Following is my guest editorial column published December 12, 2016 in the Albuquerque Journal entitled “City needs to look inward.”
The guest column is an extremely abbreviated version of my December 4, 2016 blog column entitled “A Community Inspired Economic Development Plan” on PeteDinelli.com.
I wrote both of the columns after reading so many depressing stories on just how bad Albuquerque’s economy is doing.
We are losing our brightest and best young adults because Albuquerque has no jobs with a future and no economic development plan.
As a community we can and must do better.
December 9, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Guest Editorial Comment, page A-11:
“City needs to look inward”
“Community needs to reverse economic death spiral”
By PETE DINELLI
It is time for Albuquerque to engage in a form of economic development “soul searching”.
As a community, we need to figure out what can be done to turn our city economy around, diversify our economy and reduce our reliance on federal funding.
It is an effort that should be lead by the Mayor, Albuquerque City Council and the Albuquerque business community. It can be done by doing something actually done in the past.
We need to decide as a community what kind of City we want to become and identify our real needs; otherwise we are destined to continue our economic death spiral.
In 1987, when I was a City Councilor, the Albuquerque City Council engaged in a process of public hearings to determine the type of facilities we needed for a growing city that would enhance our quality of life and make Albuquerque an attractive City to raise a family and to do business.
By a unanimous, bipartisan vote, the Albuquerque City Council enacted the “Quality of Life” tax that resulted in the construction of the Albuquerque Aquarium, the Albuquerque Children’s Science Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Balloon Museum.
Originally, funding for a performing arts center was included but was struck down by a voter initiative.
The Quality of Life legislation funded the acquisition of critical open space with open land acquisitions completing the final phase of what forms the backbone of our “urban parks”.
Money was also approved by the 1987 City Council to fund major improvements to our zoo, a major remodeling and expansion of our Convention Center, and the expansion and remodeling of the Albuquerque Sunport.
The same approach used in 1987 for the Quality of Life legislation can be done today to develop a successful economic development program, with or without an “economic development” tax voted upon by taxpayers.
There have been major cities where voters have agreed to tax and invest in themselves to rebuild their communities.
Albuquerque can turn itself and our economy around with an aggressive and massive investment to reinvent itself like has been done by great American cities such as Denver, El Paso, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Columbus, and other cities that have invested billions in their communities.
Albuquerque’s taxpayers must be convinced by its political and business leaders of the importance of investing in major construction projects and infra structure.
Albuquerque must redefine its identity, take bold and aggressive, calculated risks to attract and create high-paying jobs to keep our youth and talent from leaving.
Improving our schools and vocational systems, reducing dropout rates, are critical to diversifying Albuquerque’s economy.
Albuquerque must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds, and even fund economic development investment programs such as initial start up funding with claw back provisions.
Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industries like heath care, transportation and manufacturing, to diversify our economy.
Public-private partnerships in growth industries where ever possible should be developed. Special emphasis and support should be given to Albuquerque’s film industry which is a new emerging Albuquerque industry.
The City of Albuquerque needs to partner with the State of New Mexico wherever possible.
A good first start is to find a new vision for the State Fair grounds and how that very valuable gem in the center of Albuquerque can be better utilized.
An example would be for the City and State to jointly fund a tear down of Tingly Coliseum and construct a multipurpose, state of the art facility that could be used for entertainment and sports events and operated year round with a joint powers agreement.
Our political and business leaders need to show far more leadership to improving and diversify Albuquerque’s economy.
Otherwise, we are destined to become just another dying, dusty southwest town without any real potential for growth and better economic times.