• Keller: 'If Lowe's can pay for police, Downtown should be able to pay for police'
  • Bolstering nightlife offerings in the core, a comedy club opens this week
  • Long: Sawmill developments go hand-in-glove with Old Town
Keller: 'If Lowe's can pay for police, Downtown should be able to pay for police'
Mayor Tim Keller and officials from APD and PNM briefed reporters outside the Rosenwald Building at Fourth and Central yesterday.
Mayor Tim Keller announced new details yesterday about a plan to pay for special overtime police patrols in the Downtown core with private donations (DAN, 6/17/22), arguing that it could help deal with "an acute crime problem" in a "resource-constrained environment."

Video of the 20-minute news conference is here and a summary is here:
  • The program is starting more-or-less right away. It has already amassed $90,000 in pledges, including $15,000 from PNM, and sign-ups for shifts were slated to begin today, Deputy Chief Josh Brown said. Based on the typical rate of around $70 per hour for the chief's overtime program, $90,000 would fund the equivalent of one officer working full time for roughly two-thirds of a year, but of course they hope to raise more money (the donation page is here).
  • The plan is for the overtime officers to tackle a wide variety of problems. Keller mentioned traffic enforcement, noisy modified exhaust systems, running license plates for stolen cars, illegal gatherings in parking lots, and "harassment and other issues that are happening on the sidewalks." Brown added drinking in public, fights, and speeding as other issues they could deal with. APD Chief Harold Medina said officers might work in teams of four or more, but that "it's all dependent on the situation, the time of day, and what resources we have available and how much money we have."
  • For the moment at least, it's got the flavor of a pilot program. "Not all the businesses are supporting this and we want them to. We need them to," Keller said. "We have enough funding to get started and try this out this summer ... But we hope that we're going to demonstrate how important this is and then we'll get enough funding to run this year-round."
  • The city says it's not paying for the program outright because of concerns about equal treatment. Spending a lot of money "Downtown, as opposed to another part of the city, it would be kind of unfair," Medina said. "This is a way for people to fund Downtown specifically and us not be devoting all our resources and money to one specific part of town. The moment I devote all our resources and funding to Downtown I guarantee you there's going to be another part of town that says, where's my cut in that."
  • Keller thinks it's time for Downtown to kick it up a notch - in more ways than one. "If Lowe's can pay for police, Downtown should be able to pay for police - they just haven't been," he said. "Most of the people who are here during the day - not all - but most of the people who work here - they have not had skin in the game. They have not been doing anything to support what we're doing Downtown. That's changing with this initiative. And we're telling them that over time Downtown has to have its own - whether it's a tax increment district (DAN, 6/13/22), or a business improvement district - they pick, but they have to take control of Downtown, too. So we're there to help them and we're going to get it started, but they cannot be dependent on the City of Albuquerque to continue to do everything for them every year because that is exactly why we've gotten in this spot right now. And so that is why when you hear about our Downtown Forward plan over the next few months you're going to hear about a governance structure so that Downtown can take control of its own future."
  • Could that TBD governance structure and whatever funding stream it has take charge of this extra police protection? "It certainly could," Keller said.
  • Despite shortages, APD thinks it will have the officers available thanks to changes they've made in the chief's overtime program. Medina said they've cut assignments to big box stores and are encouraging them to hire private security instead. "We should have enough officers to be able to work this," he said.
  • The mayor is expecting great things from the program. "Very quickly, once we start this, it's going to be very hard to get away with what people are getting away with Downtown," he said.
  • But he will run into skepticism... "It gives off this vibe of 'if you guys want police down here you're going to have to pay up,'" said Danielle Lowry, the proprietor of Flowers by Zach-Low (Lead and Second). Chief's overtime shifts are typically performed for the benefit of specific businesses or special events, she noted, and "if you're going to do that you should have to pay for that." But as for proactive policing Downtown: "What's special about that? What's not standard police operation?"
  • ...and alternate ideas, like using private security instead... "I think that's where I would be motivated to contribute," said Victoria Van Dame, the head of OT Circus, a gallery at Central and Eighth. She worries that APD is too polarizing for the job, possibly less empowered to deal with some issues like trespassing (a long-standing source of confusion and controversy - DAN, 3/29/22), and spread too thin to supply the "constant presence" she thinks is needed.
  • ...and a certain weary optimism. "It's very appealing. The presence would help a lot," said George Boese, the owner of Boese Brothers Brewery (Sixth and Gold). Just last week, someone hopped over his razor-wire-protected back fence and attempted to disassemble a commercial cooler (likely for the copper), leading to an expensive repair and a supply of beer having to be poured down the drain. "From my perspective, that's an increase in operating costs that our other locations don't have to sustain." Still, "for the answer to be, 'well, maybe we'll do better if you pony up for the safety of the area,' that kind of hurts a little bit ... that's not an area that is doing well."
Bolstering nightlife offerings in the core, a comedy club opens this week
The venue is located near Sixth and Central. Dry Heat Comedy Club
In Sarah Kennedy's estimation, there are two sorts of comedy clubs. One is where a hilarious type of art is performed, and another is basically a bar with a gimmick. 

"It's like a Chuck E. Cheese," she said, "but instead of animatronics, we've got people with a dream."

That is decidedly not the vibe she and co-owner Kelli Trapnell are going for with Dry Heat Comedy Club, a new venue opening tomorrow on Sixth near Central. 

That has to do with the important place that clubs hold in the comedy pantheon, Kennedy reckons. Open mics, bar shows, theater shows, casino shows - they're all right and proper, but a club can act as a hub for comedians to hone their craft, both through frequent practice and interactions with peers, including traveling acts. The audience is more comedy-focused as well, particularly compared to bar shows where people might not particularly care what or who is on stage at all.

"In a comedy club, everyone is opting into it," said Kennedy.

Albuquerque has been without a club for over a decade: Laffs Comedy Café, which was located on San Mateo, closed in late 2008. More recently, a club called The Vault attempted in 2019 to make a go of it in the Downtown core, but lasted only a matter of weeks.

This state of affairs is a subject about which Kennedy has thought deeply and publically, not least through her limited-run Comedy Ghost Town podcast.)

Downtown is the best place for a club, Kennedy has concluded, thanks to its built-in nightlife scene that offers the chance for fans to happen upon a show even if they weren't planning on it.

Besides, she said, "I want it to come back to the thriving part of town that it was."

This week's opening will feature no less than ten shows in four days. Details here.
Long: Sawmill developments go hand-in-glove with Old Town
The most prominent new hospitality and entertainment ventures in the Old Town area in recent years have one incongruous thing in common: They're not technically in Old Town.

Both the new Sawmill Market and newish Hotel Chaco are about a quarter-mile away from Mountain Road, on the other side of which the characteristic adobe buildings, some of which date back hundreds of years, begin. The popular Beyond Van Gogh exhibit was likewise a short walk away from what the city legally defines as Old Town. Ditto for developer Jim Long's two planned apartment complexes and new hotel project (DAN, 4/11/22).

So if most of the new energy is close but still somewhat separate, where does that leave the historic district? In a good place, Long told DAN recently, arguing that the visitors his properties bring to the area will inevitably check to see what's next door, not least because he encourages them to do so.

"People are going to want to experience the entire area," he said. "We're going to feed off each other."

And while he has his hands full with new projects, Long has clearly been paying attention to recent developments in Old Town proper, including the two taprooms and two wine tasting rooms that have taken up residence along Romero Street and at Plaza Don Luis, the site of the annual tree lighting.

"We love what's happening in Old Town," Long said, calling it "our greatest asset."
The Main Library has had more than 12,000 visits per month for three months now, including the 12,293 that visited in May. Material checkouts, meanwhile, remain pretty consistent at 8,561, though 
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