Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Albuquerque Mayoral Candidates Outline Their Economic Development Plans

All three Albuquerque mayoral candidates brought their "A" game to this morning's ABQ Economic Development Board forum. Each man shared his vision for bringing new industries and high paying jobs to the city. Each said reducing crime, improving the regulatory environment, and improving educational outcomes is the key to landing new business in the Duke City.

The 48-minute forum format allowed each candidate a brief introduction and closing statement. The men also answered three questions that each had received before the meeting. No one in the crowd asked any question at the conclusion of the closing statements.

Incumbent Mayor Martin J. Chavez listed his accomplishments completing the San Juan River Project, and amenities like the Big-I landscaping projects in his opening statement. Chavez says it's good to see the city appear on the right end of so many national lists during a slow economy. Chavez said in tough times one of the benefits to re-electing him to a record fourth term, will be that he'll provide steadiness at the helm.

Richard Berry, a second term state legislator, told the crowd he was chosen by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce as legislative rookie of the year for his work on the appropriation and finance committees in Santa Fe. Berry said he has the right mix of business and legislative experience to lead the city, and would use a scalpel to eliminate budget overlaps and eliminate government inefficiency. Berry said the city needs to have a rainy day fund and be prepared for slow private sector growth.

Richard Romero said the first thing businesses considering relocating to the city look at is the high crime rate. He said he would take "politics out of the Albuquerque Police Department," and said the mayor, after 12 years, should take responsibility for the high property crime rates, which have increased more than eight percent in the last year. He said he's seen to many images of crime appear in the national media and said he believes it drives away business from the Duke City.

Romero also compared the city's Triple Bond ratings to similar ratings in California a few years ago. Romero says those bonds are now rate Triple B and the state is having to pay bills with I.O.U's.

But, Chavez said one of the first things election campaigns tend to sacrifice are the "facts and truth." He says there has been zero growth in all four of his last budget plans. He says the identical $475 million dollar operating budgets he's submitted in his current administration prove he's "reigning government in." He also repeated that while violent crime is down, it is still "unacceptably high."

Chavez says he's proud that he has not had to cut any city jobs and reminded the crowd that he has not forced any tax increases on voters. He re-pledged to have no tax increase without voter approval.

This fall, voters will decide whether or not to re-instate an 1/8 cent transit tax for the next 10 years. A current tax expires this December because of a sunset clause in the original measure.

"I have not endorsed all of the stimulus plan," said Chavez, "but I do support every penny coming to Albuquerque." Chavez told the crowd that a $11.3 million dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment act will be used for new bus shelters, new self-serve ticket kiosks, and to upgrade bus fare boxes. Chavez said the bids went out to bid on Tuesday.

Chavez also said some stimulus money is being spent to improve river crossings for pedestrians and bike riders.

Romero said he would "end the bickering" between the mayor's office and city councilors, but Chavez counter by saying "I'm easy to get along with."

Berry commented that the city could have the highest unemployment in the history if it were not for Sandia National Labs. And Mayor Chavez said he would work with Representative Martin Heinrich to saving the NM National Guard's "Flying Tacos."

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