Albuquerque City Council

Like Bums, Politicians Are Here to Stay: Bassan Backtracks on Tent Camps, For Now

City Councilor Brook Bassan has reversed course on “safe outdoor spaces” for the homeless. The proposal, which she intends to halt at tonight’s council meeting, paved the way for 18 encampments across the Duke City.

Her change of heart follows intense public backlash across the city, including in her own district, where residents packed a northeast Albuquerque neighborhood association meeting last week to question Bassan’s proposal to congregate the homeless at various “tent camps” throughout the city.

In an email to constituents, Bassan took it back: “I have heard your voice in opposition to sanctioned encampments,” she wrote.

“I initially supported sanctioned encampments based on the understanding that existing vagrancy, loitering, trespassing and overnight camping laws would be enforced once we created the sanctioned encampments. However, upon hearing Mayor Tim Keller’s recent press conference statements, it has become clear that this enforcement is highly unlikely to occur. That means creating sanctioned encampments won’t work.”

–Brook Bassan, Albuquerque City Council District 4

As several constituents pointed out, you don’t need tent camps to enforce vagrancy, loitering, or trespassing violations. Laws are laws. The city’s failure to enforce them proves that the tent camp ordinance was never about solving homelessness, drug addiction, or any of the petty crimes that have overtaken Albuquerque in recent years. It was about virtue signaling.

While a Republican, Bassan is no Conservative. She voted last month to send a quarter of a million dollars of Albuquerque tax dollars to Planned Parenthood. Two weeks ago, she showed her true colors as an opponent of private property rights by voting to force Albuquerque landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

Her about face to halt City Council’s ongoing attempts to “solve” homelessness in Albuquerque are exactly that: temporary.

Homelessness in Albuquerque will only get worse, because city “leaders” continue to pretend that there is a solution. There isn’t. No city in the U.S. has “solved” homelessness. They have mitigated and moved it, neither of which are politically popular, particularly in liberal cities like like Albuquerque. Bassan is merely buying time to let tempers cool. New proposals are coming.

Like bums, there will always be politicians. In order to be a politician, you have to do something, even when every major city in the country has proven that “something” only perpetuates the problem.

People don’t seem to understand this.

The media loves to criticize Republicans for being “unproductive.” Every two years, surface-level “studies” assess the latest legislative session and compare it against the “least productive” legislatures in history. The implication is that “unproductive” is pejorative. What they don’t understand is that “productive” is not a goal of Conservatism. “Limited government” by definition means fewer bills, not more. (An ideal Conservative legislative session would repeal more bills than it passed and return more tax dollars to Americans than it spent.)

The problem is, politicians can’t win elections by promising to leave people alone, even when doing so is the only real solution to problems like homelessness.

The best any city has done on the issue may be Houston, which enforced petty crime ordinances and pushed homeless on to more lenient (and liberal) pastures. It’s why bums will settle in San Francisco, Seattle, and other expensive cities: When everything is free, “cost of living” is a taxpayer problem.

Rather than enforcing basic laws against loitering, littering, camping, and trespassing, politicians come up with new programs offering “free” (read: “taxpayer funded”) services, food, housing, drug needles, showers, and cleanup crews. These policies are compassionate in theory and counterproductive in practice. They attract rather than deter the homeless, and because Albuquerque is more lenient than some of our neighbors to the West, the problems continues to grow.

While city leaders seem concerned, they understand that perpetuating problems like homelessness are essential to politics, because without new and exciting programs, politicians can’t take credit for doing something.

I used to think Liberals simply didn’t understand human nature–how humanity evolved to seek the maximum amount of resources for a minimum amount of effort; how people will not work if they don’t have to, will not cook real food if cheap and fast alternatives are available on every street corner, and will pay for a pharmaceutical remedy to any number of easily solved health problems if it means avoiding exercise and dietary discipline.

This is the reality that politicians perpetuate when they demand nothing in exchange for everything.

You can’t blame the homeless for taking what is offered without strings, for squatting and panhandling and defecating in public without consequence. But you can understand the political motivation behind Bassan’s temporary change of heart.

Modern politicians don’t campaign on results. They don’t need a good record to win. Mayor Tim Keller is proof of that locally, Joe Biden nationally. They campaign on ideas, the newer and bolder and more expensive the better.

Bassan made a political calculation, and politically it’s the right one. You can’t be Albuquerque’s next mayor when as councilor you push violent drug addicts into the neighborhoods of your constituents. A new plan for homelessness is in order, and one will be forthcoming. Just don’t expect it to have an actual effect.

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