Mayor fails to address 'real world' woes - Albuquerque Journal

Mayor fails to address ‘real world’ woes

A year ago, Mayor Richard Berry said in a debate, “I don’t think I want to live in these gentlemen’s world – where everything is broken, where everything’s on a downward spiral, a cloud for every silver lining.” Mayor, welcome to “real world” Albuquerque where you, your political operatives, Economic Forum, Chamber of Commerce and NAIOP buddies do well yourselves but you have done very little or next to nothing to turn things around while Albuquerque is in a death spiral.

Smiles and public statements of false hopes and inflated expectations of government funding for entrepreneurial projects like “Innovate Albuquerque” and “ABQid” will not end our downward spiral.

I am deeply heartbroken over the ever-worsening conditions in Albuquerque. It is as if the soul of our city is dying while we just stare.

It appears no one in political power, in business or with any influence acknowledges, really cares or has any passion to change course in any dramatic and aggressive way because it might adversely affect their own personal political futures or financial interests.

On April 14, the Department of Justice issued its scathing indictment of APD finding a “culture of violence” within the department Berry said was “one of the finest departments in the country.” Since 2010, 27 people have died in officer-involved shootings, resulting in over $30 million paid in settlements and still mounting.

Albuquerque’s violent crime rate is nearly double the national average. Our police department is staffed at the lowest it has been in 10 years, jeopardizing public safety while the city negotiates with the DOJ reforms that will cost taxpayers millions a year.

In July, the Chamber of Commerce finally admitted Albuquerque’s violent reputation is affecting economic development. APD’s entire management needed to be removed and the department rebuilt, reorganized, restructured and returned to community based policing.

In July, Albuquerque Business Weekly sponsored a summit on “Reinventing Albuquerque” focusing on how we can diversify our economy and get away from our reliance on federal government funding. The event ignored the serious problems destroying our city.

There was no expression of urgency, passion nor embarrassment by business and political leaders over our deteriorating social network, high crime rates, our declining educational system, high unemployment, the plight of our homeless and mentally ill and Albuquerque’s economic decline.

The Brookings’ Mountain Monitor reported that first-quarter 2014 economic activity of Albuquerque’s job growth remained negative for the third straight quarter, as employment levels declined by 0.2 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Albuquerque lost 2,700 jobs in the 12 months that ended May 31 for a negative 0.7 percent growth rate.

In June, the Brookings Institution reported that Albuquerque is one of the few, if only, big metro areas in the midst of a double-dip recession and dead last among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas in terms of its recovery from the recession.

In August, Forbes Magazine reported that of the 200 largest metro areas in the United States, Albuquerque ranks 200 for projected job growth through 2016.

Albuquerque must turn itself and our economy around with an aggressive and massive investment to reinvent itself like has been done by great American cities such as Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, Columbus, Denver and others that have invested billions in their communities. Albuquerque’s taxpayers must be convinced by its leaders of the importance of investing in major projects.

We must redefine our identity, take bold and aggressive, calculated risks to attract and create high-paying jobs to keep our youth, talent and energy from leaving. Improving our schools and vocational systems, reducing dropout rates, are critical to Albuquerque’s future.

Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industries like heath care, transportation and manufacturing to diversify our economy. Our political and business leaders need to show far more backbone and commitment before things can get better.

Pete Dinelli was a candidate for mayor against Mayor Richard Berry in 2013.

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