The ShakeDown | A Mayor’s Project
Did you know?
The City of Albuquerque is attempting to divert millions of dollars from pocket of poverty (POP) communities (San Jose, S. Broadway, Barelas, Martinez Town, Wells Park, Sawmill, and Los Griegos) for projects related to the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit.
In the 1980’s, the City of Albuquerque received several Urban Development Action Grants (UDAG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 1987, the city passed an ordinance creating the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund, otherwise known as the UDAG funds. The ordinance also created the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund Committee (HNEDFC) to oversee the allocation of the UDAG funding. In addition, the HNEDFC is responsible for making recommendations and ensuring the use of these funds is consistent with the HNEDF two-year and ten-year strategic plans and ensuring active community involvement in the comprehensive plan development. The ordinance stipulates that the available funding is to be split in half: 50% for housing and 50% for economic development.
Fast Forward to 2016:
On February 18, 2016, the Housing and Neighborhood Ecnoomic Development Fund Committee held a public meeting to share their plan regarding the use of $5 million dollars remaining in the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund (formerly known as UDAG fund). There was very low attendance, minimal public notification – if any beyond a required notification on the city website with the incorrect time – or outreach to impacted communities. At this meeting, there was no public comment or Q & A on the agenda and no official minutes were recorded. There was no provision for the meeting to be recorded and broadcast. City representatives and contracted consultants shared the plan and explained that the ‘process’ had been expedited in an effort to secure another, separate, TOD (transit oriented development) grant in the amount of 860K dollars to be used only for consultant services. Not physical construction. The grant deadline was approaching quickly and so a sense of urgency was presented. What was being presented would clearly require a rewrite of the ordinance by our City Council and that would take a month at best. Whether or not there would be a rigorous debate at council or opposition did not seem to be a concern.
As part of the pitch to sale this newly devised use of the HNEDF funds, participants were told that the $5 Million of HNEDF had not been used since 2007 and that the money from the UDAG fund was the only source available as it would be exempted from the provisions of the Anti-Donation Clause and other tax liabilities. Beyond the members of the HNEDF committee, representatives from the pocket of poverty communities may or may have been aware those funds exist. However, as the Fund and the Comprehensive Plan as well as the committee itself , have largely been ignored by this Administration and Mayor Berry, it would be reasonable to assume they had little knowledge. In fact, the HNEDF committee is lacking two mayoral neighborhood appointees and is itself not properly constituted, prompting concern that the committee may be in violation and producing work product that is not sustainable under legal challenge.
It was obvious that the public outreach of the first meeting had been a complete failure as not even our City Council had been made aware of the meeting, let alone the general public. In reaction to that, a second meeting was scheduled for February 25. That meeting consisted of 3 break out sessions: a camera setup in an adjacent auditorium served as public comment, a discussion group that focused on economic development, and a separate discussion group for housing. The governing rules for public meetings state that groups are not to be divided into sub-groups. Beyond that obvious violation, participating public members, many vested in the POP neighborhoods, were not allowed their right to full participation as the two discussions and the public comment recording happened concurrently, restricting one’s ability to participate fully. You either got to give comment or participate in one of the two dialogue sessions.
Participants provided public comment and asked for the dates and minutes of the HNEDF Committee meetings for 2015 & 2016. City staff informed participants that they could acquire those documents at the City Clerks office. At this meeting, it was verbally announced in the economic development breakout group, that changes had been made to the first plan presented at the public meeting held February 18.
On March 2, participants of the first two public meetings received email correspondence stating that the TOD grant deadline had been extended and that City staff, City consultants, and HNEDF Committee members would not take their plan to the City Council until May. More public meetings would be scheduled.
On March 2, a community member went to the City of Albuquerque’s Office of the City Clerk to obtain the minutes from the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Fund Committee meetings for 2015 and 2016. The community member was informed there was nothing on file for 2015 and 2016 for the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund Committee meetings or any record of any public notification. On March 4, participants received an email informing them that the public comment given at the first HNEDF public meeting, held on February 25, had been lost. Participants that had given public comment in the empty auditorium, to the camera, were invited to re-submit their comments via email and were asked to help locate the other community members that had provided public comment.
HNEDF Committee Proposals for the remaining $5 Million Dollars UDAG Funds: 2.5 million for Economic Development
The HNEDF Committee is proposing that City Council approve using these funds outside of the originally intended pocket of poverty district as well as within the current pocket of poverty district. They are asking the City Council to extend the pocket of poverty boundary to Louisiana Blvd. and West of the River. (Sources: HNEDF Public Meeting Held on February 18 and February 25, HNEDF Proposed Plan Elements as of February 22, 2016)
- $2 Million for Small Business Preparation in the Central Corridor Fund. Eligibility for this fund would extend the original pocket of poverty district, west of the river and east of Yale to encompass the full construction zone. Phase 1: $1 Million. Phase 2: $450,000. Phase 3: $450,000. If needed for staffing the Biz Advancement Teams Door to Door Outreach July 2016 to June 17, $100,000. Phase 1 and 2 eligibility for Central Avenue addresses only.
- Phase 3 extend eligibility 1 block North and South of Central Ave. (Source: HNEDF Proposed Plan Elements as of 2/22/16) Community Concern: This leaves out small businesses in S. Broadway, San Jose, Barelas, Martinez Town, Wells Park, Sawmill, and Los Griegos. Second, was there a public call for proposals for the organizations that would carry out this work?
- Economic Development: $450,000.00 TOD Building Repositioning Fund. This would provide loans to assist with buildings that are underutilized within 5/8 of a mile of A.R.T. transit stops. (Sources: HNEDF Proposed Plan Elements as of February 22, 2016, Changes of Original HNEDF Proposed Plan Elements Discussed at HNEDF Public Meeting Held on February 25, 2016, email for city consultants on February 29)
- Economic Development: $50,000.00 Job Linkage Program. Talent ABQ will work with partners in pockets of poverty to conduct an estimated 900 assessments, 750 skill up enrollees, 25 partner employers who will interview 300 for jobs based on their skills. (Sources: HNEDF Proposed Plan Elements as of February 22, 2016 FAQ)
- What research and strategic plan is this proposal being based on?
- Why is this fund being considered for A.R.T. related projects and in a spirit that seems contrary to the City Council Ordinance that created the fund?
- Why is the last known Comprehensive Plan being ignored?
- Do all of the communities in the original pocket know of the proposed broadening of the original district?
- Have the POP communities been made aware of these proposed changes and how these proposed changes will deplete the fund to zero? The last Comprehensive Plan indicates there should be effort to maintain the funds in perpetuity as possible, but especially as it relates to loans. In fact, the fund has lasted for all these years, in large part, due to loan re-payments made to the fund. The 2 million dollar, revolving construction loan, will also be zeroed out and no longer available.
- The 5/8 of a mile for the A.R.T. eligibility requirements would exclude S. Broadway, San Jose, and Los Grigeos. Does Martinez Town, Wells Park, Sawmill, and Barelas fall within the 5/8 requirement of the A.R.T transit stops?
- Why and how did Talent ABQ get selected? What sort of public process was there? According to the HNEDF Ten Strategic Plan from 1993 to 2003, the last known ten year strategic plan, states that projects should not duplicate work that already exists. Rather than Talent ABQ getting this money, why not look at existing organizations in the original pocket of poverty district that have a history of accomplishing this work?
One prominent community member and ART supporter said:
I *STRONGLY OPPOSE* the administration’s efforts to cash out the $5 million HNEDF (formerly UDAG) fund reserved for the “Pocket of Poverty” neighborhoods in order to fund forgivable loans to businesses along the TOD [ART] corridor. The protocol, process, and parameters of that fund have all been patently ignored in the scramble to divert millions to support ART. This is a disservice to the residents of Albuquerque’s historic communities, many of whom have poured countless hours into crafting the criteria for how that fund should be disbursed. The HNEDF fund was constituted to build capacity and increase civic engagement in Albuquerque’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, not to support business owners in Nob Hill.
Community Recommendations for Plan of Action:
Stop the current proposed HNEDF plan. Start a new and transparent process to develop a community-based plan.
Decisions on the use of the Housing and Neighborhood Economic Development Fund should be:
- Based on an updated ten year strategic plan.
- Based on an updated audit of the current funds available in the HNEDF in addition to outlining how the funds have been used over the life of the project.
- Based on a transparent decision-making process in accordance with the City of Albuquerque’s Open Meetings Act and the community participation and leadership requirements outlined in the 1993-2003 Housing and Economic Development in the Pocket of Poverty Ten-Year Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan.
What you can do?
Call Councilor Isaac Benton (505) 768-3186 or firstname.lastname@example.org and the other City Councilors. Voice your opposition to the HNEDF being spent down for the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit. Demand transparency and community participation.
Call Senator Martin Heinrich (505) 346-6601 & Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (505) 346-6781
(For More Information on Community Perspectives & To Get Involved Send an email to email@example.com)
Emails: Elected Governing Board of the City of Albuquerque, NM
Draft of minutes of “2nd public meeting’ regarding ART