Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Topgolf: Why It May Be The Best We Can Do, Plus: The Stunning And Unanimous Rebuke Of Keller By City Councilors 

The debate over taxpayer subsidies to attract a $39 million Topgolf location has laid bare the fundamental and deep-seated problems facing ABQ, the state's so-called economic engine.

While opponents of the $2.6 million in subsidies approved  last night by the ABQ City Council decry the low-paying Topgolf jobs (350 full and part-time jobs at $8 to $12 an hour) calling it a giveaway, the fact is Topgolf is who we are. How?

ABQ has not attracted a significant number of high paying jobs since the Great Recession hit ten years ago. It's not about to happen now because. . .

--Our students' subpar education performance has not prepared much of our workforce for the good jobs being created. Those are going to Austin, Denver and elsewhere. Those that are prepared for those jobs here, go there.

--The city's unrelenting crime wave makes ABQ a pariah to the tech companies that are on the move. Topgolf can live with it because they get loads of cheap labor that already lives here.

In the context of an anemic and out-of-position economy Topgolf makes sense for the city. There are literally tens of thousands of high school dropouts and high school graduates who cannot find enough employment. They desperately need work to pay the rent. Many work two or three jobs to do so and Topgolf will give them another option.

Yes, that's what we have become. Mayor Keller is right that the subsidies are bad policy and bad precedent, but where will the jobs come from, if we don't ramp up our educational performance and solve our crime wave? What is to happen to the thousands of young people ill-prepared for the future? Even more drugs? Even more crime?

Topgolf asked for incentives because they knew how despairing we were over the jobs outlook. They knew the city council would be receptive, So would the job-seekers who lack the skills for pie in the sky "economic base jobs" that pay well and that the mayor and the business community insist can be brought back. But they aren't here and Topgolf is.

Wealthy ABQ contractors received tens of millions  from the Berry administration to build the disastrous ART project. If we're going to hand out welfare money to the city's elites we might as well hand some of it to our kids who are willing to work for ten bucks an hour in a city that has turned its back on them. In the bizarre context of our times jobs welfare for Topgolf makes sense. Actually, it's the best we can do.


The relationship between Mayor Keller and the nine member ABQ City Council hit rock bottom last night when the council overrode the Mayor's veto of a resolution  for Topgolf incentives on a 9 to zero vote. Has any mayor suffered a defeat that big at council?

Keller plowed ahead and was rebuked by all six Democrats and three Republicans. (The final vote on the actual ordinance pertaining to Topgolf was 8 to 1, with GOP Councilor Don Harris opposed.)

Veteran politico Steve Cabiedes says Keller's veto was the result of being a "political newbie":

He learned how to count votes when he was in the state Senate and he apparently needs to relearn how. To waste his political capital in such a way as he did on Topgolf is reckless and weakens him. 

City Hall insiders added that the vote signals that the council, dormant for the eight years of Republican Berry, is now ready to again exert itself. Said one:

You have to learn to pick your battles. That's a cardinal rule and the Mayor picked the wrong battle. He is going to have to reset his relationship with the council. 

Keller won election last year in a huge landslide but last night it seemed it never happened. The council appeared unconcerned about any mayoral consequences as they unanimously rebuked him.

9 to zero. The rookie Mayor was shut out. Now he must maneuver just to get back in the game.


Mayor Keller's PR mavens trotted out a defense of his first six months in office after 2013 mayoral contender and former Dem ABQ City Councilor Pete Dinelli awarded him a mediocre grade of "C" in a Journal op-ed column.

Among those enlisted to counter that assessment was former Dem ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez who Dinelli served under as a public safety officer. Chavez, a three term holder of the office, says Keller has been "rock steady"in executing his job. He points out that Keller inherited "a mess" from former Mayor Berry when it comes to the crime wave and ART. Chavez did not give Keller a grade.

After what happened to Keller at the city council meeting last night, Marty might want to shop his op-ed to them.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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