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Editorial: Downtown Group Should Make Case for Money

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Where’s the action?

That’s what some Albuquerque Downtown businesses are wondering. And to make their point, they aren’t paying fees to the nonprofit Downtown Action Team, which has managed the city’s Business Improvement District since 2000.

This week the team came hat in hand to the City Council asking for $183,000 in emergency money to keep operating. The team also wants the city to collect the fees from businesses in the improvement district, which the city says it is trying to do. The council has deferred action on DAT’s request until Feb. 20.

And that has put a long-simmering dispute back on the front burner.

The team’s primary focus has been on hospitality and keeping the city core clean and safe, but it also claims a role in such additions as the Downtown Growers Market and the multiplex theater. Its $700,000 annual budget is generated by a 5.8-mill levy on property owners in the district’s roughly 85-square city block area. Payments are not optional, and the city can file a lien on a property that does not pay.

While Councilor Isaac Benton urges careful consideration, citing the city’s years of support for the revitalization efforts, Council President Dan Lewis questions whether it’s appropriate to give city money to the nonprofit to get it out of a jam.

After more than a decade, for the action team to be seeking a city bailout does not speak well for this arrangement. And significant Downtown revitalization has been elusive at best.

City officials should look long and hard at this relationship before shelling out precious cash that has a long waiting list of requests for many uses.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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