Friday, November 25, 2011
Senate Dems Statement: Business as Usual at Expo NM, Missed Opportunity at State Fairgrounds
Following is a statement by the Senate Democrats.
“Yesterday’s actions by the state fair commission to approve the Downs 25 year land deal at our fairgrounds represents a huge missed opportunity to create a true pride point for our city and state. My constituents from surrounding areas and I are deeply disappointed that despite all past troubles and challenges outlined in the Audit, the commission voted to perpetuate the status quo at Expo NM,” stated Senator Tim Keller (SD-17).
Keller added, “It has been 25 years since we’ve had the chance to redesign the State Fairgrounds (now officially known as Expo New Mexico). As the state senator representing most of the area, I know that the communities surrounding Expo New Mexico have repeatedly called for an opportunity to participate in a formal strategic plan for the development of the 250 acres in the middle of our city.”
With just 30 days to respond, only two entities met the deadline. No formal community input was solicited, plans were kept secret, accountability measures have not been put in place yet, and broader plans for Expo New Mexico were excluded from the discussion.
With little transparency and accountability, today’s state fair commission meeting the rules were changed to amend previous motions and change the agenda so this lease could be approved without event taking public comment.
The 2011 Legislative Audit further revealed a disturbing history including millions of dollars in mismanagement, questionable short-term decisions and annual taxpayer bailouts. Then on Nov. 8, the Albuquerque Journal reported $70,000 of campaign contributions went to the governor from the Downs’ ownership.
“We had hoped things would be different under a new administration, but nothing has changed when it comes to Casinos at the Fairgrounds. Tax payers deserve a lot better from our State. If these trends continue, many of us State Fair supporters worry that legislators statewide may not continue to foot the bill even with this new deal. This new rushed 25 year land lease blocks any significant redesign and perpetuates business as usual at Expo,” Sen. Keller noted after a tax committee meeting today in Santa Fe.
The new casino lease is less than 26 years and is solely within the governor’s responsibility and therefore today’s action will not go to legislature for approval. Senator Keller intends to bring forth legislation to clean up the governance at Expo New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session.