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Payne tanks stadium proposal

Councilman says local police department needs more support from city

City Councilman and mayoral candidate Greg Payne outlined problems with the proposed baseball stadium and the Albuquerque Police Department Wednesday at a College Republicans meeting.

Payne represents District 8 —the Foothills and Far Northeast Heights of Albuquerque. He said he strongly disagrees with building a new baseball stadium in the Downtown area because he feels the money could be well spent elsewhere.

He said Albuquerque is having difficulty funding basic programs such as law enforcement, education and public libraries. Payne said the argument that the stadium would bring economic development to the city is mostly unfounded because no one can guarantee the new stadium would attract more people.

“Not a lot of people go to games,” Payne said. “We’re gambling on the city’s future. We don’t have the economic base to support something like that.”

He said Mayor Jim Baca promised the stadium at no cost to taxpayers, but Payne said that is unreasonable. Payne said Tucson, Ariz., built a $37 million baseball stadium for triple-A baseball and it wasn’t supposed to affect taxpayers, but it became a $3 million drain on Tucson’s budget.

Payne said the mayor wants the stadium built, but he hasn’t given many details to the council about potential problems. He said the mayor has only pressured the City Council to support the new stadium.

“It’s like dealing with a used car salesman,” he said. “If we had any common sense, we’d get up and walk away.”

Payne said another one of city’s bigger problems that should be addressed is the Albuquerque Police Department and its lack of resources. He said APD is about 100 officers short of what it needs to service the city, which means officers have to prioritize calls and can’t help everybody in the community.

He said the APD would need 930 officers to adequately serve the city, but it really should have at least 1,000 officers. He added that recent studies have shown that the APD is one of the lowest paid police departments in salary and benefits, which does not attract more officers.

Payne said he is not in favor of raising taxes to help with the police shortage problem, but would rather look at alternative options. He said one option is to privatize solid waste, so the city could take that money and use it to help the APD.

“We don’t have enough folks out here,” he said. “I think the APD has a pretty tough job and they have a very low morale because the mayor doesn’t support them.”

Payne voiced frustration with the City Council and said it supported funding acts such as putting poetry plaques on parking meters instead of focusing on issues such as the libraries, transit systems and law enforcement.

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He joked that The Albuquerque Tribune wrote that he needed to get some poetry in his soul.

Payne said Albuquerque is now going through a real struggle because city government is changing. He said that for the past 25 years, the culture of the government has been the same. Payne added that government leaders had a general consensus on approaching city issues, but the recent election of four strong Republicans to the City Council has changed the way the system works.

He said the attitude about government needs change and Republicans need to do a better job at the local government level.

“It freaked people out,” Payne said. “They weren’t used to opposition. It’s a fight, but it’s a fight for the future of the city. It’s never easy.”


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