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2013 State of the City Address

View the recording or read the transcript of Mayor Richard J. Berry's 2013 State of the City Address.

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Transcript

Nov. 13, 2013

Governor Martinez, State Senators, State Representatives, Members of the City Council, Members of the County Commission, NAIOP members, business and community leaders, distinguished guests and fellow residents:

Thank you for joining me at the fourth State of the City address of my first term.

A special thanks also to City Council President Dan Lewis 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.

And a shout out to the PAPA (Public Academy for Performing Arts) Student Orchestra, led by Ed Torrez; they provided the music as you came in today.

Let’s give them a round of applause!

My Youth Council is once again joining us at the State of the City.

I believe the 14 members are seated randomly at tables today.

And, as mentioned, they will be live tweeting about the State of the City Address, if you’d like to join them hashtag is #stateofABQ.

Get to know these young folks.  They are bright and they are our future.

Also joining us are seniors from our community centers who are watching this State of the City via live-streaming.

And a special thanks to my family, my beautiful wife Maria and my son Jacob, who have stood by me and have believed in our City every single day.

You are my rock and I love you very much.

As I reflect back on the past four years as your Mayor and look forward to the next four years, there is a common thread that ties all of our efforts together.

We are investing in our people and we are investing in our place.

And that’s good news, because cities that invest in themselves are always moving forward;  and those who fail to invest in themselves lack the bright future that we have right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

During the past four years, families and businesses throughout our nation have faced difficult times.

Local governments are no exception, including Albuquerque.

As your Mayor, I always knew and believed that our commitment to one another as fellow citizens would carry us through.  And it has.

So, today I stand before you a grateful man who is humbled by the opportunity you have given me to serve this great city for another four years.

We are united. Our progress is real. Our future is bright. The State of our City is strong, and we are moving forward!

Gross receipt revenues have increased each month over the past 10 months, and so far, our current budget year showed growth of 3.1 percent when compared to the same period last year.

That’s better than the national average.

The latest private sector job growth statistics show Albuquerque ahead of several regional cities, including Tucson and Colorado Springs, two cities that have lead Albuquerque in the past.

Building permit revenue has grown by 16percent showing an increase in construction activities and associated jobs.

Our film office saw $93 million in direct local spending by the film industry in FY13.  That’s the best level in years.

Revenues from property taxes are up, reflecting a revival in home prices.

Latest numbers show that Albuquerque added over 5,100 jobs in the last year, with five months of consecutive job growth.

Both Moody’s Analytics and UNM (BBER) forecast about 25,000 jobs over the next 4 years.

We are continuing to attract national and international employers to our city, including Canon, Lowes, Bendix/King, Eclipse Aerospace, and TresAmigas.

And we are growing our own local success stories.

The number of businesses registering with the city has grown two years in a row.

We are continuing to be a big part of the equation that has New Mexico leading the nation in export growth.

And we are ranked 8th by Foreign Direct Investment Magazine's as an American City of the Future.

All of this is good news is built on a foundation that we have set as a community over the past four years.

Four years ago, we promised that we would be fiscally responsible.

Working together with bipartisan support from the City Council we delivered on that promise.

We overcame over $160 million dollars in budget shortfalls and we balanced our budget without raising your taxes, without slashing your city services and without laying off our valuable employees.

Not many cities can say that during these economic times we have been through.

Citizens had to watch their pocketbooks and so did we.  Our latest budget is only 1.15 percent more than the budget that was in place when I took over.

This means we have held our budgets virtually flat while still protecting what makes Albuquerque special.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a budget growth rate of less than three tenths of one percent per year.

We promised to improve public safety.

Working together with APD, business organizations, neighborhoods and the community we delivered on that promise.

During the past four years Albuquerque has seen the lowest FBI crime rates in 20 years.

And despite the national violent crime rate going up last year, the violent crime in rate in Albuquerque actually went down.

We cracked down on property crime by doubling the number of arrests, and our Most Wanted Property Crime Offenders spread in the Albuquerque Journal has featured 1,134 individuals with a success rate of 93 percent of the warrants being resolved.

We have expanded the ranks of our Fire Department and placed four new engines into service.

We are doubling the number of advanced life support paramedic units throughout the city and we’ve built two new fire stations to better serve our residents.

All of this progress will lower response times for life threatening situations in our city.

We promised to maintain city services.

Working together, we delivered on that promise as well.

We not only maintained basic services like trash pickup, but we also expanded our recycling program so that now every household has a blue recycling cart.

This program will take recycling in Albuquerque from an abysmal 5 percent of our solid waste stream to approximately 25 percent in the near future.

We have kept our libraries and community centers open, have added new facilities for senior meal programs, and have expanded youth oriented programs as well.

We promised to preserve, protect and enhance our quality of life.

Working together, we have completed nearly $350 million of construction projects throughout our City during the last four years.

These projects include the new North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center, Phase I of our Convention Center upgrades (including the renovated banquet  room we are using today), Fire Stations 2 and 7, and have completed the connection of Unser Boulevard on the West side, just to name a few.

In addition, through collaboration with the State, County and other regional partners, we just broke ground on the $93 million Paseo Del Norte and I-25 improvements.

We also just broke ground on the $13 million Phase II of the Convention Center improvements, and we will soon break ground on the $8 million Central and Unser library.

Smart public sector investments like these will continue during my second term.

As an example, we are just now beginning the first master plan for the Zoo since the 1970s, which will also incorporate the entire BioPark.

BioPark revenue is up 6 percent this year, and we have had over 412,000 people visit so far this year.

We will use this increased revenue to protect and maintain this wonderful amenity for future generations.

After more than a year of community input, we will soon be putting forward specific plans to bring the Rio Grande and Bosque more into our day-to-day lives.

These proposed plans will include improved access, including access for individuals with disabilities; restoration, and preservation projects to keep the Bosque healthy and sustainable for future generations; improved recreational and eco-tourism opportunities; and more robust educational opportunities for our students and our families.

We look forward to your additional input once these plans are put forward.

As our 50-mile bike/activity loop plans are taking shape we have identified nine segments of new or improved lanes and trails for cycling, walking, or jogging that will connect and complete the loop.

Next week we will begin designing the first segment that will connect Nob Hill with Uptown.

We are wrapping up our study and soon begin design for BRT, Bus Rapid Transit, on Central Avenue.

BRT is the logical next step for public transportation in Albuquerque and our 13 million riders last year are a testament to the need to upgrade our public transportation capabilities.

There are many other opportunities in Albuquerque to collaborate with public and private entities to improve our quality of life, transportation, infrastructure, and opportunities for job creation.

As your Mayor, I will continue to push for smart public sector investments that drive private sector investments and job growth.

There is no question that we are investing in our place. Thank you for support of these investments.

Great cities like Albuquerque are made of great people and great neighborhoods.  The good news is that we have both in abundance.

Our most important asset is our people.

Investing in each other is the single most important thing we can do to improve our future, and we have big plans in place to do just that.

Education is one of the best ways to empower a person’s life and the future of our City. In the last 4 years we have developed, encouraged,  and sustained over 15 different educational initiatives that are making a big difference in our community.

Today, I will highlight four of these initiatives.

One of those programs is called “Homework Diner.”

Homework Diner provides hard-working students and parents a rare opportunity to escape the stresses of the household chore of cooking dinner, and instead concentrates on helping both the student and parents focus on school work in a collaborative way.

Based at Manzano Mesa Elementary, this program pulled together community resources which include teachers and volunteers from Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College, the University of New Mexico, and others.

It provides a safe and focused academic environment along with a family dinner.

Teachers and volunteer staff are on-site to answer any questions and assist students with their homework.

This program was so well received that after the grant money was expended, local businesses began to donate money to keep the program going. Students are learning, parents are learning and together we are succeeding.

Leaders from business, government, non-profits and educational institutions have developed another initiative we call Mission Graduate.

The goal is to add 60,000 new college degrees by the year 2020.  This is an audacious goal that will take a robust effort by all community members to accomplish, including businesses, educational institutions, parents, teachers, churches, social service providers and our community as a whole.

Research shows us that the percent of a city’s population with post high school education is a direct driver of economic success for everyone in the city.

More than ever, we understand that our personal success is integrally tied to the success of our neighbors.

Mission Graduate is a tall order, and we need each one of you in this room and in our city to pitch in to meet this important goal.

If you know someone in your family, in your place of business, in your church, or in your neighborhood that needs encouragement or help to attain a post-secondary degree, be the person to stand up and help them.

If you are a business or if you run an organization, be the leader to inspire your employees to attain that college degree.

Find ways to incentivize achievement.  Together we can reach our goal and our city will far be better off when we do.

Last week I was in Washington, D.C. talking to a summit about workforce development, telling folks from around the country that Albuquerque is on the leading edge of this important aspect of economic prosperity.

As we venture to attract and grow well-paying jobs to our city, workforce development is a key component.

The most powerful way to unleash a person’s talent is to prepare him or her for a job, both in high school and after graduation throughout their adult lives.

Our Running Start for Careers program does just that in a high school setting.

It not only helps keep kids from dropping out of high school, but provides them with workforce training for real-life jobs in many fields, including construction, film, healthcare, financial services, energy, tourism and hospitality, and surveying, to name a few.

Albuquerque is one, if not the first, city in the country to bring industry-taught curriculum into our high schools in such an innovative way, and people around the country are taking notice.

And when decision makers take notice of innovation in cities, they have a much greater chance of making investments here.

If you know of a student who would like to get a running start on his or her career while in high school, or if you are a local business which wants to invest in your future workforce with curriculum developed by you and taught by you, give us a call at 311, and we will get you hooked up with our team at my office.

While in Washington I also touted our brand new initiative with Innovate-Educate that we call Talent ABQ.

A skilled work force is an employable workforce.  Talent ABQ addresses this problem on several fronts.

It is a partnership between those hiring and those who want to be hired.

Anyone in our city can now walk into any one of 26 skill-up centers (many at our local libraries) and ask to have their skills tested against available local jobs.

Companies provide Talent ABQ with a description of the skills actually needed to do the job, and Talent ABQ helps identify capable applicants while also helping those whose skill sets need improving to qualify for the jobs.

We are working with individuals who want to learn about their skill set strengths and weaknesses while helping them improve those skill sets for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

We are the first city in the country to implement this program and it will definitely give us all an advantage for job creation.

If you are an employer who would like to participate or an individual who wants to test and improve your skill sets – please contact us at 311.

In addition to our educational initiatives, we are in the beginning phases of an important community dialogue centered on increasing prosperity in our city.

To have a bright and prosperous future, you have to believe it is possible, and you need those you look up to inspiring you to aspire and reach for your goals.

I am bringing together a diverse group of community leaders from across our city to engage in this first-of-its kind community-wide discussion about what prosperity looks like, and how to achieve it.

Our discussions will highlight roadmaps for success, create opportunities to break down barriers, and create networks never seen before in our city.

Be a part of the discussion.  Find out how by calling 311 and we will get you connected.

In addition, last year, we were the first city in the country to host a Mental Health Summit in conjunction with the White House.

I was encouraged to see how many volunteers and advocates we had in attendance, and I know we can be a national leader to address mental health issues in my next term.

I am making mental health solutions in Albuquerque one of my priorities for my second term.

We will also continue leading the nation with Albuquerque Heading Home, our initiative for the chronically homeless.

We can now show with real data that it is less expensive for us to house the most medically vulnerable than to allow them to struggle for survival on our streets.

Heading Home truly is the smart way to do the right thing and we now have cities from across the country interested in having us show them how we did it here.

We just added a new Director of the Veterans Heading Home.

This year, we will also put Albuquerque at the forefront of success for women in the workplace.

After decades of federal law designed to create pay equity in the workplace, nationally women still make 23 percent less than men for doing the same job.  That’s absolutely unacceptable.

Regulation has not solved the problem, so Albuquerque is going to be the first city in the nation to put in place incentives for gender pay equity.

Our legislation to create a task force to craft the implementation of these policies just passed the City Council with a unanimous vote, and we are moving forward, full steam ahead!

Soon, vendors and companies who do business with the City will receive an advantage in city procurements if they can prove that they are moving in the right direction with pay equity for women in their workforce.

This is also the right thing to do, it is high time we do it, and Albuquerque is leading the nation on this important issue.

Your participation as a business not only moves this important agenda forward; it will make your business more competitive on future city contracts.

But we’re not stopping there when it comes to job creation and prosperity for all in our city.

For the first time ever, the City of Albuquerque is teaming with UNM and other public and private entities to create opportunities to take research from the University to the marketplace, and create local high-paying jobs as a result.

Innovate ABQ, proposed at the old First Baptist Church site at Broadway and Central, is our “mind to market,”  “lab to fab” initiative that will bolster research driven innovations, commercialization of those innovations, and job creation by creating the first of its kind Innovation District in our state.

Innovate ABQ will incorporate and connect leading-edge institutions like UNM and leading edge innovation firms with supporting and spin-off companies, business incubators, mixed use housing, offices, retail, and entertainment options, all with  twenty-first century amenities.

The goal is to bring together those who research and invent with those who commercialize and those who create jobs by making those products.

The possibilities at the rail yards also dovetail into this concept as a potential center of manufacturing and workspace for the commercialized research.

As we work to diversify our local economy and remain a statewide engine for growth, Innovate ABQ is an exciting opportunity for public/private partnerships that create good jobs throughout the employment spectrum, and I am pleased to be teaming with President Frank, UNM regents, our City Council, taxpayers and other stakeholders as we venture forward.

And I’m not the only one who is excited about the public/private prospects for Innovate ABQ.

Our first private partner has come forward with a significant investment.

Mr. Terry Laudick and the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union recently approved a $3 million grant to the project that will allow adequate resources to buy the land to get the project moving forward.

I think for $3 million, Terry and his group have earned a well-deserved round of applause!

Terry, please stand up.

I truly believe that with investments in innovation and capital to support them, our better days are ahead of us and the greatest chapter of our book is yet to be written.

There is no question that we are investing in our people.

Join us as a community leader in making these important connections and investments.

As I stated earlier, there is no greater mission for any mayor than public safety.

We have one of the finest police and fire departments in the country and we need to work to keep it that way.

Just a few days ago, we saw the men and women of these departments along with Bernalillo County Sheriff deputies work to save lives in our city, and I would like to give them a great big round of applause!

Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers who were shot, and we are especially praying for a full recovery for BCSO Deputy Robin Hopkins.

One of our current public safety challenges is to replace police officers who we have lost due to changes in the state pension system – changes that have caused a large number of retirements at APD and other departments around the state.

We are tackling our need to attract and hire more police officers: I just recently signed a bill to fund a pending 2.5 percent raise for our police officers along with additional funding for recruitment and retention. Our current academy class that just started is the largest one we have had for a while.

And I am going to ask our friends in the Legislature for their help to pass a bill that will allow our police officers to come back to the force with all of their valuable experience after they have retired, or to stay on for an additional five years.

I am told this can have a positive effect on our retention numbers, and I believe that by allowing our best and most experienced officers to come back to the department, our community will be safer.

This program will be called DROP, which stands for Deferred Retirement Option Plan or Program, and over 25 other states already have it in place.

If passed, this will not only help Albuquerque, but also public safety departments around the State of New Mexico.

I urge all State Representatives and Senators to support this important legislation in January.

Cities across the country are on the forefront of technology and I’m proud to announce this year Albuquerque was named the 7th most Digital City in the country according to the National League of Cities.

With bold leadership and determination, we are leveraging today’s successes into a brighter future; into a smart city for all our residents.

And we are not finished yet.

We have to think smart, we have to plan smart, we have to use our resources wisely, and we have to take advantage of smart 21st century tools.

Smart government works for people by meeting them where they are, and people are more electronically connected than ever.

That’s why Albuquerque is leveraging its technology to lower costs and provide convenient customer service.

By many accounts, this is the era of cities and metros.

Understanding who we are, what makes us special, what we do well, and what we need to work on is key to our future successes.

As your Mayor, I see firsthand every day; individuals, businesses, institutions, and community members who understand this and who are making a difference.

We understand that none of us can do this alone; we need to challenge each other, hold each other accountable, and make a community-wide effort to improve ourselves, our abilities, and our outcomes.

More than ever before, our success is integrally tied to the success of our neighbors, our friends, our families, and our city.

If I sound fired up, it is because I am!

Myself and other Mayors realize that cities aren’t just a level of government.  In many aspects we are where the action is – and that’s an exciting place to be.

All over America, city governments are building “Can Do” coalitions and networks capable of identifying, creating and seizing economic opportunities and addressing problems.

None are doing this more than Albuquerque, New Mexico.

We have accomplished a lot together, but we have much more that we can accomplish and will accomplish.

The State of our City is stronger than ever, but it can be stronger still, and together, we will make it so.

There is something for everyone in this room and in this city to do.

There are important initiatives that need your support.

We need leaders from across this city to unite for a bright future, from the kitchen table helping your kids with their homework to board rooms, the City Council Chambers and community organizations.

Albuquerque is a very special place.  We need to continue working together to make sure it stays that way for future generations!

Thank you for your time today and thank you for your passion for our city.

As your Mayor, I am grateful for all of you and all you do for this great city.

God bless, and have a great 2014!

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