Westside City Councilor Lan Sena’s priority is addressing the root causes of the inequities present in her native city. These historic inequities have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic and persons of color have been disproportionately affected. She is more than aware of these inequities as she is a person of color, and because she has been fighting cancer for several years, she is very aware of the health care impacts of the pandemic.
As a city councilor, Sena has a platform from which she can address the root causes of these inequities. Sena knows that low income families suffer from a lack of access to good health care, paid leave and equal access to the internet. The latter has become crucial because our children attend school remotely. In addition, winter is approaching and low-income families face a constant struggle to pay their heating bill.
Sena hopes to address all these issues. She is already addressing the paid leave issue, teaming with City Councilor Pat Davis to introduce the “Healthy Families and Workplace Ordinance.” Albuquerque employers with at least three employees will be required to provide paid leave to those who work at least 56 hours a year. Leave will be accrued at the rate of one hour earned for every 32 hours worked. Further details on this proposed legislation can be found on the City of Albuquerque website.
Sena also hopes to address the internet issue, perhaps through city-provided wi-fi connections for low income households, so parents and children do not have to search the city for places to connect. A program establishing free community clinics at local schools, which has started in other areas of the city but has yet to arrive on the Westside, may begin to address the lack of health care for low-income people - especially children.
In line with her desire to address inequities in Albuquerque, she supports Mayor Keller’s plan to create a new city department which would provide an alternative public-health based response to people in crisis and free up overworked police and fire department personnel. The new department would employ social workers, public health workers and behavioral health workers to respond in situations where they can provide more appropriate treatment than a police officer, paramedic or fire fighter. Sena has gone out multiple times with first responders in order to understand how these issues are currently handled and how the new department might change the ways in which they are settled.
Sena believes social workers, whom she described as “phenomenal people,” will be prime agents of this change. Their jobs involve routinely finding community-based solutions to problems of addiction, mental and physical health. In addition to social workers, Sena wants trained public health workers and behavioral health workers available to provide common-sense help to families and individuals experiencing serious issues. In our current structure, these issues are often a matter for the police or EMT’s.
The Council has only recently addressed the mayor’s initial plan for the department. Changes were made, including a provision for city funding of additional related education for employees of the new department, added by Councilor Sena. She hopes by doing so, to create a pathway for those in public health, social work, or mental and behavioral health to join the new department.
Sena also discussed Westside residents’ concerns about the effects of the city planning regulations adopted in 2016, the Integrated Development Ordinance, (IDO), and the ABC-Z Comprehensive Plan, on our side of the river. Sena wants to hear about concerns citizens have with current city planning and any changes citizens think should be made to deal with those concerns. In fact, several of the IDO updates she has proposed were ideas that originated with Westsiders. She has also been trying to widely communicate information about the city planning process through regular webinars for citizens which involve the city planning staff. Information about these can be obtained by calling her office.
She understands that the Westside will be a prime area for new development, and she pledges to ensure that there are clear rules for development supported by citizens and those rules are strictly enforced. She added that City Council as a body is constantly thinking about the future of Albuquerque and seeking to shape a better city for all. In addition, she commented that the three Westside city councilors are strong champions for the Westside. Councilor Sena closed with this comment; “I absolutely love the Westside.”