City commission denies religious procession request

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The city commission tabled a request for a religious procession in its July 23 meeting, citing concerns over noise levels, traffic disruptions and a lack of public input.

The commission unanimously denied Sean Ferreira’s request Thursday for all of those reasons, in addition to a lack of visible public support.

Ferreira, addressing the commission for the second time in 15 days, said he wanted to hold a procession from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 28 along Main and Mitchell streets from Ninth to 13th streets, with participants following a diesel truck playing worship music.

Ferreira said his request for the non-denominational event was based on a specific vision he received from God.

“This will not only bring unity to our churches and our community,” Ferreira said, “but it will bring God’s attention to this city.”

Though Ferreira said he could provide petitions and letters of support, commissioners were concerned nobody else came to the podium to support the event.

“You had two weeks to go out and fill the audience with supporters,” Commissioner Len Vohs said, gesturing to a crowd of 16 citizens in the audience. “We’re hearing from you that you had a lot of support. I would have loved to see them.”

Mayor Gayla Brumfield said she received numerous calls from constituents who didn’t support the procession, and attached to the city’s agenda were various e-mails requesting commissioners deny Ferreira’s request.

“What we do pay attention to,” Brumfield said, “are our constituents that call us and give us their names.”

Vohs said his concern was that the city would approve the event despite constituent complaints, and only a handful of people would show up.

“If I had everybody who told me they were going to vote for me vote for me,” Vohs said, “I would have won in a landslide.”

Ferreira responded that God would take care of things.

“I know people will show up,” Ferreira said. “God said, ‘Lift me up, and I will draw people in.’”

Commissioners said they would be happy to work with him, but suggested he move the event to other venues, including a city park or Main Street, where there are no residential areas. Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said he could not support an event that went at night through residential areas, and Commissioner Robert Sandoval had noise concerns for parents of young children and the elderly.

Commissioner Chris Bryant said if Ferreira had the support he claimed, they would certainly follow him to any city park.

Ferreira said he was still planning to fulfill what God wanted him to do, and he would continue to work to get it accomplished.

“There’s no question in my mind God wants this to happen.”

Meetings watch

This is a supplemental report to Thursday’s city commission meeting:
Items discussed included:
• Approval of a resolution to allow former Mayor James Moss to give donations in the name of his late wife, Elaine Moss, to the city to invest. The interest would go toward the purchase of library materials.
“One of her loves was to read books,” Moss said of his wife, who died June 13. “And one of my loves is to remember her in a chair reading those books.”
Moss said after 50 years of using the interest, the library board could spend the principal however it wanted. He requested the money be used as a supplement to current library money, and not a justification for budget cuts.
• The election of Donna Wilson to the city’s parks and recreation board.
• Support for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act applications for the Business Enterprise Center (TBD), roads at Ned Houk Park ($398,825) and Tharp Street and streets to the west between Seventh and Grand streets ($400,000, with a $165,299.05 investment from the city from the paving budget).
• Approval to accept New Mexico Department of Transportation’s Coop Funds ($58,049.33) as part of more than $6.5 million the city will have available by Oct. 1 for the Hull Street Overpass. City Manager Joe Thomas said bids should be available for approval by then, with work slated to be finished in the second or third quarter of 2010.