TED WINTERER LOVES SANTA MONICA
I’m pretty sure of that. Kevin McKeown does too, and Gleam Davis. Sue Himmelrich, Rick Cole, yup. Greg Morena, lived here most of his life, oh yes, he told me. Newest Council member Ana Jara devoted decades of volunteer service to the City so, she must. Hard to know much about the elusive Terry O’Day but, sure, one would imagine. And I love Santa Monica. If you’ve read even a few of my CURIOUS CITY columns over the past 7-½ years, you would know that.
I also love Albuquerque, an old Spanish soul of a desert-mountain settlement with tacky trappings, in physically gorgeous and spiritually inspiring NM, where I grew up, went to college, got drafted at the height of the Viet Nam War, came back, resumed college and a pursuit of journalism under the great Tony Hillerman, got married, had a kid, traveled Europe for a year, got divorced, fell in love, finally arranged custody and was able to escape the Land of Enchantment (no enchanting future for work) for the sunny shores of music-drenched Southern California, where I fell in love again, got married, had a kid and camped around Europe and North Africa for a year again. Mandeville Canyon, Studio City, Beverly Hills, all for the best schools for my son, and finally, the ultimate, the longed for destination, the part of LA that I first fell in love with, Santa Monica. “Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really.”
BOTH CITIES HAVE GONE TO HELL
For most of my 30 years in Albuquerque it was provincial, it was off the beaten path, cultural opportunities were marginal, it was more small town than its population figures would indicate (not in a good way), it was great to look at, Old Town and the Sandia Mountains, the westsie volcanoes and the Rio Grande River, but wearing to live in sometimes. But… it was never dangerous. Oh sure, there were certain parts of town you wouldn’t go to, especially at night, especially if you were a gringo. But that was true in almost any town of some size.
But now, Albuquerque has become hell. Gun violence is out of control, mostly because of the drug flow, methamphetamines, very bad stuff. The APD was always considered a killer loose canon, but now gang bangers and gun-toting citizens are taking their toll, to make living there a daily danger.
Here are some cold statistics: this year, 114 people shot in 112 days. 36 percent more this year than over the same period last year. 2018: 232 shootings, 65 fatal. The youngest victim this year: 8-year-old Diamond Williams. Per the Albuquerque Journal, “No arrests have been made, although police have said they are not looking for any suspects.” Not looking for any suspects. Imagine you are Diamond’s parents.
HERE’S WHERE I TAKE IT PERSONAL
There are lots more horrifying statistics, but let me tell you what I experienced.
You can get away with murder in Albuquerque.
My adult son Chris, born there and moved back after college, was murdered in his home 9/20/17, on a quiet cul-de-sac in a respectable part of town. We called the detective assigned to his case faithfully every Tuesday, until after 18 months we gave up. APD had six detectives for all those homicides and they were all ridiculously overloaded, and bounced back and forth on priorities as the political winds shifted. Finally our detective told us the case was being assigned to another detective, as soon as he could complete checking the phone logs. We never heard back from anyone.
Checking the phone logs. The numbers taken from his cell phone. People he spoke to just before being murdered. I’m pretty sure that’s almost the first thing you do in a murder investigation, but 18 months later the detective hadn’t gotten around to it. What was he doing? But hey, it was only That Day’s Murder, right?
On our family’s last trip there, we made a request in advance, through channels, to speak with the Police Chief. We felt we had a right to some answers, or at least to speak our minds. 15 minutes, we asked for. His “community liaison” stonewalled and never returned a phone call or email. On the APD web page there is a list of 25 active homicide investigations; our son’s name is not there, and hasn’t been for a long time. That hurts.
YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH MURDER IN ALBUQUERQUE
Is SM that bad? Not yet. But more and more people I know are not waiting to find out — they’re moving. I fully realize that both cities are fighting huge regional, national problems that defy easy or quick solutions. But in Albuquerque, my longtime friends there tell me, new mayor Tim Keller is storming ahead with new programs and technology, making it the top priority.
How do you feel our City leaders here are addressing the crime problem? Is it their top priority, or just on the agenda? Are they diverting needed attention and crime-fighting funds away to pride projects of sustainability? A City offices building costing tens of millions more than it needs to, some $30M to fight a court ruling that we discriminate in our voting practices, $8M wasted on bus benches everyone hates but they look pretty, $2.5M on a toilet? Tens of millions on an early childhood care center giveaway. And on and on and on. Where are their priorities?
In both cities, the buck stops with the City Council/Mayor, doesn’t it?
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org