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Albuquerque mayor gives his final State of the City address

Albuquerque mayor gives his final State of the City address

Kai Porter and KOB.com Web Staff
September 25, 2017 08:58 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. --  Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry delivered his final State of the City address Monday, addressing various facets of the city while also giving updates on initiatives like the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. 

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ON CRIME

The city's skyrocketing crime rate took up a big portion of the mayor's speech. Berry blamed the surge in crime on what he called significant successive disruptions in the criminal justice system.

Berry said the crime rate started to rise in 2014 after four years of record low crime rates. He blamed the new case management order, which set shorter timelines for processing criminal cases. It's resulted in cases being dismissed left and right, he said.

The mayor also blamed the new risk assessment tool known as the Arnold Tool that has resulted in the majority of defendants being released without having to pay a bond.

"Look, no one – including myself – is suggesting that we need to put 2,000 people back in jail," he said. "Jail reduction is a laudable and achievable, but I think most reasonable people would agree that what's happening in our jail here that reduction has gone too far, too fast. There are likely hundreds who are doing harm in our community who should not have that opportunity."

Berry said the county's jail population has been reduced by 60 percent since he took office as a result of the criminal justice system changes, which caused crime to go up.

The mayor took a moment to demonstrate how the city is taking on the problem by literally shedding light on it.

"Crime does not like a stage, and to help deter crime to protect the public, better lighting is better. More lightning is better," he said.

Last July, an #abq4ward report highlighted a 2008 study, that found lighting neighborhoods significantly reduces crime. The city has plenty of dark spots.     

During his address, Berry explained a partnership with a company called Citelum to convert 20,000 street lights to LED. Berry said the project will pay for itself with energy cost savings, enough to pay for more lighting in high-crime areas.

A video demonstration features side-by-side comparisons, showing how the project would increase light intensity. It would also improve color temperature compared to the typical yellow-hued street light. The new lights promise better color perception at night, along with lower energy consumption and reduced light pollution.

Berry hopes to have the project underway by the time he leaves office in December.

ON JOBS

Berry said the city's economy is growing, diversifying and generating jobs at a faster rate than when he took office eight years ago.

The mayor said Albuquerque lost more than 23,000 jobs in the two years before he took office and 6,700 more jobs during his first two years in office. But since July 2012, Albuquerque has seen 46 straight months of job growth, adding 25,000 new jobs in the process.

"Our unemployment rate has dropped by 30 percent during the last eight years," he said. "Median incomes are up and poverty is down. Consumer confidence has increased, and that has led to more local spending. We have enjoyed seven consecutive years of GRT growth, even after the state began taking millions of dollars' worth of revenue away through the phase-out of hold harmless funding that was put in place years ago."

Berry also talked about the city's efforts to attract high-profile startup companies like Lavu to bring their business to Albuquerque.

ON ART

The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project hasn't churned on without controversy, with drivers complaining about construction and some businesses saying it drove away customers.

Berry acknowledged it hasn't been an easy process, but he said the long-term benefits will be worth it. ART is 80 percent complete, which he said makes it ahead of schedule, he said. At this point, it's expected to be finished sometime in January.

Berry said ART will make it easier to get around town. He also thanked business owners who have dealt with the construction.

"So it's going to be the first all-electric in America, a bus rapid transit. It will be ranked as one of the very best in the U.S., one of the best in the world, and it's going to be put on the forefront." he said. "And it's been hard. I want to say thank you to all the businesses and everybody along Central Avenue who have been able to weather the storm with us and put up with the disruption."

Click here for the full transcript of Berry's speech as prepared.

Credits

Kai Porter and KOB.com Web Staff

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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