'We came together and we are stronger than ever and are demanding positive change' -- Mayor Richard Berry
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Despite a summer that saw one Albuquerque police officer and a half dozen other people killed, an escalating crime rate and negative national publicity, the City of Albuquerque is stronger than ever, Mayor Richard Berry said Tuesday.
That’s because city residents have come together to demand positive change, Berry said in his annual state of the city address. “We have had a tough summer,” Berry told a crowd of more than 500 at the Embassy Suites hotel downtown. “But when tragedy strikes a community we have to make choices.” Those choices include ignoring the problems, or becoming engaged and demanding action, he said. “We came together and we are stronger than ever and are demanding positive change,” he said.
Despite the high-profile crimes there have been several good signs for the city, including an economy that, while still not back to its pre-recession jobs level, has been adding jobs for the past 36 months. The city is nearing its goal of getting all its homeless veterans into permanent housing, and its program of putting panhandlers to work for $9 an hour is getting interest from cities all over the nation, Berry said.
Berry outlined his agenda for the upcoming 30-day legislative session, and it contained no surprises. He wants a tougher “Three-strikes” law, a constitutional amendment to allow judges deny bail to violent repeat offenders, a bill to make crimes against police officers hate crimes, and a bill that would allow cities to set curfews for teenagers.
“We want to make this a tougher place to be a repeat offender,” Berry said in advocating for his legislative agenda.
Berry also detailed the huge hit the metro area’s economy took during the recession, which included the loss of 29,000 jobs. The area has added 13,500 jobs since 2012, Berry said, adding that he wants to make Albuquerque “the most entrepreneurial center in America,” as well as a national and international distribution hub for goods.
Berry touted his proposed 10-mile, $100 million bus rapid transit line down Central Avenue, saying studies have shown it would generate $2 billion in additional investment throughout the corridor. He said his policy of fiscal responsibility has led to five consecutive years of padding the city’s budgetary reserves, as well as five years of budgets that have grown less than the rate of inflation.
“We are back on good, solid fiscal ground,” Berry said.
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