Mayor Keller needs money, and lots of it.
He needs at least $4 million to get a backlog of 4,000 untested rape kits processed, and the police union that endorsed his candidacy has been looking for a $15 million package of pay raises and bonuses to get the police department back up to full strength of 1,000 officers.
And Keller himself said APD needs at least 1,200 officers. That will cost money. So where will Keller find that money?
He doesn't need to look. There's $23 million right in front of his face: the buses for the hated Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
The city has set aside, or encumbered, $23 million for electric buses from the Chinese company, BYD. But as we now know, the nine or 10 buses that have been delivered to the city have lots of problems. The buses and their charging systems haven't yet been certified to meet federal standards, and they've got a host of other problems. So just cancel the bus contract, and, poof!, there's $23 million.
Here's the beauty of this. That $23 million can be used for anything Keller wants because it's city, not federal, money. Because the city hasn't gotten a cent of the $75 million in federal money it was hoping for for ART, it had to scrape up the money on its own to pay for it. The city found that money in unfilled positions in city government. So the money is ours and has no spending limitations.
Surely the city can cancel the bus contract because BYD has already apparently broken it by delivering faulty buses and by failing to get the city all 20 of the buses it ordered by early last October, which is when they were due.
After that, just junk the entire ART project and restripe Central Avenue to what it was before this ART insanity and let's forget this ever happened.
And as for the $15 million in recurring money the city will need to fund all those police officer raises, it's there as well. Former City Councilor Dan Lewis said repeatedly during his unsuccessful mayoral bid that he he had already identified $15 million in recurring city money that could easily be diverted to fund APD.
So in the coming weeks, if the mayor or city councilors start talking about the need for a tax increase to hire more cops and to get those rape kits tested, just shout at them to cancel the ART bus contract and to junk ART itself.
Earlier this week, I asked readers what we should do with ART. Most who answered the question said we should junk it and put Central back to four lanes of traffic. Here are some of their ideas:
Gary Gerew: “I think the line should be extended to take people to Spaceport America.”
Ernest Sturdevant: “Yes, we should re-stripe Central and return it to four lanes of traffic and use the tiny ART stations for public toilets, each named for a member of the Berry Boondoggle team! Heck, I would even pay a quarter to make a deposit in the Terri Cole or Sherman McCorkle publik potty. Imagine, the pause that refreshes in the Rob Perry pissoir!”
Robert Krangle “Use it in place of Zozobra!!! Too late to abandon it. Too expensive to finish it. AND, nobody wants it. WE'RE SCREWED!!!! How about a long, narrow flea market????”
Cary L. Tyler: “Restore the lanes and put these types of buses [U.S. made electric buses] into a route that moves people from the Westside, Journal Center, and Uptown to UNM, Nob Hill and Downtown.”
Sue Flynt: “End it!”
Isaac Albert: “Let people pay to smash & take home souvenirs!”