Alibi V.28 No.12 • March 21-27, 2019 

On Assignment

The City and the State

Burque benefits from legislative luau

ATSF Fire Station
The ATSF Fire Station at the Rail Yards

There are some who said that this year’s legislative session—a two-month event where a record 300-plus bills were passed on to the Governor’s desk for probable signature—was heavy on the pork.

But looking past the porcine metaphors (they serve pork at luaus as far as we can remember, and Hawaiians sure dig their Spam like New Mexicans crave chicharrones) comes the simple fact that the money allocated to various capital improvement projects around The Duke City will do us all some good.

Writing about the complex relationship between the holders of pursestrings and their ultimate beneficiaries, Mayor Tim Keller recently noted, “Albuquerque is facing deep challenges and we reached out to our state legislators and Governor to help us meet them. The funding produced in this session is a blessing, and we are grateful our local and state leaders are coming together around our toughest challenges—especially when it comes to fighting crime. There's a long road ahead, but as far as the session goes, we have what we need to push forward.”

In all, $33 million was allocated from statewide priority funding sources to assist our city with many projects. The most critical of those projects include a fully connected regional law enforcement communications network that’s part of Keller and co.’s Safe City Project. This community-policing driven project includes the use of Community Oriented Notification Network Enforcement Communication Technology or CONNECT to allow law enforcement and community-based partners to communicate about citywide criminal activity on a real-time basis.

Public safety is a big deal to the Keller administration and the legislature agreed, allocating funds to develop a gunshot detection system for police use in identifying criminals and to provide new equipment to Albuquerque Fire and Rescue. Additional public safety funding from the state will make it possible to engage upgrades to the APD’s DNA lab—funds that will be crucial to clearing the backlog of untested rape kits housed at city crime labs.

Keller noted the priority lawmakers gave to helping solve Burque’s crime problem, telling media outlets that, “Our legislators were elected to go to Santa Fe and fight for the funding we need to turn the tide on crime. Our freshman class of Albuquerque-area legislators rose to that challenge, working with veterans on both sides of the aisle to give us the tools to do the job."

Besides providing for the welfare and safety of citizens in Albuquerque, millions of dollars have been set aside by the legislature to improve infrastructure on city roads and at parks, community centers, libraries, pools and at open space parks, too.

Of the money coming outta the Roundhouse and being priority shipped to the gentle folks of The Duke City, $7.5 million has been set aside to break the traffic gridlock the city sees year after year at the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

At a press conference last month, the mayor outlined plans to make the Fiesta more accessible to city residents and tourists alike, telling the press, “The Balloon Fiesta is Albuquerque’s Super Bowl, except it doesn’t last just one day, it lasts nine. We’ve heard countless members of the community say that the traffic surrounding the event is impacting quality of life in our city. Our traffic plan is putting some good, proven solutions on the table.”

Proposals to improve access include potentially builing a slip ramp to I-25 that would create direct access to the highway for visitors and a railroad spur line that would give the NM Railrunner access to the event, as well as introducing more efficient bus routes to the area to encourage public transit in the vicinity of Balloon Fiesta Park.

Additionally, $7.5 million has been earmarked to begin environmental remediation of Burque’s much loved but much-dilapidated rail yards. The remediation will be a needed first step in redeveloping the site as a Downtown economic and lifestyle center, where shops, music venues and restaurants would ultimately fill the grand old buildings sitting just south of Downtown at the old Santa Fe Railroad facility.

Reacting to the good news about money from the state, Keller commented “I'm grateful to Governor Lujan Grisham, our Legislators, and those from around the state who recognized that in many ways, as Albuquerque goes, so goes much of New Mexico, and made a real investment in helping us fight crime and build our economy will help the whole state."

Keller was right when he said there was a long road ahead, but citizens should take comfort in the fact that—in league with a progressively minded legislature and state administration—making Burque a better place to live will ultimately happen under the aegis of politicians committed to improving the state of our state.