On November 30, 2017, the Albuquerque Journal did one final front page story on Mayor Richard Berry in anticipation of Mayor Tim Keller being sworn in on December 1, 2017 as the new Mayor.
(See November 30, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “It’s never a me thing”; Outgoing maor Richard Berry credits staff, directors for making Albquerque a better place than when he took office.”)
With this farewell fluff piece, the Albuquerque Journal confirmed what we have all know for some time: the Albuquerque Journal has lost most of its credibility as a source of objective news.
ANALYSIS OF THE ARTICLES
The fact that Mayor Berry did not articulate, and the Journal did not even mention or ask about what he thought his failures have been speaks volumes. Richard Berry is in total denial and in complete spin mode when he says “It’s never a me thing … I was surprised that I was as much a part of the campaign when I wasn’t even a candidate” and saying we have made “Albuquerque a better place” than when he took office.
Berry’s true legacy is that of failure and includes: 1. extremely high violent crime rates, 2. APD being placed under a DOJ consent decree under his watch, 3. 42 police officer involved “use of deadly force” shootings, 4. $90 million dollars paid out in taxpayer money for police misconduct cases, 5. six scathing reports from the Federal Monitor pointing out the obstruction tactics of APD command staff, 6. the ART bus project not being fully funded to the tune of $69 million, 7. a failed local economy, 8. and high unemployment rates just to mention a few.
The Albuquerque Journal did another front-page fluff story on Mayor Richard Berry giving his last State of the City address.
(See September 26, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “A hallmark of fiscal responsibility”)
The speech was 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 thanks to Mayor RJ Berry. Two front-page articles appeared and were truly astounding given the absolute tragic irony exhibited on the paper’s front-page.
On the left of the page was a flattering full color picture of the Mayor giving his speech as he gazes upward and it appears he is looking at the adjacent bold headline “FBI: Crime up sharply in ABQ; Murders increased 41.8% violent offenses rose 15%.”
Mayor Berry proclaimed in his speech, “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”.
Addressing the city’s rising crime rate, Berry said he feared that hiring more police officers by itself won’t solve the problem and then called for more resources for the local District Attorney’s Office, something the city has no control over.
Berry largely emphasized what he felt he had accomplished over the last eight years as mayor and proclaimed his administration has been a “hallmark of fiscal responsibility”. To Berry, $1.2 billion in infrastructure projects and efficiency in government is far more important than people’s safety, people living in fear and needing a job. As he ended his second term, Berry blamed all the increases in crime on the courts and says nothing about destroying one of the finest police departments with the hiring of political operatives like Gordon Eden as APD Chief who never managed a municipal police department.
During his entire eight (8) years he deliberately reduced the size of government to the detriment of essential services and the determent of public safety to avoid tax increases at all costs.
TRUE LEGACY IS THAT OF FAILURE
During his first term (2009 TO 2013), Mayor Berry blamed Mayor Chavez for all APD’s problems, increased crime rates and budget deficits. As he ended his second term (2013 to 2017), Mayor Berry blamed all the increases in crime on the courts and says nothing about destroying one of the finest police departments in the country.
A review of Berry’s job performance over the last eight years and his true legacy is in order.
BERRY’S LEGACY OF DESTROYING THE ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Eight (8) years ago when Berry took office, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history and was fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers. In 2009 when Berry took office, APD response times had been brought down below the national average and violent and property crime rates in Albuquerque were hitting historical lows. Today in 2017 as Berry leaves office, response times are at historical highs with calls to APD taking hours instead of minutes to respond threatening public safety. In eight (8) years, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police all under the public safety leadership of Mayor Berry and his appointed police chiefs.
The first year he was in office, Berry made numerous mistakes that started the Albuquerque Police Department in the downward spiral it has yet to recover from and problems it will take years to correct. The first major mistake Berry made with APD was the appointment of political Republican operative Darren White as Chief Public Safety Officer who implemented policies that had a disastrous effect on moral and APD recruitment. Darren White wound up resigning under pressure after 16 months in office when he showed up to a traffic accident investigation involving his wife and was accused of interfering with a criminal investigation.
The first year of Berry Administration, Mayor Berry abolished the longevity program that kept experienced police officers from retiring, unilaterally decided not to pay a 5% negotiated pay raise, abolished the APD take home car policy, eliminated sign on bonuses and mortgage down payments for new recruits and implemented a college education requirement for new recruits but did not pay college wages. Moral within APD plummeted and the mass exodus of experienced police officers began with Berry’s gross mismanagement of APD. After four years of losing experienced officers because of his policies and because the police academy could not keep up with retirements, Mayor Berry began his efforts to advocate the New Mexico legislature to reinstate “double dipping” to allow retired police officers to return to work and get paid their salaries and retirement pay.
In 2017, APD is funded for 1,000 sworn officers but has only 853 sworn police officers. In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard. In 2017, APD has 853 sworn police with 436 are assigned to field services and 417 sworn police officers assigned to the various specialized felony units and command staff.
Given the volume of felony arrests and cases, APD is severely understaffed to complete felony investigations. Over the last eight (8) years, Mayor Berry has been very hands off with APD and allowed his appointed Chief’s to destroy one of the finest police departments in the country. For close to four (4) years, Berry retained APD Chief Ray Schultz, first under the supervision of political operative Darren White who had no problem keeping Schultz as Chief. Berry allowed Schultz to mismanage APD without civilian supervision and Schultz engaged in questionable management tactics against rank and file police officers and at one-time Shultz labeled sexual misconduct within the department as “nature at play” without Berry voicing any objections.
Schultz left APD in 2013 but only after negotiating a million-dollar plus city contract with TAZER International a contract Schultz said had been “greased”. Schultz later went to work for TAZER within less than a year after leaving the city. The legality of the city TAZER contract is still being reviewed by the New Mexico Attorney General.
In 2013 after proclaiming the city conducted a “national search” for a police chief, Berry selected and appointed political operative Gordon Eden as APD Chief. Chief Eden had no prior experience managing a municipal police department before his appointment.
In 2014, a few months after Eden was appointed Chief, Eden declared that the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd was “justified”. The city ultimately paid the family of James Boyd $5 million for wrongful death to settle the civil case and two police officers involved with the shooting were charged with murder, tried and released with charges dismissed because of a hung jury.
THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INVESTIGATION AND CONSENT DECREE
During the last eight (8) years, there have been over 41 police officer involved shootings resulting in 38 deaths with over $61 million dollars in paid in settlements for police misconduct and excessive use of force cases. Almost four (4) years ago, a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive force” and a “culture of aggression” within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
Mayor Berry has done next to nothing about APD gross mismanagement, not even when the Department of Justice (DOJ) found a “culture of aggression” that lead to a federal consent decree and mandated reforms that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Each time the Federal Monitor has presented his critical reports of APD to the Federal Court, Berry has essentially remained silent and declined to demand accountability from his appointed Chief and command staff nor hold them responsible for dragging their feet on the reforms.
CRIME RATES UNDER BERRY
Violent and property crime rates in Albuquerque are at historical highs under Mayor Richard Berry. Albuquerque Police Department (APD) statistics reveal the total number of violent crimes in Albuquerque increased steadily and went from 4,291 in 2010 to 5,409 in 2015.
According to the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office, from 2009 to 2015, Albuquerque’s violent crime rates increased by 21.5%. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that in the last eight (8) years, Albuquerque has become the is fifth-most violent city in the country on a per capita basis while the nation’s violent crime rate dropped by 13.7%.
In 2009, when Berry ran for office the first time, he made auto thefts a corner stone issue in the Mayor’s race by doing a commercial standing next to his burned out stolen truck and vowing that he could do better as Mayor and make Albuquerque the “worse place to be a criminal”. Eight (8) years later, Albuquerque has become number one in the nation for auto thefts.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s latest Hot Spots report shows Albuquerque and of Bernalillo County as the worst place in the nation when it comes to auto theft per capita. In 2016 more than 10,000 vehicles were stolen in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County or more than 27 vehicles a day.
According APD statistics, the total number of property crimes in Albuquerque has steadily increased each year during the last six (6) years going from 26,493 crimes in 2010 to 34,082 in 2015. In 2016 according to FBI statistics Albuquerque’s violent crime spiked 15.5% and murders spiked 41.8 percent.
(See September 26, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “”FBI: Crime up sharply in ABQ; Murders increased 41.8% violent offenses rose 15%.”).
According to FBI data, Albuquerque had 61 murders and 6,245 violent crimes in 2016. The number of murders in 2017 went to 70 and counting, the highest number since the 1993.
Property crimes increased by 13.3 and 38,528 property crimes (6,860 per 100,000 population) and 6,236 total burglaries (1,110 per 100,000 population) in 2016. In 2016, Albuquerque’s auto thefts jumped by the highest percentage with 7,710 motor vehicle thefts an almost a 50% increase over the year before.
FAILED ECONOMIC POLICIES
During the last eight years under Mayor Berry’s leadership, Albuquerque has fallen to the bottom and in many cases dead last of every meaningful ranking in the country, including economy, jobs, crime, education, real estate, desirability, and traffic. Even though Albuquerque is the largest city economy in the State, New Mexico is number one in unemployment and number one in children living in poverty. Albuquerque has lost 14,900 jobs during the last 10 years, which is roughly 4 jobs a day.
According to one Brookings Institution report, the Albuquerque metro area’s economy was so bad between 2009 and 2014 that it almost fell off the charts of three measures of economic health. Of the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S., Albuquerque ranked 100th, 99th and 83rd in the three areas measured by the Brookings Institute: Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion.
According to the same Bookings Institute report, economically hobbled cities like Jackson, Miss., and Rochester, New York, fared better than Albuquerque. Albuquerque ranked 99th for economic growth, 83rd for prosperity and 100th for inclusion, which measures how an area’s poorest residents are doing in the economy.
On October 1, 2017 Wallet Hub, a personal fiancé website, published the story “Fastest Growing Cities In America”.
Albuquerque ranked 450th in economic growth among 515 cities in the United States according to the Wallet Hub report. Wallet Hub ranked the cities using 15 metrics, including population growth, unemployment and poverty rate decrease, job growth and other measures. Among large cities, Albuquerque ranked 60th out of 64.
Among all cities, Albuquerque fared especially poorly on unemployment rate decrease (481); job growth (446); growth in number of businesses (443); median house price growth (433), and regional gross domestic product growth (433). According to US Census reports, more people are leaving the State than moving in, and our youth are leaving Albuquerque in droves to seek employment with a future elsewhere even after they get their college education at our universities.
During his entire tenure in office, the Berry Administration has failed to attract one single business or major corporation to Albuquerque. Four years ago, Berry proclaimed with a straight face that his economic development plan would result in 25,000 jobs created in Albuquerque. Not a single job has been created during the last eight years by the Berry Administration.
HEADLINES SAY IT ALL
The economic news headlines during the Berry years say it all:
1. Forbes Magazine ranked Albuquerque #162 for doing business. See July 29, 2015
— just ahead of Clarksville, TN, Allentown PA , and DETROIT, MI (#169)
2. “New ranking puts ABQ in cellar for economic growth”. See September 29, 2015
3. “2015’s Cities with the Fastest Growing Economies”, Albuquerque ranked #404 September, 2015 https://wallethub.com/edu/fastest-growing-cities/7010/
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Metropolitan Employment Rankings — Albuquerque ranked #324 – August 2015: http://www.bls.gov/web/metro/laummtrk.htm
5. Colliers US Downtown Office Vacancy Rates — Albuquerque Dead Last — December 2014 http://www.colliers.com/en-us/-/medi…e_d8_Final.pdf
6. Wikipedia: Traffic analysis firm INRIX in 2013, ranks the top 65 worst US traffic cities — Albuquerque #18, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_congestion
7. The Albuquerque metropolitan area’s 0.3 percent growth rate in the year that ended July . 2014 put Albuquerque in 77th place among the nation’s largest 100 metro areas, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of population trends.
http://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerq…on-growth.html — July 2014
8. 2017’s Best & Worst Cities for Jobs – Albuquerque #119 out of 150 , Jan 4, 2017
9. NOV 30, 2016 MID-SIZED METROS WITH FASTEST GROWING GROSS REGIONAL PRODUCT ARE PROVO, FAYETTEVILLE AND CAPE CORAL; SLOWEST ARE PALM BAY, ALBUQUERQUE, SYRACUSE, Albuquerque #2 Slowest Regional Product
10. The Best Places for Business and Careers, 2016 RANKING ABQ #138
11. Albuquerque is the 5th most violent city in the nation, updated: 6:59 PM MDT Aug 12, 2016, http://www.koat.com/…/albuquerque-is-the-5th…/5072628
12. Fortune: ABQ the worst city in the U.S. to own a home: http://nmpoliticalreport.com/…/fortune-abq-the-worst…/
13. ABQ ranked among worst real estate markets:
14. Albuquerque ranks 113 out of 150 for Most and Least Recession-Recovered Cities:
15. Albuquerque ranks near bottom in list of best, worst cities for families:
16. Albuquerque Really Is Like Breaking Bad:
17. NM again ranks 49th in child well-being, 50th in education:
18. Colliers US Downtown Office Vacancy Rates — Albuquerque Dead Last — December 2014: http://www.colliers.com/en-us/-/media/Files/MarketResearch…/Market-Reports/4Q_NA_Office_d8_Final.pdf
December 1, 2017 Mayor Tim Keller will be sworn in as Mayor. The single biggest crisis the Mayor Keller will be confronted with on day one is reforming the Albuquerque Police Department, selecting a new command staff and implementation of the mandated reforms for constitutional policing.
The second biggest crisis is to turn our economy around. With any luck, Mayor RJ Berry’s political career is at an end.