I went to a polling place today to vote in a local election and I was confused when I realized that my new address was not updated in the City of Albuquerque’s list of registered voters. Earlier this year, I relocated from Albuquerque’s District 1 (West ABQ) to District 6 (Nob Hill) and immediately re-registered to vote (as I usually do). Perhaps municipalities should update their voter registration records more frequently, but what do I know?
I still voted this morning, I just had to vote for my former neighborhood rather than my current neighborhood; not a big deal in the macro.
(If I’m missing something, let me know in the comments section below. Don’t forget to tell me how big of an idiot I am.)
The Albuquerque City Council met with a full house of spectators last night, forty-one of those people signed up to speak publicly in front of the Council on a specific item agenda. Councilor Cynthia Borrego was absent from the meeting which brought the quorum down to 8 from the full 9-member council. The spotlight was on the Clean & Green Ordinance, a local measure to “pressure businesses (Councilor Pat Davis)” into transitioning to more environmentally-friendly consumer containers.
The ordinance was amended to a phased-in ban to take effect on 1/1/2020, rather than an immediate ban as a temporary reprieve for local businesses from the extra costs of transitioning away from cheap plastics. In the meantime until January of 2020, plastic grocery bags and plastic straws will be available upon request of individual customers. The ordinance was also amended to add a charge of ten cents onto customers asking for plastic bags as a way to encourage consumers to start transitioning to reusable containers.
Opposition to the ordinance came from the restaurant industry, specifically the New Mexico Restaurant Association, arguing that the current cost of transitioning from plastics would be to great on business owners and that consumer prices would inevitably increase as a consequence. A counter-point to that argument was made by private citizens in favor of the ordinance, that the cost is already artificially low and that consumers should be paying more for the luxury of take-home containers. A representative from the New Mexico Recycling Association also made an appearance to speak on behalf of the ordinance.
The proponents of the ordinance focused their arguments on the environmental impacts of plastic trash and claimed responsibility on governments to force the hand of businesses for the sake of the planet. The counter-point to that argument focused on individual liberty and government over-reach, the responsibility of clean environments should be on individuals and businesses making better choices willingly rather than out of necessity.
Albuquerque City Councilor Diane Gibson organizes a regular event in her district to meet with city residents (posted on the city website). The meet-up this morning was a very cordial one of a couple dozen or so concerned citizens albeit the majority of attendees were senior citizens.
I was not disappointed about who was in attendance but rather about who was not in attendance; only a handful of faces in the crowd looked younger than 40. It baffles me that most individuals from my own generation have no interest in prospecting their local political processes. Although cynicism is understandable, it is not excusable. Regardless of the overwhelming burden of political activism on an individual, it is still necessary to at least attempt to understand the issues happening around you and make an effort to exert your influence (no matter how small it may be) on the people elected/appointed to represent you. Governments do not stop operating simply because you choose to bury your head in the sand. In fact, averting your eyes from government processes will only ease the temptation toward corruption on government officials, a temptation that pulls on every human in a position of power.
The group discussion began with the possibility of a land bank for the City of Albuquerque, basically a method for the city to identify vacant lots and run-down structures to acquire and flip for productivity. There was a majority support for this idea as a main concern throughout the meet-up was blight and property values. I asked Councilor Gibson about this so-called land bank being used to identify vacant lots and dilapidated structures to be transformed into new public parks, she said public parks could be a possibility but the main focus was on acquiring old and vacant homes to flip on the housing market. I also asked Councilor Gibson about how the Council could improve the city buses, she replied that she would like to see a larger fleet of buses to reduce wait times at bus stops. Councilor Gibson joked that she would probably be long dead before we saw more bridges constructed across the Rio Grande so a larger fleet of buses is the next best thing to reduce traffic on the roads; she said that she is a ardent supporter of public transit. The meeting ended with a vibrant discussion on how the city can “go green” regarding his consumption and energy use, it seems to be an issue on a lot of residents’ minds which is hopeful for the future.
It’s Monday so be sure to set a new goal for the new week and try and be a better than person than you were last week. We all have our “bad days” but, if we tackle life just a little bit at a time, we can get through anything.
No Ego Apps Development Incorporated, or NEAD Inc., is a private company that creates mobile apps for iPhone and Android users. Its founder and chief executive officer lives in Seal Beach, California, and has created an app specifically for the community.
TJ Sokoll lives on the Boardwalk in Seal Beach and is a strong believer in personal civic participation. He began his career as an app developer with video games but quickly realized the potential beyond entertainment. “I realized that these aren’t just games, this is a computer in everybody’s hand” says Sokoll, although this was not his initial career plan. enormous “I was actually a stockbroker for quite a few years but I became disenfranchised with everything the financial industry was about, so I left and was looking for something else to do.” That was at age 34. Sokoll said that he got into mobile game development on a whim when he created a video stickball game for his friends and was able to put it on the Apple store. Within days he saw that it had been downloaded across the world and decided to give the industry a shot. NEAD Inc. had created between 30 and 35 games when it began to branch out into other aspects of the mobile sector. Sokoll wanted to create an app for Seal Beach because he wanted to give residents here a tool for connecting with each other and crafting their voice in the community. “At the time that I started, there seemed to be such a disconnect with our local communities – everyone was so enamored with Twitter and Facebook and you were connected to everyone around the world – but we didn’t know was happening in our own backyard.” NEAD Inc.’s first client was the city of Diamond Bar, California, in 2011 and that app is now in its third version. NEAD Inc. has since created 18 more apps for cities across Orange County, including Huntington Beach and Seal Beach under the umbrella, MyCivicApps. “We’ve made custom apps for cities, boys & girls clubs, schools, politicians, organizations, non-profits, and some celebrities. It’s been an interesting run, to say the least.” The Seal Beach app has been live for about two weeks now and specifically gives users an RSS feed to the City of Seal Beach website as well as access to web pages for various city departments with contact information for those departments. This easy access to city information makes for an open resource for citizen participation in local issues as well as citizen journalism. The app also gives users an RSS feed for press releases from the city and news articles from the Sun News. Most of NEAD Inc.’s apps are available for free at your respective app store on your mobile device. Sokoll explained that he built his Seal Beach app for free and maintains it for free because he believes in what the app can be for people here: a public resource. “It took me maybe three hours to put this app together and get it out to the community and it didn’t cost me anything because it’s on my platform, so why wouldn’t I do it?” Sokoll also explained that he tried to give the app to the City of Seal Beach so they could run it as a public resource, but the city declined his offer. A city official said they are reviewing different apps but at present don’t have the resources to maintain one – including personnel to answer questions or interact with residents. The business district for Huntington Beach, on the other hand, accepted a similar offer and now manages an app that NEAD Inc. created for them called “HB Downtown.” Sokoll is currently developing plans for expanding MyCivicApps past Orange County and across the United States. One can find more information about NEAD Inc.’s apps at the web address: <http://www.mycivicapps.com>. Sokoll is 40-years-old and also works as a tech consultant for a variety of clients.
Publisher’s note: the above article was originally intended for the Sun News in Seal Beach, Caifornia, but it was pulled during the eleventh hour. The writer has decided to publish it himself.