The fight between the Albuquerque City Council and Mayor Tim Keller’s administration over economic development incentives for Topgolf came to a head last week with the Council’s 7-2 vote to override Keller’s veto of the incentives.
And while Keller could certainly challenge the economic development package in court, it would be better for everyone involved to simply put the matter in the rearview mirror and move on, which is exactly what Keller appears ready to do.
“From the beginning, we were pleased to welcome Topgolf to Albuquerque, but we felt that this deal missed the mark,” Keller said in a statement following the vote. “… We continue to work with the council on a variety of initiatives under the steady leadership of Council President (Ken) Sanchez.”
The economic development project includes $400,000 of city general fund money unspent from the fiscal 2018 budget. The deal also includes the city reimbursing 50 percent of incremental city gross receipts tax revenue, up to $1.8 million, to assist the site developer with costs of land, building or infrastructure. Also included is a $326,000 appropriation from the city transportation infrastructure tax to extend Culture Road from Montaño to Desert Surf Circle.
Among the criticism has been that the city is spending money to subsidize an out-of-state corporation and that Topgolf is getting an unfair advantage over a similar company looking to set up shop in Albuquerque.
Keller has called it a “raw deal for taxpayers,” saying it would bring low-wage, low-skill jobs and send the wrong signal that the city is prioritizing out-of-state companies over similar local efforts.
Keller is right to point out this is a bad deal for taxpayers, but the money and energy that would be spent on a legal battle fighting the Council is better spent on other economic development priorities.
For the sake of taxpayers, councilors should do a better job of vetting future projects. Better yet, perhaps they should stay in their lane and leave it to the mayor – and the economic development experts the city employs – to pursue economic development projects that could truly benefit Albuquerque’s economy.
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.