Photo: Not Scot, but this guy/event, although my platform also includes mandated wearing of hats as shown in this photo.
by Scot (Cross-posted from Duke City Fix)
Don’t worry. I’m not running for Mayor. For one, rather important, thing, I don’t live in the city limits. Not that this has necessarily stopped mayoral candidates in the past. For another, I haven’t run around town like a chicken with a clipboard under my wing and my head cut off desperately seeking signatures, like the sixteen folks whittled down to nine by the recent “process” of deciding which headless chickens shall be on the October 3rd ballot.
But if I were running for Mayor, here are a few planks on my imaginary platform. Some might be perceived as a bit radical, others too mundane to get voters excited. I’ve noticed that good public policy tends to the radical and mundane; politics, well politics is what we’re often unfortunately left with. Now to the planks:
- Taxes are Way Too Low: Again, I don’t live in the city, but I’m looking at my 2016 BernCo tax bill that I will, like every red-blooded citizen, pay the 2nd half at the very last May 10th minute. And that tax bill is just too low. Now, I’m not personally going to pay more because that would be insane and wouldn’t accomplish anything. WE need to pay more in taxes. Why?
- Because the biggest issue in this campaign is the crime rate. We all agree on that. We can’t properly address the crime rate if we’re not paying police officers enough, not providing sufficient behavioral health services to existing and potential offenders, have a truly scandalous backlog of sexual assault testing kits, and generally create a system in which our law enforcement costs are transferred from higher taxes to higher insurance rates (particularly automobile), out-of-pocket deductible costs, and all the associated costs of having cars, houses and businesses broken into. Not to mention the communal depression and marketing hell caused by national stories, such as this one in Foreign Policy about a person named BouKaram traveling the country whose vehicle is, well, just read it:
“On March 3, BouKaram was in an Albuquerque hotel, mapping the route to his final destination, when his RV was stolen. He was left with the clothes he was wearing, his computer, and an overnight bag — everything else from a five-month odyssey was gone.
Police weren’t hopeful; Albuquerque is notorious for crime, especially auto theft. But 12 hours later, he got a call: They had found his RV and his belongings. And they had found the women responsible, a mother and daughter.
BouKaram arrived at the scene and saw a pickup truck full of his bags. The RV was gutted and had been transformed into a makeshift drug lab. Tubes of lipstick and what BouKaram described as “really questionable sex toys” littered the empty space. All his photography equipment had been inventoried, with hopeful appraisals for what it might fetch.”
- In addition to addressing the crime rate, raising taxes will provide a vast number of government services currently undercut by poor funding. Albuquerque, like much of the country, has undergone a wave of “small government” mania based on the idea that if we starve government enough we can best demonstrate that government is bad, and therefore deserves to be cut even more. Cue vicious circle of cut-bad-cut-bad…
- Government is not bad. City employees deserve raises. Municipal services must be funded in order to function properly. Currently, many aren’t because the funding level is too low for them to do so.
- The APD/DOJ Debacle Has to be Fixed: APD Police Chief Eden has to go sometime early on the first morning of the new Mayor’s term. Much more could be said about this situation, but we’ll just leave it at that.
- A.R.T. is Just a Start: Albuquerque Rapid Transit has become a punching bag for everything that is wrong with Mayor Berry, Albuquerque, the crime rate, the lack of Malaysian restaurants, you name it. I personally applaud the Mayor for sticking with the project, although the execution of much, if not all, of its public outreach and construction has been uniformly AWFUL. For example, we’re just now rolling out the low-interest loans to affected businesses? Really? Nevertheless, updating Rapid Ride to a true bus rapid transit (BRT) system is just the beginning toward a fully functional transit system here. BRT needs to expand to Airport/University/UNM as scheduled, but even more important is an expansion of system service throughout, both in terms of routes and especially times. ABQ Ride is another excellent example of underfunding our government. Yes, a streetcar/light rail system might be better than BRT/A.R.T., but our tax mindset made that impossible. Adequately funding ABQ Ride is essential.
- We Still Cross the River Too Much: The Journal has a recent story headlined “Bridge crossings are the top congested roads.” Of course, “congested” in Albuquerque doesn’t quite mean the same as the term does in, say, Seattle, but it’s true that we haven’t established fully self-sufficient neighborhoods, and instead drive across the river to work, play, entertain ourselves, etc.. Fixing this is a long-term situation, involving both radical and mundane elements. We need economic development that heavily encourages neighborhood-based businesses and work places, as well as much greater disincentives to driving across the river. An example of this in irritating fruition is, frankly, A.R.T.. Reducing driving lanes on Central is disincentive to drive Central and cross the river. Period. This is a good thing. And, yes, this is also one reason why I don’t stand much of a chance to win the Mayor’s race, even if I did live in town. That doesn’t mean it not a good thing, however.
- UNM and Sandia Labs Need to Step-Up and Become Part of This Town: The single biggest shocker to me since moving here back in 1993 has been the lack of connection between the University, Lab and Albuquerque. We have this incredible brain trust, doing amazing brainiac things, but so very little of that has to do with giving back to our community. The University, from a community standpoint, largely seems to serve to encourage student commuting, provide the occasional entertainment activity, via sports and Popejoy, and as a real estate development/parking empire. Best illustration of this is the atrocious manner in which its “South Campus” has been developed, featuring, well let’s take a look:
I focus on the corporate, distantly owned, “Lobo Village” because it best represents how the entire South Campus has been developed in the same community-detached, socially tone-deaf manner (although “WisePies Arena” is a very close second). Note the lack of connection in this in-fill sprawl universe. Lobo Village is only a short distance from the Main Campus, but 99.9% of its residents drive or take the shuttle to that campus. It’s also only a short distance to Downtown, but the infrastructure makes it seem in another area code. And Lobo Village is just one of many disconnects between our University, our Lab and our City. Bridging these existing gaps, better involving University/Lab employees, and mining the intellectual talents of both should be a prime goal of any mayoral administration.
- And Lastly, Speaking of Underutilized, Expo NM (or Whatever the Hell it’s Called) Has to Be Revamped: In the distant past, I seem to remember calling for the Fairgrounds to be blown up and turned into a “Central Park” of Albuquerque, but that’s not going to happen. Still, the Fairgrounds as constituted, and nearby International District, serve as a fantastic chance to revitalize an area of town stricken with crime, transportation issues and many other problems central to this mayoral race. Albuquerque’s next Mayor must invest money, intellectual resources and all other means made possible through the rest of this platform to reduce crime, improve behavioral services and quality of life, and revamp the Fairgrounds and surrounding area into an integrated, community commons, one through which citizens may travel and stop to do things other than gamble and watch antiquated horse races. The Fairgrounds flea market has its charms, or so I’ve heard, but the success of events like the downtown farmers’ market and Rail Yards weekends could be emulated and made unique to the International District through a public market encouraged in attendance by A.R.T. and other means of transportation. In terms of big, long-term vision, I truly think our city can support one large daily public market ala this one in Montreal (noting that Montreal has four such markets). One question in closing on this point: Are there any bicycle racks at the Fairgrounds? I wonder…