ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — Albuquerque voters will decide Tuesday if they should send $4 million to the Unser Racing Museum, but that museum closed permanently and moved out of state six months ago. So, where does that money go if voters approve it, and why is it still on the ballot? News 13 went to City Hall to find out.
“It’s uncommon that we have situations like this,” commented Shawn Maden, Capital Improvements Program strategic program manager for the City of Albuquerque.
The Unser Racing Museum preserved the legacy of racing legend Bobby Unser and his family for roughly 20 years on Montaño in Albuquerque, and there were big plans to move the museum to a new location at Unser and Central where the family once had an auto shop.
“It just didn’t happen for whatever reason. I fought really hard. I think, sometimes, with the public not realizing the implications of how we needed to move in such a rapid manner. Some dialogue out there got a little jumbled,” stated Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña.
The Unser family had an offer to move their entire collection out of state and permanently closed their doors on Montaño in May. That closure came just one month after the city council approved $200 million in general obligation (GO) bond ballot measures, which included millions for the Unser Museum project.
So, why is a $4 million earmark for the museum still on the ballot if the museum no longer exists? The City said it’s election rules and money.
“Our choices were to either present this with an allocation that we knew we would have to adjust afterwards or spend a great deal of money on a special election and have, you know, decreased turnout, and it would delay the funding for all the other projects until after that special election had been held,” Maden stated.
Maden said if the museum bond passes Tuesday, the city council could work to reallocate the $4 million for the Unser Museum to other projects. Those projects would just have to fall under the umbrella of libraries, museums, or cultural facilities—the category voters would have approved them for.
However, Peña said the intent behind the $4 million remains the same. She still wants the money to go towards an Unser Museum near Unser and Central that would instead showcase the historical auto shop there.
“There’s still, without everybody getting everything jumbled again, there’s still an opportunity to preserve, not to the magnitude that it was going to be but to preserve that history still,” Peña said.
If voters approve the bond next week, the City’s Capital Improvement Program said councilors could go to work on reallocating those Unser Museum Funds almost immediately.