With around 20 days left in the year 2019, you might think that the news staff at Weekly Alibi is busy looking through all that happened during the past year or, better yet, sitting around some felt-covered gaming table, dishing out plastic poker chips and prognosticating about what’s bound to happen en el porvenir.
The truth is that we’re thinking about right now, the things currently in fashion, news-wise, around The Duke City and The Land of Enchantment. We’ll save those other two exploratory activities for next week, when we cover the whole ball of wax in the clothing of dawn as we head into 2020 with our yearly double-issue, end-of-year news extravaganza.
In the meantime, here’s a closer look at the news that sailed down the internet and ended up getting our attention this week as the rest of the world turned and turned and turned.
The Southeast portion of Albuquerque, at least that part that comprises City Council District 6, is moving forward with an International District Economic Development Center (IDEDC). The city-financed facility is designed to offer resources and opportunities to businesses in a sometimes overlooked, financially fragile yet totally vibrant part of this town that is represented by recently and resoundingly re-elected City Councilor Pat Davis and his progressive cohort, Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins.
As readers recall, Hart Stebbins voted in favor of the employee sick leave ordinance proposal put before the council last summer. The commissioner continued to show her commitment to working families in her district with her continued advocacy for the International District’s new economic development center. Davis, it should be noted, was reelected on the strength of his deep understanding of the International District and by extension, the very diverse and sometimes mercurial City of Albuquerque.
Located near the corner of Central and Wyoming—hey, isn’t that the intersection that saw family joints like Pancho’s Mexican Buffett replaced by a series of slowly degenerating storefronts until folks like then-State Senator Tim Keller, and then a slightly younger Councilor Davis stepped up to bring the once proud geographic area back to life?—the new center was originally scheduled to open this past August and will continue to provide a needed upgrade for the International District.
Both Davis and Hart Stebbins agreed that the Center will provide a timely path forward for residents. Davis said, “IDEDC is exactly the kind of community-led program that we should be supporting,” while Hart Stebbins added, “The International District will be well-served by this collaboration among residents, the private sector, and City and County governments. No one knows better the needs of this community than the people who live here and I'm proud to support their work.
Of course the mayor is on board, too, and put the whole project in perspective when he told the press, “The International District is an underserved but resourceful community, and this kind of strategic investment will support economic growth from the ground up, helping local entrepreneurs succeed and filling gaps that have created significant barriers for the community. The City and County have come together in support, but this is a community-driven effort to empower businesses to succeed, and they deserve all the credit.”
That’s good news for a city that’s doing its damnest to engage and sustain economic recovery, but it’s only part of the picture. The truth is—that despite the advances made by Keller and Co. on the home front—the mayor’s two-year-old administration continues to suffer from the cold and windy gusts created by a seemingly implacable and growing criminal element.
The thing is, to really understand this problem, one needs to reference the past. And no, of course Keller and his progressive polices are not to blame what we as a city have to account for now.
The Keller administration inherited much of what it currently faces because of events that transpired and were allowed to fester during the tenure of Richard Berry. Berry, who had strong political connections to the now wrecked political machine captained by la Tejana Susana, repeatedly resisted efforts to set the course right for the then-troubled Albuquerque Police Department. Berry also went along with then-Governor Martinez’ wholesale decommissioning and subsequent abandonment of mental and public health programs that were put in place by the Richardson adminstration—and to a lesser extent by the Chavez administration here in Albuquerque—to address the roots of urban crime, poverty and addiction.
Keller inherited a seriously broken municipal governance system. It will surely take more than one term as mayor to make the needed adjustments.
The other memorable news that reached our desk had to do with the results of that formerly hobbled system, still reeling from the missed steps that still yield deadly consequences.
As of the time this is being written, Albuquerque has suffered a record-breaking number of homicides this year. But the alleged offender in APD homicide case number 74 was apprehended quickly and Keller told the teevee news that, “Violent crime is our community’s biggest challenge and tackling it is our top priority. We are working to climb out of the hole and rebuild a depleted police department.” The mayor’s earnest honesty in this matter should be a point of reflection for those who have given up on progressivism and then begin to blame the most likely source of civic rejuvenation to come up to bat in at least 12 years in The Duke City, New Mexico.
Keller clearly needs more time to prove his critics wrong; whether they will give him that time is dependent on the success of his administration’s broader economic and public health initiatives. That work, in coordination with community voices and leaders like Davis and Hart Stebbins, will make all the difference now and in the future.