Mayor Keller Better Late Than Never On ART Politics

On Friday, December 7, 2018 Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference and announced the city is taking legal action against the California based BYD bus company, the manufacturer of the 60-foot, fully electric buses for the disastrous $135 million ART Bus project and making good on a threat of litigation.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1254901/city-sues-over-art-buses.html

The lawsuit has been filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque and claims breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation and violations of New Mexico Unfair Practices Act.

The New Mexico Unfair Trade Practices Act is usually enforced by the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, but the act does provide for private remedies which do extend to municipalities.

The significance of an Unfair Trade Practices action is that an aggrieved party can be awarded “triple damages” proven and attorney fees under the act.

The 15 buses that were manufactured and delivered were picked up by BYD after the city made a demand of the company to take back the buses due to a significant number of safety and battery-life issues.

The city demanded the buses be taken back by November 30, 2018.

During his press conference announcing the city’s action Keller had this to say:

“The short story is we’re taking BYD to court. … We need to hold … [BYD] accountable for what they’ve done to our city and for their lack of adherence to a contract that they signed. … We think … this actually is going to all wash out at a minimum, if not us actually recouping more. … For a city of our size, the pain that we went through and the trauma that Route 66 has gone through to put this in, was that worth being the first city to have these fancy electric buses? … I don’t think so.”

On the same day as the filing of the lawsuit, the city released an independent report by the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) which tested the buses’ batteries.

In a news release, the Keller Administration had this to say about the CTE report:

“CTE’s simulations found that the operational plan developed for ART – running the electric buses during the day, then recharging them overnight in preparation for the next day, could not be achieved by the buses BYD delivered to Albuquerque.”

In response to the filing of a lawsuit by the city, BYD issued a statement that it was “considering all legal options in response to the City’s actions”, which means a counterclaim, and proclaimed:

“BYD once again disputes the Mayor’s false and misleading statements regarding BYD and its products … It is unfortunate that the City has chosen to file a lawsuit. Prior to today’s press conference the City had refused to provide BYD with inspection reports documenting alleged problems with the buses. The City has never stated the amount of damages it claims to have suffered.”

The city has also ordered 10 diesel buses made New Flyer that have a price tag of $870,000 apiece to replace the BYD buses.

The new buses are expected to arrive in 2019, but Keller had previously stated it would take upwards of 18 months.

Among the reported problems found with the BYD buses are:

1. The center and rear brakes had zero air pressure, yet the 60-foot-long articulated buses were able to move, meaning that the center and rear axle brakes were not working and the buses were relying on their front brakes alone.
2. Rear doors would open during bus operation without any action by the driver.
3. The buses have air conditioning outages.
4. Bolts flying off doors.
5. The electric buses delivered are supposed to operate for 275 miles, but city officials found the buses cannot go more than 177 miles before they need recharging.
6. The lack of undercarriage protection.
7. Buses that wouldn’t stop when emergency doors were utilized.
8. Cracking on bus exteriors.
9. Mirrors not set up correctly.
10. Wiring problems and electrical system problems.
11. The handicap electric chair lock becoming unsecured when the driver turns on the air conditioner.
12. The bus batteries heat up so much that they can’t take a charge.
13. The batteries or not properly stored or cooled on the buses posing a fire hazard. 14.Wheelchair ramps that deploy when weight is on them
14. Doors that open while the bus is in motion.
15. Exposed high-voltage wires.
17. Failure to construct extra charging stations promised.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

In announcing that the city was filing the lawsuit for damages in State Court, Mayor Keller said in part:

“For a city of our size, the pain that we went through and the trauma that Route 66 has gone through to put this in, was that worth being the first city to have these fancy electric buses? I don’t think so.”

How pathetic that Mayor Tim Keller uses opportunistic references to Route 66 and only now admits the damage done to the historic road in an effort to distance himself from his own failure to act for well over a year.

Keller made no mention of the pain Federal litigation caused to the 250+ businesses along Central with many of those businesses having to close or going out business because of ART construction.

During his year and a half quest to become Mayor of Albuquerque, Tim Keller never called upon his predecessor to stop the ART Bus project, nor to cancel the bus contract nor did he ever condemn it as destroying historical Route 66.

Tim Keller did not attend a single public hearing or meeting held by the Berry Administration on the project, including the meetings hosted by city councilors where councilors were urged to place it on the ballot.

When the federal lawsuit was filed to enjoin and stop the construction of ART, Keller did not attend any of the federal court hearings to stop the project.

Keller is given some credit for his efforts to secure the grant from the Federal Transportation Administration, but he and his predecessor always said the money was inevitable.

Mayor Keller has said that too much has been spent on the entire ART Bus project and it would be too costly to restore Central and to remove the platforms.

Keller has repeatedly suggested in public it would cost as much as $200 million to return Central to the way it was, a figure that is highly questionable, especially given the fact that it will eventually have to happen anyway.

What Keller apparently does no know is that a traffic study of the project found that the project has a 20-year shelf life.

Because of projected population growth and traffic flows along Central on one lane each way as opposed to the original two, the platforms will sooner rather than later have to be removed to accommodate the traffic.

Within 12 years the buses will have to again be replaced.

In general, transit systems expect buses to have a useful life of 12 years or a little less depending on wear and tear and 250,000 miles.

The 12-year time frame is due to the fact that after buses have been used for 12 years, a city is eligible to receive replacement bus funding from the federal government.

Keller has now wasted the first year of his 4-year term by failing to be decisive and trying to save the project by giving BYD the benefit of the doubt in their ability to deliver the buses.

For ART under Keller see postscript below.

It is almost a sure bet that BYD will now file a counterclaim against the city for damages.

It is likely that BYD will attempt to have the case moved to federal court because they are a California based company, the buses were manufactured in California and the buses were funded by a federal grant from the Federal Transportation Administration mandating certain specifications.

You can also anticipate that former Mayor Richard Berry, former Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan and former Transit Director Bruce Rizzeri will probably have to be named “necessary and proper parties” in a BYD counterclaim in that all 3 were involved with the selection of BYD and there will be a need to determine what was represented to them, what they agreed to and what was expected of BYD.

Mayor Keller proclaims “We need to hold … [BYD] accountable for what they’ve done to our city … .”

When Tim Keller was New Mexico State Auditor before becoming Mayor, he was a champion for accountability to stop “waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money”.

As State Auditor, Keller seemed never be reluctant to turn cases over to prosecuting agencies which garnered him much publicity

Keller’s reluctance now that he is Mayor to turn the City Audit and the ART Bus project to prosecuting agencies such as the Attorney General or the District Attorney is very puzzling.

Those truly responsible for ART are the ones that need to be held accountable for “what they have done to our city”, namely former Mayor Richard Berry, former Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan and former Transit Director Bruce Rizzeri.

A breach of contract action by the city against the bus manufacture will not approach the real financial losses involved with the project to the city, let alone bring back those businesses along central that had to close all because of the construction, that is why an Unfair Trade Practices action is so critical.

What many taxpayers feel is that crimes occurred with the ART Bus project, but we will never know because no law enforcement agency has investigated it.

The city will now waite 30 days after BYD is served with complaint to find out about a counterclaim will be filed.

Taxpayers can expect lengthy litigation, but there is always the prospect that the City Attorney’s Office and Mayor Keller will just roll over and settle the case for a nominal amount on a $25 million dollar breach on contract case and not seek all the damages to which the city is entitled to under the law.

Keller supporters are always quick to go to his defense over ART saying it was a project he inherited.

No matter what Mayor Keller says or does now, no matter what eventually happens with the ART Bus Project and the litigation, it is now Mayor Keller’s lemon to own and be held responsible and accountable for his failure to act given his reluctance to scrap the project from the get-go.

In politics of ART, better late than never to try and sound good by finally making a right decision even though all the damage has already been done.

********************************************************

POSTSCRIPT OF ART UNDER KELLER

The $135 million ART Bus project was considered a legacy project of former Mayor Richard Berry and spans 9 miles of Central Avenue from the West side to Louisiana with dedicated bus lanes and specially built platforms to transform the Central corridor into a Rapid Transit area.

CHRONOLOGY OF ART UNDER KELLER

Berry dedicated the ART Bus project in November of 2017 as fully operational with only one bus that had been delivered to this city.

The only purpose for the delivery of the one bus was so that Berry could have his photo op before he left office.

Keller was sworn into office December 1, 2017.

For over a full year, Mayor Keller and the Keller Administration have been working on resolving major issues with the ART Bus project and bus performance.

Within 6 weeks after taking office, Keller proclaimed the project “as bit of lemon” but pushed forward to try and salvage the project anyway.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/01/10/this-project-is-a-bit-of-a-lemon/

In January of this year it was recommended to Mayor Tim Keller and the City Attorney to file a civil complaint city for breach of contract, breach of warranties, misrepresentation and unfair trade practices and Keller declined the suggestion.

Two months after taking office, Mayor Keller was urged by many within the community to scrap the project and find alternatives, but he refused saying it would be too costly.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/01/22/mayor-keller-should-scrap-art-bus-project-and-find-alternatives/

In June of this year, Mayor Keller said the buses were like kids in a divorce where parents are fighting for who gets custody.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/04/want-a-divorce-hire-a-lawyer/

On June 6, 2018, the city of Albuquerque’s Inspector General (IG) issued a report on the ART Bus Project.

According to the Inspector General’s report the first bus delivered in August 2017, was assembled by the manufacturer using a “frame intended for buses being built for [another city’s transit authority].”

Frames intended for the Albuquerque’s buses had not yet been shipped nor received by the manufacturer.

The Inspector General found that the bus manufacturer used “parts and pieces” intended for another city’s buses for the first ART bus delivered.

The last 4 sentences of the 72-page Inspector General’s findings and report is worth quoting relating fraudulent activity:

“The inspection was proactive in nature and not due to any allegations that were made. While this inspection didn’t identify instances of fraud, it is important to note that it doesn’t mean fraud did not occur. The inspection did identify several problems that offer opportunities to improve and could be vulnerabilities for fraudulent behavior. City leaders should consider the problems identified and recommendations made to develop a more efficient and stronger procurement process that will help prevent and deter fraud, while also ensuring more quality and confidence in the products and services that the taxpayer funds. This is essential to protecting the public’s trust.”

One question Mayor Keller was asked during one of his many the status conference after the Inspector General’s Report is if any attempt will be made to hold former Mayor Richard Berry accountable for the ART Bus Project given that he rushed to have buses delivered to dedicate the project before he left office.

Keller laughed off the question and declined to answer.

After the Inspector General’s report was released, Mayor Keller was urged turn the ART Bus project over to the City Attorney, the New Mexico Attorney General and the District Attorney, to investigate for criminal activity but Mayor Keller declined to make the referral.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/11/give-art-work-to-city-attorney-nm-attorney-general-and-district-attorney/

On November 1, 2018, Keller proclaimed that the buses delivered were “unsafe at any speed”, demanded the manufacture pick up the buses and he threatened litigation by the city.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/11/02/keller-new-art-buses-unsafe-at-any-speed/

On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce the city’s plans to cancel the manufacturing contract with Build Your Dreams (BYD).

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/11/19/when-you-hire-a-lawyer-you-keep-your-mouth-shut-depose-berry-riordan-rizzieri-on-art-bus-project-under-oath/

On November 28, 2018, it was reported that all 15 of the BYD buses were picked up by the manufacturer.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/art-buses-sent-back-to-manufacturer/5160241/

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/bye-bye-buses-art-vehicles-leave-albuquerque/

For more articles on ART, see the below link:

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed

ALB’s 2019 NM Legislative Priorities

On December 3, 2018 by a news release, Mayor Tim Keller announced his administration’s priorities for the 2019 New Mexico legislative session.

The priorities focus on five major areas: public safety, homelessness, children’s issues, job creation and infrastructure updates.

Keller is quoted as saying in the news release:

“We know that as New Mexico’s largest city Albuquerque has the potential to impact the rest of the state. With this legislative agenda, our city can help lift up the entire state by tackling crime from all sides, increasing economic opportunity, addressing homelessness and stepping up for our kids. We’re setting our sights on tangible projects that can make a real difference in our communities.”

Following is a listing of the legislative priorities by topic:

1. PUBLIC SAFETY

• Improved radio technology for better coordination between all emergency service providers in Albuquerque and the surrounding area
• DNA processing automation to help resolve the rape kit backlog and ensure timely processing
• Dedicated funding to support public safety, and infrastructure and equipment needs
• Money for electronic gunshot detection
• More support for the APD Gun Intelligence Center to solve gun-related crimes
• Updates to the police academy to better equip officers for community policing
• Anti-auto theft technology money to reduce and better solve auto theft crimes.
• Bunker gear to prevent risk of contracting cancer among first responders

2. JOB CREATION

• First phase of redevelopment at the Rail Yards
• Adding Balloon Fiesta Park access improvements
• Roadway improvements at Central and Unser
• Increasing job training funding for the film industry through JTIP
• KiMo Theater repairs to support Albuquerque’s creative economy.
• Full funding for Local Economic Development Act so that the city can expand economic opportunities

3. CHILDREN’S ISSUES:

• Money for two new child development centers on the West Side
• More support for pre-K programs
• Public library in the International District

4. HOMELESSNESS

• Operating funds for expanded hours of operation for a 24/7 emergency shelter with crisis triage support
• Construction of two centrally located shelter facilities with onsite supportive services

5. INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES

• ADA updates to sidewalks and intersections throughout Albuquerque
• Animal welfare upgrades

https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/news/mayor-tim-keller-outlines-priorities-for-2019-legislative-session

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

This will be Mayor Tim Keller’s second New Mexico legislative session and it will be a sixty-day session.

January 1, 2019 will not only be the beginning of a new year, but also the first day of work of our new Governor.

The biggest and most significant difference is that New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan will be in charge and the Democrat Majority in the house has increased substantially.

Further, it is being projected that upwards of $2 billion additional monies will be available thanks to the oil and gas revenues.

This will probably be the first time in 8 years that we will not see an “all crime all the time” legislative session.

Call Your Bookie, Place Your Bets On Delivery Of New Buses For Art

It is good news that the city of Albuquerque has ordered 10 “clean diesel” buses from New Flyer of America for the disastrous $135 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project giving some hope that the bus route will even be used.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1253768/city-orders-new-art-buses.html

The 10 new buses are “clean diesel” powered buses that are 60-foot articulated buses and will cost at least $870,000 apiece for a base model and more as a result of upgrades.

ART was prematurely dedicated well over a year ago but major defects in the original buses ordered and delivered from the other manufacturer has rendered the bus line route useless.

The city ordered the return of the 15 original electric buses it had ordered from the Chinese manufacturer, Build Your Dreams (BYD).

The BYD electric buses had a price tag of $1.3 million each, but the city never paid the manufacturer because the buses never passed the Federal Transportation Administration required standards and tests.

The city and BYD have both threatened litigation against each other claiming financial damages.

The city was able to place the order for the 10 new buses with New Flyer because the company already provides buses for the existing Rapid Ride bus routes.

New Flyer was also one of the bidders for the ART bus contract.

The New Flyer buses have five doors with two on the left and three on the right, which will allow the buses to serve both the ART and Rapid Ride routes when necessary.

City officials have been in regular contact with the Federal Transportation Administration and have said the move from electric to diesel will not compromise any of the $75 million the agency has provided for ART.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

The pathetic truth is that the 10 new buses the city has now ordered are essentially the same type of buses that have been in use for at least 15 years along the existing Rapid Ride route on central.

The bus platforms constructed in the middle of central cannot be used by any of the city’s existing fleet of buses, and therefore the platforms will stay lighted and unused for at least another year, no doubt subject to vandalism and deterioration.

Once the new buses arrive for use, the center lane platforms are suppose to provide quicker on and off access for riders, but will still pose major disruption of traffic flows.

Left lane turns are prohibited and no longer exist along the bus line and have already caused accidents.

Most of the ART Bus Route has gone from two lanes east to west, to one lane east to west.

All the dedicated lanes for the buses have already been stripped and prepared, but will go unused thereby increasing traffic congestion and compounding confusion.

With respect to the 10 new buses ordered, call your bookie, place your bets, be positive, but do not hold your breath.

For more articles on ART Bus project see:

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed

“Duke City” Vs. “BURQUE”

During the summer, Mayor Keller and first lady Elizabeth Kistin Keller sponsored their “One ABQ Challenge”.

By all accounts, it was a success emphasizing that we are all in it together to solving our problems.

The “One ABQ”challenge was a very commendable call for volunteers at city hall and resulted in 109 organizations, businesses and individuals working together to host 74 service projects across the city.

The challenge resulted in more than 1,000 volunteers who contributed more than 5,000 hours of service, a success by any standard.

Mayor Tim Keller has also launched “One ABQ Volunteers,” a comprehensive initiative designed to encourage Albuquerque residents to address the challenges the city faces and to assist with providing city services of a clerical nature.

One ABQ Volunteers will connect those interested in getting involved with the city to an opportunity that aligns with their skill set and their interests.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1253038/keller-launches-one-abq-volunteers-program.html

“BURQUE” AND CITY REBRANDING EFFORT

Mayor Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to rebrand the city image with his “One ABQ” initiatives with a new logo and nickname.

Keller has come up with a strained logo that rearranges the letters in the city’s name to reflect the slang name “BURQUE”, used by locals referring to the city, in red letters with t-shirts and created a web page promoting the city.

The city web page can be viewed here:

https://onealbuquerque.com/

Slick videos to present the city in a positive image have been produced and can be viewed on the web page.

Keller has the city using his 2017 Mayoral campaign logos with the outline of the city backdrop in a circle with his “rust brown” color scheme backdrops on city literature and promotions.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Nicknames for major US Cities are extremely common.

City nicknames are intended to convey a message about a city and are used in tourism and economic development promotions for a community.

City nicknames convey a message of self esteem and how a city and its people view their city.

Usually, a nickname for a city is a source of pride and brings to mind an exact city without even mentioning the city’s name at all.

Prime examples of big city nicknames in the United States include:

“The Big Apple” for New York City, New York.
“City of Angels” for Los Angeles, California.
“The Windy City” for Chicago, Illinois.
“City of Brotherly Love” or “Philly” for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Sin City” for Las Vegas, Nevada.
“The Big Easy” for New Orleans, Louisiana.
“Beantown” for Boston, Massachusetts.
“Emerald City” for Seattle, Washington.
“The Mile-High City” for Denver, Colorado.
“Magic City” for Miami, Florida.
“Space City” for Houston, Texas.
“Motor City” for Detroit, Michigan.
“The Big D” for Dallas, Texas.

NEW MEXICO CITY NICKNAMES INCLUDE:

“The City Different” for Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“The City of Crosses” for Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“City of Vision” for Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
“Atomic City”, for Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“Cavern City”, for Carlsbad, New Mexico.
“Native American Capital of the World” for Gallup, New Mexico.
“Chile Pepper Capital of the World” for Hatche, New Mexico.

THE DUKE CITY

Albuquerque was founded in 1706 as a small Spanish settlement on the banks of the Rio Grande.

Albuquerque was named for the Duke of Alburquerque hence Albuquerque’s nickname, “The Duke City”. (Yes, there is another “r” in the name.)

For decades, Albuquerque’s nickname has been “The Duke City”.

The City’s mascot symbol is a cartoon figure head with a mustache and bearded man wearing a Spanish armor helmet.

At one time, Albuquerque’s professional baseball team was “The Dukes” and the baseball field was named the “Duke’s Stadium”.

Long term residents probably remember the “Duke City” drive in theater that was located on Carlisle north of Menaul in the approximate area where the American Furniture Store now sits as well as a Smith’s Store.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The attempt to rebrand and change the promotional name of “Duke City” with the name “BURQUE” is no doubt considered a smart promotional advertising move for the city by Mayor Tim Keller.

What Keller does not realize is that it is also cringe worthy to many who do not use it in their everyday conversations and view it as a slang name for Albuquerque.

The attempts by Mayor Keller to rebrand the city image with his own campaign logo and colors scheme is nothing more than self-promotion of his own tenure as Mayor and should sound very familiar in that it has happened before with one of his predecessors.

The same type of City rebranding was done by 3 term Mayor Martin Chavez who used his mayoral campaign city photos as backdrops with purple color hues for city projects.

Mayor Chavez came up with a new city logo that looked like a swimmer whose arms were breaking the water’s surface and the trite slogan “Good for You, Albuquerque!”, with both resulting in public ridicule.

Mayor Chavez attempted to rebrand the city “The Q” with the use of bold and distinct stylized font for “Q” in a light blue.

With Keller’s’ emphasis on “volunteerism”, you would have thought he would have explored people’s opinions on what the city should be referred to in promotional materials and logos.

If Keller really wants to change the city’s promotional name and branding for the good of promoting all of Albuquerque, that’s his right.

However, Keller should set aside his self-promoting ways, campaign colors and logo and place a far greater emphasis on historical Route 66 or the city’s historical roots and colors, which the name “Duke City” does represent, and avoid using slang nicknames like BURQUE that only locals understand and that makes others cringe.

Three Amigos Sitting In The US Senate Waiting Room

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico has said you can call it a “pretty good guess” that he will run for re-election in 2020 without making any kind of announcement nor commitment.

https://www.thestate.com/news/article222097395.html

Sounding like he is running without making any announcement, Udall had this to say:

“Knowing that we have a split Congress and we have a Republican president for the next two years, we need to try and look at the areas where there is common ground, and one of the areas would be to move down the age of Medicare to 55. A lot of those people are the people who aren’t getting insurance today. So between 55 and 65, let people buy in.”

Udall said he regards expanding health insurance coverage as essential to reducing overall costs for medical care.

At the federal level, Udall expressed hope that Republicans in the Senate majority will agree to lower the age of Medicare eligibility by 10 years for people who want to buy coverage.

The current age of Medicare eligibility is 65 with limited exceptions.

DECADES OF SERVICE

Senator Tom Udall is now 70 and has been around New Mexico politics for close to 40 years.

Udall was born in Tucson, Arizona, is the son of former Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall and he came to New Mexico to attend UNM law school.

Udall started his career in the United States Attorney’ Office for the District of New Mexico as an Assistant United States Attorney.

In 1982, Udall ran for Congress in the newly created 3rd district, based in Santa Fe, and most of north of the state and lost the Democratic primary to Bill Richardson.

In 1988, Udall ran for Congress again, this time in an election for the Albuquerque-based 1st district seat left open by retiring twenty-year incumbent Manuel Lujan, but lost to Bernalillo County District Attorney Steven Schiff.

In 1990 Udall ran for Attorney General of New Mexico, and served two full 4 years terms.

Udall ran for Congress again in 1998 in the 3rd district against conservative Republican incumbent Bill Redmond, who had been elected in a 1997 special election to replace Richardson and Udall defeated Redmond with 53% of the vote.

Udall was elected four more terms to congress with no substantive opposition including running unopposed in 2002.

In November 2007, then Congressman Tom Udall announced he would run for the Senate seat held by retiring six-term incumbent Republican Pete Domenici.

New Mexico’s other two members of the House, 1st and 2nd district’s Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, ran in the Republican primary.

Pearce won the Republican nomination, and lost to Udall, who won 61% of the vote.

Senator Udall won election to a second term to the Senate in 2014 and has now served in the US Senate for 10 years.

Less than two years ago, Udall was saying he wanted to return to New Mexico and run for New Mexico Governor, decided against it, and Michelle Lujan Grisham then announced for Governor.

On July 25, 2018, it was reported that Senator Tom Udall has a 46% approval rating, a 30% disapproval rating, with 23% undecided.

You can review the poll at this link:

https://morningconsult.com/2018/07/25/americas-most-and-least-popular-senators-2/

HOPING FOR ANOTHER GIG

The New Mexico political scene has at least 3 highly ambitious elected officials that are often mentioned as running for Tom Udall’s Senate seat in the event he decides not to run again for the Senate and retire.

Attorney General Hector Balderas was just elected to a second term as Attorney General and served two terms before as State Auditor for 8 full years and was a NM State Representative from Wagon Mound.

Balderas ran against Senator Martin Heinrich 6 years ago and he still probably has aspirations to be a US Senator from New Mexico and has also expressed an interest in running for Governor.

Mayor Tim Keller has successfully completed his first year as Albuquerque Mayor, he has done a respectful job but he has expressed more than once a desire to run Governor and more than one source has said he now has national ambitions.

Keller has a reputation of being politically impatient and an opportunist.

Political pundits observe that Keller moved into his former State Senate District to run against a vulnerable incumbent, was elected twice but did not serve his full second term from the International District to run for State Auditor, moved out of his state senate district immediately after being elected State Auditor, and then served less than two years as State Auditor to run for Mayor of Albuquerque all 4 runs for office within 8 years.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is completing his second year as Bernalillo County District Attorney and he will have to run for reelection in 2020 or he can run another office.

Torrez has had very mixed reviews from the New Mexico bar because of his severe criticism of Judges blaming them at one time for our high crime rates.

Notwithstanding, thus far Torrez is perceived by the public as doing a very good job and likely will get elected again in two years if he runs because of the extensive media coverage he gets.

Torrez’s chances for reelection could all change overnight with his handling of the prosecution of the 9-year-old Victoria Martens Case, the child who was murdered and dismembered.

NOWHERE TO GO BUT THE US SENATE WAITING ROOM

In the event that Tom Udall does in fact run for another term as US Senator and perhaps unopposed he will serve another full 8 years as the Senior Senator from New Mexico and would be 78 years old and likely retire at that point, but still don’t bet on it if his health holds up.

Many United States Senators serve into their 80’s and 90’s, especially if they are in the majority party, as they become intoxicated with power.

Michelle Lujan Grisham was just elected Governor of New Mexico and it is more likely than not that she will be get elected again in 2022 and serve a full 8 years and perhaps run for United States Senate herself someday.

Balderas is term limited and will not be able to run for election as Attorney General in 2022 and very doubtful he would ever run against incumbent Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Keller is up for reelection in 2021, and again it is very doubtful he would months later run against incumbent Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in 2022.

One huge long shot is that there will be an opening in the United States Senate if Martin Heinrich, who was just elected to his second six-year term, somehow is appointed as a Cabinet Secretary if a Democrat is elected President, but it will be Governor Lujan Grisham who would appoint his replacement, and she could appoint herself.

With United State Congressman Ben Ray Lujan winning his recent election by a landslide and now being elected to a leadership position as fourth in command in the United States Congress, it is likely he will serve many, many more years in Congress and continue to serve in Washington.

Debra Haaland was just elected to the United States Congress and any incumbent is difficult to beat, especially the First Native American Woman ever elected to the United State Congress.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

You can call Hector Balderas, Raul Torrez and Tim Keller “The Three Amigos” because they have so much in common with each other especially a burning ambition for higher office that motivates them and a lot of what they do in their jobs.

Eight years to wait to run for yet another higher office is very difficult if you are very young, highly ambitious and opportunistic like the 3 amigos.

Both Attorney General Hector Balderas and Mayor Tim Keller would not have to give up their current elected positions and could run for US Senate against Udall if they really wanted to without any risk to their current jobs.

Both Balderas and Keller have the ability to raise the kind of money to wage a campaign for United States Senate and they both have high approval ratings.

Balderas raised close to $1 million for his second term election bid.

Keller and his measured finance committees raised and spent $1.3 million to get Keller elected Mayor of Albquerque.

Both Balderas and Keller also have high positive name identity and strong support within the progressive wing of the Democratic party who got them elected to the positions they now hold.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez may conclude that it just may be easier to run a statewide race for United States Senate and not deal with the volatility of the District Attorney’s office and career ending cases such as the Victoria Martens case.

Torrez also has the potential to raise the money for a US Senate run.

Two years ago, Torrez raised and spent $500,000 to run for District Attorney, which also included over $100,000 from George Soros.

Udall is viewed as a “corporate Democrat” by many within the party with a reputation of showing up only during election time to promote himself, but he no doubt has the ability to raise what he needs for another Senate run.

Former United States Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman both knew when it was time to move on and retired and did so at the height of their game, but not Tom Udall.

All too often elected officials do not recognize they have overstayed their welcome and instead of moving on they lose an election trying to hold on for any number of years because they are intoxicated with the power they have had for so many years and cannot give it up.

Anyone of the three amigos could view Udall as vulnerable because of his high unfavorability rating and decide that running against Udall may be their last and only opportunity or hope to go up the food chain of politics in New Mexico.

Get ahold of your odds maker, place your bets and stay tuned New Mexico!

ALB Ghosts Of Christmas Past

On Friday November 30, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference in front of Lindy’s Diner on Central Avenue to announce new street striping and free holiday parking among improvements to Downtown Albuquerque for the Christmas holiday season.

Keller announced that city crews changed out stop lights to four-way stops on Silver Avenue SW and Fourth and Fifth and Roma, re-painted roadways and added 19 new parking spaces as part of the improvement effort officials hope will attract more people to the Downtown area during the Christmas season and help promote shopping locally.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1252378/abq-rolls-out-new-downtown-improvements-free-holiday-parking-plan.html

In announcing the improvements during a news conference, Keller had this to say:

“It’s just reality that regions rise and fall with the success of the downtown of their largest city … That just happens to be right here – at Central Downtown in Albuquerque. What happens here does affect the rest of the state of New Mexico.”

A few months ago, Keller said “We rise and fall on Downtown” when he announced his plans to “revitalize” downtown.

On August 28, 2018, Keller announced three new initiatives to make Downtown Albuquerque as a safer, more attractive place for visitors and to increase tourism.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1214363/mayor-lays-out-new-plans-for-downtown-safety.html

The three initiatives are:

1. A police substation at the Alvarado Transportation Center to address the serious crime and homeless problems in the Central Avenue downtown area that have reached a crisis point. Keller announced that the substation will be staffed by an APD Assistant Chief, police officers and a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) who are trained in dealing with behavioral and mental health issues.

2. In order to create a tourist draw the city will begin remediation efforts and activate a second building at the Albuquerque Rail Yards after the city severs the existing contract with California-based Samitaur Constructs, the master developer for the site. In 2007, the city bought the site for about $8.5 million. The historic and vacant Albuquerque Rail Yards are within one mile of the Downtown area located south of Downtown between the Barelas and South Broadway neighborhoods. Albuquerque Rail Yards has 18 buildings still standing erected between 1915 and 1925 and include four major maintenance facilities built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

3. Keller announced he wants to ramp up plans to reinvent the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards by finding a development partner to transform a city-owned parking lot into “an amenity where thousands can gather year-round.” The city has upgraded one building, the blacksmith shop, where the Rail Yards Market Place has taken place on weekends each summer since 2014. Activating a second building will accommodate additional vendors and potentially be a big tourist draw according to Mayor Keller.

ABQ GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST

From approximately 1952 to about 1965, Downtown Albuquerque on Central from Broadway to Rio Grande, including the Old Town, was considered the “hub of activity” for retail and business where you would shop, bank and go for entertainment and the area of major tourist activity.

Central Avenue going West from Broadway Ave to the Rio Grande River is traditionally thought of as “Downtown” by many born and raised in Albuquerque or long-term residents.

Downtown Albuquerque should probably also be considered to include a mile north and a mile south of Central between Broadway and the Rio Grande river so as to include Old Town, the Albuquerque Museum, the Children’s Science Museum, the New Mexico History Museum, the Zoo, the BioPak, which includes the botanical gardens and aquarium, and various government buildings including courthouses and commercial office buildings.

From 1952 to 1965, downtown Central with all its retail commercial stores, was in its heyday, an exceptional and exciting time when it came to the holiday Christmas Season.

There were many retail stores existed on Central Street downtown and side streets and included Leeds Shoe Store, Mindlin’s Jewelry, Mandell Dreyfus, the Court Cafe and Bakery, Kistler Collister, Sears & Roebuck, the old Hilton, Liberty Cafe, St. John’s Cathedral, Gambel’s, The Men’s Hat Shop, Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry and Crafts Trading, Tandy’s Leather, JCPenney, Montgomery Ward’s, Fedway Department Store, Paris Shoe Store, Stromberg’s Clothing, American Furniture, People’s Flowers, Russell Stover’s candies, Mccullens, Tandy’s Leather, The Magic Shop, Kurt’s Camera Coral, Krees’s , Levines, Woolworth’s, Payless Drugs, Zales Jewelry, Skaggs, Fogg’s Fine Jewelry, PNM (across from the KIMO) the Sunshine, KIMO, State and the El Rey movie theaters, and First National Bank to mention a few.

The Alvarado Hotel was at 1st and Central and was known for the hundreds of “poinsettias” it displayed during Christmas.

The Alvarado was demolished in 1970.

The pueblo style 8 story Franciscan Hotel was at 5th and Central was known for its huge Christmas tree and decorations in the lobby area.

The Franciscan was demolished in 1972.

All the Central retail businesses would go all out to decorate their storefronts and the area with holiday lights and garnish.

The city would erect festive lighting fixtures across the streets along Central between Broadway going west to about 8th Street.

All the retail store front windows along central would be decorated with Christmas decorations.

Central downtown was a place to tour at night to see the holiday Christmas lights and even drive to the Old Town Area to Christmas shop.

Today, the City concentrates only on decorating civic plaza during the Christmas season.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Keller’s comments “We rise and fall on Downtown” and “It’s just reality that regions rise and fall with the success of the downtown of their largest city … That just happens to be right here – at Central Downtown in Albuquerque. What happens here does affect the rest of the state of New Mexico” are very difficult to take seriously.

It is the success of the entire City of Albuquerque economy that is the economic engine for the State of New Mexico that causes the state to rise and fall, and not Central downtown.

Mayor Keller does not realize his comments are the source snickering among many long-term residents especially those born and raised here who know the city’s history of “downtown revitalization.”

With so many vacant retail storefronts on downtown central, it is difficult to understand what impact, if any at all, 19 additional parking spaces will have on the area.

The problem is that Keller’s comments in no way reflect the reality of what has happened to Downtown Central area and what has been going on in the city for the last 60 years.

Since the late 1960’s, Albuquerque City Hall and virtually every Mayor of Albuquerque have been fixated and frustrated by the revitalization of “Downtown Albuquerque” hoping to return downtown to its old “glory days” of the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s.

Sadly, “Downtown Albuquerque” is no longer what it use to be let alone an area that is reflective of the city nor an area that “affects the rest of the state of New Mexico” as Keller so boldly proclaims.

Events like the “Twinkle Light” parade at one time brought people and shoppers to Downtown Central until the event was moved to Nob Hill area a few years ago.

For many years now, the Central Downtown area has had very little when it comes to Christmas decorations that Downtown Central was known for and that actually encouraged people to go visit and shop.

“Downtown Albuquerque” has become the government and financial district for the city with the location of city hall, the City and County Government Center, the Metro Court, State District Court, the Federal Courts, the Social Security Administration, the main bank branches of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Bank of the West Compass Bank and other banks and government agencies.

At night, downtown central becomes a “dead zone” except for the numerous bars that seem to “eb and flow” over the years and that result in street altercations at closing time.

Adding 4 way stops, re-painting roadways and adding 19 new parking spaces on Central is frankly somewhat pathetic and will not make much of a difference to attract more shoppers to Central Downtown during the holiday season.

There are a number of downtown parking structures that the city owns and operates that are seldom full after 5:00 pm.

The parking structures include one on Copper Street West 4th Street, parking structures on second Street and Third Street with one directly North of the Kimo Theater, the downtown civic plaza underground parking lot and the city convention center surface parking lot at 1st and Central and North of the Alvarado Transportation center and the city parking lot structure on 1st Street immediately south-west of the Alvarado Transportation Center.

There are at least two private parking lots actually on Central, one on the south side of Central West of 1st street and one on the North side on Central at 5th Street where the Franciscan Hotel use to be many, many years ago before it was torn down.

If Mayor Tim Keller was really serious about helping downtown businesses during the Holiday shopping season with parking, the city should consider renting the private parking lots on Central from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm and offer the space free of charge to the public or perhaps charge $1.00 for the entire evening.

The center of Albuquerque that has become the new “downtown” is the uptown area of the city consisting of Coronado Shopping Center, the many shops at the Commons at Uptown, the new and ongoing Winrock development that will bring even more retail shops and even luxury housing when it’s done not to mention the commercial office space in the area.

Numerous restaurants have popped up in the area a with even more planned and on the way.

The entire city has in fact “outgrown” and left Downtown Central in many respects.

Make no mistake, the “Downtown Central” area must and can be revitalized because of its historical significance and being a part of historic Route 66.

Downtown Central dodged a fatal bullet when the decision was made not to run the ART Bus project through Downtown Central and bypass the area entirely.

Downtown Central Albuquerque and Route 66 should be considered the “soul of the city” because of the history it represents.

Some progress is being made with downtown revitalization.

There has been a very large number of multi-story apartments and condos developed directly south of Central between 1st Street and 6th Street within the past 10 years along with the Silver Street “grocery store” in one of the developments.

The residential developments are Downtown’s biggest hope yet for Downtown revitalization because it will sustain vibrant downtown activity, where people can live, raise a family and work and play which is the “walkable city” concept.

The Albuquerque High School condos and the Lobo Rainforest Building and Innovate Albuquerque development across the street at Broadway and Central will no doubt help with Downtown revitalization.

The “One Central” development located at 1st Street and Central, which is now opened, is a public-private mixed-use development, including at least 39,000 square feet of commercial space with an entertainment tenant initially described as an upscale bowling alley with at least two other retail or restaurant tenants, 60 residential units and a 429-space parking garage.

https://www.pressreader.com/usa/albuquerque-journal/20180830/281513637023190

An arts or entertainment district development will expand further the new entertainment complex on 1st and Central.

Rather trying to attempt to again remodel the convention center for an arena with bleachers that has been proposed, City Hall should place on the ballot a voter initiative to build a downtown, multipurpose entertainment and sports arena.

The building of an entertainment venue for 5,000 to 6,000 people such as the old civic auditorium with another dome type facility should be explored for Downtown.

The number one tourist attraction in the State of New Mexico is the Bio-Park.

The City needs to expedite expansion and repairs to the of the Bio-Park wherever it can with the upgrades and repairs to the facilities.

For more about what is happening at the BioPark see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/11/27/march-of-the-penguins-swimming-of-the-otters-and-4-continents/

Old Town should always be a critical component of Downtown Revitalization and projects to enhance Old Town, including expansion of the Albuquerque Museum and Children’s museums should be developed.

One project for the City to consider is acquire the “Romero Residence” on Old Town Plaza, convert it to a “Mayor’s Residence” to be used not for living but for City and ceremonial events.

Mayor Keller needs to realize that Albuquerque will not “rise and fall on downtown” as he claims, especially if he fails like all other Mayor’s and City Councils before him have failed with downtown central revitalization.

For the vast majority of Albuquerque residents, what happens on Downtown Central stays on Downtown Central and has absolutely no effect on their lives and they have absolutely no desire to ever go downtown.

For an abbreviated history of Central Downtown and downtown revitalization see:

“Downtown Revitalization”: Deja Vu All Over Again!