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City finalizing plan for $1 million investment in Black community

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and protests against police brutality and racial injustice, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced New Mexico’s largest city was setting aside $1 million to invest in the local Black community.

Nearly a year later, the city has not allocated the money, although that could happen soon.

The city’s Economic Development Department “is in the process of finalizing details of the program,” the city wrote in a June 1 response to a Journal public records request seeking information about how the money was used. “Additional information will be provided at the program launch during the 2021 Juneteenth Festival.”

Keller announced the funding on June 26, 2020, saying in a video message that there’s a “myth” that Albuquerque has a tri-cultural community.

“A lot of folks – even if we’re born and raised here – we don’t know we have a vibrant African American community and also that in terms of funding and investment opportunities and access to capital, those are much, much lower for this community,” Keller said.

“We’ve got to step up, and now is the time.”

The $1 million allocation had to go through the City Council, which ultimately gave its approval after a lengthy discussion about exactly how the money would be spent. At that point, representatives from the One Albuquerque Fund – a city-supporting foundation that will be administering the funds – told the council there was no specific plan but one would get developed.

Since that vote in June 2020, “the City has worked closely with the African American business community and various partners to craft a comprehensive program that achieves the intended purpose,” city spokeswoman Sarah Wheeler said in an email to the Journal last week. “The City took great care and time to design a program that will ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent properly and the program will be successful.”

The program, Wheeler said, will include business grants and “long-term investment in the Black community” and will be explained in more detail soon.

FLAG FLAP: Keller kicked off Pride month last week by raising a rainbow flag outside City Hall with members of the local LGBTQ community.

But city government’s two openly gay elected officials, Pat Davis and Diane Gibson, were not in attendance nor, they said, even invited – something Davis criticized on social media.

In response to a Mayor Keller tweet after the event – which said in part “In ABQ, we believe in a safe, inclusive city for everyone – no matter who you are or who you love” – Davis noted that Keller “didn’t even bother” to contact or invite Davis or Gibson.

“Inclusivity is not a photo op,” Davis tweeted.

Gibson confirmed to the Journal that she was not invited but said she didn’t expect to be, as Keller “doesn’t (even) include me in events for projects in my own district.”

In response to Davis’ criticism, a mayoral spokeswoman said the event was not exclusive.

“We reached out to organizations involved with Pride Month events, who in turn shared it so anyone who wished could attend the public event. We welcome everyone to join in to support and celebrate our community as a whole,” Lorena Sanchez said in a written statement.

Jessica Dyer:

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