By Marisa Demarco
— The County Commission acknowledged Catalina Delgado Trunk, an renowned papel picado artist and an authority on Diá de los Muertos. Her art is in the Smithsonian and other collections. The Commission displayed one of her works, which she had offered to the Arts Board. Delgado Trunk said she was pleased her donation had been accepted. “I have to tell you, I’ve been living in Bernalillo County about 12 years, and this is the first time I really feel at home in the United States,” she said.
During the public comment portion of the Tuesday, Feb. 26 meeting, Joe Green brought up a letter written to the Albuquerque Journal by Commissioner Art De La Cruz. He said he supported De La Cruz’ effort to have wrestling restored to the Olympics. The commissioner, who wrestled for Rio Grande in 1974, wrote that the sport saved his life and taught him solid values.
Commissioner Lonnie Talbert recognized Don Schrader for his diligence in attending every meeting and speaking so eloquently.
Issue: Health Care
Steve McKernan, CEO of the University of New Mexico Hospital, gave an update on the hospital status. He explained the impact of the Affordable Care Act, which takes effect next year. The UNM Care financial assistance program will be affected, as new many of the folks on it will be able to switch to Medicaid under the new national health care plan. However, depending on income level, co-pays may increase for some patients, McKernan said. So the hospital is trying to figure out how to defray those costs. “We have to be able to work in our community to make a plan,” McKernan said.
Access is going to be a problem, though, he continued. When people get an insurance card, they use twice as much care as they used to, he said. With 20 percent of the metro area uninsured today, McKernan estimates about 160,000 will become eligible for Medicaid or exchange benefits under the Affordable Care Act. UNMH is trying to hire more doctors, nurses and therapists.
Representatives from Lovelace and Presbyterian spoke in depth about how the coming changes in health care will affect their hospitals as well. Talbert asked whether it was a conflict of interest for him to be part of the discussion as he accepted campaign donations from those hospitals.
Issue: Animal Laws
The Commission considered tweaks to the Animal Care Ordinance. One amendment specifies that people who breed animals with a permit can’t resell puppies or kitties to commercial outlets, or to animal testing and research facilities. It also specifies that animals shouldn’t be forced to have more than one litter in 12 months. Another demands that livestock be given adequate living areas and defines those areas. The amendments also took on the problems created when people buy rabbits on impulse.
Bill Velasquez, president of the New Mexico House Rabbit Society, said rabbits are the third most abandoned pet in United States. When turned loose on the streets, they have a low chance of survival, as they are prey animals, he said. Plus, they breed quickly. “We have worked backyard rescues where 100 to 360 rabbits are not uncommon.”
His organization supports a complete ban on the sale of rabbits in pet stores and feed stores, Velasquez said. Barring that, he called for at least a 60-day ban before Easter to help eliminate impulse purchases.
The board voted in favor of most of the amendments. There was some debate on rabbits, and commissioners considered banning their sale overall. De La Cruz objected, saying for many people, rabbits are food, and there are feed stores that sell them for that purpose. There are also folks who raise them to be eaten. De La Cruz added that he supported the idea that rabbits not be sold around Easter.
The Commission approved banning the sale of rabbits in pet shops but allowed them to be sold as livestock, though not during March and April.
Whether keeping animals as food or companions, people need to be sure not to abuse or neglect the creatures in their care. When taking on a pet, it’s important to first recognize the time, money and work involved in that responsibility. When raising animals for food, decent treatment also ensures the health of the people who will eat the animal down the line.
The next meeting is Tuesday, March 12, at 5 p.m. in the Vincent E. Griego Chambers in the basement of City Hall. Dig through the agenda the preceding Friday at bit.ly/BernCoAgenda.