Wednesday, January 10, 2018

ART Facade Collapses Under Fresh Scrutiny; Berry's Folly Is Now Keller's "Lemon" Plus: How To Fix It And Who To Hold Accountable  

Maybe Mayor Keller ought to give a contract to Merry Maids for a year considering the amount of mopping up there is to do of the epic messes left by Mayor Berry's administration.

Nowhere is the mess more in plain view than the ART project on Central Avenue, the subject of a Keller news conference Tuesday where the ugly truth about the widely criticized bus plan finally surfaced. In short, the project is a "lemon" Keller reported and there is no way to say when it will be operational. (Full video here.)

Sounds like the NM Spaceport, doesn't it?

The myriad flaws in ART include the electric buses from a California-based Chinese owned company that were red flagged back in 2013. The company is called BYD for Build Your Dreams but for ABQ it's more like Bring Your Dollars--and don't expect them back.

More on BYD's history of problems herehere and here.


What to do? The Alligators, always eager to get in on a crisis, come with this:

--Forget the electric buses and use and/or refurbish the current Rapid Ride buses and cut your losses.

--Consider suing the Chinese company for its incompetence which has helped cause the delay and use any compensation to help pay for ART. (Can American courts even get at the firm?) (The city doesn't have to pay for the buses until the company fulfills the contract of over $20 million).

--Audit the bus purchase deal. Was it "greased" as was the city contract for Taser for police lapel cameras that was investigated by then-Auditor Keller, an investigation that still sits on the desk of Attorney General Balderas.

--Request that State Auditor Wayne Johnson probe the bus contract and hold the Berry administration accountable. (Or Hector probes?)

--Hold accountable the local contractors whose work is going to have to be redone because of their errors and don't use tax dollars to pay for the needed repairs.

--We may need some kind of financial breaks for businesses along Central that have been hoping and praying that the project would be up and running but now could face a year of more lost business.

--Hire more transit police to encourage more ridership on the system, the number one reason people cite for not taking the bus.


It isn't only Mayor Berry and his Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry who are responsible for what may be the most bungled capital improvement project in city history. It is also the asleep-at-the-switch City Council that apparently signed off on the Chinese buses and the entire ART concept, all the while ignoring outraged citizens who predicted the disaster.

Keller made sure he said he "inherited" the boondoggle lest the public start turning on him, a public that polling shows is overwhelmingly opposed to ART.

Now Keller will soon be off to Dallas to meet with federal transit officials about $75 million in federal money that Mayor Berry said was a lock for ART. Only it isn't and Keller held open the possibility it may never come.

Build your dream, Albuquerque, only find one other than ART. That's now a dream that used to be.


Before the Mayor's new conference veteran ABQ PR man John Cordova gave him this advice:

Keller must be clear about the failure to include the public in the planning for ART. The consequences of that failure is what we are seeing now. The business owners and engaged public knew that the ART plans were not realistic or practical but were ignored.  They sensed that ART was not primarily a transit project but a real estate development project. Keller must be completely honest about this failure or the Berry people will hang this failure around his administration's neck.


Former ABQ Transit Director, city councilor and ABQ attorney Greg Payne, who is on Mayor Keller's transition team for the transit department, came with this:

There really are only two possible explanations for the A.R.T. fiasco. Either this was gross negligence and incompetence on the part of city officials like R.J. Berry, Rob Perry, and Transit Director Bruce Rizzieri - or we’ve got some very serious Taser-like corruption on our hands that demands a full accounting and a thorough investigation. 

This disaster didn’t just happen for innocent or inexplicable reasons. And we shouldn’t just shrug our collective shoulders as a city - like we usually do -and try to put lipstick on this latest City Hall pig. There needs to be an accounting, and people need to be held responsible.


With the addition of a candidate for State Treasurer the R's now have contenders positioned for all the statewide executive offices on the '18 ballot--except Sec. of State:

New Mexico native Arthur Castillo announced his candidacy for State Treasurer. As the former CFO for the Treasurer and Director of Budget and Finance, Castillo has the passion for New Mexico and experience to manage the State Treasurer’s Office. “As a proven financial planner, budgeting professional, grant writer, and administrator, I plan to restore honesty, responsibility, and accountability to the Office of State Treasurer,” Castillo said. 

That sounds like a slap against current Dem State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg who is seeking re-election and unopposed for the Dem nomination. He is heavily favored for another term but it appears Castillo will try to put him through his paces.


We were saddened to learn of the death of Stan Fulton, the 86 year old owner of the Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino in Dona Ana County. We worked closely with Stan years ago when our PR firm advised him in a lengthy battle over the proposed opening of a rival casino. He was a salt of the earth guy who made a fortune in the slot machine business in Vegas and bought Sunland Park in 2000. Sunland's longtime lobbyist Scott Scanland said:

Stan leaves a tremendous legacy. Over the years he made contributions of $17 million to NM State University and he didn't even live here but resided in Las Vegas. That legacy will continue for the university since he has left a share of the ownership of Sunland Park to the school.

NMSU Chancellor and former Governor Garrey Carruthers will travel to Fulton's funeral Friday in Maryland, bringing with him the spirit of a deeply thankful university community. RIP, Stan. . . .

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