ABQReport “While Albuquerque bleeds, Mayor Keller smiles”

On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, the all time record of homicides in one year in the city’s history. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

On December 9, Channel 4 devoted at least one third of its evening 10:00 PM news cast to the story with the news angle of demanding answers from our elected officials and zeroing in on Mayor Tim Keller. The beginning of the story and comments by the news anchors were as hard hitting as it gets and can only be described as a full throttled take down of Mayor Keller on how he avoided to be interviewed all day with the news anchors questioning his failed and lack of leadership.

Mayor Keller’s full 2 minute interview was telecast without any interruptions and needless to say it was obvious he was out of his comfort zone and his trade mark smile was gone. You can view the entire newscast story at this link.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/keller-speaks-on-record-setting-homicide/5574753/?cat=500

ABQREPORTS COLUMN

ABQReports is an on line Albquerque news column publshed by DENNIS DOMRZALSKI. Mr. DOMRZALSKI has been a reporter for 35+ plus years and worked for the Albquerque Tribune for a number of years reporting on city hall, the courts and crime scene. He later worked for the on line publication ABQ News and 4 years ago he began ABQReports:

The following column was published on December 12, 2019 and written by its editor DENNIS DOMRZALSKI. (The link to the article is at the end.)

“Tim, get busy and be the mayor that we need. Please.”

That anguished plea to Mayor Tim Keller was posted Wednesday on our Facebook page in response to Dan Klein’s columns about how an Albuquerque police detective screwed up a murder investigation and jailed an innocent 17-year-old girl for six days. It’s also a plea for Keller to get really tough on crime and on the criminals who are ravaging this city and ruining life for law-abiding taxpayers who pay Keller’s salary.

Can Keller be the mayor we need right now? Can he be a mayor who will say that he and his police department won’t tolerate crime and the fiends, creeps, lowlifes and scum who are ruining this once nice city? Can he be the mayor who prods and inspires the District Attorney’s office and the judiciary to work feverishly on our behalf to lock criminals up and keep the rest of us safe?

I doubt it. And two years into his term, we can say that Keller has been a failure as a mayor when it comes to battling crime and keeping us safe. And we don’t think he’s going to get any better and grow into the job.

Keller just doesn’t seem capable of declaring for all to see and hear that his administration will do everything possible in its power to lock criminals up. He can’t seem to get out there and say something like, “We’re declaring war on criminals and we will show them no mercy. We will not tolerate scumbags breaking into our homes, stealing our cars, assaulting us, raping us and killing our neighbors. And if you’re one of those scumbags who preys on law-abiding people we’re coming after you with a vengeance.”

In fact, Keller seems lost. In a recent TV interview when a reporter asked him what he was going to do about the record number of homicides this year, Keller was sad and pathetic. He babbled on about domestic violence and guns, and who knows what else. And it was just babbling that said nothing. He had a chance to declare war on crime, but he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do it.

Instead, he flashed his handsome smile and, well, babbled. If his smile was meant to reassure us that he was on the job and working furiously to make our streets safer, it didn’t work. Keller looked lost. And the smile was one of those uneasy, pathetic things that try to mask fear, incompetence and a total lack of understanding of the situation. It was the sad smile of someone who is in over his head. It was the smile of someone pretending to know the answers, when at heart he knows he didn’t study for the test.

I don’t know why Keller can’t declare war on criminals, draw a line in the sand, or say and do whatever it takes to start the war on criminals. Maybe he’s one of those pathetic souls who is paralyzed by the need to be liked by everyone. Maybe he thinks that being a hard-ass will make his liberal and progressive cult-like followers think he’s a bad and insensitive man.

Maybe Keller truly believes that murderers, rapists, muggers, robbers, burglars and carjackers are misunderstood and that they’re really nice people and that it’s the fault of law-abiding citizens and the evil capitalist society that have driven these oppressed people to crime.

Maybe Keller doesn’t believe that people who steal our stuff and money are criminals. Maybe he thinks that they are redistributing wealth and money to their oppressed and misunderstood selves.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that two years into his term, Keller is a failure as a mayor and as a leader. He goes for the fluff stuff like weeping at the border and creating a department of inclusion, while dodging the hard stuff like people getting assaulted and robbed and raped. He can’t bring himself to fire incompetent people, and he smiles when he’s lied to. So far, no one has been fired over crime statistics fiasco in which Keller and his police department lied about falling crime rates.

Another Facebook user put it this way:

“The mayor is is not going to change; he is a good-hearted liberal who has no idea how to combat crime and no desire to move against the consent decree. As for Chief Geier, he is going to do what Mayor Keller dictates. My money says unless Mayor Keller takes the cuffs off his officers and uses his bully pulpit to go after the DA and the judiciary he will be a one-term mayor.”

Great leaders—even moderately good ones—often have to be hard-asses and take control. Keller seems incapable of that, and we’re the ones who are suffering the consequences of that failure.

So the sickening status quo will continue. While Albuquerque bleeds, Mayor Tim Keller smiles.”

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/12/12/While-Albuquerque-bleeds-Mayor-Keller-smiles

Another Six Figure Buyout; UNM Responds To Becoming Division II Athletics Program; A Winning Team In Search Of A Stadium; An Empty Stadium In Search Of A Winning Team

On November 25, it was announced that University of New Mexico Head Football Coach, Bob Davie, 65, who was in his 8th season at UNM, resigned effective after the team’s season finale on November 30. The team had a record of 8 wins and 28 losses the past three seasons. Coach Davie’s all around record at UNM is 35 wins and 64 losses.

Davies had the distinction of being New Mexico’s highest paid public employee earning a salary and compensation package of $822,690 a year. On December 10, it was announced UNM will pay Davie $825,000 over the next 30 months to leave the university two years before his contract expires. The money will be paid out over 30 months and revenues from “guaranteed games” where the UNM Football program is advanced funding to play a high ranked team. UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nunez announce that UNM is paying a search firm $50,000 to find a new head football coach.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1399913/unm-paying-50k-to-search-firm-for-football-coach.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1399771/davie-departure-will-cost-unm-825k.html

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/unm-board-of-regents-expected-to-decide-bob-davies-buyout/

UNM has an extensive history of buying out the contracts of UNM athletic program coaches and for 6 figures. Those buyouts have included football coaches Rocky Long and Mike Locksley and basketball coach Richie McKay.

UNM FOOTBALL FAILING SPORTS PROGRAM

The University of New Mexico’s (UNM) athletics department has had chronic financial problems, having missed its budget 8 of the past 10 years. 2018 was one of the worse of the years having a $3.3 shortfall. UNM’s Board of Regents attempted to mitigate that by allocating the use of $1.3 million in reserves in November of last year. One of the biggest failures over the years has been the UNM football program.

On July 20, 2019, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted in favor of recommendations to eliminate four sports as the school’s troubled athletics department worked to control its spending and 10 years of deficits. The four-sports eliminated were beach volleyball, men’s and women’s skiing and the highly successful men’s soccer program.

The UNM Regent’s unanimous vote came after dozens of people, from coaches and players to alumni and community members, testified on behalf of preserving the men’s soccer team and the skiing and beach volleyball programs. The programs were cut anyway, eliciting boos and heckles from the crowd. Many expressed anger at the Board of Regents for not cutting one of the sports who has the most money problem at the university, such as the failing football program.

https://www.koat.com/article/four-athletic-teams-at-unm-get-axed/22467188

UNM football has hit its lowest per-game total in nearly 30 years with an average attendance below 20,000 fans for the first time since 1992. On October 29, 2018, it was reported that the Lobos were the 27th worst team in the nation in terms of average attendance, ahead of just San Jose State, UNLV and Nevada among Mountain West institutions. In terms of the percentage of stadium filled, the Lobos were the ninth worst in the entire country.

For related media coverage and sources see:

https://www.dailylobo.com/article/2018/10/unm-football-attendance-2018-struggles

https://www.santafenewmexican.com/sports/decline-and-fall-of-lobos-football/article_28f52bff-6537-538a-a9ec-828882bb4f64.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1368557/unm-hoping-ags-help-give-gate-needed-boost.html

UNM RESPONDS TO PROPOSAL GOING FROM DIVISION I PROGRAM TO DIVISION II PROGRAM

The University of New Mexico (UNM) is a Division I athletic program with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). According to the NCAA, it costs Division II schools, including football, about half as much to sponsor a competitive athletics program as it does in Division I. The net operating costs in Division II even tend to be lower than for programs of similar size in Division III primarily because of higher net operating revenues in Division II. With the UNM football season ended, now is the time to end the UNM football program and have UNM become a Division II sports program and restore successful programs such as the winning UNM Soccer Program.

Chief of Staff for UNM President Garnett S. Stokes, in response to a November 27 blog article entitled “Make UNM Athletics A Division II Program; Stop Pouring Money Down UNM Football “Black Hole”; Concentrate On Declining Enrollment And Academic Excellence”, link to full article provided below, and the proposal of moving UNM from a Division I athletic program to a Division II program, had this to say in an email:

“We do feel that football can regain much of the strongest performances in terms of attendance and fiscal sustainability from its past with appropriate, not extravagant, investments. Most importantly, we need to field a team that is competitive. The revenues from football due to the MWC affiliation and Division I status are substantial but do not present a breakeven opportunity without significant increases in revenue that really must come from our fan attendance at the end of the day. Division II athletics participation does not carry with it substantial reductions in expenses but does have much less opportunity for revenue. We understand the plea for responsible investment in co-curricular activities in higher education but do believe we are acting in the best interest of UNM and the state of New Mexico when trying to strengthen athletics. Many people feel it is important for the flagship university in the state of New Mexico to have an athletics program that competes at the highest level but we realize that not everyone feels compelled by this or believes the benefit outweighs the investment. …”

SOCCER IS VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO UNM FOOTBALL

During the last 30 + years, soccer in Albuquerque has flourished and excelled in Albuquerque, especially in preschools, grade schools and high school programs. Today, it is very common to find grown men in their 30s who played soccer in grade school, mid- school and high school and who play in city adult leagues.

Soccer is now part of the city’s fabric with programs for children, adolescence and young adults. Soccer programs throughout the city have proven far more inclusive for Albuquerque athletes than football programs could ever had hoped to imagine.

NM UNITED SOCCER TEAM SEEKS PERMANENT STADIUM

New Mexico was awarded a United Soccer League (USL) expansion team in June 2018. The USL is the nation’s second-highest professional soccer organization second to the Major League Soccer organization (ML). During its first year, NM United was able to execute a highly effective marketing plan that resulted in an reenergized fanbase never before seen in the City and it payed off in a big way.

The United team currently plays at Isotopes Park that is owned by the city and leased to the Isotopes under a two-year contract. United’s current lease with Isotopes Park can only be extended through the 2021 season. The United Soccer League has mandated that all expansion teams be in soccer-specific stadiums within three years.

According to the online Soccer Stadium Digest, during the team’s first year of existence it led the 36-team USL with an average home attendance of 12,693 and won a playoff spot in the United States Soccer League, which is the equivalent of Triple A baseball.

New Mexico United announced a few months ago it is seeking a permanent home in Albuquerque. On November 14, it was reported that United Soccer Team owner Peter Trevisani made a presentation to an interim legislative fiancé committee seeking $30 million in state capital outlay funds to be appropriated during the upcoming 2020 session that starts in January for a soccer stadium.

The total cost for such a stadium will probably approach $100 million. According to Trevisani, a new facility would help United jump up to the Major League Soccer Level (ML) which is the sport’s equivalent of the National Basket Ball Association (NBA) or Major League Baseball.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1390897/lawmakers-to-hear-pitch-for-soccer-stadium.html

CITY GETS INTO ACT OF SPORTS TOURISM PROMOTION

On September 6, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted a $29 million infrastructure bond tax package to the Albuquerque City Council to be financed by the City’s Lodger’s Tax. The Keller Administration labeled the lodger tax bond package as a “Sports – Tourism Lodger Tax ” because it will be used for a number of projects around the city labeled as “sports tourism opportunities.”

Mayor Keller’s “Sports Tourism Lodger Tax” proposal came just a few months after the city hosted the National Senior Games. According to the Keller Administration, the National Senior Games featured nearly 14,000 athletes competing at 21 venues and had an estimated $34 million economic impact. Further, the lodger tax proposal came after New Mexico United professional soccer team expressed the desire for a permanent soccer stadium.

On October 7, the City Council approved a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city. Revenue generated by the lodger’s tax will be used to pay off the $30.5 million bond debt.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1363274/mayor-sends-28-million-proposal-to-city-council.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/1375946/city-council-approves-new-lodgers-tax-bonds.html

KELLER WANTS A SOCCER STADIUM

Mayor Tim Keller is getting into the act of identifying a soccer stadium location. During the October monthly meeting of Albuquerque Bar Association Luncheon, Keller revealed that the city is looking at a minimum of 3 locations for a sports and event arena that can be used by the United New Mexico soccer team. Two inquiries have been made by the city with the United States Post Office to purchase the Post Office Main Office on Broadway. There is land available near the PIT basketball arena, the UNM Football Stadium and Isotopes Park. . Property on the West side is also under consideration.

On November 5, Albuquerque voters approved $3.5 million for a multi-field practice facility the United soccer team could share with other users. The soccer complex site has yet to be identified by the city but it will have locker rooms that could host tournaments. According to the Keller Administration, the multi-use soccer facility would be available for use by Albuquerque Public Schools, the New Mexico Activities Association championships and other tournaments, and would serve as a practice field for New Mexico United and the New Mexico Activities Association.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

In 2017, the city of Albuquerque commissioned a feasibility study to examine the feasibility of building a 10,000-seat stadium. The study identified three potential sites: Albuquerque’s Rail Yards, the Sawmill neighborhood near Interstate 40 and the Northwest intersection of Lomas and Broadway. The feasibility study estimated the cost of the stadium construction would between $24.2 million and $45.8 million. The estimated cost did not include land acquisition and other expenses, such as architectural design and infrastructure.

The United Soccer League team said its top pick for a location for its stadium is Downtown. United Soccer League owner Peter Trevisani said he hopes the stadium would be an “anchor tenant” with shops and restaurants around it in a walkable area. Trevisani said he envisions the new stadium as a “cultural arts center” that could feature on-site hotel rooms and restaurants, and could be designed in collaboration with Santa Fe arts collective Meow Wolf, which already is a sponsor for the tram.

Trevisani described the project as much more than a soccer stadium and home for New Mexico United. The stadium could also house other teams, perhaps aiding in the recruitment of a women’s professional team. Trevisani believes a new stadium could be a “morale booster” for the city and state which do not have any top-level professional sports teams. According to Trevisani:

“This stadium can represent the revitalization of Albuquerque and the vitality of New Mexico and how we view ourselves. … I think it could be a crown jewel for the state. ”

ANTI DONATION CLAUSE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE MAJOR IMPEDIMENT

The New Mexico Constitution strictly prohibits donations to “public or private corporations” by governmental entities. The provision provides in pertinent part:

“Neither the state nor any county, school district or municipality, except as otherwise provided in this constitution, shall directly or indirectly lend or pledge its credit or make any donation to or in aid of any person, association or public or private corporation … .” (N.M. Const. art. IX, § 14.)

The anti-donation clause of the state Constitution prohibits the city or the state public from paying for a private stadium. However, it does not prevent the city or the state from building and owning the facility and where United New Mexico would pay rent to the city or state. Bonds could also be issued to finance the construction of the stadium with a percentage of ticket sales and concessions dedicated to pay off the debt. This is the identical arrangement the City of Albuquerque has with the Isotopes professional baseball team.

ALBUQUERQUE SPORTS STADIUM BECOMES ISOTOPES BASEBALL STADIUM

It was on October 25, 2001 that ground was broken to build Isotopes Baseball Stadium and it opened on April 11, 2003. Isotopes Park has a seating capacity of about 13,000 which includes stadium seats and berm area seating. The construction cost was $25 million which in 2019 dollars is about $31.4 million. At the time, a debate raged on and centered on whether to renovate the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium as a baseball-only park or build a brand-new park downtown. It was Mayor Jim Baca who wanted to build a new stadium downtown to revitalize the downtown area.

Mayor Baca put the issue to a vote and the voters easily approved the $25 million needed to finance the project. The decision was made to renovate the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium. To the surprise of many, the old sports stadium was leveled to the ground. As it turned out, the renovation turned into a construction of a completely new facility. Almost nothing of the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium remained, apart from the playing field.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The idea of locating a sports stadium or arena in the Downtown area for Downtown revitalization has been around for at least 25 + years. The Isotope’s park “remodeling” was originally proposed as a downtown baseball stadium. Notwithstanding, Albuquerque’s political establishment, Mayors and City Councils alike and the business community failed to muster the political will or commitment to get it done. It is doubtful that will change any time soon, especially within the two years United New Mexico has left to build a soccer-specific stadium mandated by the United Soccer League for all expansion teams.

New Mexico United clearly has momentum with its winning success and games getting over 12,000 attendance a game, the very kind of momentum needed to justify building a stadium. The team has succeeded in bringing together people from around the state. It would be a major mistake for the city or the state not to take advantage of the momentum, timing and success of the NM United Team and do their best to build a stadium.

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2019/06/27/new-mexico-united-eyes-location-for-future-stadium.html

GIVE A WINNING TEAM AN EMPTY STADIUM IN SEARCH OF A WINNING TEAM

As a solution to building a new stadium for New Mexico United is for UNM to sell the University Football stadium to the City, the city remodels it for soccer, and the City, like Isotopes Park, leases it to United New Mexico. The legislature should shut down the University of New Mexico football program, force UNM to concentrate on athletics programs that have been a success like UNM basketball and return the UNM Soccer program and make UNM a Division II athletic program.

The University of New Mexico needs to concentrate on its intended and most important function: to provide and offer a quality college education at an affordable price to students. UNM needs get out of the business of trying to be a University Division I athletics program powerhouse which is doubtful will ever achieved in the near future after 10 full years of failure . The UNM regents need to take steps to get back to the basics of higher education and stop pouring millions down the black hole known as UNM Football.

With UNM football coach Bob Davies now gone and the football season ended, now is the best time to end the UNM football program as it exists. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature should force UNM to become a Division II sports program and restore successful programs such as the winning Soccer Program.

The University Regents and elected officials need to stop having unrealistic high hopes and dreams for UNM football. UNM needs to stop the insanity of wasting so much money on a failing athletic program in general known for paying outrageous salaries to coaches who do not cut it with loosing seasons and the university is force pay six figures to buy out contracts when they never work out or produce winning seasons.

Until then, a stadium for New Mexico United needs to be built or found.

Make UNM Athletics A Division II Program; Stop Pouring Money Down UNM Football “Black Hole”; Concentrate On Declining Enrollment And Academic Excellence

Channel 4 Take Down Of Mayor Tim Keller

On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, the all time record of homicides in one year in the city’s history. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

On December 9, Channel 4 devoted at least one third of its evening 10:00 PM news cast to the story with the news angle of demanding answers from our elected officials and zeroing in on Mayor Tim Keller.

The beginning of the story and comments by the news anchors were as hard hitting as it gets and can only be described as a full throttled take down of Mayor Keller on how he avoided to be interviewed all day with the news anchors questioning his failed and lack of leadership.

Mayor Keller’s full 2 minute interview was telecast without any interruptions and needless to say it was obvious he was out of his comfort zone and his trade mark smile was gone.

The report is the single most damaging report I have ever seen of Mayor Tim Keller since he took office on December 1, 2017 and for that matter, any Albuquerque Mayor.

You can view the entire newscast story at this link.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/keller-speaks-on-record-setting-homicide/5574753/?cat=500

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham Announces More Behavioral Health Provider Settlements

On Wednesday, December 4, 2019 , the administration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced it has entered into settlement agreements with 5 remaining of 15 behavioral health care providers whose Medicaid funding was frozen in 2013 by the former Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named”. The previous Republican Administration alleged fraud, over billing and mismanagement by the providers. New Mexico’ system for treating mental illness and drug addiction was seriously undermined by the actions of the previous Republican administration.

Since January 1 when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took office, 10 behavioral health nonprofits have settled their claims against the state. Governor Lujan Grisham has said repeatedly that the forced closure of the 15 behavioral health program caused severe disruption to New Mexico’s behavioral health system and had ripple effects on many families and businesses and also caused private health care costs to increase.

TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENTS

The five providers who settled their claims are Southwest Counseling Center, Border Area Mental Health Services, Families and Youth Inc., Southern New Mexico Human Development, and Santa Fe-based Santa Maria El Mirador, which was formerly known as Easter Seals El Mirador. Originally, the 5 providers sought more than $27 million in damages.

The New Mexico Human Services Department is agreeing to pay $10 million to settle the legal claims. The settlement concludes the many years of litigation that has cost the state millions of taxpayer dollars. In exchange for the $10 million in settlement, the 5 providers have agreed to drop their lawsuits against the state. The New Mexico Human Services Department also agreed to waive its claim to alleged over-payments received by the providers.

According to Human Services Secretary David Scrase, his department plans to request a $10 million supplemental appropriation during the 30-day 2020 legislative session that starts in January to help cover the settlement. The Human Services Department is working with mental health care providers to rebuild the state’s system for treating mental illness and drug addiction.
Democrat Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, in a statement issued described the settlement agreements as bringing long-awaited resolution to the state’s behavioral health system and said:

“Now, we can get providers back in business to help those individuals who have had to do without needed behavioral health care services”.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1397990/nm-agency-settles-with-5-remaining-behavioral-health-providers.html

OTHER SETTLEMENTS REACHED

During a July 9, 2019 press conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that her Administration negotiated settlement agreements with 3 of the nonprofit behavioral health providers affected by the 2013 Medicaid funding freeze. The 3 providers the state settled with were: Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares.

Under the terms of the negotiated settlement agreements, the state will paid the Valencia County Counseling Services, The Counseling Center and Hogares nearly $2.7 million in damages. The 3 providers agreed to pay the state roughly $191,000. One of the providers will also be able to apply to the state for a reinstatement of its Medicaid provider number.
Notwithstanding the 3 settlements announced, Governor Lujan Grisham said the damage to New Mexico’s mental health system caused by 2013 Medicaid funding freeze ordered by her predecessor affected numerous families and businesses and it will take years to recover from and she said:

“Quite frankly, it’s created such deep holes in the other health care delivery systems in Medicaid … that in fact it’s raised the cost in the private market for health care.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1338147/settlements-reached-with-three-mental-health-providers.html

On Wednesday August 21, 2019, the administration of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced it has entered into settlement agreements with Team Builders Counseling Services and Counseling Associates.

Team Builders Counseling Services received more than $1.9 million from the state. Team Builders was one of the state’s largest behavioral health providers. It operated in 23 counties and employed upwards of 400 workers. As part of the settlement, the state agreed to allow Team Builders to resume operations in the state and agreed to expedite the process for resumption of providing services.

The state has agreed to pay more than $173,000 in damages to settle the claims with Counseling Associates.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1356618/two-more-behavioral-health-providers-settle-claims-against-nm.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The single most cruelest thing that former Republican Governor “She Who Shall Not Be Named” did was when she ordered an “audit” of mental health services by nonprofits in New Mexico based on questionable information. The audit eventually devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In June 2013, under the direction of the former Republican Governor, the Human Services Department (HSD) cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health nonprofits operating in New Mexico. In 2014, more than 160,000 New Mexicans received behavioral health services, with most of those services funded by Medicaid, according to the Human Services Department. After the audits were completed, the former Republican Administration said that the outside audit showed more than $36 million in over billing, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud. Under the orders of the Republican Governor, Human Services Department agency brought in 5 Arizona providers to take over from New Mexico providers.

In early 2016, following exhaustive investigations, the Attorney General cleared all 15 of the healthcare providers of any wrongdoing and exonerated all of them of fraud. Even though the NM Attorney General found no fraud and cleared the nonprofits of fraud, the damage had been done to the nonprofits. With the Medicaid funding freeze, many of the 15 nonprofits could not continue and just went out of business leaving many patients without a behavioral health service provider. Lawsuits against the state were initiated by the mental health care providers.

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by the previous Republican Administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled out of the state. New Mexico’s mental health system is still struggling to recover.

https://www.abqjournal.com/749923/third-arizona-behavioral-health-provider-to-pull-out-of-state.html

The former New Mexico Republican Governor never understood the need for mental health services. The mental health care providers were easy targets for her conservative anti-government philosophy to freeze Medicaid funding to bring 15 nonprofits to their knees and forcing them out of business. To the former prosecutor, the answer was always increasing penalties and incarceration and never even trying to address at least two of the underlying causes of crime: drug addiction and poverty.

It has never been fully reported on how the 5 Arizona Heath Care providers were selected to replace the New Mexico nonprofits. It has also never been revealed to what extent the former Republican Governor was involved with the selection nor what orders her office gave in the selection of the out of state providers.

What is known is that legacy of Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named” is a legacy of shame when it comes to the destruction of New Mexico’s nonprofit mental health care system. Her political wrath and cost cutting measures affected thousands of New Mexico residents in need of mental and behavioral health care services and she simply did not give a damn.

All of the settlements contain the standard provision found in settlements entered into by state government agencies that “neither the state nor the providers” admit any liability or fault. This no doubt also helped the previous Republican Administration save face by not being force to admit the false and heavy-handed approach it took to destroy all the nonprofits that allowed them to bring in Arizona providers. The settlements reflect good faith negotiations to end the litigation to avoid prolong litigation costing thousands. There is no doubt that settling the cases is critical to rebuilding the state’s system for treating mental illness and drug addiction.

NEED TO KNOW ELECTED OFFICIALS POSITIONS ON BEHAVIORAL HEATH CARE

During my early teenage, high school and college years, my family dealt with a member who suffered from very severe, chronic and self-destructive mental illness who never recovered from it until his passing. I will always remember how my father was treated by health care professionals and yes at times by law enforcement.

Throughout my adult life and public service career, I made sure I knew how elected officials dealt with behavioral health care issues. When I was a prosecutor, I understood the importance of drug treatment programs and behavioral health programs as an alternative to prosecution and incarceration and returning people to be productive citizens.

ACT OF COMPASSION

In politics, more can be learned about a politician and their character by observing them in private and especially how they treat other people. A little more than 5 years ago, I attended a small fund raiser for then Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham. In attendance was a person who we both knew and dealt with in the past, who was a very vocal critic of both of us in the past, and who we both understood to have mental health issues.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, not knowing that I was listening and watching her, had one of her aides approach her and ask her if she wanted the person removed before she started to speak. Her response was quick and sure and it told me more about her than I had ever known. She told her aide to talk to the person, make sure he did not need anything, and then after the event, make sure he got a ride home seeing as the person walked to the event and it would be dark when the event ended. This one act of understanding revealed the true character of an elected official.

CONCLUSION

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham served as Director of New Mexico’s Agency on Aging under Governors Bruce King, Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson. Governor Richardson elevated the position to the state cabinet. In 2004, Lujan Grisham was appointed as New Mexico Secretary of Health where she was a champion for mental health services. After 8 very long years, New Mexico has a Governor that truly understands the need for effective and critical mental and behavioral health care services and is now acting with understanding and compassion.

The process to rebuild the state’s behavioral health care services will be a slow process that no doubt will take years.

Mayor Tim Keller Suffers From Political Amnesia On Rail Yards Development; Private Sector Was Interested In Development

On December 4, it was announced that a $1.2 million federal grant to improve infrastructure at the Rail Yards has been awarded to the City of Albuquerque. The federal grant will require a $1.2 million match from the city. The federal grant will fund water, sewer, street scape infrastructure and broadband internet to the facility that will house Central New Mexico Community College’s Film Production School of Excellence. The combined funding of $2.4 million is expected to help create 316 jobs and generate $9 million in private investment

John Fleming the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development for the Trump Administration was in Albuquerque to make the announcement with Mayor Tim Keller. Fleming commented on the matching fund aspect of the grant and said:

“It represents a significant buy-in from the community. … We love to see skin in the game. We find that these projects succeed when the city or community foundations match our investment. [The federal grant] … will help shore up infrastructure so the private sector can come up and make things happen. … This will be state of the art in terms of infrastructure … This is what private companies require before they invest their money to make things happen.”

Mayor Tim Keller during the joint appearance with Fleming said the city tried to get the private sector involved in addressing the areas that will be funded by the Department of Commerce Economic Development Association grant. According to Mayor Keller:

“No private company was going to invest in all of the infrastructure. .. And they would tell us in all of these meetings, ‘When are you going to fix up the water, the plumbing and the electricity, and the security, and bring in broadband?’ We thought, ‘Wow, we thought that’s what you were going to do.’ … Finally, we decided we had to do this. In any way you look at it, the responsibility, for better or worse …. to restore a lot of these properties, the responsibility of building that infrastructure is in many ways the government’s. … We do believe if we can build out the infrastructure and make this a leasable, occupied space that, it will be a huge economic benefit”

According to Keller, the city’s commitment exceeded the matching amount required for the grant. On November 5, City voters approved $5 million in general obligation bond funding for the Rail yards, and during the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session, the state legislature appropriated $7.5 million for the rail yards.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1397844/rail-yards-grant-requires-city-to-have-skin-in-the-game.html

KELLER SUFFERS FROM POLITICAL AMNESIA ON RAIL YARDS INVESTORS

Mayor Tim Keller is suffering from political amnesia. It is simply not true when Keller says that the city tried to get the private sector involved with the Rail Yard Development and no one showed any interest or will to deal with the infrastructure. Keller had private meetings with private investors willing to take over the Railyards project, but he said no.

John Strong has lived in New Mexico since 1997. He is a highly successful private business owner and has been investing in business startups since 2004. He is a co-founder or board member at several different companies, mostly in technology, healthcare, and financial services. Mr. Strong describes himself as being “obsessed” with entrepreneurship and small businesses.

John Strong had a reaction to Mayor Tim Keller’s announcement of the federal grant for the railyards:

“Recently, I’ve read … that Mayor Tim Keller had wished there was a private developer interested in the Railyards project, but that no one was. That is not only false, it’s a lie. Here’s how I know that.

In November of 2018 I was contacted by Stu Jones, a developer in Dallas, Texas who had an interest in the Railyards. Here’s a little background on him. Stu Jones is arguably one of the nation’s most prominent “Brownfield” developers. Brownfield projects are those that require environmental remediation, water table cleanup, or toxic waste cleanup. Jones’ company has completed billions of dollars of these re-developments in the United States including recently the re-development of a 5 million square foot former aircraft manufacturing facility in Dallas. He is recognized nationally as an expert in this area.

His company was a finalist for the contract on the Railyards when it was originally awarded to Samitaur several years ago, so he is very familiar with the project. When it became apparent that the city might cancel the Samitaur contract he indicated an interest in revisiting it. So when he reached out to me it was to request my help in facilitating a meeting with Mayor Keller to discuss the project. I did so, and a meeting was set for an evening at my home with Mayor Keller, Stu Jones, Stephen Martinez, a consultant on tax incentives, Kevin McDonald , a friend and associate of both myself and Jones, and two others. The Mayor had no staff at this meeting. The discussion centered on what Jones and his company could provide to the city with regards to the project.

Mayor Keller was immediately pretty disinterested in the discussion, stating that the city had all of the funds needed to begin remediation of the project. Mayor Keller had said that the remediation estimate that he had was about $7 million dollars. Jones said that was far too low, but the Mayor insisted it was not and that was all he was going to spend on it regardless. When asked if the city has this money the Mayor said yes, and much more because he could re-direct as much funding as he wished from capital improvements projects that had been funded but either not completed or not started.

Later in January, as the legislative session started the Mayor sent a staff member to the session to lobby for $7 million for this remediation, which was eventually granted. That led me to believe that the city did not have the money the Mayor had referenced in our meeting in November. The issue here for me is not whether the Mayor wishes to have any private sector involvement and funding for the railyards. That’s his prerogative. The issue is why he would say to the Albuquerque Journal and social media that no private parties were interested .That is simply a lie.

I have been a supporter of Tim Keller’s since his days in the Senate. I have hosted fundraisers for him, I gave substantial funds to the PAC supporting his election as Mayor, and I encouraged my friends to do the same. I cannot understand why he felt it was necessary to lie to the citizens of Albuquerque about a project that is deeply important to us all, and in particular to the citizens of the historic Barelas neighborhood. There is simply no justification for this. It is especially grievous when lately we are asked to have confidence in the Mayor in the face of the Crime Stats issue and others.

When the Mayor broke his first promise to us that he would never raise our taxes without our vote of approval, I gave him the benefit of the doubt because the excuse was that time was of the essence and market conditions demanded a speedy response. When recently the crime stats issue come to light it was blamed on out of date software. But this is different. There is no excuse. It is simply a lie to the citizens of Albuquerque and nothing else. It is a lie about an issue that is vitally important to all of us, and especially in the face of the disastrous ART project, we are desperate to believe in our elected leaders. This does nothing to instill the confidence we need.

At this point I have only two requests for Mayor Keller. I want an explanation for why he feels compelled to mislead us about the Railyards project by lying about no private sector interest in the project, and I want an apology from him to every citizen for having done so.”

$14.4 MILLION NOT ENOUGH

The $1.2 million federal grant and the city’s matching $1.2 million, the state’s $7 million and the $5 million in voter approved bonds falls short of what is actually needed for site preparation and development.

Leland Consulting Group is a Portland-based development consulting firm that was contracted to study the financial feasibility of redeveloping the Albuquerque Rail Yards. This past summer, the Leland Consulting Group determined that it will cost the city between $50 million and $80 million in infrastructure, environmental remediation and structural renovations to develop the property.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1359516/rail-yards-site-prep-could-cost-city-50m-to-80m-million.html

The city has completed an environmental study of the site and has submitted a voluntary remediation plan to the state. The Leland report suggested 3 different levels of development of varying levels of density. The report notes redevelopment will occur over many years, making it impossible to predict the exact mix that would work. All the levels of redevelopment call for “adaptive reuse” of buildings on the property’s north side, which the report calls the Rail Yards’ “front door.” Proposed uses include Central New Mexico Community College’s film center, the existing Rail Yards Market, and new retail, restaurants and commercial tenants and residential homes.

According to the financial analysis:

“As a conservative starting point, LCG recommends viewing these as costs [of $55 million to $80 million] that are likely to be borne by the City … These costs associated with ‘horizontal’ development (site preparation, transportation, utilities) will be necessary in order to set the stage for ‘vertical’ development (i.e., building improvements and new building construction, which are not shown).”

In other words, Leland suggested the taxpayer money be used for the $55 million to $80 million site preparation. In comparison, the ART Bus project was $130 million to build infrastructure and platforms up and down central.

The consultant’s estimates do not include the many other possible expenses, or hidden costs, associated with structural retrofits of two of the buildings “where evidence of past fire(s) were observed, which could affect the structure,” and the foundation retrofits and floor resurfacing in some of the buildings that are 100 years old. According to the report a more thorough “property and building conditions assessment” is required.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Successful cities that have transformed blighted and struggling older areas of their cities have been Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Denver, Colorado, Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona. El Paso, Texas has dramatically transformed its downtown area. The way each one of these cities did it was with a massive infusion of capital and building large capital projects costing billions of dollars.

Some of the best examples of billion-dollar investments are the building of the BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, the municipal railway running from the outskirts of Denver and through downtown Denver, Colorado or the River Area in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona. In Tulsa the BOK Center sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of redevelopment in adjoining neighborhoods.

In Oklahoma City, the Chesapeake Arena and adjoining Bricktown continue to expand. Previously blighted areas are being filled in with business developments, new housing, recreational facilities, and even cultural amenities. A key component has also been law enforcement to make people feel safe enough to move into those areas as they were being redeveloped. A key involvement to most if not all was seeking voter approval of the projects. Tulsa and Oklahoma City have been so successful that voters continue to approve new ones.

What is ill advise is for Mayor Tim Keller to think the Rail Yard redevelopment can all be done with local talent and local and state investment tax dollars.

The established Albuquerque business and development community and the accompanying construction industry tend to suckle at the tit of city government for projects without making any financial investment of their own. Such massive amounts of capital, usually in the billions of dollars, is needed to build large capital projects that could be built on the Railyards.

Mayor Tim Keller needs to set aside his ego for a legacy project and seek out major investors to get the rail yards development accomplished and stop saying that no private investor is interested in the project. Otherwise, the city will be dealing with an even bigger fiasco than the ART Bus project.

Halt ART Bus System Before Someone Gets Killed; A Case For Negligent Design; Find Alternative Uses For ART Platforms

On Saturday, December 1, the two year delayed Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) bus service began operation on the 9 mile stretch of Central with great fanfare to coincide with Small Business Saturday. The city’s transit department had “ station ambassadors” at each of the 19 ART bus stop platforms in the middle of central to answer questions and help direct passengers. Mayor Tim Keller even took the opportunity to ride the bus for photo ops. It was announced the ART bus service is free through the end of the year with the city scheduled to start charging fees on January 2.

ART is a replacement of the 766 Red Line, which runs from the Central and Unser Transit Center to Louisiana Boulevard before turning north to the Uptown Transit Center It also extends the 777 Green Line, which serves Central Avenue all the way from Unser Boulevard to Tramway Boulevard.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1396308/after-delays-art-to-begin-service-on-saturday-ex-all-bus-rides-will-be-free-until-january-2-after-which-fares-will-be-the-same-as-abq-ride.html

SIX ACCIDENTS IN 12 DAYS OF FULL OPERATION

The local news media has reported that there have been 6 accidents involving the ART Buses in the first 12 days of full operation.

The first crash involving an ART bus happened on Central near 52nd Street on Wednesday morning, December 4. APD Police reported that a driver was in the ART bus lane when he was hit by the bus. The driver of the car hit was taken to the hospital for medical treatment, and the bus had to be towed.

The second ART bus crash happened in front of the New Mexico State Fairgrounds at Central and Louisiana at around 4:30 p.m on December 4. A driver sideswiped the bus with their front left light as they were trying to turn into the ART lane. The bus was scratched, but resumed service. No injuries were reported.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/third-art-bus-involved-in-crash-since-launching-last-week/5571442/?cat=500

On December 5, a third ART bus crash was reported near Central and Monroe. According to one news report the crash involved a black Dodge that appeared to have damage to the driver’s side door. Accroding to news reports, a driver heading east merged into the ART bus lane thinking it was a left-hand turn lane, east of Nob Hill on Central near Monroe.

City spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said this of the accident:

“The driver of the car needed to be turning left, and he told officers he thought he needed to be one more lane over … He turned into the ART bus.”

On December 6th, the city confirmed a 4th crash involving an Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus in its first week of service. According to a news report, a car crashed into the bus around 10:30 p.m. Friday, December 6 at Central and Princeton, possibly after trying to pass another vehicle by using the ART lane. The driver of the car was taken to the hospital in unknown condition, and the bus only sustained minor damage to the front bumper.

On December 7, a 5th accident involving another ART Bus occurred around 5:15 pm on Central Ave. SW, near New York Ave. SW., directly across the street from the El Vado Hotel. There were approximately 10 passengers on board, at the time of the crash. No one was injured.

On December 11, a 6th Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus crash was reported in southwest Albuquerque. The crash happened at Central Avenue and 52nd Street. It is the same spot the first ART bus crash happened. According to a city spokesperson, an eastbound ART bus had the right of way and was trying to proceed when a black vehicle turned in front of the bus. The driver of the black vehicle was at fault. The ART Bus sustained minor scratches and resume its normal route.

Media reports of all 5 accidents can be viewed at the below links:

https://www.koat.com/article/sixth-art-bus-crash-reported/30201310

https://www.koat.com/article/fifth-art-bus-crash/30162514

https://www.krqe.com/home/art-bus-crash-marks-fourth-in-transit-systems-first-week/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1398363/art-bus-involved-in-east-central-crash.html

https://www.koat.com/article/art-bus-involved-in-another-crash/30141389

A CASE OF NEGLIGENT DESIGN

(DISCLAIMER: This section is not intended in any way to be an exhaustive or definitive statement of the law to be relied upon as legal advice to anyone or by anyone.)

In general, tort law is a collection of civil law remedies entitling a person to recover damages for loss and injury, even death, which have been caused by the actions, omissions or statements of another person in such circumstances that the latter was in breach of a duty or obligation imposed by law.

https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Contract_vs_tort

When it comes to civil causes of action for negligence to collect damages, a plaintiff in general must establish in court by preponderance of the evidence 5 elements:

1. A duty of care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff;
2. A breach of that duty by the defendant;
3. A “causal connection” between the defendant’s conduct and the resulting harm;
4. Proximate cause, which relates to whether the harm was foreseeable;
5. Actual harm (monetary or physical damages)

(SOURCE: Pete Dinelli memories from second semester law school, TORTS II)

When it comes to the ART Bus Project, many of the same principles applied to “defective products” and “negligent design” will probably be argued.

Under the law of negligence, one of the most common causes of action for damages that the general public is familiar with is for “defective product” claims involving negligent design of the product. “Such cases involve the design decisions made by the manufacturer during the creation of the product. The focus of a negligent design claim is that even if the product was in its intended condition once produce, there was something inherently wrong with the product that was foreseeable and that caused the damage. In a negligent design case, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, the injured plaintiff must demonstrate that the product created an unreasonable risk of foreseeable injury.To establish a negligent design case, the injured person must present evidence regarding either:
The magnitude of the risk of injury presented by the defect in the product and the reasonableness of the proposed alternative designs, or
Other evidence concerning the “unreasonableness” of the risks in the design”

https://callsam.com/resources/negligent-design-of-the-product/

Many of the principles of negligence and burden of proof requirements apply and are relied upon in “negligent design of highway construction.” Accidents caused by inadequate signage, lack of warning lights, poor lighting, improper drainage, defective traffic control signs, faded highway lines or even unsafe, inadequate or nonexistent guardrails could all be considered negligent road design. Improper maintenance of the road such as loose debris, gravel, potholes, construction refuse, or cement cracks can also be considered negligent road design. When it comes to ART, the bus stop platforms in the middle of central and no left turns along the route could conceivably fall into the category of negligent design contributing to accidents.

https://www.rosenthalkreeger.com/negligent-road-design/

Under the New Mexico Tort claims act, the city is generally granted immunity from liability for personal injury barring recovery for tort (41-1-4 NMSA 1978). However, there are exceptions to the immunity. The immunity granted does not apply to liability for damages resulting from bodily injury, wrongful death or property damage caused by the negligence of the government entity and immunity exists for design but not for maintenance. ( 41-4-11. Liability; highways and streets.)

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2011/chapter41/article4/section41-4-4/

The subsequent maintenance language of 41-4-11 (A) is what is problematic and says immunity granted “does not apply to liability for damages resulting from bodily injury, wrongful death or property damage caused by the negligence … in subsequent maintenance of any … highway, roadway, street, … .” The platforms were completed almost a year ago and stood idle and unused and with no accidents. Now that the buses are up and running the city has the duty to maintain the route and required to take steps to reduce accidents now that the city now knows what the problems are with the line and there is a duty of maintenance. If the buses themselves, the platforms and no left turns are contributing to accidents that can now be forseen, and the city does not do anything to mitigate or cure the problem, it’s a maintenance issue and the language of 41-4-11 (A) kicks in.

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2011/chapter41/article4/section41-4-11/

In the event that a civil lawsuit is filed relating to any accident on the ART Bus route, it is extremely likely that the attorney for the injured plaintiff will be demanding all documents relating to the design and construction of the ART Bus project. The lawyers will demand to see all the plans, construction designs and traffic flow studies for the project and perhaps even environmental impact studies and the applications with the Federal Transportation Administration for the $125 million dollar grant. At the center of the law suite will be that the city knew or should have known that the construction and design of the ART Bus system would lead to multiple accidents with the buses and perhaps the death of pedestrians trying to catch a bus in the middle of central. What is pathetic is that during public hearings on the ART project held by the previous Republican administration, speaker after speaker warned city officials of the problems associated with building bus platforms in the middle of central.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

After 5 accidents in 8 days of full operation involving ART Buses, the city said it has no plans to suspend service and are looking at plans to add barriers or make changes to the ART stretch. Alicia Manzano, a city spokesperson said:

“We’ve been trying to do an evaluation of the corridor, and we’ll continue to do that over the next six months to see if there are probably areas, if we need to put temporary barricading. … What we’ve heard from partners across the country, like those in Cleveland who have operated a system similar, it took folks many years to get used to the new driving pattern and it’s just a matter of continuing to educate drivers.”

https://www.koat.com/article/four-art-bus-crashes-in-first-week-of-service/30159227

No one in their right mind will want to take an ART Bus and risk serious injury as a passenger and no one will want to drive central and deal with 60 foot buses barreling down on you on left side. No one will want to wait years for people to get use to driving patterns.

With 4 ART Bus accidents in 7 full days of operation, this is what happens with a negligent design of a bus system. Keller should suspend the service along central before someone gets killed, rededicate the bus lanes to public use and start to find an alternative use for the platforms. It is better to have the dedicated lanes used by the public and the platforms stand idle before someone gets killed. Otherwise, the Keller Administration is setting the city up for lawsuit after lawsuit as more accidents happen.

From the get go, it was a lack of common sense to have a bus system on one of the busiest streets in the city that resulted in one lane of traffic in each direction and that prohibits left lane turns along a 9 mile stretch of central. It was also obvious that the platforms built in the middle of Central would lead to people getting into danger by walking through traffic to get to them. With the 3 accidents its apparent vehicular traffic will have trouble adjusting to having 60-foot buses traveling passing by them on their left side. It was foreseeable that the ART Bus System would result in serious accident.

Complicating the problem is that bus ridership continues to plummet and it is doubtful a “cheesy” little 9 mile stretch of central is going to increase ridership. See the below postscript on bus ridership.

ALTERNATIVE USE SOLUTION PROPOSED

Although the financial cost of ART was $125 million, it did not come out of the city’s coffers. The funding was overwhelmingly from federal grants from the Federal Transportation Department. The real loss the city sustained is the destruction of the character of central and Route 66. Mayor Tim Keller when refusing to stop the project said it would cost upwards of $200,000,000 million to restore central to its original state. The argument made by Keller was highly doubtful without him providing how that figure was arrived. Keller was also presuming the bus stop platforms would have to be removed.

One solution to consider is to get rid of the dedicated bus lanes and return Central to the two-lane traffic it was in both directions and restore the 350 lost parking spaces on Central. An alternative use for the bus station platforms needs to be found. The white “elephant canopies” should be removed and the platforms stripped barren, but leaving the electrical utilities installed. An alternative use for the platforms that blends into the neighborhood architecture needs to be found. Such alternative use could be large sculptures to commemorate route 66, neon signage reminiscent of the 1950s and Route 66’s heyday or even planters for trees and nighttime lighting.

The $50,000 BURQUE sculpture which now sits on a flat bed at the Rio Grande zoo after removed from civic center could be placed on one of the platforms as a permanent fixture. Designed sculptures could carry the theme of the platform’s locations, such as the Nob Hill platform, the UNM platform across the street from the Frontier Restaurant and the Old Town area platform.

The funding can easily come from the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) with general obligation bonds placed on next year’s ballot for voter approval. Funding could also come from the “Art In Public Places” fund mandated for development.

Work on rededicating the bus platforms for other usage would not take as much time nor as much construction and no tearing up central the way ART did.

CONCLUSION

Given the continuing plunge in bus ridership, it is more likely than not ART is already an obsolete project that no one will use. The $135 million ART Bus project was built on the philosophy “if we build it, people will use it”. With the accidents, the real philosophy is looking more and more like “if we built it, someone is gonna get killed.”

Mayor Tim Keller should order the the transit department to shut down the ART Bus line immediately.

_________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

On November 5, 2019, the city’s ABQ RIDE Ridership Statistics by Route for Fiscal Year 2018 (July 2017 through June 2018) were released by the Keller Administration. You can read the report here:

https://www.cabq.gov/transit/documents/fy18-annual-productivity-summary.pdf

The city report published by ABQ RIDE bus service shows a decreasing number of riders boarding buses in total and a decrease in ridership on some of the city’s bus system’s most popular routes. According to the statistics compiled by ABQ Ride for Rapid Ride buses, ridership fell from 1.91 million total riders on all Rapid Ride routes in FY 2017, to 1.65 million total riders on all Rapid Ride routes in FY 2018.

The Route 66 bus across Central Avenue, the total number of riders fell from 2.26 million total riders in FY 2017, to 2.06 million total riders in FY 2018. Comparing the data between FY 2016 and FY 2018, the ridership decline is very noticeable. In FY 2016 (July 2015-June 2016), ABQ Ride counted 11.20 million riders on all Rapid Ride and regular routes. In FY 2018 (July 2017-June 2018) ABQ Ride counted 9.47 million riders on all Rapid Ride and regular routes.

In a story written by reporter Dennis Domrzalski and published by ABQ Reports on November 18, it was reported very few, or almost no one, uses the Albuquerque bus transit system. According to the United states Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a meager 1.7% of working-age people in the Albuquerque area use public transit to commute to work while 89.5% take cars or trucks to commute to work.

According to the census, there are 322,822 working-age people yet a mere 4,857 of those people, or 1.5%, walked to work, and 6,150, or 1.9% found some other way to get to their jobs. The statistics reflect that 98.3% of the working-age people in the Albuquerque area do not use public transit to get to work all the while the city’s bus system keeps growing despite falling ridership.

You can read the full ABQ Report and review statistical graphs here:

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/11/18/Almost-no-one-rides-buses-in-ABQ-Really-almost-no-one