Mayor Keller did a press conference to address the $6 million dollar short deficit this fiscal year and the huge $40 million-dollar budget short fall the city will be dealing with next fiscal year.
(See December 19, 2017 Albuquerque Journal “Mayor: APD still a priority despite projected deficit).
Mayor Keller said “Because we have a deficit situation, we are really going to have to focus on prioritizing what is important this year for our city. … A piece of that is also understanding we’ve got to find ways to step up for our officers, and we also have to prioritize job creation and keep our kids at the forefront of the budget process this year.”
Asked if tax increases would be required, Keller said, “I certainly hope not, and I can’t imagine that at the end of the day, given what we want to prioritize, that is going to happen. The tougher question is how do we actually get more officers on the streets, and we’re going to be working with our police chief and the City Council to find a way to do that.”
Currently, the Albuquerque Police Department is budgeted for 1,000 police officers but actually employs 836 with only 430 assigned to the field to take calls for service.
Money from the 150 + police officer vacancies has gone to pay police overtime and the Albuquerque Police Department busted its overtime budget by $4 million going from the $9 million budgeted to $13 million.
Mayor Keller was swept into office in part by voter anger about rising crime rates and how bad things are in the City when it came to the police department.
On the campaign trail, Candidate Keller laid out is plans for APD and his determination to complete the Department of Justice (DOJ) reforms.
Keller made the campaign promise that he wanted to increase the number of sworn police officers from the current 850 to 1,200, or by 350 sworn police officers and return to community based policing.
Frankly getting to the 1,200 level of sworn officers is going to take years and probably will not be accomplished without a tax increase.
On the campaign trail, candidate Keller said he would raise taxes as a last resort for public safety but and only with voter approval.
I am always disappointed when Mayors and City Councilors proclaim they will put increases in taxes on the ballot thereby trying to avoid the political “hot potato” and accusation that they increased taxes when they run for office again.
People have no business running for office if they do not want to make the hard decisions, especially when it comes to taxes and public safety and providing police services.
In any representative form of government such as our city government and our congress, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents.
Public safety and police services is one of the very few areas that elected officials should never resist increasing taxes when there is a crisis such as we have now in Albuquerque with our high crime rates.
On a federal level, our military defense is akin to police services on the local level, and you never see congress put to a public vote the pentagon budget.
Keller is quickly learning, albeit the hard way, there is a big difference between running for office, making a lot of promises that you may be unable to keep versus actually governing and making the decisions that have to be made that will most assuredly anger people.
One of those decisions that upsets voters is having to increase taxes.
As former Mayor David Rusk said “Taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society.”
It is the City Council that has the authority to raise taxes, not the Mayor.
Keller needs to have a very aggressive “come to Jesus” conversation with the Albuquerque City Council making it clear that they are the ones that have failed the public during the last eight years to fully address our public safety needs and allowing the destruction of APD.
If Keller feels we need a public safety tax for police and the DOJ reforms, he should advocate its enactment by the City Council and not put it to a public vote.
It’s great being Mayor during good economic times and low crime rates, and miserable being Mayor during a bad economy and rising crime rates.
A Mayor making decisions with an eye towards future office or a legacy is a recipe for failure as was the case for Mayor RJ Berry.
We have had a few Mayor’s that have found out the job is way too close to the garbage cans and the job turned out not to be what they expected.
Within a year, Mayor Keller is either going to really love the job being Mayor like Mayor Marty Chavez who ran four times or absolutely hate it like Mayor Louis Saavedra who became a recluse and decided not to run for reelection.