Past mayors didn't require a ticket to attend 'State of the City' speeches
Wealthy, Powerful Pay to Hear Speech
R.J. doesn’t pretend to like or respect the dollar-store masses
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Let’s be honest. To a politician, the smell of money and the company of bankers, CEOs and construction contractors who nod and smile robotically and agree with your every word is a pleasant experience.
Much more agreeable than the stench of the ill-clad working poor who froth and foam, angrily point fingers in your face, challenge your policies and demand that you listen to them.
All pols pretend to love the masses. They parachute into working-class neighborhoods, take a few bites of meatloaf, hash or a burrito, furrow their brows while expressing deep and abiding concern about the struggles of those who live paycheck to paycheck, and then are whisked back to their corporate suites, private jets, wealthy supporters and expensive beverages.
They pretend, but they are frauds.
Not so, though, with Mayor Richard Berry, and that’s why I’m beginning to love the guy. R.J., as he’s known to his friends, ain’t no fraud. He doesn’t pretend to like or respect the dollar-store masses, nor does he hide it that he prefers the company of CEOs and developers. At least the guy is honest.
R.J. displayed that honesty on Nov. 28 when he gave his annual State of the City address at the Albuquerque Convention Center. There was a $45 charge to get in. That’s right, forty-five bucks to hear an elected official give a boring and meaningless speech.
You can argue that in reality the $45 entrance fee was a fundraiser for the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the speech and sold 610 tickets. Last year, anyone with the price of a $40 ticket could have heard R.J.’s State of the City speech before another group of swells – the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
That a mayor would use a speech about public and civic policy to raise money for private groups is slimy. That he raises money for private groups that unquestionably support him and whose members make money off his policies and projects is slimier than slimy. But someone has to make money in this stagnating town, so why shouldn’t it be R.J.’s pals?
The real genius of R.J.’s pay-to-hear-the-mayor-give-a-worthless-speech scheme is that it keeps car mechanics, retail clerks, plumbers, teachers and other working stiffs who disagree with his policies out of his sight. Forty-five bucks is a decent amount of money, especially when you’re struggling to keep gas in the 15-year-old car and a six-pack in the fridge.
Had R.J.’s 2016 State of the City event been free – as were a combined 16 previous State of the City addresses given by Mayors Marty Chavez and Jim Baca – R.J.’s less well-off critics might have been able to attend and might have dumped on him about the disaster that is the Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff and the yet-to-be-funded $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
And honestly, those ART critics are full of shit. They wouldn’t be bitching about the deal if they owned construction companies and bothered to pony up for a membership in NAIOP – the real estate developers’ version of the Elks Club. Rather than moaning constantly about the poor state of R.J.’s economy, they should get off their asses and become developers. Then they could be R.J.’s friends, and they could afford to pay forty-five bucks to hear his speeches and get a chance to tell him how wonderful he is.
At least R.J. is honest. You can vote for him, but like I said, if you ain’t got the money, stay away. Just hang out at the dollar store.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Contact with story and column ideas at email@example.com.