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Albuquerque bonds to tackle key election issues of public safety and housing

Albuquerque Fire Rescue ladder truck
Wikimedia Commons
Albuquerque Fire Rescue ladder truck

Two of the seven City of Albuquerque bonds on the ballot in the Nov. 7 election go towards issues top-of-mind for many residents, elected officials and city council candidates alike: public safety and housing. Albuquerque Fire Rescue — not police — would see the biggest chunk of the $25 million public safety bond, and affordable housing would get the single largest windfall from another $35 million pot of money up for voter approval.

Public Safety Bond

While many of Albuquerque’s elected officials and candidates propose more police with a bigger budget as part of the solution to the city’s public safety, studies have not consistently shown that would have a positive or significant impact on the crime rate. That, along with APD ranking second in the nation for fatal police shootings over the last decade, according to the Mapping Police Violence Database, means some voters may be hesitant to send more money their way. However, this year’s “public safety” bond allocation reflects a broader approach to the issue.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue would get the largest slice of the pot of money with $8 million set aside for “new fire stations,” according to the city. However, Alejandro Marrufo, the deputy chief of planning, logistics and finance for AFR, said that’s only really enough to cover some of the cost of a single station. The department has earmarked it for a new Fire Station Four in the Wells Park neighborhood.

“There’s several stations that need to be rebuilt that are 40 to 50 — some are even 60 years old,” he said. “But that area is seeing some revitalization and that new fire station will be a nice hub right there of new construction.”

Marrufo said the department plans to supplement the bond with state funds allocated in the last legislative session to complete the project. It’ll then repurpose the existing building to house its specialty divisions and a training facility for AFR and other fire departments across the state.

“Almost like a mini academy hub, but right in the middle of Albuquerque,” he said.

Another $4.3 million of the public safety bond would be put into firefighting equipment, which Marrufo said would be used to replace only a couple of its oldest fire trucks.

“In the last few years, these prices, with inflation and with materials costs, have gone up about 30% to 40%,” he said.

A standard fire truck today is about $900,000 and a larger ladder truck is just under $2 million, according to Marrufo.

If the bond passes, he said the department would purchase the trucks right away, but they aren’t just sitting on a lot somewhere ready to be picked up. They’re all custom and, “Since COVID, the timeline has gone up significantly. Fire trucks are taking three to four years to build,” Marrufo said.

That means, if the bond doesn’t pass, it’ll be a long way out til Albuquerque Fire Rescue’s aging fleet, along with the station, are replaced.

“These bonds are crucial to AFR,” Marrufo said. “Buildings, facilities, trucks — that’s what this is critical to.”

An additional $2 million from the bond would be invested in upkeep for existing fire department facilities.

Each council district would also get a cut of the bond, splitting nearly $2 million total between fire/rescue and police.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which serves as a police alternative for mental health emergencies along with calls about substance use and homelessness, would also get $1 million to build out their facilities. APD would receive $6 million for theirs.

The last $1.5 million of the city’s public safety bond would go toward the Regional Transportation Management Center to build out an emergency operations center

Housing, Redevelopment and Community Enhancement Bond

The name of the $35 million “senior family community center homeless affordable housing Metropolitan Redevelopment and Community Enhancement bond” shows just how much these funds would go toward.

Amid a housing crisis in the state’s largest city, the most sizable line item in the plan for the bond is for affordable housing, at $7.5 million. The city would put the money toward plans, designs and construction, as well as acquiring land. Mayor Tim Keller has said the city aims to build 5,000 new units by 2025 as part of his “Housing Forward ABQ” initiative.

Another of Keller’s initiatives aimed at supporting unhoused residents is the Gibson Health Hub, which includes the Gateway Center emergency shelter along with other tenants providing medical, behavioral health and social services. Voters will decide if the hub should receive $5 million to improve its facility in the old Lovelace Hospital and upgrade its security systems.

The city’s efforts to “revitalize” neighborhoods across the metro through public/private partnerships are also set to see some of the money. The city’s Metropolitan Redevelopment Agency hasa list of over 20 areas that fit the bill and would get a share of $3.5 million from the bond. These funds would not only go toward land and construction, but also building finances for private sector redevelopment in the target communities.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Rail Yards, which hosts a weekly market of local vendors and other community events, would receive $2 million. Those funds would not only go toward preventing the deterioration of the buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but also reduce environmental contamination as the facility is renovated.

The Albuquerque community at large would also see investment through the city’s community centers. Seven centers would see anywhere from $500,000 and $4 million dollars for renovations and equipment. Those include Loma Linda, Joan Jones, Snow Park and Westgate Community Centers, along with Highland Senior Center and Manzano Mesa and Cibola Loop Multigenerational Centers.

The city’s bonds are paid for by property taxes, though approval of this year’s bonds won’t increase the tax rate. According to the city, the amount is determined by tax payments, the 13-year bond repayment schedule, the tax collection rate and tax base growth.

Election Day is Nov. 7. Early voting is already underway until Nov. 4.

Support for this coverage comes from the Thornburg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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