ABQ Report Dan Klein: “Keller and Geier want more money to fight crime. How about real cops?”; Keller has Another Press Conference, Another Plea For Money

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque Police Sergeant after 20 years of public service. He has been a small business owner in the private sector now for 15 years. Mr. Klein has been a reporter for both on line news outlets the ALB Free Press and ABQ Reports.

On November 25, 2019, the following article written by Dan Klein, with introductory bullet talking points was published by ABQ Report:

The same old BS: Keller and Geier want more money to fight crime. How about real cops?

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– More data isn’t going to reduce crime. Neither is more money.

– Albuquerque citizens, your leaders are out of ideas, so they fall back on the old standby: give us more of your money and we promise to make you safe. Aren’t we tired of this yet?

– Tim Keller and Mike Geier and Raul Torrez can have all the stats and data that they want, but crime will not go down until officers do police work. Crime will not go down until detectives do solid investigation and then follow up with ten-day cases. Crime will not go down until the DA stops making excuses and starts doing speedy trials and gets convictions.

– Detectives live in courtrooms and that is where you convict bad people of crimes. SWAT guys live in front of mirrors, admiring themselves.

– Albuquerque needs a police chief like Bob Stover, who understood that citizens don’t give a damn about having coffee with a cop. Or having the worthless Horse Patrol poop all over their neighborhood the day after a homicide has occurred.”

“Albuquerque is having more murders. Crime is out of control. APD is spending more time and man-hours policing themselves than policing our neighborhoods.

What does our police chief, mayor and district attorney say they need to correct this problem? Their answer to Albuquerque crime woes is more of your money to buy more technology.

Albuquerque citizens, your leaders are out of ideas, so they fall back on the old standby: give us more of your money and we promise to make you safe. Aren’t we tired of this yet?

It was nice to see Keller, Geier and Torrez not blaming the courts and the new pretrial release program for crime. After the University of New Mexico study which showed very few people released pending trial are reoffending, their standby finger-pointing excuse was blown out of the water.

KOAT-TV recently interviewed retired Albuquerque Police Chief Joe Polisar regarding the crime epidemic in our community. He was not very happy with the current state of our city. Polisar was right to demand an end to the DOJ consent decree. We need more officers patrolling our streets, not patrolling each other.

Let me tell you a story that explains why we don’t need to toss more money at the crime problem for more data resources. APD already has the data, they just don’t have cops in the right places to use it.

It’s 1986, and Polisar oversees the new Repeat Offenders Project (ROP). This was when you had to be a detective, not a SWAT wannabe, to be in this unit. This is an important distinction because detectives live in courtrooms and that is where you convict bad people of crimes. SWAT guys live in front of mirrors, admiring themselves, but I digress.

I was one of eight ROP detectives sitting in our office in the basement of the main police station when Polisar walks in, hands everyone a mugshot of a burglar that is tearing up city and says, “I want this bastard in jail, talk to your CI’s (confidential informants) and get it done.” The APD Burglary Unit (APD no longer has a Burglary Unit, let that sink in) had identified this burglar as a criminal who was doing dozens of burglaries every week.

I had started working with an informant that a field officer had turned over to me (no technology here, just street cops and detectives working together), he was a twice convicted murderer, but a pretty nice guy. My partner and I picked him up and showed him the picture of the burglar and the last known location where he was living. The CI had us drop him off on that part of Central and he said he would be in touch later.

Three hours later I get a page (remember it’s 1986) from my informant. He asks if I would like to buy some guns from a friend of his (the burglar).

Within 48 hours we had bought guns from our burglar. The guns came from a burglary that had happened a day before. We arrested him the next morning. We did a ten-day case on him so the DA and judges could keep him in custody. Within months his case was over, and he was convicted and off to prison.

Remember all of this was done long before the computer age that we now live in. It was typewriters and word processors. We did our data research by hand, thumbing through thousands of rap sheets to figure out who was likely to reoffend, and we had a safer city.

Several months later Polisar comes into our office and announces that burglaries are down almost 10 percent.

Tim Keller and Mike Geier and Raul Torrez can have all the stats and data that they want, but crime will not go down until officers do police work. Crime will not go down until detectives do solid investigation and then follow up with ten-day cases. Crime will not go down until the DA stops making excuses and starts doing speedy trials (Fabian Gonzales in jail for 3 years and 3 months without trial!) and gets convictions.

Albuquerque needs a police chief like Bob Stover, who understood that citizens don’t give a damn about having coffee with a cop. Or having the worthless Horse Patrol poop all over their neighborhood the day after a homicide has occurred. That’s all “feel good bullshit” that doesn’t make you safer. Our police officers shouldn’t be tasked with holding hands and telling you it’s going to be OK. Our police officers should be working hard to prevent crime and respond to it EFFECTIVELY when it does occur. We don’t need more data and technology for that. We don’t need more money tossed at this problem, Albuquerque already has at least two public safety taxes. It’s a leadership issue.

Albuquerque needs a DA like Bob Schwartz, who will stand on the courthouse steps and take responsibility as the chief law enforcement officer in the county. Schwartz was a DA that promised to free the innocent and convict the guilty in a timely manner. We don’t need more money and technology for this. Speaking of money, where are the millions that the legislature gave Torrez a couple years ago? Someone in Santa Fe should be demanding an accounting of our money. John Arthur Smith didn’t you promise to hold Torrez feet to the fire? Light the match.

Albuquerque needs a mayor like Marty Chavez was during his first term in the mid-1990s. He had a vision of a crime-free city. He could be a real ass because he held people under him accountable. Accountability, not more money and PR, is what this city needs to fight crime.

It’s like the current police leadership is clueless on how to be a cop. They don’t think blood in a 7 year- old girls’ underwear is any cause for concern. They want more data, but they don’t have a clue what to do with it. It’s a DA who doesn’t know what “speedy trial” means and is all too gleeful to fraudulently blame the new bonding system for his failures. It’s a mayor who has surrounded himself with clueless advisers when it comes to law enforcement.

Don’t believe me. Just watch the video where Geier and Keller sit silently while an APD PIO explains that blood in a child’s underwear is not a cause for concern. That is somehow violates search and seizure laws. It doesn’t, yet our leaders sat silent while this BS was pumped out to the community.

We don’t need more data; we need a police chief and a district attorney who know how to be law enforcement professionals. We need a mayor who starts firing people who aren’t getting the job done. Until that time crime will continue to pillage Albuquerque and the finger pointing and demand for more money will never stop.”

The link to the Dan Klein article on ABQReport is here:

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/11/25/The-same-old-BS-Keller-and-Geier-want-more-money-to-fight-crime-How-about-real-cops

ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, ANOTHER PLEA FOR FUNDING

On December 2 Mayor Keller held a press conference to reveal his legislative priorities for the upcoming 2020 New Mexico Legislative session that starts in January. Keller said his top priority will again be public safety and made a pitch for money from the legislature to update the city’s crime fighting technology. His requests include $10 million for his violence intervention programs and $20 million for modernizing crime fighting technology.

In addressing the city’s violent crime rates Keller said:

“Violent crime is still Albuquerque’s biggest challenge, and New Mexico’s biggest challenge, even as we have made strides fighting other crimes like auto theft and robbery … We’re facing that reality with evidence-based violence reduction and tough on crime policing, and with the State’s help we can take another step towards making New Mexico’s largest metro area safer. … For us, we know that the pain and the violence that we’ve seen, one we have to acknowledge that this has been with us a long time, and what we are going to do is everything we can to try and do something about it.”

The breakdown of the $20 million ask by Mayor Keller to bring Albuquerque’s crime-fighting technology up to date includes:

$13 million for CAD / Records Management System;
$1.2 million for Video Management Software;
$2.5 million for Crime Scene Response, including a new crime scene bus;
$1.2 million to update the Laboratory Information Management System;
$250,000 in upgrades to the Evidence Warehouse;
$810,000 for Latent Fingerprint Section improvement;
$320,000 for Automated License Plate Readers;
$150,000 for Firearms & Toolmarks Technology;
$370,000 to upgrade DNA equipment; and
$100,000 for a ballistic water tank replacement.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/albuquerque-mayor-lays-out-wish-list-for-2020-legislative-session/5568427/?cat=500

https://www.koat.com/article/mayor-holds-another-news-conference-to-address-crime-epidemic/30093713

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Keller’s goal is to spend $88 million dollars starting last year in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Last year’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provided for increasing APD funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. This year’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget has funding for 1,040 sworn police.

Mayor Keller has essentially been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some. Keller is now asking for $20 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” the police department records keeping. The request is being made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipt increase enacted by the city council that raised gross receipts taxes by $60 million a year and breaking his promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. It also comes after a mere seven months after the City announced in April a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall, called an “orphan month”, as a result of a change in accounting policy to align the city finances and accounting practices with state government financing and nearly all other governmental entities. It also comes two months after Keller submitted a $29 million dollar lodger’s tax and the City Council approved on October 7 a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city.

During a November 5 election night radio interview, Tim Keller made it known he is running for a second term in 2021. It is painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policies have not had much of an effect. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Keller is focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for him despite all of his efforts. The City’s crime rates and APD will once again be a defining issue in the 2021 race for Mayor.

For a related blog article see:

Mayor Keller “Cooking The Books” With “All That Stuff”; Keller and APD Chief Geier Looking Desperate With 4th Program In 9 Months; Time For Another Reorganization And A Few Terminations

Mayor Tim Keller Holds Yet Another Press Conference; Asks For State Funding To Address Violent Crime

On November 19 and 26, Mayor Keller held press conferences regarding his Violence Intervention Program (VIP) and his “Metro 15” program, the 3rd and 4th programs within 9 months to deal with the City’s violent crime and murder rates. At the time of both press conferences, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

Mayor Keller announced that he plans on asking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system. Keller said $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one.

STATISTICS FIASCO

On Sunday, December 1, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front-page story that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in his July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed and inflated showing dramatic reductions in crime not at all accurate. According to the report, both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were reported initially. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.

At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics to it but failed to report that the numbers had changed drastically no doubt believing no one would notice. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct and announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335502/crime-declining-in-albuquerque-new-numbers-show.html

The corrected statistics are as follows:

Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault increased 21%, rather than decreasing 8% as announced during Keller’s July news conference
Rape increased by 3%, rather than decreasing 3%
Auto theft decreased 14%, not the 31% reported by Keller
Homicides remained basically the same decreasing by a single murder
Robbery decreased 32% and Keller reported it decreasing by 36%

Mayor Keller blamed the inaccurate statistics on different software programs that are antiquated and that are not very conducive to pulling crime statistics on a real time basis. The statistic fiasco could conceivably jeopardize federal grant funding for law enforcement that is often in the millions. The feds rely on the stats for the award of grants and funding.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335502/crime-declining-in-albuquerque-new-numbers-show.html

ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, ANOTHER PLEA FOR FUNDING

On December 2, within 24 hours after the Albuquerque’ Journal story on the flawed statistics, Mayor Keller held yet another press conference to reveal his legislative priorities for the upcoming 2020 New Mexico Legislative session that starts in January. Keller said his top priority will again be public safety. His requests include $10 million for his violence intervention programs and $20 million for modernizing crime fighting technology.

In addressing the city’s violent crime rates Keller said:

“Violent crime is still Albuquerque’s biggest challenge, and New Mexico’s biggest challenge, even as we have made strides fighting other crimes like auto theft and robbery … We’re facing that reality with evidence-based violence reduction and tough on crime policing, and with the State’s help we can take another step towards making New Mexico’s largest metro area safer. … For us, we know that the pain and the violence that we’ve seen, one we have to acknowledge that this has been with us a long time, and what we are going to do is everything we can to try and do something about it.”

Keller attempted to explain the problem with the statistics fiasco, blamed the inaccurate statistics on different software programs that are antiquated and made another pitch for money from the legislature to update the city’s crime fighting technology.

The breakdown of the $20 million ask by Mayor Keller to bring Albuquerque’s crime-fighting technology up to date includes:

$13 million for CAD / Records Management System;
$1.2 million for Video Management Software;
$2.5 million for Crime Scene Response, including a new crime scene bus;
$1.2 million to update the Laboratory Information Management System;
$250,000 in upgrades to the Evidence Warehouse;
$810,000 for Latent Fingerprint Section improvement;
$320,000 for Automated License Plate Readers;
$150,000 for Firearms & Toolmarks Technology;
$370,000 to upgrade DNA equipment; and
$100,000 for a ballistic water tank replacement.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/albuquerque-mayor-lays-out-wish-list-for-2020-legislative-session/5568427/?cat=500

https://www.koat.com/article/mayor-holds-another-news-conference-to-address-crime-epidemic/30093713

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. After two full years in office with two years remaining, Mayor Tim Keller has not made the significant progress he promised to reduce crime contrary to his repeated claims that crime rates are on the decline in all categories. Further, Mayor Keller has been taking the approach of announcing new initiatives to reduce violent crime after violent crimes shocking the community are reported.

Mayor Keller’s goal is to spend $88 million dollars starting last year in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Last year’s 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provided for increasing APD funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. This year’s 2019-2020 fiscal year budget has funding for 1,040 sworn police.

Mayor Keller has essentially been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some. Keller is now asking for $20 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” the police department records keeping. The request is being made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipt increase enacted by the city council that raised gross receipts taxes by $60 million a year and breaking his promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. It also comes after a mere seven months after the City announced in April a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall, called an “orphan month”, as a result of a change in accounting policy to align the city finances and accounting practices with state government financing and nearly all other governmental entities. It also comes two months after Keller submitted a $29 million dollar lodger’s tax and the City Council approved on October 7 a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package on a unanimous vote to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city.

LAW ENFORCEMENT IS MORE THAN PUBLIC RELATIONS

The Statistics Fiasco is a lot more serious than what Keller wants to let on. The City relies heavily on Federal Law enforcement grants often in the millions to conduct operations and fund programs. That federal funding is based upon the statistics that the city provides to the FBI. It is more than just possible but highly likely the feds will withdraw funding or for that matter demand refunds of funding if the city is submitting bogus and inflated crime statistics. At worst, what happened with the statistics was downright deceptive and at best down right sneaky, especially when APD gives the accurate statistics to the City Council a full two months before the mistakes were made public and not bringing it to the attention of the council and the public.

With the announcement of 4 separate programs within 9 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates, Mayor Keller is looking desperate to portray himself as being proactive. Mayor Tim Keller is probably realizing that after 2 years in office that governing, law enforcement and reducing crime rates takes more than his trademark grin, condolences, expressions of empathy, press conferences, “nuance programs”, data collection and even more promises to get results. Keller is beginning to look foolish when he holds press conference, after press conference, after press conference to announce new programs that are in fact programs that are nothing more than the renaming or rebranding of existing programs and asking for more money.

What is very concerning for voters is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. Do not expect Keller’s VIP program or Metro 15 Program to be any different. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now a failed personnel resource management issue. It’s time for Mayor Tim Keller to take stock, recognize APD is not getting the job done, reorganize APD and terminate a few of the command staff.

During a November 5 election night radio interview, Tim Keller made it known he is running for a second term in 2021. It is painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policies have not had much of an effect. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Keller is focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for him despite all of his efforts. The City’s crime rates and APD will once again be a defining issue in the 2021 race for Mayor.

CONCLUSION

Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. No amount of data collection, public relations or nuance programs are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe. A campaign based on “Give me more time and another chance to do good” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is still happening with violent crime.

Mayor Tim Keller’s biggest problem is his inability or reluctance to hold his APD command staff accountable for failures, ostensibly out of a sense of extreme loyalty. The Mayor Keller and Chief Geier relationship appears to be identical to that of Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Gordon Eden relationship. In the end, Keller and Geier just may leave city hall in two years under similar public distain as Berry and Geier did two years ago ending the political career of another Mayor.

Mayor Keller “Cooking The Books” With “All That Stuff”; Keller and APD Chief Geier Looking Desperate With 4th Program In 9 Months; Time For Another Reorganization And A Few Terminations

Candidate Tim Keller campaigned to get elected Mayor on the platform of increasing the size of APD, returning to community-based policing and a promise to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. After two full years in office with two remaining, Mayor Tim Keller has not made the significant progress he promised to reduce crime contrary to his repeated claims that crime rates are on the decline in all categories. Further, Mayor Keller has been taking the approach of announcing new initiatives to reduce violent crime after violent crimes shocking the community are reported. It’s time for Mayor Tim Keller to take stock, recognize APD is not getting the job done, reorganize APD and terminate a few of the command staff.

KELLER “COOKING THE BOOKS” WITH “ALL THAT STUFF”

Since taking office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD has released the city’ crime statistics, Mayor Keller has done a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. He did so on July 1, 2019, only 1 day after the second quarter of 2019 ended to report the mid-year crime statistics compared to last year midterm numbers. Mayor Keller reported that crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops in nearly every category, between the first six months of 2018 and the first six months of 2019.

The statistics released during the July 1, 2019 Keller press conference, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reported to the FBI that in the first 6 months of 2019, the property crimes of home burglaries were down and auto burglaries were down. Robberies, sexual assaults and murders were reported as down from the first 6 months of last year. Double-digit drops were reported during the last 6 months in violent offenses included robberies, down, aggravated assaults, and rapes.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1335502/crime-declining-in-albuquerque-new-numbers-show.html

On Sunday, December 1, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front-page story that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in Keller’s July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed and not accurate. According to the report, both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.

At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics to it but failed to report that the numbers had changed drastically no doubt believing no one would notice. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal.

Here are the corrected statistics:

Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller

In February, 2019 APD reported very different numbers to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which collects and publishes the data. The data reported shows violent crime had actually increased 3.7% between 2017 and 2018 driven by aggravated assaults.

According to the FBI report:

Aggravated assault increased 21%, rather than decreasing 8% as announced during Keller’s July news conference
Rape increased by 3%, rather than decreasing 3%
Auto theft decreased 14%, not the 31% reported by Keller
Homicides remained basically the same decreasing by a single murder
Robbery decreased 32% and Keller reported it decreasing by 36%

APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos had this to say about the corrected statistics:

“We have different software programs that are antiquated and are not very conducive to pull crime stats on a real time basis … There are also issues with how officers input information. I believe there were problems with the software that were later discovered in which large data categories were not reflected in real time when we pulled those stats. ”

Mayor Keller for his part said:

“When I came in, I wanted to be as transparent as possible with where we’re at on crime and I think that intent is still the right thing to do. … But it is much more complicated because of all these different databases and these classifications and all that stuff.”

You can read the full December 1 Journal story at this link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1396782/flaws-discovered-in-apds-crime-statistics.html

ASKING FOR MORE MONEY

During a November 19 press conference to announce his Violent Intervention Program (VIP), Mayor Keller announced that he plans on asking New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico State Legislature for $30 million in funding during the upcoming 2020 legislative session to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system. Keller said $20 million dollars of that will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one. Keller said:

“We’re dealing with systems that are decades old and older. It’s a situation that is holding back everything that we are trying to do as a department. It’s essentially a deferred investment that I wish we would have made a decade ago and that we have to make now.”

The other $10 million would go to the city’s new violence intervention program.

https://www.koat.com/article/mayor-claims-he-has-plan-to-address-albuquerques-crime-crisis/29897479

ANOTHER RECORD HIGH HOMICIDE RATE, ANOTHER NEW CRIME FIGHTING PROGRAM ANNOUNCED

On Tuesday, November 26, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rate. At the time of the press conference, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation” and is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program Keller announced the week before. According to Keller and Geier the new program will target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. In other words, it’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. According to Keller, the top 15 will be identified by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office. Once a violent offender is caught, another violent offender will be added to the list.

Under the program APD is partnering with the Attorney General’s Office, the Bernalillo County District’s Office, the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and the state’s Probation and Parole Division. The multi-agency effort will also work with the FBI and U.S. Marshals.

During the press conference, Keller had this to say about Metro 15:

“Today isn’t about data, or technology, or planning. It is about bringing all hands-on deck for a crackdown on the worst perpetrators of violent crimes in our city. It’s about going after someone at the right time, with the right set of information so that we can arrest them, keep them in jail, and bring justice to what they have done to our community. … I want to remind everyone the Metro 15 is not about necessarily data or technology; this is about going after the most … we think perpetrators of violence in the Albuquerque area.”

According to APD Chief Geier, the Metro 15 the operation is different from similar tactics because the agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and state Probation and Parole, have narrowed their focus to where they believe they’ll have the most impact.

APD Chief Geier had this to say about the Metro 15 Operation:

“We have all had enough. It’s time to take back our city. … We’re working with the District Attorney to put more thought into this in terms of the violent offenders we should be targeting. … We don’t want to use our precious resources and manpower just to organize short-term tactical plans or warrant roundups and put a Band-Aid on the problem.”

Keller said the program has been in the works for the past nine months. However, during the press conference, it was revealed that only two offenders were actually identified and placed on the list. Another 13 offenders will be added. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is working on the list of violent offenders to target and will be going after those who continuously commit violent offenses.

Links to related news coverage are here:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/metro-15-mayor-keller-apd-announce-plan-to-target-worst-perpetrators-of-violent-crime/5564059/?cat=500

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/city-of-albuquerque-announces-metro-15-operation/

https://www.abqjournal.com/1395797/apd-announces-program-to-arrest-violent-offenders.html

APD UNION RESPONDS TO METRO 15

In a Channel 4 News Report, Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association president Shaun Willoughby was quick with sarcastic and sharp criticism of the Metro 15 Operation and he had this to say:

“This Metro 15 – it’s a great concept. It’s a rebranding of a concept we’ve been doing for years … We work well with the DA’s office and I find it good and powerful that all of these entities are coming together because they just told everybody that their credibility is on the line too. … We need to focus on that. Less PR (public relations), less puff, more actual, basic police work. ”

Willouby also said community policing and bike patrols are great, but he wants to see more officers patrolling and investigating homicides and said:

“[Community policing is] a great thing for the community. We love taking a group of kids to see a Frozen movie. We want to have relations with this community and we want to build and focus on community policing but the number one attribute of community policing is policing.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Keller told KOB 4:

“Despite resistance from the union leadership, APD has made great strides in meeting the requirements of the Court Approved Settlement Agreement [CASA] and we continue to restore public trust in our officers.”

The Keller Administration also issued the following statement:

“The first thing Mayor Keller did when he took office was overhaul the police department to more effectively fight crime and invest in officer salaries to make APD recruitment more competitive. We inherited the smallest police force in recent memory at fewer than 850 officers, and we are on track to meet our goal of hiring 100 new officers a year for 4 years. The additional officers allowed APD to more than double the number of homicide detectives, while providing investigative training for all detectives. We created Problem Response Teams in every Area Command, brought back bike patrols, created the Downtown Public Safety District, re-opened community substations, tackled the rape kit backlog, resulting in the prosecution of serial rapists, and created the Violence Intervention Program that has officers who are dedicated to reducing violent crime. Our focus on recruiting is unrelenting.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/police-union-wants-more-officers-less-press-conferences/5564651/?cat=500

It is worth remembering that during the 2017 Mayoral race, the APOA Union strongly endorsed Tim Keller to be elected Mayor. For his part and during his first two years in office, Keller has increased APD officer salaries and retention bonuses dramatically to make APD recruitment more competitive and has increased the size of the department from a low of 850 to 980. When Mayor Keller and Chief Geier take steps to address a crisis in homicides, what they get from the Union leadership is “what have you done for us lately” attitude and nasty sarcasm of “We need to focus … less [on] PR (public relations), less puff, more actual, basic police work.”

A ROSE BY ANOTHER NAME

If much of the Metro 15 initiative sounds familiar, it should. It is the 4th time in 9 months that Mayor Keller has announced a “new program” to combat violent crime and reduce our murder rates. The other programs Keller announced were the “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP), the “Shield Unit” and declaring violent crime “public health” issue.

“VIOLENCE INTERVENTION PLAN” (VIP)

On November 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative is in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime.

According to Mayor Keller:

“This is a first-of-its kind program for Albuquerque that pairs law enforcement and public health working together to put the drivers of violent crime behind bars while creating paths away from violence for those who are not yet drawn into the cycle of violence or are looking for a way out. Our partners in the program include the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, Bernalillo County District Attorney, New Mexico State Police, Probation and Parole, ATF, DEA, FBI, US Marshal, US Attorney, Family & Community Services, Bernalillo County Community Health Council and more.”

Mayor Keller acknowledged the “VIP” program is modeled after other such programs in other cities and that APD has been working on the program since spring. According to Keller, in other cities, it has brought down violent crime rates by as much as 10%.

DECLARING VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems.

APD is tracking violent crime relying on the same methods used to track auto thefts, weekly reports summarizing shootings, refining policies, and learning from best practices used by other law enforcement agencies. One goal is for APD to examine how guns are driving other crimes, such as domestic violence and drug addiction.

THE SHIELD UNIT

In February 2018 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created the “Shield Unit”. The Shield Unit assists APD Police Officers to prepare cases for trial and prosecution by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. The unit originally consisted of 3 paralegals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.

According to a June 6, 2019 press release issued by the city expanding the Shield Program:

“In addition to providing police reports [to the DA’s office], the unit orders and provides the audio from 911 calls and dispatch logs, all reports and dispatch records mentioned in any report, all documents referenced, copies of any photos/CDs/DVDs/USBs which are tagged into evidence, and copies of any items tagged into evidence which can be copied, … They often contact businesses for any surveillance video of events, and receipts for damage which occurred. All of this together provides the DA with a solid case to prosecute.”

The city press release proclaimed that throughout 2018, the Shield Unit provided discovery documents for 2,871 felony cases and in 2019 it has provided discovery for 2,787 felony cases. The Shield Unit works on felony cases for officers across the department, except in cases involving homicide, vehicular homicide, gangs and vice. The unit is expected to work on discovery for about 6,000 cases by the end of the year.

THE AleRT Program

Over two years ago, the previous Republican administration created the ALeRt Program to work in conjunction with the City’s Real Time Crime Center. ALeRT stands for Analysis-Led Recidivism Team. Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI partner for the project and it is based out of the City’s Real Time Crime Center.

The AleRT program is a team of crime analysts working at APD headquarters whose aim is to quickly flag people who are arrested that police considered “habitual offenders” and alert prosecutors and detectives so that they can aggressively prosecute the case. Fifty people were originally flagged by ALeRT analysts. To narrow the list of targets, the team consider only the previous three years when studying a person’s criminal history to see if he or she should be flagged upon arrest.

At the time of its creation, APD officials said the habitual offenders in the ALeRT system had been arrested on felony charges about 350 times in the previous three years. Repeated arrests, especially arrests for violent crimes and crimes that are increasing in Albuquerque, such as auto theft, can land someone on the ALeRT list.

It was on June 13, 2017 that the success of the ALeRT program was hailed by the previous Republican Administration as APD’s answer to repeat offenders when two repeat offenders were arrested under the program

https://www.abqjournal.com/1017588/alert-program-may-cut-recidivism.html

Two years later and on April 12, 2019 it was reported that the ALeRt program still exists. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:

“It’s working really well … essentially, it’s a something driven by our real-time crime center but involves a great partnership with a lot of different folks.”

According to Gallegos, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of repeat offenders getting convicted as a result of the program. Additionally, the program prioritizes suspects accused of stealing cars or violent crimes.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/apd-continues-to-stop-repeat-offenders-with-alert-program/5315558/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

A sure way for any Mayor to lose credibility with the public is to repeatedly announce reductions in crime and then having to admit the statistics announced were dramatically from the truth. What is down right embarrassing is when the Mayor’s own Police Department is incapable of compiling the information reported to the FBI. Keller and Geier had the correct data at the end of September. Keller did not hold one of his famous crime statistics press conference for the third quarter while APD provided the corrected statistics to the Albquerque City Council without any fanfare. It’s called at the very worst being deceptive and at the very least being sneaky. Keller needs to take action to hold someone accountable for the major misstep, but it is likely he will not, given his penchant for positive public relations and adversity to any kind of confrontation or “bad press”.

Keller is probably realizing that after 2 years in office that governing and reducing crime rates takes more than his trademark grin, condolences, press conferences, “nuance programs”, data collection and even more promises to get results. With the announcement of 4 separate programs within 9 months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates, Mayor Keller and Chief Geier are looking desperate to portray themselves as being proactive when they are being reactive in the worst way. They are also beginning to look foolish when they hold press conferences and represent that new programs such as Metro 15 Operation is something different or new when in fact the programs are nothing more than renaming or rebranding of existing programs such as the “Shield” and ALeRT Programs and attempt to give the appearance they somehow are being proactive. Adding to the foolishness is having to admit the reductions in crime are not as great as they have been saying.

What is very concerning for voters is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates. Do not expect Keller’s VIP program or Metro 15 Program to be any different. It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now a failed personnel resource management issue.

KELLER’S REQUEST FOR MORE FUNDING

Mayor Keller has been given everything he has wanted for public safety and then some. Keller is now asking for yet $30 million more from the Governor and the New Mexico legislature to “modernize” the police department records keeping. The request is being made 18 months after Keller signed into law a gross receipt increase enacted by the city council that raised taxes by $55 million a year and breaking his promise not to raise taxes, even for public safety, without a public vote. It also comes after a mere seven months after the City announced in April a onetime $34.4 million dollar windfall, called an “orphan month”, as a result of a change in accounting policy to align the city finances and accounting practices with state government financing and nearly all other governmental entities. It also comes two months after Keller submitted a $29 million dollar lodger’s tax request. On October 7, the City Council approved on a unanimous vote a $30.5 million “Sports -Tourism” lodger tax package to upgrade and build sports facilities throughout the city. High crime rates do have an impact on tourism and instead of upgrading sports facilities, perhaps the lodgers tax could have been used to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system and records keeping programs.

A MIDTERM REORGANIZATION OF APD IS IN ORDER

Within a few months of taking office on December 1, 2017, Keller and Geier completely reorganized APD and placed their own management team in place. At Keller’s midterm, another reorganization of APD is needed because what APD leadership is doing now is simply not cutting it.

It is now obvious the APD command staff Keller handpicked are not getting the job done bringing down our crime rates and violent crime. Personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations, starting with the APD command staff Keller handpicked. The reorganization would include increasing the number of sworn to the field to patrol the streets and increasing the various units, such as the homicide unit and the investigations unit.

ABOLISH INTERNAL AFFAIRS

The re organization needs to include abolishing the APD Internal Affairs Unit with its functions absorbed by other civilian departments. Currently, there are 61 sworn police assigned to the compliance bureaus which includes APD Internal Affairs. On August 1, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) issued a “Staffing Snapshot” that reported the extent of resources and personnel dedicated to implementation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with APD’s Compliance Bureau. According to the staffing report the Compliance Bureau has assigned to it 1 Deputy Chief, 3 Commanders, 1 Deputy Commander, 6 Lieutenants, 10 Sergeants and 40 Detectives for a total of 61 which is 6.28% of the department sworn police officers. The 40 detectives are involved with the Department of Justice reform enforcement investigating other officers for standard operating procedures policy violations. The 40 officers would be better utilized in the field services patrolling the streets.

The investigation of police misconduct cases including excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or serious bodily harm should be done by “civilian” personnel investigators, not sworn police. The function and responsibility for investigating police misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures by police should be assumed by the Office of the General Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department. The Office of General Council would make findings and recommendations to the APD Chief and Police Oversight Board (POB) for implementation and imposition of disciplinary action.

TWO YEARS REMAINING TO GET RESULTS

Tim Keller has already made it known he is running for a second term in 2021. It is painfully obvious with 72 murders this year and counting, Keller’s policies have not had much of an effect. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Keller is focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for him despite his efforts. Loosing credibility because he lays claim to bringing crime down by using false numbers does not help an election bid.

Voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. No amount of data collection, public relations or nuance programs are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe. A campaign based on “Give more time and another chance to do good” is not a winning strategy, especially after what Keller promised when he was running the first time and what is still happening with violent crime. But hey, maybe the police union will endorse Keller again expecting even more.

Mayor Tim Keller’s biggest problem is his inability or reluctance to hold his APD command staff accountable for failures, ostensibly out of a sense of extreme loyalty. The Mayor Keller-Chief Geier situation is identical to that of Mayor Richard Berry and Chief Gordon Eden relationship. In the end, Keller and Geier just may leave city hall under similar public disdain as Berry and Geier did two years ago ending the political career of one.

For related blog articles see:

Keller’s 3rd Plan In 9 Months To Reduce Violent Crime Is Data And More Data; Aggressive, Sustained Law Enforcement Tactical Plans Needed; Reorganize APD; Dismiss CASA

City Matches Homicide Record High Of 72 Murders; Mayor Keller Forced To Defend Policies, Makes More Promises, Asks For More Money

Headlines Discredits Mayor’s and Chief’s Statistics “Crime Is Down”; City Ranks In Top 10 Of Dangerous Cities; Number One In Auto Thefts 3rd Year in A Row;”

City Council District 2 Runoff Is Race Between Failed Past City Leadership v. Future City Leadership; Vote Zack Quintero

A runoff election for Albuquerque City Council District 2 is scheduled for November 10. City Council District 2 is the city-center district encompassing Downtown, Old Town, parts of the University of New Mexico and parts of the North Valley. District 2 is heavily Hispanic and considered Democrat. A runoff election is required because no one candidate of 5 candidates secured the required 50% plus one vote on Nov. 5 to avoid a runoff.

The City Council District 2 runoff election is between 14-year incumbent City Councilor Isaac Benton, age 67, and Zack Quintero, age 28, an economist and recent UNM Law school graduate. Both Quintero and Benton qualified for public finance, but both are also receiving assistance from measured finance committees that have attacked them both.

ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL CANDIDATE PROFILE

On November 27, the Albuquerque Journal published a font page District 2 profile of candidates Isaac Benton and Zack Quintero. The Albuquerque Journal article is a must read for anyone in City Council District 2 who has not voted yet in the run off . You can review the full article at the below link:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1395807/veteran-incumbent-faces-newcomer-in-district-2-runoff.html

ZACK QUINTERO

Zack Quintero is a 4th generation working class New Mexican and a graduate of New Mexico’s public-school system. He graduated from the UNM School of law in the spring of 2019 with a Juris Doctorate of Law. He has earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and bachelor’s degree in government from New Mexico State University.

Mr. Quintero is currently employed as a legal analyst with the law firm of Roybal Mack and Cordova. He has been a law clerk with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and was employed as a city economist and economic development specialist with the City of Santa Fe. While with Santa Fe city government, he helped manage the contract between the City of Santa Fe and Meow Wolf which helped them to remain in the state. Meow Wolf is a major sponsor of United New Mexico Soccer Team which is based in Albuquerque.

Mr. Quintero lists as major professional accomplishment as building and managing a statewide portal to connect graduates to jobs in New Mexico in order to keep young people talent here and drafted and managed workforce contracts and investments between the city and the creative arts sector. Mr. Quintero also drafted and managed workforce contracts and investments between the city and the creative arts sector.

Zack Quintero is campaigning on a promise of change for City Council District 2. His platform and his positions on issues are very reflective of the needs of District 2 and the city’s needs. His 5-point platform is:

1.Fully fund community policing. Quintero wants to “establish a residential burglary unit team within APD and invest in shot detection systems that help our officers’ triangulate gun related crimes.”

2.Targeted funding to address behavioral health and addiction issues. Quintero supported the bond for a homeless center and wants to provide wrap-around services that connect people to mental health and addiction resources.

3. Work with the Mayor and City Council to create a citywide labor force plan to retain our recent graduates. Quintero has said he wants to “connect 5,000 graduates to jobs in health care, tech, education, government, and the creative arts through a coordinated jobs plan.”

4. Invest in after school and summer opportunities for the city’s youth

5. Provide partial student loan relief to graduates who commit 5 years to Albuquerque

In addition to his platform issues, Quintero has taken positions on major issues affecting District 2 and the city. Those issues include:

Quintero has said the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) enacted two years ago by the city council resulted in many historical neighborhoods losing protections they once had. His opponent was a sponsor of the IDO which was a major priority of the former Republican Mayor and the development community. (See below Benton profile). The IDO calls for the city to review 12 community planning areas over five years, but Quintero wants to invest in planning personal to cut the review to two years.

With respect to the ART Bus project, Quintero questioned how city leaders allowed it to advance, saying the city failed to “do some basic things” like ensure the quality of the electric buses originally purchased and which eventually had to be replaced with diesel buses and the city failing to get adequate public feedback on the entire project.

Quintero supports mandatory paid leave for workers in the city and has said he likes the Bernalillo County ordinance as it was originally passed. A similar ordinance is now pending before the City Council.

RACIST ATTACK AD AGAINST QUINTERO

The Friday before the November 5 election, a mailer was sent out by a measured finance committee identified as “Progressive Abq” attacking Zack Quintero. “Progressive Abq” was formed to promote the candidacy of Isaac Benton. The Progressive ABQ committee sent a series of mailers questioning Quintero’s resumé. Political observers were saying that there was a poll showing Mr. Quintero was gaining on Benton in the race, hence the attack mailers.

The mailer proclaimed “ZACK QUINTERO DIDN’T INVENT CHRISTMAS ENCHILADAS” an obvious reference to his Hispanic heritage. The mailer had a color photo that was “photo shopped” with the head of a smiling Zack Quintero superimposed on the body of another man of color standing in a kitchen with the person dressed in a short sleeve shirt crossing their arms to reveal an extensive number of tattoos on both arms. Zack Quintero has no tattoos. Candidate Zack Quintero denounced the mailer as racist, as did one of his opponents Robert Blanquera Nelson and other elected officials.

ISSAC BENTON

Isaac (Ike) Benton, 68, is the District 2 City Councilor and was first elected to the council in 2005. Benton is a retired architect and avowed urbanist. At debate forums, Benton emphasizes his 14 years of experience on the city council and highlights his legislative efforts to fund affordable housing, promote walkability and ensure preservation of historic properties such as the Rail Yards.

What is interesting is the Albuquerque Journal story on the runoff race says both Benton and Quintero are progressives, which is simply not at all true. The link to the Journal candidate profile article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1395807/veteran-incumbent-faces-newcomer-in-district-2-runoff.html)

Benton proclaims he understands the area he represents, but his voting record says otherwise. For a full 8 years when Republican Richard Berry was Mayor, Benton acted, talked and voted more like a Republican than as progressive democrat he proclaims to be to voters. All one has to do is review Benton’s voting record:

Benton voted not once, but twice to cut APD’s budget reducing the amount of financing for police officers and their numbers and using the financing for capital projects.

Benton voted repeatedly for the disastrous ART Bus project that has destroyed the character of Route 66. He refused to place ART on the ballot saying it was the Mayor’s project and he supported it. Benton voted to use $13 million dollars in revenue bonds to pay for the ART Bus project.

Benton did nothing when it comes to Albuquerque Police Department (APD) reforms and never challenged the previous Administration and the former APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree reforms.

The most egregious votes by Benton when Berry was Mayor is when he voted for the final adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan which will have long term impact on our historical neighborhoods, many which are in his District 2, and favors developers. The enactment of the comprehensive plan was a major priority of Republican Mayor Berry and the development community pushed hard for its enactment before Berry left office.

The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans by the development community to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character. Benton’s support of the ABC-Z plan and his sponsorship was clearly against his own constituents.

On July 2, 2018 Democrat Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the $2.6 million economic development package that would help Topgolf to construct a $39 million entertainment complex at the site of the former Beach Waterpark. Benton went along with the City Council voting 8-1 to give the incentives after a 9-0 veto override Keller’s veto of a resolution expressing the city councils support. A few weeks later, Benton again voted to override Democrat Mayor Keller’s veto of the funding.

Isaac Benton has said he has done a great job as a City Councilor by acting “non-partisan” and that he needed to cooperate with Republicans to get things done.

CONCLUSION

What people should be sick of are Democrats acting and talking like Republicans especially after they get elected to positions like City Council and arguing that they are being “nonpartisan”.

There is a significant difference between cooperating and working with other elected officials from the opposite party and then being hypocritical and going against your own basic political philosophy of what you believe to be true and then turning around and acting and voting against the best interests of your own constituents.

What would be disappointing is if Isaac Benton is elected again saying he is Progressives Democrat when in fact he has voted so very often like a conservative Republican.

VOTE ZACK QUINTERO FOR A BETTER CITY.

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

On November 25, it was announced that University of New Mexico Head Football Coach, Bob Davies, 65, who is in his 8th season at UNM, has submitted his resignation effective after the team’s season finale on November 30. In a statement issued to the media, Davies said:

“In stepping aside, I’m proud of what we accomplished at UNM, but we are all disappointed that we have not been able to sustain the success that we achieved and all desire. My family and I will be forever grateful to UNM for giving me the opportunity to coach again after being at ESPN for 10 years.”

With his resignation, Davies is ending a 33-year college coaching career which included coaching at the University of Norte Dame.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1395428/davie-out-as-unm-football-coach.html

https://www.koat.com/article/bob-davie-out-as-unm-head-football-coach/29964132

YET ANOTHER UNM FOOTBALL LOOSING SEASON

The departure of Bob Davies come as no surprise to UNM athletic program observers. The UNM Lobo football team has lost 8 straight football games this season with 2 wins and 9 losses. The team has a record of 8 wins and 27 losses the past three seasons. Coach Davies all around record at UNM is 35 wins and 63 losses with the November 30 game remaining. When Davie became UNM Football Coach, the program’s record was 3 wins and 33 loses from 2009 to 2011. Davie did have some success with 16 victories that lead to consecutive New Mexico Bowl appearances in 2015 and 2016.

EXPECT SIX FIGURES BUY OUT

Bob Davies has the distinction of being New Mexico’s highest paid public employee earning a salary and compensation package of $822,690 a year. ($422,690 in base salary and $400,000 in additional compensation for the UNM Lobos to wear Nike products, his agreement with Learfield Sports for radio and television appearances and general “program promotion” obligations). Based on salaries reported by USA Today, Davie’s salary and compensation package ranks eighth among the 12 Mountain West football head coaches.

In contrast, Lobo men’s basketball coach Paul Weir earns $675,000 with a $300,000 in base salary and $375,000 for the same additional compensation clauses as are in Davie’s contract. At the start of 2018-19 UNM season athletic season, Weir’s salary was ranked 7th in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) , and now ranks 6th when a scheduled $50,000 increase in salary began to be paid.

Overall, UNM athletics’ total personnel expenses is $14,531,524 and makes up 42% of its total $34,988,718 in expenses.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1155987/unms-athletic-salary-trend-has-reversed.html

The financial terms and conditions of Davies departure were not announced. The buyout will most assuredly require another six-figure amount paid by UNM. Davies has two seasons remaining under his contract of $422,690 a season as his base pay. It is likely the Board of Regents will approve his departure and buy out at the next Board of Regents meeting on December 10.

The UNM Regents are required to follow policy governing contract buyouts. That policy is very specific and provides:

“The University shall not agree to pay a financial settlement without
(a) an appropriate risk assessment of the case,
(b) written approval by the Chancellor for Health Sciences, Provost, or Executive Vice President for Administration, and
(c) final approval by the President.”

A financial settlement payment by the University of $400,000 or more must also be approved by the Board of Regents.”

A FULL DECADE OF FAILED ATHLETIC PROGRAMS

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’s 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.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1151469/athletics-mess-threatening-unm.html

In the last two years, the financial woes and major missteps, including criminal felony charges, of the UNM athletics for the last decade came to a head. Following is the chronology of events:

March 27, 2018: Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron under Republican Governor Susana Martinez wrote to UNM that it had to submit by May 1, 2018 a plan for correcting the athletic department’s deficit.

April 10, 2018: With $4.7 million in debt accumulated over a decade, UNM Athletics announced a plan to eliminate more than one sport, but it did not detail which sports. The university’s Board of Regents ultimately approved a plan to cut $1.9 million from the athletic budget for fiscal year 2020.

July 18, 2018: Citing the deficit, costs but also Title IX concerns, UNM Athletics announced a recommendation to eliminate men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and the women’s beach volleyball to be effective July 1, 2019.

July 19, 2018: The Board unanimously approved the proposal to cut the identified sports programs.

August 8, 2018: The state Attorney General’s office issued an opinion that the Regents’ decision to cut the sports occurred in violation of the state’s open meetings law.

August 17, 2018: Yielding to the NM Attorney General, the UNM Regents meet again and vote 7-0 to cut the four sports.

September, 2018: Gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham vows to reinstate the sports if she is elected.

February 2019: A House budget bill proposes a boost of the state’s general-fund appropriation for UNM Athletics to $4.6 million, up from $2.6 million and more than the $4.1 million UNM requested, on the condition that the four slashed sports be reinstated for 2019-20.

March 2019: UNM sharply defends the decision to cut the 4 sports saying the $2 million offered in the House bill would not cover the costs to keep the sports long term. UNM President Garnett Stokes says “there was no way to become Title IX compliant without reducing sports. ”

March 2019: The state Senate eventually strips out budgetary language in the House Bill requiring the return of the sports in order to receive funding, decrying the approach as “micromanaging.”

August 19: Former UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs is indicted on 7 felony counts relating to misuse of UNM athletic funds.

May 9, 2019: A new Board of Regents approves a budget of $32 million for FY 2020 for UNM athletics that projects a $1 million shortfall, even with a $32 million budget that has four fewer sports to operate as of July 1. Regents decide to funnel $1.2 million to the athletics program for debt service payment on the Pit Dreamstyle Arena renovation.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1334832/fishbein-closes-the-door-on-unm-career.html?fbclid=IwAR1JCv5yHRxG5y1rSIgS5yjMqr0QC9rnivUvOx_NIcMJpdc0KXDYoe0lSpc

November 25, 2019: UNM Football coach Bob Davies resigns as head coach of the UNM Football program.

UNM ATHLETIC DIRECTOR PAUL KREBS SCANDAL

On August 24, 2019, it was reported that a grand jury indicted former UNM Athletic Director of the University of New Mexico Athletics Department Paul Krebs on seven felony counts in connection with a golf trip to Scotland in 2015 that was paid for, in part, with university funds. The indictment charged Krebs with embezzlement over $20,000 for using $24,500 of UNM money to pay for three individuals not affiliated with UNM or the UNM Association to go golfing in Scotland.

Krebs was also charged with embezzlement counts for using $13,625 in UNM money to pay a down payment for the trip and taking $9,379 from UNM to pay for himself to go on the trip. The indictment also charged Krebs with unlawful interest in a public contract, tampering with evidence, criminal solicitation and tax fraud. The criminal trial of Paul Krebs is still pending. The golf trip to Scotland in 2015 was a prime example of just how bad UNM Athletics has been mis managed for over so many years.

https://www.koat.com/article/former-unm-athletic-director-indicted-in-connection-with-elaborate-golf-trip/28776087#f

https://www.abqjournal.com/1356489/former-unm-athletics-director-indicted.html

When Krebs finally resigned, he was paid $319,262 as UNM Athletic’s Vice President and was on the job for 11 years. During his 11 year tenure, Krebs fired and bought out the contracts of football coaches Rocky Long, Mike Locksley and basketball coach Richie McKay, with the programs still loosing money. Krebs also could not convince basketball coach Steve Alford to stay and Alford went on to coach UCLA.

When Krebs left, virtually all the UNM athletics program were operating in the “red”.

UNM FOOTBALL GAMES FALLING ATTENDANCE

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

AUDIT IDENTIFIES UNM ATHLETICS TITLE IX VIOLATIONS

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a short and simple federal law that states:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/advocacy_category/title-ix/

On May 31, 2018, amid talks of cutting sports at UNM to fix the university’s athletic department debt that a University Audit revealed Title IX issues with the school’s athletics department. In short, it was found that UNM was not treating men’s and women’s sports equally in regards to the ratio of men and women on campus.

The audit broke down the disparity between men’s and women’s sports programs. Overall, it was found that UNM has about 11% more women on campus than men, but men comprise about 13% more of the school’s athletics program. The audit did not just look at numbers. It broke down everything from the quality of practice facilities and locker rooms to issuing of gear.

Examples found by the audit include the women’s soccer, swimming, golf and track teams had not been given sports bras. The women’s softball clubhouse was found to be in shambles compared to its baseball equivalent. Another example identified in the audit was that the women’s beach volleyball team did not even have a practice facility and were forced to use the courts at ‘Lucky 66 Bowl’ on 4th Street with problems reported including beer caps and needles in the sand.

The Title IX Audit looked at disparities with scholarships and money spent on team travels. The audit recommended fixing the violations either by adding women’s sports or eliminating men’s and adding facilities.

https://www.krqe.com/news/audit-reveals-title-ix-issues-within-unm-athletics-amid-possible-cuts-to-sports/

CONFERENCE AFFILIATION

The University of New Mexico (UNM) is a Division I athletic program with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). UNM athletics maintains that its affiliation with the Mountain West Conference (MWC) is critically important because it has over 400 student athletes who attend UNM to compete at the highest level. UNM has over 16,000 students.

Colleges and universities that belong to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, designate themselves as Division I, II, or III, according to NCAA guidelines that set standards for such variables as the number of teams, team sizes, game calendars, and financial support. Within the world of college sports, Division I is the most intense and Division III the least intense.

As a Division I athletics program, UNM must sponsor a minimum of 14 varsity sports, which is problematic for UNM. It is required to sponsor football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball along with 11 other sports. It also must maintain the ability to be competitive, be able to assume costs associated with conference travel.

NCAA DIVISION I

Division I is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics overseen by the NCAA in the U.S. Division I schools comprise the major athletic powers in the college ranks and have larger budgets, more advanced facilities, and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III or smaller schools, even those that are competitive in athletics.

As of 2018, nearly 350 schools were classified as Division I, representing 49 of the 50 states. Sports played at Division I schools include hockey, basketball, baseball, and football.

Division I schools must:

Offer at least 14 sports: seven for men and seven for women, or six for men and eight for women
Offer at least two team sports for men and two for women
Can guarantee an audience of a specific size for football and basketball
Provide athletic scholarships and meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, but there is a cap on financial aid awards for each sport.
Have enough games to fit each sport’s requirements
Require students to maintain a certain GPA and take at least 16 core courses for eligibility.

NCAA Division II

As of 2018, there are more than 300 schools classified as Division II. Sports in which Division II schools compete in addition to football, baseball, and basketball include fencing, golf, tennis, and water polo. Division II schools include the University of Charleston, University of New Haven, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, Truman State University in Missouri, and Kentucky State University.

Their student-athletes might be just as skilled and competitive and those in Division I, but schools in Division II have fewer financial resources to devote to their athletics programs. Division II offers partial scholarships for financial aid. Students can cover their tuition through a mixture of athletics scholarships, and need based grants, academic aid, and employment.

Division II is the only one that holds National Championships Festivals, Olympic type events in which national championship competitions in several sports are held at one site over a period of days.

Division II schools must:

Have a minimum of 10 sports
Offer five each for men and women or four men’s and six women’s plus two team sports each
Have enough games to fit each sport’s requirements
Require students to maintain a 2.0 GPA and take at least 16 core courses to be eligible.

NCAA Division III

Division III schools don’t offer scholarships or financial aid to athletes for athletic participation, though athletes are still eligible for scholarships offered to any students who apply. Division III schools have at least five men’s and five women’s sports, including at least two team sports for each. There are 451 colleges in Division III as of 2018. Schools in Division III include Skidmore College, Washington University at St. Louis, Tufts University, and California Institute of Technology (CalTech), and Pomona College.

https://www.liveabout.com/what-does-ncaa-divisions-mean-3570381

DIVISION II ATHLETIC PROGRAMS COST HALF OF DIVISION I PROGRAMS

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.

The NCAA reports as follows:

“Division II relies on a partial-scholarship model to administer athletics-based financial aid. Very few of the 110,000 student-athletes competing in Division II will receive a full athletics grant that covers all of their expenses, but most of them will receive some athletics-based financial aid to help them through school. For the rest of their expenses, student-athletes use academic scholarships, student loans and employment earnings just like most other students attending the school.

The partial-scholarship model allows Division II schools to recognize student-athletes for their skills through athletics-based aid, while at the same time keeping athletics budgets more in line with the institution’s bottom line. It costs Division II schools 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).

The partial-scholarship model is sometimes referred to as an “equivalency” system. That’s because schools in Division II are allowed to award athletics-based financial aid that is “equivalent” to a certain number of full grants in each sport.

For example, in football, schools are allowed to award up to 36 “equivalencies” or full grants, but of course the rosters in football are much larger than 36 players. Thus, coaches and financial aid officers at Division II institutions decide how to allocate those equivalencies as partial scholarships. That means some student-athletes may receive more athletics-based aid than others, and some will not receive any at all. As a comparison, schools in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision are allotted 85 “full rides.”

Division II recently commissioned a study on the financial impact of the partial-scholarship model and found that in general, scholarship student-athletes benefit institutions’ overall academic profile, and the partial-aid model generates revenue for the school.

The study found that athletics scholarship athletes – particularly women – bolster an institution’s academic profile and increase ethnic and geographic diversity among new students. In just about every measurable way, the study showed that scholarship student-athletes contribute positively, which means that even absent their participation in athletics, institutions would still be happy to have them as students on their campuses.”

http://www.ncaa.org/about/division-ii-partial-scholarship-model

STAYING WITHIN $32 MILLION BUDGET BY A MERE $115,000

The University of New Mexico athletic department has a $32 million operating budget. On August 7, 2019, it was reported the University of New Mexico’s Athletics Department stayed within its budget last fiscal year by a mere $115,000 last in a $32 million athletic department budget. According to the report, the UNM Athletics did not overspend from its $32 million operating budget. The department didn’t stay within its budget 8 times in 10 years, racking up nearly $5 million in debt that athletics is planning to pay back in increments.

UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said:

“I do see … [staying within budget by $115,000] as a victory because I understand the sacrifices and hard work our coaches, our staff, our students, our university, everybody put into this … But I also still understand there are some challenges ahead of us.”

In order to make budget last year, the athletics department relied on a transfer of roughly $1 million from the rest of the university and the transfer of a $789,000. The department also saved money by leaving positions vacant, according to media reports and budget documents.

The biggest revenue sources for Lobo athletics was the media rights, sponsorships, licensing contract and the school’s membership in the Mountain West Conference, which each accounted for nearly $5 million in revenue last year.

Men’s basketball sold almost $3.6 million worth of tickets and the athletics department also received $3.3 million in student fees, according to budget documents.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1351151/unm-athletics-stays-within-2019-budget.html

UNM INCREASING TUITION WITH DECLINING ENROLLMENT

Founded in 1889 the University of New Mexico is considered the states “flagship” college institution. The University of New Mexico offers a wide variety of academic programs through 12 Colleges and Schools. These academic options include more than 215 degree and certificate programs, including 94 baccalaureate, 71 masters and 37 doctoral degrees. UNM has a n undergraduate enrollment of a little over 16,000 students with approximately 400 student-athletes.

On April 23, 2019, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents voted 6-1 to raise UNM’s base tuition by 3.1%. The increase was to provide for a 3% employee compensation increase, lower than the state-mandated 4 percent. The additional 1% was covered by a supplemental appropriation to the state of an additional $4.6 million dollars.

https://www.dailylobo.com/article/2019/04/tuition-raise-unm-spring-2019

On September 26, 2019, the Daily Lobo, UNM’s school paper, reported that for the seventh consecutive year, student enrollment at the University of New Mexico had dropped significantly.

According to the Daily Lobo report:

“Undergraduate enrollment fell 6.5% (16,170) for the fall 2019 semester, while combined graduate and professional enrollment fell 6% (6,130), contributing to a five-year decline of 16.67% (22,792). The Albuquerque Journal reported that UNM expects a $4 million budget shortfall as a result of the enrollment decline.

In 2018, UNM saw a $10 million shortfall from a 7% decline. … Over the last five years, University College has seen the largest decline. The 80% decline from a 2015 high of 8,719 students brings the college’s enrollment to 1,674 in 2019. The College of Engineering has also seen a significant decline from 2,287 in 2015 to 1,881 in 2019 — a 17.75% decline.

Some schools and colleges that have maintained or even grown their enrollment … saw a decline in 2019. Anderson School of Management has seen a two year decline from a 2017 high of 2,446 to 2,102. The School of Nursing went from 794 in 2017 to 721 in 2019, a 9.19% decline.

Many of the smaller schools and colleges at UNM have actually seen an enrollment increase. Fine Arts saw a slight increase from 994 in 2015 to 1,004 in 2019. College of Population Health grew from 63 in 2015 to 82 in 2019.”

https://www.dailylobo.com/article/2019/09/unm-enrollment-2019

UNM’s total student count, including undergraduate, graduate and non-degree students, has gone down every year since 2012. In 2018, it took a sharper-than-expected drop when overall enrollment was down to 24,393 from 26,278.

Many schools across New Mexico are seeing declining enrollments. According to a New Mexico Higher Education Department report, total statewide post secondary enrollment fell 18.6 percent between 2010 and 2017. UNM officials have pinned the enrollment slump on a complex mix of factors that include New Mexico’s population stagnation, less regard for higher education’s value, fear over campus crime, and an improving state economy that means potential students pick jobs over education.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1235701/unm-sees-steep-freshman-falloff-176-drop-ndash-a-total-of-566-students-ndash-creates-97m-shortfall.html

SURVEY PINPOINTS CAUSES OF ENROLLMENT DECLINE

In 2018, UNM did a survey of freshmen admitted by UNM but who did not enroll on main campus to determine why they did not choose UNM. Money emerged as a major factor in their decision. Asked the reasons they bypassed UNM, nearly half of the 120 respondents (48.3 percent) said getting a better scholarship or financial aid package at another school significantly influenced their decision. Over a third (36.4%) said the high cost of tuition played a significant role in their decision, and 27.5% rated the lower costs of community college as a key reason they skipped UNM.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1235701/unm-sees-steep-freshman-falloff-176-drop-ndash-a-total-of-566-students-ndash-creates-97m-shortfall.html

Tuition and fees for a full-time New Mexico resident start at $7,556 for in sate residents and is $23,292 for out of state residents. Room and board, books and supplies add approximately $11,200 more a year. Roughly one-third of its undergraduate students get tuition assistance through the New Mexico Lottery scholarship.

https://admissions.unm.edu/costs-financial-aid/index.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

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. The UNM regents need to take steps to get back to the basics of higher education and stop “rat holing” money in failed sports programs and stop increasing tuition.

A PROFESSIONAL SOCCER TEAM IN SEARCH OF A STADIUM WITH AN UNUSED ONE AVAILABLE

During the last 30 years, soccer in Albuquerque has flourished and excelled in Albuquerque, especially in grade schools, high schools and pre 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 important and more inclusive for Albuquerque athletes than football programs could even hope to imagine.

New Mexico United, the highly successful professional soccer team has announced it is seeking a permanent home in Albuquerque after one year of existence in the city. Team owner and president Peter Trevisani said the current arrangement with the United Soccer League (USL) requires United to have a soccer-specific stadium for the 2021 season. It currently plays at Isotopes Stadium that is owned by the city and leased to the Isotopes.

United Soccer Team owner Peter Trevisani made a presentation to an interim legislative fiancé committee for $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 price tag for such a stadium would 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.

One option that should seriously be considered is to sell or lease the UNM Football Stadium to the City and the football stadium converted to a United New Mexico Soccer Stadium.

CONCLUSION

With UNM football coach Bob Davies now gone and the football season ending, now is the best time to end the UNM football program as it exists and continue the entire UNM Athlectics Program as a Division II program.

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.

As ART To Start Bus Service, Bus Ridership Plunges; Anticipate ART Failure; Find Alternative Usage Of Bus Stop Platforms

On November 8, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller announced that after over 2 years of delay, including a lawsuit over the first 21 buses, the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will begin operations on Saturday, Nov. 30. Keller deemed it “one of the first positive announcements we’ve gotten about this project.” It was in mid-November, 2017, that former Republican Mayor “Boondoggle Berry” dedicated ART project with a photo op, yet only one bus had been delivered at that time just for Berry’s “photo op” victory lap.

The new ART Buses will run on a nine mile stretch of Central Avenue between Unser Blvd on the West Side to Louisiana and Central traveling on dedicated lanes in the middle of central where bus stop platforms have been constructed. No left turns are allowed on the 9-mile route. The ART bus route will replace the existing Rapid Ride “Red” and “Green” lines and will run supposedly every 10 minutes. Keller announce rides will be free through Jan. 1, and $1 per adult thereafter.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1389158/after-years-of-delay-art-is-set-to-begin-operation.html

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.

On the popular 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 especially 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.

Referring to the comparison between Fiscal Year 2018 and Fiscal Year 2017 data, Rick DeReyes, spokesman for ABQ Ride had this to say about the report:
“We had the Rapid Ride routes overall decrease about 15 percent ridership over the previous year, we had the Route 66 decrease in ridership about 9 percent. … We’re looking at decreases all over the country in ridership in most major cities. … Especially in the southwestern cities like Denver and Phoenix, comparable cities, but we’re talking about El Paso, Lubbock, Tucson, some of those cities as well.”

Reyes added that the city thinks low gas prices and ART construction on Central were in part to blame but said there are other factors. ABQ RIDE still thinks ART itself will get more people riding the bus once the service launches.
“Once we get a chance to get people to realize how much more timely that system will be, we’re hoping that people will be attracted to that” said DeReyes.

According to a news report, the city has started the process of reviewing the entire bus route system to see what can be changed to increase ridership. The problem with ART is that it is a specialized bus route that cannot be moved, changed or altered in any way because of the platforms built in the middle of Central.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-sees-decreased-bus-ridership-as-art-service-awaits/

ABQ REPORT

On November 13, 2019, the online news publication ABQ Reports published article on bus ridership. Following are excerpts on the articlce:

“ABQ bus ridership plunges again; down 7.5 percent this year. Minus 31 percent since 2012”
November 13, 2019
By: Dennis Domrzalski

“Bus ridership in Albuquerque continues to fall and fall and fall and fall.

In the first nine months of this year, boardings on the city’s fixed-route buses were down 7.5 percent over the same period in 2018. And they’re down a whopping and stunning 31 percent since 2012 when bus ridership in the city peaked.

And while people continue to abandon the bus system, its taxpayer-funded budget continues to increase. ABQRide’s budget has grown by 16.8 percent since 2013.

Perhaps even more alarming is the the fact that the percentage of the bus system’s operating expenses that comes from fares continues to shrink. In 2017, that percentage, known as the Farebox Recovery Ratio, was 7 percent, the lowest of any public transit system in the region, and quite possibly the lowest of any major public transit agency in the nation.

And it appears that the transit department might ignore a resolution passed by the Albuquerque City Council in 2015 that it reach a Farebox Recovery ratio of 25 percent by June 30, 2022. Getting to a 25 percent FRR would involve raising fares—one dollar now for most rides—but ABQRide spokesman Rick De Reyes says the agency has no plans in the foreseeable future to raise fares.”
… “

HIGLIGHTS OF STATISTICS REPORTED:

The following statistics are reflected in graphs published in the ABQ Reports article:

Boardings have dropped every year since 2012 and they are now down by 31%.

Bus usage has fallen since 2012 with boarding’s down this year by 3 million from the same period in 2012.

There is a decline in ABQRide’s Farebox Recovery Ratio reflecting 10% decline in 2013 and 7% in 2017.

Bus system’s fare revenues are down from $4.5 million from fares in 2013 to $3.6 million in 2017.

The bus system’s yearly operating budget is $52 million a year and expenses continue to grow while ridership declines.

You can review the entire ABQ Report article with graph here:

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/11/13/ABQ-bus-ridership-plunges-again-down-75-percent-this-year-Minus-31-percent-since-2012

In a follow up story written by reporter Dennis Domrzalski and published by ABQ Reports on November 18, it was reported that 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 and 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. In other words, 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

REASONS FOR DECLINE

ABQ Ride spokesman Rick De Reyes noted two reasons for the decline in ridership:

“Gas prices have been low for an unprecedented amount of time during the past 20 years and auto sales are up the past six years. That’s allowed more people to afford to drive to and from work and attractions.”

According to De Reyes, Mayor Keller has asked the he Transit Department to evaluate the distribution of the city’s bus service to make sure it’s meeting the public’s expectations for service. Fares have not been raised since 2002 and the city has no plans in the foreseeable future to raise fares.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

According to the ABQReports, the city has started the process of reviewing the entire bus route system to see what can be changed to increase ridership. The problem with ART is that it is a specialized bus route that cannot be moved, changed or altered in any way because of the platforms built in the middle of Central.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-sees-decreased-bus-ridership-as-art-service-awaits/
Within the first two years of operation of ART, the city should find out if ART is a success and take the time and make an effort to develop a “back up” plan should bus ridership continue to drop and the ART Project is the failure so many believe it is or will be.

ALTERNATIVE USE SOLUTION PROPOSED

Although the financial cost of ART was $135 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 at and it also presumed 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 and find an alternative use for the bus station platforms. The white “elephant canopies” should be removed and the platforms stripped barren. 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 could have easily come from the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) with general obligation bonds placed on the November 5 ballot for voter approval, where $127 million in bonds were approved. 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.
The $135 million ART Bus project was built on the philosophy “if we build it, people will use it”. Given the continuing plunge in bus ridership, it is more likely than not ART is already an obsolete project that no one will use.

For related blog articles see:

The “Great ART Enabler” Mayor Keller Announces ART Service To Begin On November 30; Whistle Blower Lawsuit Filed; Proposed Alternative To ART

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed