Read the transcript of Mayor Richard J. Berry's 2012 State of the City Address.
Nov. 14, 2012
Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests and dignitaries, it is my great pleasure to be with you today for the 2012 State of the City Address.
Thanks to Albuquerque Economic Development- our host for this year's event. Thank you Gary, your board of directors and all of your members for your outstanding commitment to bringing jobs to our city.
A special thanks also to City Council President Trudy Jones and all city councilors who are here with us today - and to all of their staff who work with my administration on a daily basis.
At this year's State of the City Address we're getting the youth of our city more involved.
If you take a look to the back of the room I would like to introduce you to the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council.
My Youth Council has done wonderful work over the last year, including educating our city's youth about the dangers of prescription pain medications and opioid addiction.
Today the youth Council will be live tweeting about the State of the City Address.
They are being joined by APS students who are watching this address via life-feeds to APS, Bosque, Sandia Prep, and RFK charter schools.
Thanks APS and Superintendent Brooks for including our students in the democratic process.
To all the students who are watching, thanks for joining us today.
By taking time out of your busy day to listen to this address it is obvious that you care about our city.
That makes you stewards of our future and for that I thank you.
However, your role as stewards does not begin and end with this speech today.
There is much to be done.
We have spent the last several months being bombarded with campaign ads, many of them negative, many of them reminding us of our differences.
But we should never forget that our common interests far outweigh our differences.
If we work together as a community, as neighbors and as families we can accomplish many things.
Some say we are past the time that big things can get done in our country- that we are past the time when we can put our differences aside for the common good.
In Albuquerque New Mexico we just proved the naysayers wrong!
On November 6th, we went to the polls and showed that when we concentrate on our common interests we can do big things.
Thanks to all who voted by an overwhelming majority to fund the $50 million bond issue that will allow us to move forward with improvements to the Paseo Del Norte and I-25 interchange!
We showed that governments can work together, with funding now in place from federal, state, city and county sources.
We showed that we can put aside our partisan differences when the issue has nothing to do with being a Republican or Democrat.
We showed that working together is the right thing to do.
Now let's take this spirit of responsibility and cooperation and put it to work throughout our city.
For some of you that may mean getting involved with your neighborhood association.
For others it may mean volunteering at a worthy nonprofit organization.
It may mean simply reading to a child or visiting a senior neighbor.
One such neighbor is joining us for lunch today.
Her name is Sonja.
I had the pleasure of meeting her at her home along with staff from the City's Home Services Team and members of Pipefitters Local 412.
For over 21 years, these pipefitters have volunteered by visiting seniors and helping them get their heat turned on safely for the winter.
Sonja is an artist, she is vibrant, and she is an inspiration to me.
But like many seniors Sonja needs a hand now and then.
Our department of senior affairs works with Sonja to ensure that she can continue to live an independent lifestyle, but Sonja still has to pay $40 a week to have someone deliver groceries to her home.
We can do better as a city and as neighbors.
Our Department of Seniors Affairs is working on a new outreach to help seniors get their groceries delivered to their homes.
If you and your co-workers or maybe members of your church are interested in helping with this outreach - or if you just want to lend a hand to one of the many worthy causes in our community - please visit the MOVE section of our city website at CABQ.gov
I also request that you consider your role as ambassadors for Albuquerque.
The more people know about Albuquerque and New Mexico the more likely they are to choose us as a place to start and grow their business, to visit on vacation or to raise their family.
Albuquerque is on many of the right lists. We're recognized as;
- a best place to live for everyone from 20-somethings to the retired
- a best place to be creative, do business and make movies
- and a best place to recreate, to be fit and well
So go out and tell our story - whether it's on a business trip, an airplane ride or just a long-distance phone call with family or business acquaintances.
Tell our story.
It's a good one.
Our city is strong.
Yes, there are challenges, particularly with the economy at the national, state and local levels.
We are working our way through one of the worst economic times in our nation's history, and too many of our friends and neighbors are out of work or underemployed.
In Albuquerque we are no exception.
Even though some of the economic statistics are improving, our neighbors and their families aren't statistics.
They are real families who are struggling mightily.
It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that the future is brighter for those who are seeking gainful employment to support themselves and their families.
The good news is; we are working together towards this common goal.
My administration is working diligently to do our part to ensure that jobs will be created in Albuquerque.
This effort takes many forms.
We are creating a regulatory environment that incentivizes investments in our community.
We have broken down barriers by instituting a new energy code that will not only make homes and buildings more affordable and energy-efficient - but will allow businesses and industry to innovate while making buildings more sustainable.
With the help of our City Council we will soon pass a revised impact fee ordinance that will no longer pit neighborhoods against each other as they try to attract businesses, housing and investments.
We will no longer tolerate an impact fee ordinance where Jean Bernstein from Satellite Coffee has to pay nearly $40,000 more for a drive through shop on the Westside than she did for her Nob Hill shop.
And we will no longer tolerate an ordinance where daughters like Klarissa Pena have to spend $8,000 more in impact fees than downtown residents - simply for the privilege of living near her mom on the Southwest Mesa.
We have received high marks as a business friendly city and we will continue to make Albuquerque a great place to do business.
My Small Business Advisory Council, led by Alex Romero and outstanding members of our business community will continue to review and recommend legislation to ensure that we are doing good things for our community without punishing our business partners and job creators.
But, no matter how business friendly we are as a city, much of our success in attracting and growing businesses relates to regulations and tax codes that are set at the state and national levels.
To ensure that Albuquerque is competitive we have been working closely with tax experts, legislators from both sides of the aisle, and the governor's administration to promote a statewide tax code that is more attractive for job creation in Albuquerque and around the state.
Thanks to Gov. Martinez and the legislature there has already been progress, and as the largest city in the state we will continue to engage in this important dialogue.
A thriving, positive economic future for our community depends on the actions we take today.
I believe we are at a crossroads and that our economic destiny is up to us.
We must become more competitive if we are going to attract the private sector jobs we need for today and tomorrow.
In the short term we must focus on retaining the jobs that we have while helping our local businesses grow.
We must work with our partners at the federal and state level to protect Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, Air Force Research Laboratory and the rest of our robust public sector economy.
It is important for our local economy but also for national security.
We must also improve our ability to compete in a complex global economy.
And we must recruit new businesses and support the pent-up entrepreneurial spirit that lives and breathes right here in our community.
The good news is we can do it.
The roadmap to economic prosperity is not overly complicated, but it does require political will and the ability to set aside our differences when it comes to creating jobs.
During the upcoming legislative session I will be supporting bills that make it more attractive to make investments and create jobs in Albuquerque.
I am hopeful that common sense will triumph for the common good.
During the past three years, as your Mayor, I have been at the negotiating table with prospects and site-selection consultants in an effort to bring good jobs to Albuquerque.
Too often I have heard that New Mexico is not as competitive as some of our neighboring states.
And many times I have heard that decision-makers simply do not know enough about Albuquerque to make an informed business decision.
Well, that is about to change in a BIG WAY!
As you know, we recently lost a significant employer with the closure of the Schott Solar facility.
But because we were good stewards in protecting the taxpayers' interests, we now have an opportunity to make a major investment in economic development.
My administration has collected $5 million in penalties and clawbacks from the Schott project that can now be reinvested to get our people back to work and our economy back on track.
I propose that we work with our partners and put these funds to work in four critical areas;
First, an expanded marketing program geared towards business development in Albuquerque
Second, a closing fund that can be used for significant projects through the Local Economic Development Act.
Third, programs for the retention and expansion of existing companies and the development of technology entrepreneurs
and Fourth, additional support for workforce development programs
I will soon send legislation to the City Council to put these $5 million in funds into an Economic Development Action fund (EDACT) to be used directly to grow our economy and create good jobs.
Please let our Councilors know that you support this tremendous opportunity.
But economic development also includes community development.
It is vital that we concentrate on key elements including;
- quality of life
- investments in our community
- and the education of our children in the development of our workforce
In my first State of the City Address we talked about an overarching vision, a 25-year plan for Albuquerque.
Over the past two years we have worked with the community to develop ABQ the Plan into that vision.
Our work is not finished, but we have a great start with over $70 million in smart public-sector investments between Paseo & I-25 and the $20 million upgrade to the convention center.
And there are more exciting projects on the drawing board as we speak.
We have the Rio Grande Vision plan currently underway with the help of Dekker/Perich/Sabatini - a local architectural and planning firm.
The goal is simple - let's bring the river more into our day-to-day lives.
Let's make it easier to stay healthy and be active by jumping on a paddle board or kayaking down the Rio Grande.
Let's create more opportunities for hiking and biking and other outdoor activities along the river and be able to see and enjoy the water.
Let's create a living classroom to encourage environmental stewardship while immersing students in science.
Let's just get together with family, neighbors and friends and have a picnic near the river's edge.
We have one of the largest urban parks in America running right through our city, so let's make the most of it!
We are also well underway with planning for the 50 mile trail loop.
Wilson and Company, another local firm is our consultant for this great project.
Imagine connecting our existing trail system into a 50 mile loop, with smaller interval loops, that can be used by residents and visitors alike for recreation, cultural exploration and tourism opportunities.
Plan a three-day vacation; ride 10 or 15 miles and stay at a bed and breakfast in the North Valley.
Ride a few more miles the next day and stay at one of our great downtown boutique hotels.
A few more miles of riding the next day will allow you to explore historic Route 66 - all the while enjoying our great restaurants, cultural attractions, neighborhoods and businesses.
The opportunities for wellness and economic development are endless.
And let's not forget about the Mother Road – Route 66.
Albuquerque has one of the longest urban stretches of Route 66 in the country.
The goal here is to invigorate and revitalize neighborhoods and to entice residents and visitors alike to jump off I-40 and take a trip down memory lane.
We are working with businesses and neighborhoods to identify smart public-sector investments in transportation, infrastructure, branding and way-finding that will bolster private sector investments, tourism and economic development.
There are also opportunities through zoning changes to allow for more interesting neon signs and higher density housing along Route 66.
With the help of the majority of our city Council we have also put in place a sustainable plan to ensure that the BioPark has a bright future and that it continues to be the number one attraction in the state of New Mexico.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding these plans, so get involved as we craft a wonderful vision for the future of Albuquerque.
We look forward to unveiling these plans in the near future and begin to identify funding sources for individual pieces of these projects over time.
No economic development or community plan can be considered complete without concentrating on the future of our children.
To that end we have made much progress in the last year
Our Running Start for Careers program centers on the idea that in order to develop a robust workforce and to motivate students to stay in school we must bring business and industry into the equation, with their experts, their curriculum and their resources.
Students who participate in Running Start for Careers are taught by industry experts who have a proven track record of success and who provide mentoring opportunities and incentives to graduate from high school while developing valuable skill sets.
In just two years we've had 240 students participate and have recently received a $150,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation to help move the program forward.
A great example of this program in action comes from the Associated Builders and Contractors who currently have 20 high school juniors and seniors enrolled in their construction classes.
These students are earning dual credit and will not only graduate with their high school diploma, but they will have a running start on a successful career in the construction industry.
Leo is one of their students.
Leo came to Albuquerque from the Zuni Pueblo on his own, with no home or family.
He was homeless, residing in a shelter, attempting to go to school but not finding much success.
He was introduced to the Running Start for Careers program at ABC and his turnaround has been remarkable.
Leo now looks forward to going to class, he participates in all activities and best of all – he is smiling again.
He feels that he has found his niche in construction and is looking forward to graduating and earning a good living.
Leo is with us today – LEO please stand up so we can applaud your efforts!
Additional curriculum in the areas of medical, film and financial services are currently in the works and we are in preliminary talks with PNM to add them as a training partner.
I believe Running Start for Careers can lead a shift in the way we educate our children, develop our workforce and create economic opportunities.
If you are interested in this program as a business or a student please pick up a brochure on your way out today and we will be happy to put you in touch with our program coordinator.
For the students watching today, you may also be interested in the new summer youth jobs program that we started this past year.
Next summer we'll be hiring more interns and students to work to provide services throughout the city.
This is a great opportunity to take pride in your city and earn money at the same time.
And who knows, you might just make the connections you need for a career in public service.
Just call 311 and we will get you in touch with the right folks.
During the past year we were also able to help fund the very first international baccalaureate program at APS.
This program will allow advanced placement students to realize their goals for excellence in education.
During this past year we also initiated a partnership with Southwest Learning Center through the lease of a city-owned building at Double Eagle airport to create a STEM school with a focus on aviation.
The SAMS Academy is only the fifth school in the entire country to offer in-flight training as part of their high school aviation program.
Also this year the AIMS charter school at UNM received a $175,000 grant from the Daniels fund in support of a second institute for math and scieence.
As your Mayor I do not have a vote on the school board, but I am thrilled to have great working partnerships with our local school district and the business community that are making a big difference in the lives of our students.
No State of the City Address would be complete without a report card pertaining to services provided by the city.
I will touch on a few highlights today but be sure to pick up an update card from one of our youth Council members as you leave for a more detailed look at our performance over the past year.
Fiscally, the city of Albuquerque is doing better than in years past.
But our work is not done, and revenues for this year to date are still struggling to reach last year's levels due to this difficult economy.
This will require an ongoing and diligent effort to continue on the path of fiscal responsibility while providing top notch services to all of our citizens.
Be assured that;
We will continue to look for efficiencies within city government in an effort to add to the $14.8 million in savings already realized through our efficiency, stewardship and accountability programs.
We will strive to increase our operating reserves and to maintain our AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's – even while other cities and agencies around the country see their bond ratings drop.
We will continue to focus on fiscal responsibility without raising your taxes.
Public safety remains a top priority.
The FBI tracks what they refer to as part-one crime rates for cities across the nation.
These rates include murder, rape and violent crimes as well as property crimes and car thefts.
The numbers for each individual category will naturally fluctuate from year to year, with some categories rising and others declining with each report.
At this point in the year, we are on track for 2012 to join 2011 and 2010 as years with the three lowest crime rates in the past twenty years!
That's great news for Albuquerque and our citizens and that is a tribute to the men and women of APD!
We will continue to implement accountability, procedural and training initiatives that will promote desired community outcomes while protecting our officers in the line of duty.
Innovation remains a priority at APD and early in 2013 we will implement our new Real Time Crime Center.
This new initiative will provide valuable information to officers on a real-time basis about the event they are being dispatched to.
Details about the parties involved, the history of the address and other valuable information will help officers make better and more informed decisions prior to arriving at the scene.
Special thanks to Sandia National Laboratories for helping us verify and validate the usefulness of this data
There has been a lot of discussion lately about how pension reform is Santa Fe will affect staffing levels at police departments throughout the state.
We will also combat the effects of potential state pension-reform driven retirements at APD by re-instituting signing and referral bonuses for our police academy.
This will be accomplished within the next few weeks.
These bonuses will make it more attractive for cadet candidates to choose public safety and specifically APD as their career path.
Since taking office, my administration has eliminated over $140 million in government spending.
We've accomplished the spending cuts while actually adding firefighters to our ranks, while building two new fire stations and adding a ladder truck to the Westside and acquiring other essential equipment for the fire department.
We look forward to ribbon cuttings for both of our new fire stations before the first of the year.
We have two of the finest public safety departments in the country!
The men and women and the leadership of the Albuquerque Fire Department and the Albuquerque Police Department are dedicated to the people of our city.
They are doing a great job for us every day.
Give them a big thanks when you get a chance.
Environmentally, we are working hard every day to be good stewards of our natural resources, and we have much to show for it.
Albuquerque was just ranked as having the seventh best air quality in the country.
We just broke ground on our brand-new recycling center that will allow us to put the blue recycling carts at every customer's home by the end of 2013.
We will go from an abysmal 5% recycling rate as a percentage of solid waste to over 25% in the coming years due to this innovative public-private partnership.
We have invested more than any previous administration on energy efficiency and a balanced approach to energy. This has reduced taxpayer funded utility bills by more than $1million annually.
We are working diligently with Kirtland Air Force Base, the water authority and the New Mexico Environment Department in regard to the Kirtland jet fuel plume.
We will not rest until the fuel plume is adequately studied and that adequate remediation efforts are implemented.
My family drinks the same water as yours does and I have a great deal of confidence that the water coming from our faucets is safe today and that it will be safe in the future.
This will be a long term project, but it can and it will be resolved.
Transparency and government accountability has become a hallmark of this administration and we will continue to implement measures that will allow all citizens to have a better window into the workings of their local government.
Try out our new website at CABQ.gov. Our IT team has done a wonderful job of upgrading our website to be one of the finest in the country.
Here you can find our transparency portal, our new dashboard of performance measures and our new town hall feature.
You can get connected with city services and make your opinions known to me and the city Council.
Working with all of you in our efforts to take care of our neighbors who need a hand has been one of the great honors for me is your Mayor.
Albuquerque Heading Home, our community response to the chronically homeless has now housed 139 people and 12 household members.
These folks now have a roof over their head and no longer have to worry about dying on the streets, or spending a night in the emergency room to avoid the perils of a homeless existence.
Our city should take a moment to be proud of our efforts to help the homeless in our community and we should continue with these worthy efforts.
We have not forgotten about those who have bravely served our country.
This past year we implemented a first-of-its-kind veterans hiring initiative at City Hall.
In just a few short months we have interviewed 176 veterans who are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to getting a job with the city.
I believe this innovative hiring initiative can and should be duplicated at city halls across our state and nation.
Our Silver Alert Program was implemented during this past year as a way to protect our seniors if they wander off or are disoriented and cannot find their way home.
We have some great stories about families who have been reunited with their loved ones because they participated in this important program.
We will continue to sign up seniors and their families, because we know it is making a difference.
Our animal friends have also fared quite well during the last year.
In short, overall euthanasia rates for animals are down, adoptions into loving families are up and our ramped up spay/neuter programs are producing tremendous results.
Even with current budget constraints we have been able to add to our ranks of animal handlers and veterinarians and we will continue to look for opportunities to improve the well-being of our animal friends.
As you can see we have accomplished a great deal by working together over the past year.
We are continuing to be fiscally responsible
We are continuing to make public safety a top priority.
We are making great strides with our critical infrastructure, smart public sector investments and quality of life initiatives.
We are taking responsibility for our economic future and investing in jobs with a $5 million commitment to change the course of our economic destiny.
And our great employees are continuing to provide a high level of service to our community even during these difficult economic times when budgets are tight and resources are stretched.
But let's remember that there is much left to be accomplished.
So as we leave today, let's all do our part to make this great city even better.
We cannot afford to be of the mindset that it is someone else's job to move our city forward.
If we leave it to someone else, the job will not get done.
Each of us can and must do our part to make a difference.
And don't forget about your role as ambassadors for our city.
Tell people about the progress that is being made in Albuquerque - there is no shortage of positive things to talk about.
If you remember, at the beginning of this address I mentioned that one opportunity to tell people our story is on an airplane trip.
Well, starting soon you'll have more opportunity to do just that.
In my hand I'm holding a press release that will be issued later today that announces the arrival of another great air travel partner to the city of Albuquerque.
Today, I am pleased to announce that JetBlue will begin service to Albuquerque in the spring, with their first flight being a direct non-stop flight from Albuquerque to New York City.
This new partnership and the direct flight to New York City will open up tremendous new opportunities for business travel, tourism and economic development.
I would like to thank Dave Barger, the CEO of JetBlue and Ann Rhoads, who is here with us today.
Ann is our local hero – as she is on their Board of Directors of JetBlue.
Thank you both for your confidence in Albuquerque.
On that good news I will end this address.
Thank you all for coming today.
I wish you and yours a healthy, prosperous and joyful new year.
May God continue to bless this great City - this great State - and this great Nation.