It was what diplomats call a “scene setter” cable, an assessment of what is going on in a country prior to a government official’s visit.
Drawing upon his experience as a diplomat in Mauritius and Ecuador, Albuquerque’s director of planning, David Campbell, delivered his scene setter cable of “Embassy Albuquerque” to members of the Economic Forum of Albuquerque at Hotel Albuquerque on Wednesday.
He began by citing new community assets built or established since 2011, such as the Lobo Rainforest Innovation Center, new Uptown retail, new West Side retail, indoor entertainment venues, Hotel Chaco, Downtown Anasazi, One Central Downtown, Imperial Building and grocery Downtown and the Railyards Market.
“Many things have changed in Albuquerque,” Campbell said, referring to his years-long absence while working overseas as a diplomatic officer.
He then spoke of what Albuquerque lacks, such as extreme heat or cold, high humidity, mold, mildew, rust, earthquakes, air pollution, water pollution, hurricanes, rising seas, insufficient parking and traffic congestion.
A more somber issue, he said, is that residents he has spoken to cite crime and security as the single worst problem in the city. That’s a negative for individuals and economic development, he said, and is part of the civic narrative and the community’s self-image.
“This negatively impacts everyone’s feeling of individual safety and the city’s ability to attract employers,” he said.
He also said the coverage of crime by local media contributes to the city’s negative self-talk and image.
“Our self-talk about security is very devastating,” he said. “Not that it doesn’t exist. Not that you don’t report on it, but it sure seems to me that we emphasize it in great measure perhaps more than what is good for us.”
On a more positive note, Albuquerque’s robust arts scene has few peers in the country, he said, which includes the city’s public arts program, airport and Convention Center collections, galleries in Downtown and Old Town and new dance facilities.
Cars are also used as artistic expression, he said, encompassing a variety of styles and interests. There’s a potential for tourism in that area, he said.
He also cited Albuquerque’s diversity and celebration of that diversity as a positive attribute. Campbell also said the city is ready for economic development focus on aviation and avionics.
“From the prospective of someone who has come home after years away, please know that this is a wonderful city — one of the best on the planet,” he said. “We can do amazing things, but we gotta believe in ourselves, and we gotta believe in our own greatness.”