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2010 State of the City Address

View the recording or read the transcript of Mayor Richard J. Berry's 2010 State of the City Address.

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Thank you first to the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce for hosting this luncheon. Your dedication to our city and its economic well-being is vital to our success.

Congratulations to our Governor-Elect Susana Martinez and Lieutenant Governor-Elect John Sanchez and all those who were given the same chance that I was given, the chance to serve our city, our state and our nation.

It's important that we work together regardless of our party affiliation as we navigate through difficult times. I look forward to our working relationship in the years to come.

Congressman Heinrich—Congratulations on your re-election. I look forward to working together on important projects on behalf of our constituents. Congratulations to all those who stepped up and offered themselves to public service.

I have worked hard to forge tremendous working relationships with our congressional delegation, the state legislature and others whose cooperation is essential for us to move forward as a city – and I look forward to these new relationships.

And thank you to the wonderful performers this morning, you are what make Albuquerque truly great and I appreciate your participation in today's program.

I would like to send a special thank you to my wife – your First Lady Maria Berry. Maria, please stand up.

When you elected me – you got a first lady who exemplifies commitment, hard work and dedication to making Albuquerque great.

Just about one year ago I was given the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to serve as mayor of one of America's truly great cities - Albuquerque, New Mexico. It has been an opportunity to work hard to instill the public's faith and confidence in their local government – because without confidence in their government there is no room for the candid dialog necessary to plan our future. Without transparency and accountability government cannot be a true servant of our citizens.

From day-one of this administration we were determined to build a government that could balance a vision with reality, an administration that values personal ability, professionalism and commitment over partisan politics, an administration that knocks down barriers rather than putting them up.

We wanted to create an atmosphere where risk takers, job creators, entrepreneurs and all citizens can flourish and thrive– with a government that serves the people – not vice versa.

We wanted to prove that a bigger government is not better – that the public can be served well in times of fiscal restraint, with a leaner – more efficient government. We wanted the opportunity to make Albuquerque safer, to make this a great place to raise a family, or start a business, or retire or simply to chase your dreams.

I think we got a good start over the past 11 months, but there is much to be done – tough decisions yet to make – tremendous opportunities to pursue and bridges yet to build in our community.

Albuquerque's citizens are bold. Our character and resolve are solid – we are resilient. Our community has tremendous assets, the greatest of which is our people. This is why, despite difficult economic headwinds, the state of our city is strong. Our future is bright. We will emerge from this recession stronger.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to live here know that Albuquerque's quality of life is second to none – there is no place like Albuquerque, so let's be proud of who we are – let's let others take the lead from us – let's set the standards, not follow them.

The government I envision should earn the community's confidence - you shouldn't have to waste your energy worrying about government's motives – it should allow all of us to go about our daily lives and to spend our energy on what is most important to us - our families, our careers and businesses, our dreams; and it should afford all of us the opportunity to give back to our communities – to all work together to improve our city, our circumstances and our futures.

Governing, while dealing with complex issues at times does not have to be overly complicated, sometimes the best solutions are the simple ones – but it does require resolve and collaboration with all stake holders to ensure a positive outcome. Speaking of collaboration, I would also like to welcome and thank the Albuquerque City Council for joining us here today. Thank you all for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here in this venue where we can share this message with our entire community.

I value the working relationships that I have forged with the council and I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Albuquerque with you. Ladies and gentlemen, your city council and their staff deserve credit for the accomplishments we have made over this past year. This particular council, while divided at times over important issues, has shown a level of professionalism and an ability to engage in meaningful dialog that serves our community well. Let's give them a round of applause.

We have some major initiatives coming forward in the next few months that will require thoughtful discussion and critical analysis – and I look forward to working with the council on these important issues.

Almost a year ago I was standing in this very same convention center talking about some things that I thought were important as your newly elected mayor. As we look back to December 1, 2009 - to my inaugural address and to the campaign trail, I think it is fair to analyze what I said and compare that to what we have done. Let's take a look back – then let's look to the future.

We talked about building a professional organization...

With the help of my transition chairman, Sherman McCorkle, and a team of several hundred dedicated volunteers, we began building the framework of an administration prepared to roll up their sleeves, get to work, set aside partisan politics and tackle some stiff headwinds.

We were able to attract a high level of professionalism in our director positions and staff. I was truly blessed to get some of the best and brightest to work in my administration – and these folks have performed at a high level.

I also began getting to know many of the 6,000+ employees who are dedicating their careers and putting their lives on the line to make this a great city. These men and women are truly the backbone of what makes our city work every day.

To them, I say thank you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for caring about Albuquerque every day. Our city is stronger because of your efforts.

We talked about the budget and potentially difficult fiscal circumstances...

Before taking office, our budget shortfall was advertised as a 12 million dollar problem. It wasn't.

During the transition it became apparent that we had several fiscal problems – one for the current fiscal year 2010 and an even larger problem for our first budget, fiscal year 2011. In short – for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 we had to solve a 91 million dollar problem – all within the first few months in office.

We immediately went to work. We cut out more than $800,000 in recurring costs from the administration. We left some administrative positions unfilled. Within the first days in office—we had already made our city government leaner. Within the first week of the Administration, I told directors to begin trimming the fat. I urged them to aggressively look at their departments and find ways to run them more like a business.

Status quo was no longer an option. The message resonated through City Hall. In Fiscal Year 2010—we balanced our budget and saved 25 million dollars – all without furloughs or layoffs.

That put us in better shape as we went into fiscal year 2011where we were facing a 66 million dollar shortfall. The decisions that went into balancing the fiscal year 2011 budget were tough.

We all lost sleep, because the decisions we had to make affected our employees and their families. We reduced the cost of labor across the board - but we kept our employees on the job in an economy where over 30,000 of our friends and neighbors were out of work. The decisions were difficult- but we kept services to our community in-tact. We did more than put a band aid on the problem – we made long term structural fixes to the budget.

And we did all this without raising taxes. We did what I promised you during my campaign, we made our government less expensive. We did what thousands of families and businesses across the nation are doing – we simply made ends meet. And we did this with bipartisan support in the City Council.

I must thank our city employees for their endurance and patience during this difficult time. We care deeply about our employees and want what's best for them and their families and our community. This year – we felt what was best was to keep everyone on the job – even at a slightly lower pay and benefit scale.

We talked about reducing the size of government...

During the fiscal year 2011 budget cycle we permanently deleted 162 vacant positions and put a hold on 88 others. We actually reduced the size of Albuquerque city government by nearly 20 million dollars. Our general fund appropriation is now at a level that we have not seen since 2006.

We talked about bringing a business approach to City hall...about government's role in job creation...

This is the single-most important issue facing New Mexican families.

On day 1 of my administration I began working with John Garcia, my Economic Development Director to come up with a plan to help get our economy back on track.

I firmly believe that it's not your government's place to create jobs-- that has to be left to the private sector. Our job is to cut the red tape, knock down the barriers and make sure that we have incentives, legislation, and policies that are favorable to attracting new jobs to our city.

Working with our economic development staff and our partners throughout the city---we came up with a plan we call ThriveABQ.

It has three distinct initiatives in mind. Albuquerque-First is a buy local initiative aimed at both the city government, as well as encouraging private companies and other public institutions in the Duke City to strive to do more business locally.

Albuquerque-Easy is just what it sounds like. Let's make doing business in Albuquerque easier. Time is money in the world of business and to that degree, we wanted to streamline city processes.

We found a way to expedite the permitting process through a program called FasTrax, where the private sectors helps us augment our planning staff to get permits out the door faster.

We are working on a program to allow all building plans to be submitted online and reviewed electronically. This speeds up the process, creates a better audit trail, and allows the City of Albuquerque to use the same cutting edge technology currently used by the building industry.

We established a Business Resource Center in City Hall right across the hall from my office. This center has already helped close to 300 small businesses or potential business-owners navigate the processes at City Hall and has offered direction, seminars and other tools to help small businesses thrive in Albuquerque.

And finally, Albuquerque-Recruits is an initiative that works in collaboration with partners from around the city to help recruit more industry to Albuquerque. Through Albuquerque-Recruits, we will continue to target key industries such as manufacturing, film and renewable energy. We all know that Albuquerque is a wonderful place to live, work and play and we need to spread that message to businesses across the country and the world and encourage them to make Albuquerque their home.

We have developed a very good incentive package to offer new companies wanting to relocate to Albuquerque. We have a great workforce, the best weather and quality of life in the country and we offer amenities for families of any size. Albuquerque is a city that businesses should seriously consider for relocation or expansion.

We talked about public safety and property crime...

When I was knocking on thousands of doors during my campaign, you told me you were sick and tired of the property crime in our city. You wanted to feel safe in your home. You wanted surety that when you woke up in the morning—your car would be exactly as you left it the night before. I told my public safety director and chief of police---to make it happen. Take a look.

[Play public safety video]

And it's working! We have reduced property crime in Albuquerque by 19 percent! Folks, that's huge.

That's a decrease in auto theft, residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, auto burglaries, and larceny. Darren White and Ray Schultz are right! This is an all-out assault on property crime offenders.

This is you and me versus the criminals. The whole community is rallying around this. We are in this together and we are starting to win this battle.

For this-- it's you who deserves the applause. You, Albuquerque, are making this successful. With you, we have captured nearly 250 of Albuquerque's top property crime offenders. Without your tips and your effort we would have never achieved these improvements so early on!

We don't want to declare victory – we need to keep up the pace and continue to work as a community to fight crime, but one again – we have a good start.

We talked about transparency and its contribution to good government....

I'm proud to tell you that your city government today is setting the standard nationally for transparency. We launched ABQ-View—our transparency website that gives you a comprehensive view of how we spend your tax dollars. You work hard for your money and you have a right to know what we're doing with it.

ABQ-View allows citizens to easily access city spending data, employee salaries, vendor contracts, capital projects, audits, internal investigations, budget trending, travel expenses, my credit card statements, political contributions and much more. At the click of the mouse, our city budget and spending is at your fingertips.

Previously, Albuquerque and New Mexico ranked 44th for overall transparency but with the launch of this site, the Sunshine Review, a national leader for transparency in government, gave ABQ-View an A+ plus rating and stated that Albuquerque is now the poster child for transparency and they will use our site as a model for other cities and states.

This is what I talked about earlier today – let's set the standards in Albuquerque – not follow others.

I'm also proud to tell you your city government is more accountable than ever before. In the past year, my administration worked closely with our Inspector General to develop a comprehensive program we call ESA: Efficiency, Stewardship, and Accountability. This program encourages employees, vendors, contractors, and residents to voice their ideas or concerns. People can submit their tips through a hotline, email, or directly from the website using a form.

The efficiency portion of this program allows employees to submit ideas about how to save the city money within their departments. If an employee's idea results in actual savings, the employee's department is eligible for an efficiency bonus. This program has already saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and we will soon have new successes to tell you about.

Stewardship and accountability go hand-in-hand. This gives everyone in the city, employees included, the ability to help root out fraud, wasteful spending, and abuse of the City's resources.

Our employees are our greatest resource and their input is leading to new cost cutting measurements everyday and during these tough economic times, that is a making a huge difference.

We talked about collaboration with the city council...

I was thankful that the budget we sent to council came back essentially the same as we sent it down.

I was proud to sign Councilor O'Malley's Balloon Fiesta Commission bill that will help us properly utilize our Balloon Fiesta Park campus to its fullest.

I was proud to sign Councilor Jones and Sanchez's impact fee moratorium in an effort to stimulate economic development.

I was proud to sign Councilor Winter and Lewis's resolution supporting and thanking Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia Labs for their contributions to freedom around the world and the impact they have on our local economy.

I was proud to sign Councilor Cook's Small Business Impact Ordinance – to give the small business community a larger voice in public policy.

I was proud to work in a collaborative fashion with all nine councilors – to improve their neighborhoods and our great city.

We talked about the strength of our community...

A strong city is made up of strong and generous people. Let me give you some examples of a strong community. Last Christmas, when the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots drive was coming up short - it looked like all the children who deserved a toy for Christmas weren't going to get one. We asked every TV station in Albuquerque to join us to help spread the word about the program. Over the next few days---not only did we receive enough toys so that we could give one to every child in 2009, but we were also able to give the program a head start for 2010.

This past spring, when the first lady and I asked you to join us for our first Mayor and First Lady's Charity Gala, together we raised almost $200,000 for four non-profits specializing in job creation, homelessness, and enriching the lives of senior citizens – all during these difficult economic times.

When the Department of Senior Affairs held our annual appreciation breakfast we celebrated 326,209 volunteer hours! If you were to put these hours into a payroll--- we received 6.8 million dollars worth of volunteer labor because people like you care about seniors and their wellbeing in our city.

When we talk about service to your city, there is no better example than Millie Martinez. Millie volunteers at our senior centers doing everything imaginable—from greeting members at the front desk, chairing committees at Bear Canyon, organizing holiday food just doesn't stop for Millie. Recently, Millie was given a lifetime achievement award from our senior affairs program, but Millie doesn't volunteer for the credit. She does it because she loves Albuquerque and volunteering truly gives her joy.

Could I please have Millie Martinez stand up? Millie—thank you for what you do every single day. You make our city great.

Every single day the spirit of our community inspires me. Every day of every month you are helping to find ways to make Albuquerque a stronger community.

We talked about helping those in our community that need a helping hand...

I am proud to have sent to council almost 10 million dollars for affordable housing just this year. Since taking office I have been at ground breakings or ribbon cuttings for close to 200 units of affordable housing; we have purchased additional land for development and have dollars in place to rehabilitate existing affordable housing. Affordable housing gives folks a chance to succeed and we will continue to make this a priority.

We talked about potential successes in the care and treatment of our animal friends....

In the last year, we have reduced the number of cats euthanized in our city shelters by 25 percent. I credit a robust spay and neuter program, stronger outreach to the public, volunteer involvement and an emphasis to cut out administrative positions at Animal Welfare and use that money to hire people who will have direct care for our animals.

We talked about the importance of transportation systems....

Did you know we are breaking records month after month at ABQ Ride? In the last year alone we had more than 11 million boardings on our buses—a new all-time high record! That's a sign that we are getting the message across that we have a great public transportation system in Albuquerque that is safe, reliable, and convenient.

With stories like those I have just described it's easy to take pride in our city. And guess what? We're not the only ones who are noticing how fantastic Albuquerque is. Take a look...

So let's talk a look at what is ahead...

We have so many important projects in the works across the city – we have a lot to look forward to in 2011.

In six months, Westside commuters will be able to drive the entire length of Unser Boulevard from Rio Bravo north to Paseo del Norte. We continue to meet the needs of Westside growth.

Our senior citizens and children will soon be able to enjoy the North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center. This is state-of-the-art facility is a place where your children and our seniors can meet, exercise, learn and socialize.

The way we recycle will forever be changed in Albuquerque by this time next year with the help of our city council. Right now Albuquerque recycles about six percent of our total solid waste. That is simply unacceptable!

So, we're going to make it easier for you. We want to enter into a public-private partnership to develop a regional recycling processing facility. We've outgrown our current recycling plant. In 2011, I hope to have a new way to recycle in Albuquerque.

We need to overhaul the impact fee system in Albuquerque – to make the playing field more even throughout our city. We need to create an island of competitiveness, not an island of uncompetativeness through over burdensome and stifling regulations and disincentives to take risks in business.

We need to re-visit the Planned Growth Strategy and decide if it represents the best plan as we move forward in the current economy.

We plan on acquiring more open space – on the Westside and on the Eastside.

We will be starting two new fire stations – fire station 2 near the Pit and Isotopes stadium in Councilor Benton's district and fire station 7 in Councilor Sanchez's district. Rescue 8 in Councilor Harris's district will also be up and running. 2011 will be a good year for public safety in Albuquerque.

We have funding in place to make improvements to our public transportation system – including the addition of 5 sunvans for our para-transit riders and additional bus routes and expansions for several of our busiest ridership areas.

We will complete a major solar project at the Albuquerque Sunport – a project that will bring additional renewable energy generation to our parking facility.

We will open a high volume spay-neuter clinic at our eastside animal shelter. This will reduce the number of euthanizations performed in Albuquerque.

With the help of our friends in the restaurant industry we will have more food inspectors on the job – making Albuquerque an even safer place to enjoy our great local cuisine.

I want to start the discussion necessary to improve access to the Rio Grande for our citizens. I want to bring the river more into our daily lives and have had discussions with our Biopark staff on how we can accomplish this.

We are discussing the possibilities of a phase two for our wonderful aquarium. The plans are complete and we are engaging the community to get your opinions on the project and how we can get it started.

As you can see – we have a lot of good things planned for Albuquerque over the next year.

The "Plan"

But what about the future? As we look forward we have a lot to think about. We know that there are a lot of great things in store for us in 2011, but it's time that we look beyond that.

One of the first things I did once elected was to ask of my staff to compile all the plans we have at the city.

[Display the stack of plans]

The stack in front of you represents a portion of the already existing plans. A lot of great work and thought went into these plans.

We have a plan for everything – which is actually a positive thing. We have sector plans, corridor plans, transportation plans – we have lots of plans.

But do we have a plan?

Do we have a blueprint for our city for the next 10 to 25 years that the community understands and believes in? Have we thought about what we want as a community, what we wish we had, what we need? Do we know what the wish list costs? Have we quantified it? Do we know how we will finance it?

At this time - we don't!

These are difficult times financially – we all know that. We don't have the resources right now to finance some of the projects that the community wants and needs.

I've spent the last several months studying the possibility of a downtown events center and hotel complex. I've met with numerous groups and many people have volunteered their time to help me take a comprehensive look at this project.

We've studied what other cities have done and are doing. We have studied best practices and lessons learned. We have taken a comprehensive look at previous studies and have looked at the marketplace and the convention industry as a whole.

I have read hundreds if not thousands of e-mails from people in Albuquerque who cared enough to take time out of their day and chime in on this important issue. Some are in favor of the project – others are not. Thank you for taking time to respond.

At the end of the day I simply have not gotten to the point where I can look the taxpayers of Albuquerque in the eye and tell them that now is the right time to spend 300 million dollars or more on a downtown event center and headquarter hotel.

I believe that if we do, we are at risk of spending significant tax dollars in an industry that is in decline, when the convention center market is currently overbuilt nationwide.

A project like this, as currently planned, would require a tax increase. Now is not the time.

Does that mean we don't look at securing land for the future? Certainly not – we should. There may be a time when this project makes more sense or when the city can incentivize the private sector with city-owned property.

Does this mean we don't want to attract convention business to Albuquerque? Certainly not – we absolutely do. But there may be a better way – other markets that we can look at – other facilities that may afford Albuquerque other lucrative convention and conference opportunities while at the same time adding to our local quality of life.

I believe we can have a meaningful discussion about getting the current debt taken down and even discuss a facelift to our existing convention center. We can talk about incentivizing the private sector to finance a headquarters hotel.

We have a lot of tools in our toolbox to make improvements and give ourselves opportunities to bring revenue into our convention center.

But this doesn't mean we shouldn't plan for the future – that we should stagnate as a city.

We should use this "down time" to catch our breath, come together as a community and plan ahead.

In fact, I will be getting on an airplane Monday morning to spend several days visiting cities that have invested in their communities, their downtowns and their futures. I will be meeting with local officials, mayors, consultants and other leaders to discuss best practices in cities that have made investments beyond just event centers and hotels – investments that have returned value to the taxpayer and have proven to increase quality of life for their citizens.

Cities like Denver, Indianapolis, Chicago, Oklahoma City are on the list. Do we mimic any of the cities – no, we plan based on our unique assets and strong points – but I want to see first-hand ideas that Albuquerque may be able to incorporate into our city plan.

This economy will turn around sooner or later – we will want amenities and quality of life projects built in the future. Businesses and job creators want to be in a city that has a plan for improving itself and that has amenities.

Why not engage Albuquerque citizens now? Dreams don't die during recessions – smart communities plan ahead – they invest in their own backyards – for themselves, for their children – for those looking to make Albuquerque home to their businesses and families.

I am advocating that we as a community spend the next year on an unprecedented journey.

I want to engage those who care about our future – from every age group, from every quadrant of the city – in the development of a 25 year plan for Albuquerque - a plan that can survive from one administration to the next.

A plan that incorporates amenities, facilities, recreation, public safety, transportation, infrastructure, the arts and cultural and economic opportunities; a regional approach.

A plan that our community believes in, because our community built it.

A plan that has input from 8th graders to octogenarians.

A plan for what we can accomplish in 5 years, 10 years, 15, 20 and 25 years.

A plan that incorporates our other plans – but that is easy to understand – that you can explain to your friends and neighbors and visitors to our city.

This will be an arduous task – one that will take time and energy to complete.

You will see us canvassing citizens - asking questions you may have never been asked before. I need you. I need you to tell us what you want out of this city and then we need to make "A PLAN" for our city with a blueprint on how we are going to get there.

I am going to solicit the opinions of all age groups throughout our community. I want to know what seniors would like to see in Albuquerque, I want to know what young professionals want and I also want to solicit the opinions of our youth, who will inherit our great city in the years to come.

We all know that Albuquerque is a fantastic city but we can always be better and I want to make sure that my son and your children and grandchildren consider staying in Albuquerque because it provides endless opportunities for work, play and quality of life.

We need a comprehensive vision for the future . . . a vision of a city that our children and grandchildren will enjoy.

The vision of the future is one that I can certainly imagine, but I want and need your contributions and input. Help me compile the information, the wish list if you will– and let us get to work compiling the data and developing strategies on how to implement the plan.

Let us communicate back to you the costs associated with these citywide improvements– then let's ask you, the community if this is a plan you can believe in.

If so – we can move forward - If not, then we keep working until a plan is in place.

Wrapping it up

I often say it's the people who make this city great. My hope is that together we will define a clear path for Albuquerque to follow over the next 25 years and regardless of who follows me as mayor, there will be a roadmap that has been endorsed by the community, that other leaders can incorporate into their vision.

I would like to thank you all for attending today - for giving your time and your talents. Our ability to build a better Albuquerque is in this room, it is your minds, your energy, and your support, along with hundreds of thousands of others in our community who work every day to make Albuquerque the great city we are.

We have weathered some tough roads this past year, and need to be vigilant as we move forward - but together we can look toward a bright future.

Have a great day!