In September of this year, Mayor Berry gave his very last “State of the City” address before the monthly luncheon of the National Association of Industrial Parks (NAIOP), a group of contractors and developers who have made millions in city contracts such as the ART bus project over the years.
The Albuquerque Journal did a front page above the fold article about the speech with the headline “A Hallmark of fiscal responsibility”.
(See September 26, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “A hallmark of fiscal responsibility”)
In his final Mayor State of the City speech, Mayor Berry proclaimed “the state of our city is strong,” and said Albuquerque’s next mayor will “inherit an efficient city government that is living within its means, a growing economy and close to $1.2 billion in infrastructure projects that have been built or are in the pipeline”.
On November 10, 2017, the very day before he left office, the Journal did yet another front page above the fold story where Berry proclaimed that Albuquerque was a better place than when he took office, blaming our rising crime rates on the judicial system.
The last front page article on Berry had a color photo of Berry placing his hand in the $10 million dollar newly renovated civic plaza fountain.
(See November 30, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “It’s never a me thing”; Outgoing mayor Richard Berry credits staff, directors for making Albuquerque a better place than when he took office.”)
On December 13, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller spoke for the first time as mayor before the monthly breakfast meeting of business and community leaders known as the Albuquerque Economic Forum.
The Albuquerque Economic Forum and the National Association of Industrial Parks (NAIOP) for the last eight years have been the main cheerleading organizations for the past administration never being critical of it.
(See December 14, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, Mayor says Albuquerque is facing a budget deficit; Gross receipts tax growth falls short of fiscal year estimates)
Mayor Keller told the business group the sobering reality of just how bad things really are at city hall and the mess he has been left to clean up.
Among the many problems Keller is now facing as Mayor and he will have to deal with are:
1. The budget for the current fiscal year that began on July 1 was based on 3% gross receipts tax growth and the growth rate has only been 1.7% resulting in a $10 million-dollar budget deficit.
2. $75 million in federal funding has yet to materialize for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project now costing $134 million instead of $129 million. Keller will now have to go to Washington in January and see if he can get the money promised. The federal budget deal announced in May only has funding for $50 million for ART.
3. There is a lack of “working capital” to hire a shortage of 400 police officers.
4. There are wait times of 90 minutes for nonviolent crimes that use to be responded to in less than 15 minutes.
The one area that eclipses everything that Mayor Keller is going to have to deal with is the Albuquerque Police Department, our rising crime rates not to mention the DOJ consent decree reforms.
The Albuquerque Economic Forum gave Mayor Keller the most applause when he said he was not going to play the blame game, that we needed to come together, acknowledge our problems and solve them together.
The Economic Forum should have also given Mayor Keller standing ovation thanking him for not pointing out they have been part of the problem.
Mayor Keller should dedicate the ART Bus line as “The Berry Bus Line To Failure”.