About three quarters of the way through Thursday's State of the City address, Mayor Richard Berry laid out his intentions for the proposed arena project. "I simply have not gotten to the point where I can look the taxpayers of Albuquerque in the eye and tell them that now is the right time to spend $300 million on a Downtown event center and headquarter hotel," Berry said. He went on to refer to the convention center market as "an industry ... in decline," and said that he was not willing to increase taxes to make it happen.
But Berry stopped short of ruling the possibility out. He mentioned the use of city-owned property and a renovation of the existing convention center as potential solves. "We can talk about incentivizing the private sector to finance a headquarters hotel," he added.
The mayor also addressed privatizing city recycling, to some degree. He began with the bold, sweeping promise that, "The way we recycle will forever be changed in Albuquerque by this time next year." He said it's unacceptable for the city to recycle only 6 percent of its total waste. He proposed a "public-private partnership" that would create a regional processing plant but didn't get any more specific.
Much of the speech was dedicated to addressing how Berry and his staff had achieved transparency and financial efficiency in hard times. He said they saved $25 million in 2010 largely by "trimming the fat," or cutting back in unnecessary administrative positions. All this was done while receiving an A+ review from the Sunshine Review, a national transparency rating company.
Other notable figures Berry mentioned for the last year include a 19 percent decrease in property crime, $10 million toward affordable housing, a record 11 million bus riders on public transit and 25 percent fewer cats euthanized by city shelters.
Planned projects for the next year include expanded bus routes in busy areas, building two fire stations, solar energy use at the airport and an east side spay-neuter clinic.
The mayor ended his speech in the same spirit of resiliency and collaboration he purveyed throughout: "We have weathered some tough roads this past year, and need to be vigilant as we move forward—but together we can look toward a bright future."