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The Pueblo City Center Partnership has continued its City Center Eats event after a successful first year, but the vendors say they have difficulty prospering in Pueblo outside of the El Pueblo Museum parking lot because of the city’s unclear and unspecified permitting process.

City Center Eats had an estimate of more than 150 attendees to welcome the vendors for the summer at the El Pueblo Museum on their first Thursday on June 4. Adults, teens and children lined up to try the different cuisines that each food truck had to offer in the parking lot of the museum, and the turnout was one of the biggest that the event has seen since its inception last summer.

City Center Eats is hosted every Thursday from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. at the El Pueblo History Museum during the summer and is composed of five or six local food trucks, a mobile boutique, live music and activities for children.

Brittany Gutierrez, City Center Eats Coordinator observed the booming business and success of the food truck culture of Denver and became inspired to start a similar event in Pueblo. In Denver mobile food trucks can park on street sides and they also have an event called Civic Center Eats at the Civic Center where more than 20 trucks line up every Tuesday and Thursday, Gutierrez said.

“A couple of years ago I went to Denver and they pretty much have every food truck you could ever imagine up there and I was just obsessed,” Gutierrez said.

Parking as a mobile business in Pueblo is not very easy. The permitting process and dealing with the tax office has put vendors in limbo because there are restrictions limiting them to how long and where they can park.

Melissa Turner, the owner of Sweet Peas Mobile Boutique said that within Pueblo city limits her mobile business cannot set up on streets and is required to park on private property because there is a no street sale rule. This rule restricts mobile businesses from parking and selling their products on street sides and in neighborhoods.

Unlike the permit processes in both Colorado Springs and Denver, mobile businesses in Pueblo must acquire multiple permits throughout the year to park in different locations.

Dylan Mosley, the owner of Vore Grilled Cheese Gastro-truck in Colorado Springs said that with his Peddler’s License he can park anywhere in Colorado Springs within the city limits that is not metered.

“It’s torturous; the city is not mobile friendly unfortunately,” Turner said about the permitting process in Pueblo.

In the city of Pueblo mobile businesses are required to obtain a Temporary Use Permit for every location for which they wish to park. These permits cost $100 upfront and $75 is supposed to be returned after a vendor vacates the spot.

According to the Temporary Use Permit form, a mobile business cannot exceed 30 days in the spot that the permit is used for in an entire calendar year. For owners such as Turner she said that this stipulation defeats the purpose of being mobile.

“I don’t want to be parked anywhere for 30 days,” she said. “It makes it a little challenging because it undermines the process of a mobile business.”

Chester Schmidt the owner of Chester’s Smokin’ BBQ echoed similar beliefs when he said, “It’s tough to get things going.”

He said that the taxes that are involved with starting a mobile business are what make things difficult in Pueblo.

“It’s torturous; the city is not mobile friendly unfortunately.” – Melissa Turner, Owner of Swet Peas Mobile Boutique

Signatures from Planning and Community Development, The Regional Building Department, The Pueblo Fire Department and The Environmental Health Department must be obtained before a mobile business can receive a Temporary Use Permit.

The taxes, licenses, loans, permits and insurance make the beginning hard on mobile businesses Schmidt said.

Vendors are welcomed in the county and Pueblo West where they have more freedom to park in different locations.

Slug & Chug co-owner Tonya Wyles said, “In Pueblo West they are excited to have us and are making it easy.”

Wyles and her husband also set up off of exit 108 where commuters stop and where vendors are not required to have all the permits that are needed in Pueblo city limits.

Turner said she has frustrations about the tax office because there are no set regulations.

Turner has been charged different prices for the same permits on different occasions. She said it would be helpful if there was a book that the tax office could give to mobile businesses, especially new ones just starting out,  that outlines the prices for permits and that has different lengths of time that a mobile business can be allotted for at different locations.

“Every year just dealing with the tax people is a pain in the butt,” Schmidt said.

The Peddlers Licenses that are used in Colorado Springs and Denver allow vendors to park anywhere as long as it is not invading a special event, in metered areas. Pueblo vendors are limited to the spaces that the can park and are required to get a Temporary Use Permit for every location they wish to park.

City Center Eats was able to gain a Special Event Permit that allowed the vendors to attend the event each Thursday without having to request a Temporary Use Permit every 30 days of the summer, Gutierrez said.

Sweet-Peas_Melissa-Turner

Melissa Turner, Sweet Peas Mobile Boutique, sets up shop each Thursday at City Center Eats. To park anywhere else in the city $100 upfront per spot. The city returns $75 of the fee after the vendor leaves the spot. Photo by Nick Naglich

Gutierrez said it is harder for  food truck vendors on their own rather than through a special event permit because they cannot park in a space more than 30 days because they are considered to be an actual business and have to start paying property taxes.

“A lot (of vendors) can’t survive in the city limits because of that rule,” she said.

One player that has been accommodating for vendors has been the Health Department. Schmidt said that the Health Department was wonderful throughout the process of getting his truck started.

“The Health Department has been nothing but helpful the whole time. They weren’t a hindrance at all and they didn’t make it hard,” Wyles said.

Even though surviving as a business in the city of Pueblo is difficult, the vendors at City Center Eats still try to promote other local businesses.

Turner said that when people ask her about different restaurants and shops she directs them toward locally owned businesses if they are not interested in the food trucks. She said that it would be beneficial to work with other businesses to create partnerships and advantageous to develop relationships for the community to work with each other.

Brenda Luna Martinez, co-owner of Mr. Philly’s said that she and her husband try to support local businesses when they buy their products. Wyles also said she gets all of her food fresh and local to support small and local businesses.

Although the business has been hard outside of City Center Eats, Gutierrez and the vendors are hoping that the permitting process will get easier because the attendance for the first couple of events has been positive. Gutierrez said that she was extremely happy about the turnout at the first City Center Eats event on June 4 and hopes that the number of people attending continues to grow.

“I hope that eventually we’ll have more food trucks even to the point that we are growing out of El Pueblo History Museum,” she said, “maybe even be multiple days like Denver.”

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Navajo Nation marks 150th anniversary of return to homeland

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A long-lost original copy of a historic treaty signed in 1868 by leaders of one of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes and the U.S. government will go on display later this year as the Navajo Nation commemorates a dark, but significant chapter of history.

Navajo Vice President Jonathan Nez and other tribal officials gathered Tuesday in Albuquerque to detail some of the events that will mark the signing of the treaty 150 years ago.

That treaty is what cleared the way for tribal members to return to their homeland in the heart of the American Southwest after being rounded up years earlier by the U.S. cavalry and forced to make an arduous and deadly trek hundreds of miles to a camp in eastern New Mexico.

Nez recounted the hardships of what came to be known as the Long Walk, saying many Navajos died along the route to Bosque Redondo. He also talked about those who stayed behind and hid in canyons and on mesa tops, often foregoing the warmth of a fire to avoid capture.

“We want our younger generation to know about our history,” Nez told a room packed with tribal officials and reporters.

He also talked about problems facing tribal communities, from suicide to alcoholism, drug addiction and violence. He said he wants to tap into the resilience of those Navajo ancestors who endured the hardships of the 1800s.

“What this will do is inspire, encourage our people out there that they can’t give up, to jump back up, dust themselves off and to fight even harder than ever before for what they believe in,” Nez said.

Navajo President Russell Begaye has said this year’s commemoration is also about telling the story of the Long Walk, the signing of the treaty and the return home from the perspective of Native Americans. He and other tribal officials say one goal is to address what they called a “legacy of misrepresentation” that has stemmed from that era.

Before research and planning began for this year’s events, there were only two known copies of the historic treaty. The whereabouts of one is now a mystery and the other has been kept by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The third copy turned up only recently when the relatives of a peace commissioner who was involved in the negotiation and signing of the treaty in 1868 found the document in a trunk in the family attic.

It was rolled up and bound with the original but faded ribbon. It was in pristine condition along with notes and other documents that historians hope might fill in some of the blanks from that time.

Pages of that copy will be on display starting in June at the Bosque Redondo Memorial near Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The National Archives is partnering with the Navajo Nation to display the other original copy at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, for the month of June.

It took more than two years of planning to make the exhibition possible as this marks only the second time an original treaty has gone back to a homeland.

Museum director Manny Wheeler said the treaty is more than just a document to the Navajo people.

“When I saw the document and I saw the marks of all of our leaders on that paper, it is a powerful thing and it is very much so opening up dialogue among all Navajos about who we are, where we’ve come from and where we’re going,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler suggested that as much as the document was key to the Navajos’ past, it also has the power to change the future by awaking tribal members to the importance of preserving their culture and language.

The leaders of the Navajo Nation’s three branches of government signed a proclamation earlier this year declaring 2018 as the year of the treaty, and the tribe launched a website .

The commemoration also includes a day of prayer across the Navajo Nation, cultural nights, tours of the tribal council chambers and a run that will span more than 400 miles (644 kilometers) from Fort Sumner to the Navajo capital.

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Push to legalize marijuana upends governor’s race in New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca on Thursday called for the expansion of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program and for legalization of recreational use, saying the poverty-stricken state is missing out on millions of dollars in tax revenues and jobs that could be spurred by the industry.

Apodaca released his plan solidifying his position as a supporter of legalization as the race for governor heats up.

Apodaca pointed to New Mexico’s history as the first state to allow for research and experimentation with marijuana as a therapeutic drug. It was his father, then-Gov. Jerry Apodaca, who signed that legislation in 1978.

The research program stalled and it wasn’t until 2008 that New Mexico rolled out its medical cannabis program.

“Why are we shooting for being the last to legalize cannabis for adult use?” Apodaca said.

The push for legalization comes as New Mexico’s medical marijuana program has grown exponentially in just the last two years. Producers licensed under the program reported record sales of more than $86 million in 2017 and the number of patients enrolled now tops 50,000.

“We know the medical benefits of it. And we also know the opportunities of legalization for adult use,” Apodaca said, suggesting expansion of the long-standing medical marijuana program along with legalization could result in an estimated $200 million of additional tax revenues for the state.

The state’s largest producer, Ultra Health, announced that it has acquired farmland in southern New Mexico and has plans for what the industry says could be the largest cultivation facility in North America.

The property spans nearly one-third of a square mile (81 hectares) in Otero County. It will include 20 acres (8 hectares) of indoor cultivation, 80 acres (32 hectares) of outdoor cannabis fields and another 100 acres (40 hectares) of outdoor hemp fields.

Ultra Health president and CEO Duke Rodriguez said the company is preparing for a future in which New Mexico stands to benefit from expanded medical use and possibly recreational use.

Apodaca’s plan calls for lifting the current limits on the number of plants producers can grow and reducing costly licensing fees.

Other Democratic candidates have been more cautious.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would work with state lawmakers to ensure there are adequate health, safety and enforcement measures in place. She called for a “thorough analysis” of recreational pot programs in other states as part of that effort.

Lujan Grisham was in charge of the state Health Department when the medical marijuana program began. Aside from the legalization debate, she said supporting producers to create the latest medicines and methods to help patients would help create jobs and expand the industry.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes, another Democratic candidate, has sponsored unsuccessful legislation to decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot but has said the state is lacking infrastructure and isn’t ready yet to legalize.

Cervantes recently lauded efforts at the local level by the state’s largest city — Albuquerque — to decriminalize possession of small amounts. He said he would do the same as governor and that it would mark a first step.

Republican congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce expressed reservations about legalization at a forum earlier this month. He said it might create a stumbling block for people trying to climb out of poverty and addiction to other drugs.

“I just don’t see how it fits that we’re going to deal with addiction and yet we’re going to tell people, ‘This one is OK.’ I’ve watched it for a lifetime. I just am very nervous with recreational marijuana,” he said.

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‘For fun’ killing reveals vulnerability for homeless Native Americans in New Mexico

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The morning a homeless man was shot and killed in Albuquerque, police say surveillance videos showed him running down a street before sunrise, and then gunfire flash in the dark.

Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living on the streets, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

Ronnie Ross, a 50-year-old from the Navajo Nation town of Shiprock, had been shot a dozen times, including once in the forehead and temple, and four times in the back, according to a criminal complaint. Police say the two teenage suspects charged with murder this week apparently shot him “for fun” as they came and went from a hotel party nearby.

The homicide marked the latest in a series of brazen killings and assaults of homeless Native Americans in the city. In Albuquerque, Native Americans make up only 4 percent of the population, but account for 44 percent of people living on the streets, raising the likelihood they will be victimized when there is an attack on the homeless.

A 2014 survey showed 75 percent of homeless Native Americans in Albuquerque had been physically assaulted.

“Just being harassed is part of everyday life, but it’s not as much harassment as it is overgrown bullying,” said Gordon Yawakia, who works at the Albuquerque Indian Center and was once homeless himself. “What do you do when people are against you and then the authorities are against you and you’ve got nobody, you know?”

In 2014, Allison Gorman and Kee Thompson, both Navajo, were beaten to death as they slept in a vacant lot. While authorities did not say the men were targeted because they were Native American, activists disagreed and the deaths spurred the creation of a city task force to address Native American homelessness that now-former Mayor Richard Berry said could set the stage for changes for the population across the Southwest.

Now, Ross’ death is underscoring how difficult it may be to protect and find solutions for the city’s Native American homeless population.

“When I hear a story like this it adds fuel to the fire,” said Dawn Begay, who is the city’s tribal liaison, and works with the homeless through a local nonprofit. “Where we’re headed is a good direction but it has to happen faster.”

Ross’ killing in March came three months after the body of Audra Willis was found decapitated in an area not far from the Sandia Mountains that line the city’s east side. The 39-year-old had come from To’hajiilee, a tiny Navajo community west of Albuquerque, and records show she had multiple addresses during her time in the city, including at the Albuquerque Indian Center.

Willis’ especially grisly death sent shockwaves through Albuquerque, just as the beatings of Thompson and Gorman had three years earlier.

The two men had been killed on a July 2014 night when authorities say three boys — ages 15, 16 and 18_returned home from a night of drinking and decided to attack them as they slept on a mattress. The men were beaten with a wooden table leg, cinder blocks, and other objects, police said. One young suspect later told authorities that the teens had beaten dozens of homeless people, though apparently none others fatally.

In Ross’ death, the complaint filed against the 15- and 17-year-old suspects does not identify a motive, but says the two teenagers bragged to friends about the shooting.

According to police, friends and acquaintances of the boys — whom The Associated Press is not naming because of their ages — said the suspects had been showing off a gun at the party, and had said to others that they had shot a man. At one point, the younger boy also said to a close friend at the party that he shot a “hobo” in the back.

The boys made one more stop at the scene to find Ross still alive, prompting the older boy to shoot him multiple times, according to the complaint.

“It’s completely disturbing,” said Officer Simon Drobik, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said Tuesday. “They just shot this guy for fun.”

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