Thursday, May 19, 2011

ABQ in 25

So I went to a town hall with Mayor Richard Berry at the Historic Kimo Theater last night. The goal was to drum up support for a ballot measure in October that would create a funding stream for investing in our fair city.   If passed, then the mayor, taking cues from us, would spend it on a variety of projects.

Now, to be honest, I didn't vote for Berry.   Even though I didn't know much about him, I generally don't vote for anyone with the Republican brand.  It's kind of a tarnished brand, but I like Mayor Berry.   He's seems to be a smart guy and doesn't have the same sort of ego maniacal vibe that bothered me about Marty.   And the plans he was proposing were well thought out, looked potentially doable, and would benefit Albuquerque.

The possible projects (from what I understand) are all entirely doable so the real input is in which order we choose to do them.

Follow this link to see more specifics, but here's the list:

Bus Rapid Transit
Expo New Mexico
Civic Plaza
Convention Center Facelift
Fourth Street Mall
Barelas Railyard
ABQ Cultural Trail
Regional Sports Parks
50 Mile Bike Loop
Rio Grande Enhancements
Paseo del Norte & I-25 Interchange

Unfortunately the link doesn't have the valuable graphics nor Mayor Berry's comments (I believe that is coming).

Some thoughts:   
1) Many of these projects seem to suggest that we should cater to tourists (Regional Sports Parks, ABQ Cultural Trail, 50 Mile Bike Loop, Convention Center Facelift)

2) And many of these are just quality of life improvements (Paseo del Norte/I-25, Barelas Railyards, Rio Grande Enhancements, Civic Plaza, 4th Street, Bus Rapid Transit, Expo New Mexico)

So the list boils down to two factors:  1) How do we improve life for the people who live here? and 2) How do we attract more tourists?   Arguably, some of the options I list as for tourists will be utilized by residents. But honestly, how many times have you been to the Natural History museum?   I can count the number of times I've been to the Natural History Museum on one hand, because I go to museums when I visit other cities (I go to Chicago about once a year).   Thus, I'd bet that a lot of the cultural amenities serve more tourists than residents.   Just a guess...I could be way off here.   Likewise, as a biker, I love the idea of a 50 mile loop around the city that is safe and contiguous.   But, as a biker, I don't ride that way.   The Loop seems set up for recreational users, not commuters.  

Now, I'm biased in favor of projects that will benefit my life.   So, the ideas I liked:   Bus Rapid Transit, Railyard, 4th Street, Civic Plaza, Rio Grande Enhancement, and the Bike Loop (with hopes that it would also greatly improve biking infrastructure as well overall).   The Paseo/I-25 interchange?   I know that people have hellish commutes and this particular interchange really needs a facelift, but frankly, I don't care.  If you seriously enjoy living out on the fringes of ABQ and don't mind driving everywhere, then we aren't going to see eye to eye.  Ever.  You don't like your commute?  Move closer to where you "live."  

I also am not terribly enthused by all his choices of cities that he visited.  I know that many people tout the OKC canals, but come on?   Seriously?   A canal in Oklahoma?   I'm sorry... even though we can't boast of being the home of the Flaming Lips, ABQ is way cooler than OKC.   There's no comparison.

Now, I'm from Denver, but using the 16th Street Mall as an example is a bit unsettling too.   The 16th Street Mall is basically a glorified mall with corporate chains dominating the area.   And the subsequent development took one of the rare historical gems of LoDo (Larimer Street) and turned it into an upscale shopping district. In case you don't know your literary history-Larimer Street was basically where Neal Cassady grew up.   It was the area that Jack and Neal would visit when they came through town.  Now  its a string of upscale galleries.  Yuck!  If you want to visit the most vibrant, creative part of Denver, it's not the 16th Street Mall; it's Colfax Avenue in Capital Hill.   

What other cities did he visit?  Indianapolis, Orlando, Chicago.   If I remember correctly, he didn't visit Austin, Portland, Seattle, Oakland.   And this seems to point out how different Mayor Berry is from me.  I know he'd say he's not opposed to cultural amenities and many of the projects would benefit our artistic heritage, but nothing was specifically designed for arts.   Lots of explicit emphasis on sports, but nothing explicitly for arts.

But this is just my opinion.

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