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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Monday, July 20, 2009

Opponents Characterize Chavez' Endorsement from APD Officers as "Machine Politics" At Work

Incumbent Mayor Martin J. Chavez has picked up another endorsement in his re-election bid for a record fourth term, and third straight campaign for Mayor of Albuquerque.

Just before noon today, members of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association publicly stated they're backing Chief Ray Schultz' boss. That makes it a clean sweep for Chavez. He has already won endorsements from AFSCME Council 18 and from city fire fighters in the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).

The President of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association Joey Sigala said the mayor has an unmatched, proven record of being tough on crime:
He's a strong leader with a vision for our future. That's why the APOA is proud to endorse him.
Chavez said he wished everyone in Albuquerque got to see the men and women of the APD the way he gets to see them. He says one of his goals is to form power teams in each of the six area commands. Chavez said the compensation package for officers is the best in the state and one of the best in the region.

In his brief speech
, Chavez said, "I've got their back and I'm so pleased to have their back today."

The APOA has bought commercial time on 770KKOB. The union urges listeners to support the mayor's campaign because of his focus on public safety.

The endorsement does not come as a surprise. 770KKOB took this photo of the APOA banner hanging inside the mayor's campaign headquarters last Monday, a full week before today's endorsement was made public.

In March 2008, police officers received the "biggest pay raise in city history." At the time, Chavez said, "This package shows our commitment to public safety." But just one month later, veterans with the force filed a prohibited labor practices complaint with the city's labor board. It was settled this March.

In April, officers who had been moved from their coveted four ten-hour shifts were allowed to bid on them for overnight shifts again. Last week, the mayor told us that while violent crime is down, the crime rate is still "unacceptably high."

Mayor Martin Chávez with the USA's top cop U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, center, with Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske, seated left, at the June 5, 2009, Homeland Security Advisory Council Meeting at the University of New Mexico hosted by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Earlier this month, Chavez ordered APD to add another 100 officers to its 1100-member force. The announcement marked the third time Chávez has ordered the police department to increase its ranks. But in years past, the department has had a hard time reaching the new goals because of a lack of qualified applicants.

Chávez has not specified where the money to pay for the officers would come from, although he said 25 percent of the cost would be funded by the federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program. As for the rest, he said the city will leave nonpublic safety positions vacant.


Richard Romero told 770KKOB it "appears the mayor is manipulating the process" of endorsements. He said the APOA membership didn't get to vote on all three candidates, and said, "hey, this is machine politics, what else can you expect."

On Monday morning, State Representative Richard Berry who qualified for this fall's ballot said he believes voters will question the value of the APOA endorsement since he and Romero were never even questioned by union leaders on their public safety views, and because the union membership never voted on the endorsement.

Berry said he would have been more than willing to sit down and discuss his views. He said that several rank and file police officers have told him they are supporting his candidacy. Berry also said if he's elected he will likely move all APD Officers back to four 10-hour shifts after he reviews the scheduling and its effect on response times.

But, Sigala denied Berry and Romero's assertions. He says each man was contacted, but one of the candidates never responded. Sigala, said while there was not a membership vote, all officers were invited to be a part of the 10-member Political Action Committee that made endorsement recommendations to the APOA board.

Meanwhile, in Rio Rancho, the ABQ Journal reports fire, police and dispatch union members are seeking an arbitrator to resolve their pay raise issues. The dispute arose this spring when City Manager James Jimenez proposed a city budget that omitted pay increases included in a contract agreement signed by union leaders, top city administrators, and then-Mayor Michael Williams. Rio Rancho city councilors approved the contract in September 2007.

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Photo credit: MGB