Before he became mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller sat through his share of State of the City and State of the State addresses.
He learned how mayors and governors talk: mention how great the city or state is, discuss the problems and what’s holding it back, and end with big-picture concepts.
"It’s a pretty good formula for a speech," he said. "I want to do something a little bit different today."
Keller began his six-month State of the City update Monday as the NAIOP guest speaker at Albuquerque Marriott by saying the touristy photos of the city don’t always line up with reality.
"We’re a city that is stricken by addiction, that is dealing with real crime problems that are worse then they’ve been in recent years," Keller said. "We’re a city, I think, that is treading water just to keep up.
"It’s going to be a hot summer. It’s going to be a summer, I think unfortunately, no matter what we do today, [that] will be marked by homelessness, marked by crime and wildfires."
He said the city is long on ideas, but short on solutions, and said it cannot rely on bigger companies, or "silver bullets," to save it.
Keller laid out three tasks that should Albuquerque solve, it could compete with cities like Denver, Phoenix and Austin in neighboring states: get crime under control, figure out strategic placemaking with businesses and place a higher emphasis on after-school and youth summer programs. Placemaking is strategically placing economic development projects where they benefit the surrounding community.
The mayor said the city submitted a budget that will have the resources to beef up the police enough to make a dent in crime, should it get passed, drawing applause from the audience at the meeting hosted by NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association.
For each public project the city will explore, Keller said he will ask if it builds on Albuquerque’s core, if it’s part of a growing trend nationally, if it will help the city become a national leader in something, if it will add economic-based jobs that will pull money into the city rather than dividing it, and if it will be a part of strategic placemaking.
"That’s how we make step-change development in Albuquerque," the mayor said.
Keller touched on his new initiative to review all out-of-state contracts and said he hoped businesses in the audience could land some of the contracts that come up for grabs.
When Keller was state auditor, a transparency report from his office found that New Mexico’s information technology industry had the highest proportion of large contracts awarded out of state of any industry.
In fiscal year 2015, New Mexico spent about $40 million out of $48 million on IT contracts worth $60,000 or more outside the state, amounting to 84 cents of every dollar spent on IT going to outside companies, the report said.
"We have to actually try and hit the target, instead of looking for other solutions," Keller said Monday, "and to do this, we have to come together as one Albuquerque."