Will the Barelas Coffee House have to change its name to Silver-Platinum Downtown Coffee House?
Neighborhood to the North Annexes Historic Barelas
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Nature abhors a vacuum, and that apparently applies to neighborhood associations in Albuquerque.
In what one city councilor calls a “crazy” case, the historic Barelas neighborhood south of Downtown recently saw its boundaries usurped by an upstart association to the north.
The old Barelas Neighborhood Association let its designation lapse as an officially recognized association under the city’s Neighborhood Recognition Ordinance. And when Barelas had no officially recognized neighborhood association, the Silver-Platinum Downtown Neighborhood Association, which was formed in 2015, moved to fill the void. It absorbed the Barelas neighborhood.
So, technically, Barelas residents now live in the Silver-Platinum Neighborhood. Understandably, Barelas residents are upset. They have called the annexation a hostile takeover, and they’re vowing to take back their neighborhood.
City Councilor Isaac Benton, whose district includes Barelas, said the absorption of Barelas into the SPDNA was “crazy” and that he wants the city to reverse the decision. City officials say the annexation was legal.
The man who heads the Silver-Platinum association, Ron Casias, said the takeover is a good thing for Barelas because its residents and businesses weren’t being effectively represented by the old BNA. His association will breathe life into the neighborhood, he said.
“The Barelas association had been defunct, and the community really hadn’t had representation for years,” Casias said. “Business and residents contacted us and said they wanted representation. We crossed our Ts and dotted our Is. We want to do this, not to have power but to change people’s lives.”
Robert Vigil, vice president of a newly formed and reconstituted – but not officially recognized – Barelas Neighborhood Association, sees it differently.
“I would call it an attempted takeover. It is totally wrong, totally immoral, and totally not acceptable,” Vigil said. “This is a little trick that is going on. I think Mr. Casias should be ashamed of himself. I would say we are probably the second oldest neighborhood in the city. This is kind of like a hostile takeover. He does not represent us, and he will not represent us.”
But while Barelas residents might not recognize the takeover, the city’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination does. That office officially decertified the old BNA in September 2015, and this past May it approved the expansion of the SPDNA to include the entire Barelas neighborhood.
And while Vigil decries the takeover as immoral, he concedes that it was partially the fault of Barelas leaders.
In order to keep its official designation with the city, a neighborhood association must file a page-and-a-half report every year listing its officers, number of dues-paying members, its bylaws and other details of its organization. But the old BNA didn’t file that report, at least not in 2015, and so the city yanked its official designation.
“There was a lapse, maybe we fell asleep as a neighborhood and didn’t realize there was someone waiting to take advantage,” Vigil said. “Regardless, it’s still not right.”
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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