Read the transcript of Mayor Richard J. Berry's 2011 State of the City Address.
State of the City
Nov. 16, 2011
This is the second time I've had the pleasure of formally addressing the citizens of Albuquerque for the purpose of presenting the State of the City. It has been almost two years since voters gave me the opportunity of a lifetime...to serve as your Mayor...and it has been a busy and productive two years.
As I begin today I would like to take a moment to thank all of our city staff and employees for their hard work and dedication. The fact is that without their energy and willingness to execute the initiatives that I will be highlighting today, we simply could not have moved our city forward to the extent we have.
I would also like to thank our City Council and all of their staff who work with my administration on a daily basis.
The art of good policy cannot exist in a vacuum where no debate exists. And while at times we have had robust disagreements about individual policies, it has never concerned me as Mayor that we all don't have the best interests of the city in mind. So I say again, thank you councilors for your dedication and passion.
I love my job and I truly look forward to coming to work each day. In this speech I will report on the progress we've made over the past two years. I will take note of our successes and remind you of some of the challenges we still face. While being proud of our accomplishments, what I want most is to leverage the lessons we've learned to build a bright future.
My goal, when becoming the Mayor of Albuquerque, was and is, to run the City as a CEO runs a successful business...combining solid MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES and strive to do things right... but to also offer true LEADERSHIP as we strive to do the right things.
Scrutinizing the bottom line and giving tax-payers a solid return on their investments in a timely and ethical fashion is always a priority...as is making Albuquerque a safer place to raise our families...a place where it is difficult to be a criminal, but easy to be a business owner.
Working with our City Council our overarching goal has been and will continue to be simply... GOOD GOVERNMENT.
Mid-Term Report Card
Let's look back at the last year and share our report card with you – more specifically what we call our dashboard. This is a concept we use to manage city government on a daily basis.
It is also the foundation for a new initiative we are developing in order to better share performance measures with taxpayers - who at a glance at our website will soon be able to monitor just how their City government is performing, in terms that you don't have to be a lawyer to understand.
The dashboard you will see in the coming months is one more way that this administration will continue to promote and implement transparency measures, just as we did with our award-winning transparency website, ABQ View.
Transparency and accountability in city government was an original campaign promise that I made and it continues to be the cornerstone of my administration. It is only right that we as public servants provide you the taxpayers a clear view of where your tax dollars go, and how they are being used and what kind of value you are receiving on your investment.
After the launch of ABQ View last August we received accolades as a national leader for government transparency, and that's great news, but we are committed to push the envelope and taking the next logical steps.
This is exactly what we did last month when we posted additional public information including the names, departments and salaries of ALL city employees.
You can now see, study and analyze this new information along with city spending data, vendor contracts, capital projects, audits, internal investigations, budget trending, travel expenses, political contributions, even my credit card statements, and much more.
I tell my staff on a regular basis that transparency and accountability are not to be feared – that if we push aggressively towards reform and innovation, mistakes will be made on occasion – but if we make a mistake, let's make sure it is an honest one, let's learn from the experience and fold it into better service for our community.
The simple fact is that Governments should not be ashamed of posting public information in a readily accessible format that is searchable - with data that can be analyzed to spot trends and to help identify potential fraud, waste and abuse. I am delighted to be in a position to champion transparency. This is good news for Albuquerque and for New Mexico.
So let's move into the inner workings of city government and take a look at some important milestones. To gauge where we are as a city today we must have something to compare it to.
As you know the budget is always the best place to look to understand people and their priorities - so let's start there.
Fiscal & Budget
I started my term as Mayor when the City was in a fiscal crisis. We began our budget process with a nearly $100 million shortfall between fiscal years 2010 and 2011. With this large of a shortfall we had a decision to make and we chose to see it as opportunity and a challenge. I am proud to say that our leadership team and the great employees of this city have risen to the occasion.
Since taking office we have:
- Eliminated budget shortfalls in excess of $132 million
- We have cut the size of local government by eliminating more than 250 permanent positions
- We have increased our operating reserve percentage
- We have saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year by trimming the fat within positions that I appoint within the administration.
- And we have done all this without layoffs and without raising your taxes
- We have kept providing services to our community at a very high level. And we were even able to offer a modest raise to the majority of our valuable city employees this year while over 72 percent of cities across the country have had to make personnel cuts (Nation's City Weekly, Volume 34, Number 37, Oct 3, 2011)
- In addition, through our long range ABQ the Plan initiatives we have set aside $3 million per year to fund critical infrastructure and quality of life projects.
In other words... we have made tough decisions and have shrunk the cost and size of government and now have opportunities to make wise investments in our city, our future, and our valuable employees.
Because of responsible budgeting we have steadily reduced shortfalls in each of the two budget cycles to this point and we believe that, while we're not out of the woods yet-- this upcoming budget cycle will present significantly fewer challenges than previous years.
We're going to keep working to cut government spending because first and foremost I believe in a leaner government that works smarter.
So how did we balance budgets and create a leaner government without layoffs or tax increases.
- We have created savings by switching the City to a sole-source provider for insurance - this alone saved taxpayers more than $4 million.
- We crafted a fuel hedge agreement, the first in the City's history, locking fuel costs in at a weighted average of $2.80 per gallon, thus saving the City, and you $2 million over the originally budgeted fuel expense.
- We started treating our enterprise departments as enterprises and stopped subsidizing loss leaders. This will continue throughout this administration.
On the finance front - The City's finances are structurally balanced with an increase in our operating reserve which puts us in a position to maintain our high bond rating.
Soon after taking office, we launched our Efficiency Stewardship & Accountability Program; which so far this has saved taxpayers approximately $1.4 million, much of which is on a recurring basis. A recent ESA example in the news that you might remember involved identifying annual savings on cell phones of $344,000.
We've also focused on our risk management department where we have driven the frequency of new Workers' Compensation Claims to the lowest levels in 15 years.
And fiscal responsibility is paying off on a multiple of fronts...
- The City has maintained the "AAA" - highest bond rating by S&P on debt backed with General Fund Revenues.
- The City has saved approximately $1.5 million by refunding Airport Revenue Bonds at a low interest rate.
- The City has preserved approximately $2.4 million in debt service savings by refunding Lodger's Tax, Hospitality Fee, Surcharge Revenue Stadium and Lease Revenue Stadium Loans.
And as a result, the City was able to issue new bonds in an amount exceeding $20 million for much needed convention center improvements, which we look forward to completion in late 2014.
I made a promise to the Citizens of Albuquerque to be fiscally responsible and we are delivering on that promise. I respect the fact that the people of this great city work hard for their money... and it's my job to make sure their hard earned dollars are being utilized in an ethical and prudent fashion. We need to be a resource driven organization, living within our means, just like families throughout this city.
Growing government beyond our ability to pay for it is not the answer.
We've been fiscally responsible, but good government is more than that...It's about feeling safe and secure on a day to day basis that's why public safety is another cornerstone of this administration.
We have worked hard over the past two years to make this goal a reality and to lower the crime rate in Albuquerque. Thanks to Chief Schultz and the fine men and women of the Albuquerque Police Department we are making significant progress
- In 2010, Albuquerque's Crime Rate dropped 7.7 percent making it the lowest the city has seen in 20 years.
- This year the city is on pace to see the fewest number of homicides in two decades
In 2010, Total Part I Crimes are Down Significantly Including
- Auto Theft
- Since we began profiling property crime offenders in the Albuquerque Journal, 635 fugitives have been profiled and 560 of them have been taken into custody or had their warrants resolved in Metropolitan and District courts.
In addition to lowering crime rates, we are implementing meaningful initiatives and making significant investments to further improve public safety in Albuquerque. Since taking office this administration has:
- Opened the 6th Area Command on the West Side, a $5.3 million state-of-the-art facility to help fight crime while overseeing the patrol area north of I-40 and west of the Rio Grande
- We have implemented a new rescue unit and additional rescue personnel at Fire Station 8 in the far NE heights
- We are completing the designs for two new fire stations, one near the UNM south campus and the other on West Central Avenue.
- We have passed a bond issue to purchase a new Ladder Truck for the West Side
- We have added to the ranks of our fire department
- We have implemented a gang prevention program
- All told, these and other public safety initiatives constitute additional public safety investments of over $15 million. That is significant.
But we refuse to stop there. We have other initiatives on the near horizon - initiatives that have been months or in some cases two years in the making.
One of these initiatives is called "smart policing" or more precisely, PREDICTIVE ANALYSIS.
View the video that accompanied the 2011 State of the City address.
Albuquerque Public Safety
Let me have the Chief tell you about it himself.
(Albuquerque Public Safety video --->)
Thank you to chief Schultz and all the great men and women of the Albuquerque Police Department for your dedication to making Albuquerque a safer place to live and work every day.
We've talked about fiscal responsibility and public safety – two cornerstones of this administration. But just as we want to invest in the safety of our community, and earn your trust as a financially responsible administration - we must continue to work to improve our unemployment rate and make our City appealing to outside businesses and companies looking to expand locally.
Even as we work our way through this difficult economy, we have had some good news pertaining to economic development during the past year. Here are some examples ...
- U.S. Foodservices broke ground on a new $45 million facility, in the South Valley;
- Vitality Works, a major player in the herbal supplements market, purchased the former Sparton Technologies structure on the West Side for a major expansion.
- Sitel, a major employer with more than 1,000 employees, recently announced a 15 percent increase in staff.
- Additionally, Exagen Diagnostics has expanded their specialty test facilities, where they do gene expression tests, at the UNM Science and Technology Park.
- On the movie front - the largest movie production in the world, Avengers, filmed for numerous months in Albuquerque during 2011. It infused Albuquerque's economy with broad-based spending across a wide spectrum of businesses and it provided jobs for hundreds of local residents. Movie Maker magazine ranks Albuquerque #1 city to Live, Work, and Make Movies in their January 2010 issue.
And even though we will continue to strive for better economic conditions, some influential groups have noted our success as compared to other cities.
- Bloomberg Business Week's latest ranking has Albuquerque topping major cities like Boston and Los Angeles. The ranking recognized Albuquerque's scenic charm as well as its stable economy, recreational opportunities, and quality educational system. Thank you to APS Superintendent, Winston Brooks, and CNM President, Kathy Winograd, and UNM President, David Schmidly for your contributions to the educational infrastructure of our city.
- Albuquerque received high marks from Business Facilities magazine's annual ranking of metro areas' economic strengths. Albuquerque was the 2nd highest rated area in terms of both Economic Growth Potential and Alternative Energy Industry Leaders, 3rd for Motion Picture Industry Growth, and the 5th highest ranked metro area for Quality of Life.
- Relocate America ranked Albuquerque among the Top 10 Recovery Cities – May 2010 issue.
- Forbes ranks Albuquerque among the Best Retirement Places – March 2011 issue.
- Brookings Institution ranks Albuquerque's exports 20th in the USA – July 2010 issue.
- Brookings Institution again ranks Albuquerque #7 for Increase in Gross Metro Product – April 2010 issue.
Although the construction industry and some others are still suffering mightily from the economic downturn, several industries actually recorded gains year over year. They include leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and educational and health services.
Commercial building permits, while still low are up 50 percent over the last year, and residential permits are up nearly 63 percent over last year.
As an administration we will continue to work with our terrific partners and push for job growth in the metro area.
Just in the last year we passed the Small Business Regulatory Relief Act and raised the threshold for small purchase RFQs from $10,000 to $25,000, which will lead to even more purchases locally.
An MOU was signed between the City and Sandia National Laboratories for enhancing innovation and collaboration in the application of science and technology in areas such as energy conservation, environmental management, security, infrastructure, economic development and competitiveness.
But there is much more to do on the economic development front – and we need the help of our friends in the NM legislature to work with Governor Martinez to craft a more business friendly environment in New Mexico. To that end my administration in conjunction with the State of New Mexico, the Municipal League, PNM, Bernalillo County, NAIOP, CARNM and others are funding the New Mexico Tax and Incentives Competitiveness Study.
New Mexico and its communities are facing increasing competition for job creation projects and associated economic prosperity. We need to study and understand what other states are doing, relative to New Mexico. We must increase opportunity for private sector investment, while maintaining essential and desired governmental services and we must have an equitable tax system. An understanding of best practices can ensure we design a clear road map to prosperity for New Mexico businesses.
As you can see we've made strides in securing outside interest in our city, but great cities are also great communities – made up of great neighborhoods and great public spaces. We have been busy over the past two years improving our neighborhoods so we can be fit, healthy and well in order to truly enjoy our city.
- On June 6th, we joined Councilor Winter at the ribbon cutting for the new, state-of-the-art, North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center. This $7.6 million facility is just phase one. Voters in Albuquerque just passed funding for phase two of this great neighborhood facility and we will begin work soon on the design for the new $3.5 million construction Phase II, with the expected completion date of early 2013.
- We have undertaken major Bosque Trail Rehabilitations including the revitalization of 11 miles of the Bosque Trail- from Alameda Blvd to Bridge Blvd.
- The $3 million Barelas Senior Center renovation was completed in August 2011
- The new City of Albuquerque Department of Senior Affairs (CASA) Nutrition facility will be preparing 800-900 meals a day for our seniors by the end of next month.
- The Highland Senior Center renovation will be completed by December 2011.
And by the way:
Men's Health ranks Albuquerque as the #6 Leanest City – May 2010 issue.
Cultural Services Department
Within our cultural affairs department we are continuing to promote the arts, culture and lifelong learning in significant ways.
The ABQ BioPark is the most attended attraction in the state of New Mexico, and this year we hosted a record number of guests at Zoo Music summer concert series
Our 17 Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Libraries welcomed more than 2.5 million visits from customers and handled over 4.6 million borrowed items throughout the year.
Our Every Child Ready to Read outreach, with the help of grants from United Way of Central New Mexico, the Stocker Foundation, and Sandia National Labs, reached out to over 3,000 children, parents and daycare workers.
The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum welcomed over 66,000 visitors during FY11—the second-highest annual attendance during the past six years.
And we have revitalized the KiMo Theater, making it a central part of arts and culture in our great city. If you haven't been to an event lately, please make plans to go – it's a truly great venue.
We have done some amazing things in other City departments as well.
At our animal welfare department year-to-date, adoptions are up almost 15 percent ahead of this time last year. We have saved hundreds of cats and dogs through a passionate commitment to foster and adoption care.
Further, we are ramping up our new high-volume spay/neuter clinic. Over the past six months, we have increased our in-house spay/neuter surgeries by 80 percent compared to the same period of last year.
The bottom line is- euthanasia rates have decreased nearly 21 percent this year.
Thank you all for opening up your hearts and helping us achieve these positive numbers. We will keep working to make life even better for our animal friends.
One of the things we are really proud of in this administration is our commitment to environmentally sound projects that are also smart investments.
At our Aviation Department we have completed significant solar installations in order to be better stewards of the environment, but to also return real value and energy savings to taxpayers. Our Photo Voltaic (PV) project is anticipated to offset electric costs by 40-50 percent in our parking structure. Additionally, we are also working on Airfield Lighting upgrades by replacing airfield lighting and signage with LED fixtures, which we anticipate to save the department 60 percent in electric costs. Both of these projects demonstrate this administrations continued commitment to smart sustainability.
Other PV projects include two large solar arrays at the West Side Fire Academy and at the Cerro Colorado Landfill which will generate an estimated 876,000 Kilowatt Hours worth of electricity every year - which translates to powering 200 single family homes.
These two projects cost $2.5 Million and were funded by Federal Energy Grants and will save taxpayers more than $85,000 annually in energy savings. In addition, our partners at PNM will pay the City $78,000 annually for these projects for the next 15 years because we are using alternative energy.
Recycling in Albuquerque has been stuck at an abysmal rate of 5 to 6 percent of all solid waste for many years. That's about to change as the City has entered into a public-private partnership in order to process the City's recyclables. Construction of the new material recovery facility is anticipated to begin soon and should be completed in 12 to 14 months. This will allow the City to expand curbside cart recycling citywide for its residents over the coming years.
The American Lung Association ranks Albuquerque among top clean air cities – July 2010 issue. Let's all work to keep this high ranking.
Within our Environmental Health Department we have made Albuquerque a safer place to eat, so we can worry about red or green in terms of chile and not restaurant safety. With the City's adoption of enhanced food codes and additional inspectors, Albuquerque's health inspection team is now capable of conducting 10,000 health inspections each year, ensuring our food supply, pools and spas are safe for the public.
Family & Community Services
With initiatives such as Running Start for Careers, where we have begun to provide funding for high school retention and workforce development by connecting high school students with industry taught curriculum, we are expanding both opportunities for students and businesses alike. Currently we have close to 300 students broadening their horizons and building bright futures through this new and innovative program. Thanks to our City Councilors, for providing funding for this project.
311 Citizen Contact Services
At our popular and wonderfully useful 311 center we received close to 2 million calls during the year with a satisfaction rating of over 90 percent. We will strive to keep this popular service at the forefront of customer service.
As we focus on providing a leaner more innovative government, it's imperative to provide professional development and bolster our ability to do more with less.
Through our human resource department the City has implemented a corporate university concept that we are calling "Public Service University". By developing critical partnerships with CNM and Innovate + Educate, the City has increased the sustainability of its internal staff development efforts and contributed to the development of Albuquerque as a "workforce ready" community.
Municipal Development Department
It has been a busy year for critical infrastructure improvements in Albuquerque with over $104 million in support of our local economy.
Through our Department of Municipal Development we have kept our promise to the West Side by concentrating on Unser Boulevard. Our $7 Million project completes the City's construction of Unser Boulevard from Central to Senator Dennis Chavez Blvd.
Other improvements to Unser Blvd include a $6.1 Million project which is a two lane road connecting Unser Blvd at the top of the escarpment to Paradise Blvd.
With these two projects in place the City has now completed the second major north-south arterial on the West Side from Sandoval County to Bernalillo County. This includes a major intersection at Unser and Paseo as a crossroads for the much needed commercial growth and traffic congestion relief in the area.
Parks & Recreation Department
At parks and recreation the $2 million Ladera Golf Course irrigation upgrade is getting underway and it will significantly improve course appearance and playability. We have also hired a new superintendent of golf and are working hard to make sure the public golf in Albuquerque is affordable, enjoyable and a quality experience.
At planning we now have a fully functioning and successful FasTrax program that allows industry to support a much faster permitting process. We are putting FasTrax resources right back into the department through the hiring of extra temporary workers to speed up the approval processes. As any contractor or developer will tell you, time is money and our customers love this new and innovative program.
In our Transit Department we have experienced our best ridership in FY 11 with 12 million riders and are being recognized by the Brookings Institute as a national Top 10 city for our transit system.
ABQ The Plan
Even with these investments one of the serious challenges that we face as a city is that there are not enough public sector investments being made to the built environment in our community.
Critical infrastructure, economic development and quality of life projects have all suffered because of the City's shift of over $45 million per year in property tax revenues from capital improvements to the operating budget from 2004 to 2009.
My goal as your Mayor is simple –to create a more efficient city government which will allow us to shift part of those property tax revenues back to our built environment and place a renewed emphasis on much needed infrastructure improvements and great public spaces. This is ABQ the Plan.
Last year, in the State of the City speech I talked about the fact that while Albuquerque has a lot of good plans – from sector plans, to transportation plans – we really didn't have A PLAN – a long term vision for making smart public sector investments.
So over the last year we started the process, through hundreds of meetings and a great deal of community involvement to craft just such a plan. ABQ the Plan is about changing the discussion from "should we invest in Albuquerque" to "what investments should we make".
We are making great progress with ABQ the Plan including $20 million in improvements to the convention center and a $50 million match that has been set-aside for improvements to the Paseo del Norte and I-25 interchange, pending the outcome of the 2012 legislative session.
While did not receive voter approval to fund a regional competition sports complex to bring athletic tourism to Albuquerque while enhancing local sports options, just last week we meet with consultants that responded to our RFP for the community driven design of river improvements, and tomorrow I'll be having a meeting with planners and designers to get started on a 50-mile bike loop around our city.
We are also moving forward with a $1 million study of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which we believe is the next logical step to improve our public transportation system. Funding for the study comes from already existing federal grant dollars. These are all ABQ the Plan projects.
ABQ the Plan will continue to be about a dialog between my administration and those we serve to craft long range investment plans that will pay off for years to come.
As important as public spaces are, they are nothing without...... the public.
Investing in the people of Albuquerque is not only the right thing to do, it simply cannot be over-emphasized.
And while it is true that we always keep a keen eye on budgets and work to be great stewards of taxpayer resources, we are also about the heart of government and our community. That is why we have launched our first ever community-based response to Homelessness.
Communities all over the United States have struggled with homelessness, and Albuquerque is no exception. Traditional attempts to meet the needs of the chronically homeless – those living on the streets for years and sometimes decades have largely been piecemeal and emergency response based. We have great providers to the homeless in Albuquerque, many from the faith based community, but we needed to do more.
Albuquerque has the opportunity to be at the forefront of an effort to impact homelessness and truly improve people's quality of life. Last February you may remember that we hit the streets to survey our most vulnerable homeless citizens. It was easily one of the coldest spells in decades.
View the video that accompanied the 2011 State of the City address.
Take a look at this video it will described our new innovative approach better than I can.
(Homelessness video --->)
AND this approach, while being the RIGHT thing to do also saves taxpayers money – it really is the smart way to do the right thing. Our initiative to get the chronically homeless off the streets in order to improve their outcomes while saving valuable resources applied for and received a big boost when we recently were notified that we will receive a grant for $1.5 million which will act as a financial building-block to carry this program into the future.
Many thanks to all those inside and outside of city government who have put their heart and soul into Albuquerque Heading Home making a significant impact on those most vulnerable in our community.
So as you can see, we have been busy putting in motion an engine that can drive us into the future.
However, we need each and every one of you here to truly help move our city forward. We must create opportunities and implement meaningful change now and at every opportunity.
Ladies and Gentlemen we are at a cross roads – we cannot be complacent. I don't want us to be in an emergency like other cities have found themselves in before we muster the urgency take the needed steps to ensure our City is a place where we, and our children, want to live 25 years down the road. Our Road Map for the Future needs to be honestly addressed. Now is the time to drive our City forward and invest in the future.
So as you hear about opportunities to improve Albuquerque, I implore you to consider – discuss - make suggestions - and take an active part in shaping our destiny.
Thank you for taking the time to be here today. I know all of you have lots of demands on your time. A special thank you again to our invaluable community partners, our elected officials, and the volunteer community...and so many others who make our City the special place that it is. I appreciate your commitment to the future of our city by being here today. Your energy is the fuel that keeps me going as your Mayor.
Have a great holiday season and I wish you and yours a healthy, prosperous and joyful New Year.