The business “families” of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Albuquerque Economic Forum and the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) have been around Albuquerque for many decades. All 3 are the very old guard of the Business Community. Many consider their membership the “movers and shakers” of the City of Albuquerque, especially their own membership.
Recently in speeches before the Albuquerque Economic Forum and the New Mexico chapter of NAIOP, Mayor Tim Keller spoke about current and future developments in the City. Keller told the Economic Forum:
“People tell me ‘I really don’t see a lot of new construction projects in Albuquerque.’ … I’ve got to tell you, I’m not really sure that’s true.”
According to one news report, Keller originally told both groups upcoming development projects total $500 million, but his office later revised the figure to $930 million. Construction projects include:
1. The Sawmill Market;
2. A forthcoming food hall just north of Old Town;
3. The Rail Yards development;
4. The mixed-use Nuevo Atrisco project at Central and Unser NW;
5. The planned hospital expansions by Presbyterian and the University of New Mexico.
According to Mayor Keller, his administration is working with other government agencies and the business community to help push developments forward by saying:
“[Developers] come to us and say, ‘We have this planning challenge’ or ‘We have this funding gap of like $500,000;’ this is where we’re [the city is] saying ‘We’re just going to say yes.’ We’re not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Keller asked the monthly luncheon of the Economic Forum audience to support the upcoming city Capital Improvements Project (CIP) bond package on the November 2019 ballot and assist with donations for housing vouchers for the homeless. Best of luck to Mayor Keller getting any help from either the Economic Forum or NAIOP on either request, which is unlikely given their past positions opposing city policies.
You can review Mayor Keller’s full Economic Forum presentation here: https://www.facebook.com/MayorKeller/videos/843763522676976/UzpfSTEwNTQ4MTY4OTY6MTAyMTc1MTU2NDAwOTY5NDI/
Lynne Anderson, president of NAIOP New Mexico, when asked for specific examples of how the city has advanced projects, said “it’s impossible to summarize developers” overall experience with the Keller administration. Anderson gave as her reason the varying scopes of projects and their individual characteristics and challenges.
Anderson said she “has heard both positive and negative feedback from constituents” . Anderson did say the Keller Administration is showing a willingness to move projects along giving a reminder the development communities relationship with the previous Republican Administration by saying:
“Bottom line is we all need to work together to make the city work, and there is a recognition of that – and [it happened with and] was in the previous administration.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
To quote Michael Corleone in the classic movie The Godfather, Part II (1974): “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”. The meaning of this quote is not merely that you should know your enemies well, but you do not want your enemies to know that you are enemies.
Mayor Keller should consider the Economic Forum, National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP) and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as the 3 major Republican business organizations, related families so to speak, in the City that are adversarial to the City that Keller heads. It is hoped Mayor Tim Keller is following the principal of “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” when he makes his presentations to the 3 major businesses organizations. What is far more likely is that by inviting Mayor Tim Keller to speak, NAIOP and the Albuquerque Economic Forum are the ones that are keeping their enemy closer, and the Mayor needs to understand it in no uncertain terms.
It is curious that Lynne Anderson, president of NAIOP New Mexico, referred to her dues paying membership as “constituents”. Her remark says a lot more about the development organization than meets the eye seeing as Anderson’s business group are constituents of the Mayor far more than of hers.
What is noticeable is Mayor Tim Keller is sounding and looking more and more like his Republican predecessor by talking to these groups on a regular basis himself. Keller gave his very first State of the City address as Mayor last year to NAIOP, which is something his predecessor would do often. When NAIOP advertised it as the State of the City Address, Keller quickly back tracked disclaiming it was a State of City address. Keller never demanded a retraction from NAIOP nor did he give a State of the City Address in 2018 that was reported on by the media the way his NAIOP speech was reported. Keller also allows his high-ranking officials such as the City’s CAO Sarita Nair or Planning Director David Campbell, when he was first appointed, to talk to them and give insight to what is going in City Government.
If Mayor Tim Keller thinks he will get all 3 business organizations to support his policies and win them over somehow with his smile and talking to them, being friendly, accommodating and asking for their help and support, Keller is sadly mistaken. One of his Democrat predecessors did the exact same thing of cozying up to them and he had a very rude awakening at election time when all three groups supported the Republican who defeated the incumbent Democrat Mayor who trusted them to a degree.
All three organizations or their membership supported and contributed to Keller’s Republican opponents in the 2017 Mayors race, with NAIOP in fact endorsing Keller’s Republican opponents and making major contributions. It is likely not one of these 3 business organizations or their membership will ever get behind Mayor Keller’s policies and priorities nor an election bid for another term, especially if a Republican run against him, which is likely.
The Albuquerque Economic Forum, the New Mexico Chapter of NAIOP and the Greater Albquerquerqu Chamber of Commerce are the very old guard of the Republican Business Community. All 3 groups are very much part of the problem and not the solution. All 3 business organizations oppose any and all city regulations, zoning restrictions, increases in taxes no matter how justified, oppose hourly wage increases, they promote “right to work laws”, oppose mandatory sick leave policies for businesses, oppose unions, and oppose the city demanding that they pay union wages on city construction projects.
Notwithstanding NAIOP’s disdain for the City’s code enforcement, regulations, and zoning restrictions, the membership in NAIOP are always the first in line with their hands out wanting city hall construction contracts such as the $130 million ART Bus project. All 3 organizations are more concerned about the overall financial success of their memberships and keeping control or influence of development within the city’s development as opposed what is good for the city.
Case in point of trying to exert influence over city hall was when the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the construction and development community, including (NAIOP), pulled all stops to get the City’s ABC-Z comprehensive plan, now known as the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), adopted before the October 3, 2017 municipal election. The rewrite of the comprehensive plan took a mere two years. The rewrite started in 2015 by order of the former Republican Mayor who was a contractor and a member of NAIOP.
In 2017, there were sixty (60) sector development plans which governed new development in specific neighborhoods. Forty (40) of the development plans had their own “distinct zoning guidelines” that were designed to protect many historical areas of the city, such as Barelas, Old Town and Martineztown. Under the enacted Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) the number of zones went from 250 to fewer than 20, which by any measure was dramatic.
During his campaign for Mayor, Tim Keller took no position on the zoning overhaul nor the repeal of so many sector development plans. IDO will have a long-term impact on the cities older neighborhoods and favors developers.
The intent from day one of IDO was the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community. The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy especially with IDO blatantly removing the public from the development review process.
Another case in point of trying to exert influence over city hall occurred recently when the Albuquerque City Council enacted R-19-150 that made changes to the IDO that allows the City’s Development Review Board to further circumvent strict state statute requirements. It is a policy change that eliminates public engagement and favors the development community. Mayor Tim Keller remained silent regarding passage R-19-150 and presumably has signed it into law in that no veto has been announced or reported.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any Mayor being pro business, working and cooperating with the businesses organization when you can and the promoting economic development. In fact it is very much a part of the job of being Mayor. However, just working and cooperating with any business organization is a far cry from promoting just “pro business” policies, being anti tax, supporting right to work, opposing unions, opposing increases in the minimum wage, opposing mandatory sick leave and reducing the size of government and being just a political puppet of the 3 business organizations who pull your strings like in the Godfather and the former Republican Mayor.
It would be wise for Mayor Keller to “Keep his friends close, and his ABQ development enemies closer”. Keller is wasting his time if he thinks the development community will support him or his policies, especially when it comes to his progressive Democratic core values of taxes, opposition to right to work, support of unions, increases in the minimum wage, and mandatory sick leave, and helping the homeless, unless of course Keller has change his mind on anyone of his progressive policies.
In the meantime, from a political standpoint, it is recommended Mayor Tim Keller not go to any vintage Italian Restaurant with bathroom toilets having elevated political water tanks to hide things behind. KAPISH?
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