about confronting historic traumas and wounds that haven't been healed, and frankly past councilors and administrations have not dealt with this."
"It's not about monuments and statues," she continued, "it's about our people and our community that have felt invisibilized for a very long time, through various periods of our recent history and all in present day."
Three leading members of the Albuquerque team, Hakim Bellamy, Shelle Sanchez, and Alicia Manzano participated in Wednesday's council meeting to explain their process.
In Albuquerque, a team of a dozen city employees were in charge of making sure the logistics ran smoothly, said Bellamy. They hired 10 facilitators and nine well-respected community leaders as advisors. Ultimately, they held 80 community dialogue sessions between July and November last year in which 264 people participated.
Bellamy said they would have liked to have more time to complete the sessions and Manzano advised Santa Fe to dedicate staff to the undertaking.
"Make sure you have a dedicated team," she said.
A handful of community members spoke up in public comments to praise the council for the final iteration of the resolution and to pledge their commitment to the process.
"We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem" said Santa Fe Fiesta Council President Aaron Garcia, promising he was "in it for the long haul."
In other news, the City Council also voted unanimously to decriminalize possession of drug paraphernalia, aligning Santa Fe's policy with state statute, and passed a resolutions supporting the appropriation of funds proposed by the Legislature for programs that would bring more local produce into schools and senior centers.
The council also heard a status update about the San Juan Chama Return Flow Pipeline that would stretch from the Paseo Real Reclamation Facility that treats all the city's wastewater to the Rio Grande at a point just downstream of Buckman Direct Diversion, where the city takes in and treats its shares of water from the river.
City Water Division Director Jesse Roach said the city is ready to begin the environmental permitting process and to put out a bid for the engineering design of the pipeline. He said construction could begin by the end of 2022.