Grading Mayor Tim Keller’s First Year In Office

December 1, 2018 marks one-year that Mayor Tim Keller has been in office after winning his runoff election with a 62.2% landslide.

On June 8, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published my guest editorial commentary where I gave a “report card” regarding Mayor Tim Keller’s job performance for his first 6 months in office giving him a “C” average for all around job performance.

You can read the entire Journal editorial comment here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1183092/keller-earns-a-c-in-his-1st-semester.html

The grades given six months ago in June were “A” for Public Relations, “B” for Political Appointments, “C” for Public Safety, “D” for DOJ Reforms and “F” for Economic Development.

A detailed examination of what has happened during Mayor Tim Keller’s entire first year in office is in order.

What is also appropriate is grading his performance for the past six months and assessing grades for the entire year.

In short, Keller had brought up his grades in 3 areas and has gone down in 1 area.

Keller has gone from a “C” to a “B minus” for his first full year in office.

KELLER’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND PROBLEM AREAS

Mayor Keller’s accomplishments and problem areas in his first year in office are as follows:

1. PUBLIC RELATIONS

Mayor Tim Keller has taken photo ops to an all new level by attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying reliving his high school glory days, and posting pictures and videos on his FACEBOOK page. People can take great pride with the young, positive image Mayor Keller and his wife and young family are portraying for Albuquerque and it is refreshing on many levels.

A. REBRANDING EFFORTS

Mayor Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to rebrand the city image with his “One ABQ” slogan. Keller has come up with a strained logo that rearranges the city’s name to reflect the slang name for the city as “BURQUE” in red letters with t-shirts and a web page which 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. The Keller Administration has implemented a “volunteer” program to have people assist with city services along with “reach out” town halls.

The attempt to “rebrand” the “Duke City” as “BURQUE” is somewhat “hip” for Mayor Keller’s generation while at the same time very cringe worthy to many others. Further, Keller uses his campaign colors and backdrops in city literature and promotions. The attempts to rebrand the city image is nothing new and was done by one of his predecessors who came up with a new city logo that looked like a “swimmer in water” and the trite slogan “Good For You, Albuquerque!”

B. A NATIONAL CAUSE

No matter how noble the cause, many expressed serious reservations about the need for a trip Keller and his wife First Lady Kirstin Keller made to the Texas border in late June. The trip was made to protest the Trump Administration’s family separation policy and “no tolerance” policy of letting people in the United States contrary to immigration laws. The Texas border trip came a day after President Donald Trump reversed the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents who had entered the U.S. illegally.

More than a few political observers felt Mayor Keller’s remarks at the Texas border were “over the top”, and far more appropriate for a statewide or federal elected official, and not a city mayor.

Keller was quoted as saying:

“These are dark days in America, especially on the border, when we see our leaders echo language that sounds eerily similar to Jim Crow, to internment camps, to the Holocaust. When we see our country take actions that literally betray basic humanity, these are dark days. These are dark days when we have to be here with you today, when mayors from all around the country have to stand here and tell our federal government what they are doing is wrong.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1187504/abq-mayor-mentions-jim-crow-holocaust-during-border-visit.html

Critics said it was nothing more than a publicity stunt when he was photographed delivering one of his own children’s “teddy bears” to give the children at the border.

2. PERSONNEL HIRES, A FORCED RETIREMENT

A. PERSONNEL HIRES

Keller was initially given high marks for appointing experienced city hall people like James Lewis, Lawrence Rael and David Campbell to key positions. Keller also high marks for appointing woman to executive positions including Sarita Nair as Chief Administration Officer, Shelle Sanchez as Cultural Services Director, Mary Scott as Human Service Director, Ana Sanchez as Senior Affairs Director, Nyka Allen as Aviation Director and Katy Duhigg as City Clerk.

There were a few vetting and appointment missteps with a City Clerk nominee and the City Attorney. The first City Clerk nominee withdrew her acceptance of her appointment because her financial problems and tax lien problems. The City Attorney who was appointed had not applied and was appointed after the job posting closed and interviews were conducted.

Keller raised more than a few eyebrows and protests regarding the following appointments and salaries paid to them:

A. Keller created an Assistant Mayor position and hired Obama Administration Political Strategist Gary Lee at $75,000. Lee only reports to Keller.

B. Keller appointed his longtime political consultant and campaign manager Alan Packman at $75,000 to work at 311. Packman only reports to Keller.

C. Keller appointed former United States Attorney Damon Martinez as an APD Policy writer at $118,000 a year. The appointment was strongly objected to by progressive “police oversight” activists who demanded Keller fire Martinez.

D. Keller hired former New Jersey State Trooper Leonard Nerbetski as the “Real Time Crime Center Director”. Nerbetski was hired even though he has a history of excessive use of force that resulted in hundreds of thousands paid in settlements. Albuquerque is under a DOJ consent decree for APD’s excessive use of force and deadly force calling into question if the new hire could be committed to constitutional policing practices.

For more on all 4 hires and appointments see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/15/two-mayors-one-too-many/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/08/09/keller-and-packman-together-again/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/29/keller-angers-apd-oversight-progressives-with-two-hires/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/19/looking-the-other-way-is-no-stringent-vetting-process/

B A DEPUTY CHIEF IN CHARGE OF APD PUBLIC RELATIONS

Mayor Tim Keller created an APD Deputy Chief of Staff Position which is essentially a “public relation person” paying $140,000 a year to deal with “all APD all the time” news cycles and interactions with the media. It is difficult justifying making a public information officer an APD Deputy Chief, unless you want to insulate the Mayor, the Chief, the Deputy Chief’s from adverse publicity and dealing with high profile criminal cases such as the murder and dismemberment of 9-year-old Victoria Martens or the shooting of homeless camper James Boyd.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/30/apd-deputy-chief-of-staff-in-charge-of-media-relations-is-political-damage-control-position/

C. A FORCED POLICE ACADEMY RETIREMENT

The most disturbing departure during the first year of the Keller Administration was that of the Director of the APD Police Academy. John Sullivan who resigned on July 21, 2018 as the Academy Director and was replaced by Commander Angela R. Byrd. John Sullivan claimed he was forced to retire by Police Chief Michael Geier a month after Sullivan testified before the federal court judge overseeing the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating APD reforms.

Sullivan testified that he had ended what he called a “good-ol’-boy” testing practice at the APD Academy where cadets were told what questions would be on their tests, where cadets were allowed to take tests in a group and where passed with a 95 percent score. Sullivan testified that the independent monitor found an unusually high rate of passing grades for the academy’s cadets.

Sullivan submitted a two-sentence retirement letter to Geier that said, “Per your directive, I am involuntarily retiring from the City of Albuquerque without waiving rights to any legal action I may pursue in the future.” On September 6, 2018 it was reported that former commander John Sullivan filed a “whistleblower lawsuit” suing the city, claiming he was demoted and forced into retirement by Mayor Tim Keller’s administration after he reported to the Federal court on the police academy’s secrets and training practices.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/24/apd-academy-directo-meltdown-cnm-announces-law-enforcement-academy/

3. APD OVERTIME

APD has major problems with going over its overtime budget by millions at the expense of other departments. This year, APD has exceed it overtime budget by $5 million, at the expense of other city employees and services. It turns out that for three (3) years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) used “overtime pay” as a recruiting incentive to attract applicants claiming that their pay could be increased by as much as 25% with overtime pay.

A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2017 revealed that 66 patrol officers first class were among the highest paid city employees earning a total of around $7.1 million in salary and overtime. Five (5) APD Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage workers as being paid $146,971, $145,180, $140,243, $137,817 and $125,061 respectfully making them the 6th, the 7th, the 10th, the 12th and the 20th highest paid employees at city hall as a result of overtime pay.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/30/apd-overtime-pay-abuse-and-recruitment-tool/

Media outlets reported that APD’s Public Information Officer and Patrolman First Class Simon Drobik has earned $146,000 so far this year and is on track to make $200,0000 by the end of 2018 as a result of overtime pay. APD claims Drobik works full-time as PIO during weekdays as his primary assignment, working 7 days a week, and he also works as a patrol officer entitling him to be paid for that position as well, in essence holding down and being paid for two positions.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/18/apds-200000-a-year-public-information-officer/

4. POLICE DEPARTMENT COMMAND STAFF

Keller Appointed his interim APD Chief Michael Geier the permanent APD Police Chief and appointed 3 Deputy Chiefs who are either retired or from within APD and shuffled and reorganized the APD command staff and personnel staff. The entire upper command staff of Chief and Deputy Chiefs came up through the ranks and were promoted by former APD Chief Ray Schultz which is very problematic among APD watchers as promoting little or no change in management styles and philosophies.

Keller promised to do a national search for a new Chief. However, Keller appointed a 5-member selection committee and process for a permanent APD Chief with no representatives on the chief’s selection committee from the general public, the city council, American Civil Liberties Union, APD Forward, the District Attorney’s Office nor Public Defenders Office, nor any Hispanic, Native American or other minority groups nor communities affected by police actions. There was no representation on the selection committee from any one of the stakeholders in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The promise of a national search was considered by many as nothing but a sham.

Notwithstanding, APD Chief Geier has stabilized the department and has done a good job, appears to be fully committed to the DOJ reforms and deserves the credit and leadership for his work with the DOJ reforms.

For more on the APD Chief selection process see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/21/too-much-at-stake-to-rush-and-get-wrong/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/03/no-need-for-charade-if-fix-already-in/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/14/national-search-for-new-apd-chief-a-sham/

5. SYMBOLIC LEGISLATION

Keller signed what was considered by many a symbolic decriminalization of pot ordinance and a symbolic City Council resolution reaffirming Albuquerque as an “immigrant friendly” city as opposed to a “sanctuary city”, with both initiatives being city council initiatives and not at Mayor Keller’s request.

6. BACKTRACKING ON CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

Mayor Keller failed his first major test in dealing with APD in the evidence gathering of a child abuse case. The blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child was collected by the child’s teacher and the clothing was thrown out and not tagged by APD. Initially, both Mayor Keller and APD Chief Geier insisted that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures and said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time. After extensive media coverage, an Internal Affairs Investigation was announced. Keller announced policies changes after meeting with the Albuquerque Journal editorial board giving an apology for what happened.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/30/a-line-in-the-sand-a-stunning-admission-of-head-in-the-sand/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/30/a-7-year-old-childs-blood-stained-underwear-sure-the-hell-is-not-speculation/

7. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CONSENT DECREE REFORMS

In December, 2017, soon after taking office, Mayor Keller committed to a federal judge in private and then publicly during a federal court hearing to implement the Department of Justice reforms which are required under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) acknowledging that he will be judged at re election time on how he handles the reform measure implementation.

On Friday, November 2, 2018 Federal Court Appointed Monitor Dr. James Ginger filed his 8th report on the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) compliance levels with mandatory requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). Federal monitor James Ginger said that APD has made “exceptional progress”. Ginger gave the 11-month-old Keller administration and APD positive high marks in his report on the department’s compliance with U.S. Department of Justice mandated reforms.

The 8th report from the federal monitor is remarkable and dramatic turnaround for APD given that it is a departure from virtually every other previous 7 reports filed by Federal Monitor James Ginger. Ginger reported in no uncertain terms that the city is in a far better position in the reform efforts than it was a year ago under the previous Republican Mayor Berry Administration and former Republican operative APD Chief Gorden Eden.

Federal Monitor Ginger reported:

“The compliance efforts we have observed during this reporting period differ substantively from those we had observed earlier in the monitoring process. We have found the current APD executive staff to be fully committed to CASA compliance processes. Most of the new command and oversight cadres also appear to be fully committed to moving APD forward in its compliance efforts. … ”

In his eighth report Ginger reported that the statistics he uses to audit, monitor and track progress show that APD has achieved 99.6% compliance with “primary tasks”, 75.4% secondary compliance and 59.5% operational compliance. What the 59.9% operational compliance means is that sworn police officers have been trained on new policies approved by the monitor and police are being held accountable for violations of those policies. The 59.9% operational compliance reported in the settlement agreement is a 12% increase from last year. This is the first time in 3 years APD has achieved above 50% operational compliance.

For more on all 8 of the monitors reports see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/11/05/kudos-to-mayor-keller-and-apd-chief-geier-apd-goes-from-subverting-doj-reforms-to-exceptional-progress-police-union-impedes-reforms/

8. BETTER UNION RELATIONS

The Keller Administration negotiated a $8 million settlement with the Albuquerque firefighters union, ending a pay raise dispute that dated back to 2011 when the previous administration was at impasse with all the City Unions. Further, the Keller Administration was successful in negotiating a two-year contract with the police union providing for $12.2 million dollars in hourly wage increases and longevity pay increases to experienced police officers.

9. DWI VEHICLE FORFEITURE PROGRAM

The Keller Administration announced implementation of major changes to the city’s twenty five-year old DWI vehicle forfeiture program in response to a federal court ruling in a pending case. The policy change includes the city not seeking ownership of a vehicle and sell it at auction unless the suspect is convicted of DWI.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/04/12/citys-dwi-vehicle-forfeiture-program-disarms-drunks-of-weapons/

10. GROSS RECEIPTS TAX INCREASE

In 2017 while running for Mayor, candidate Tim Keller promised he would never raise taxes unless there was a public vote.

A promise not to raise taxes without a public vote by any candidate for mayor is meaningless when said from the get-go and nonsense that should not be taken too seriously. No candidate for mayor really knows what is going on with city finances until he/she actually look at the books.

Keller making the promise as a candidate was at best idealistic and at worse being foolish just to garner votes to get elected.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/08/one-final-comment-on-tax-enactment/

A few months after being elected, Mayor Keller agreed to and signed a city council-initiated $55 million dollar a year tax increase. Keller broke a campaign promise not to raise gross receipts taxes without a public vote. The increased tax revenues raised went towards a projected $40 million deficit. 80% of the new tax revenues are dedicated to public safety. However, the city’s gross receipts tax revenues from the state have increased tremendously, with critics asserting that there was no need for the tax increase in the first place.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/02/breaking-a-promise-on-public-vote-for-tax-increase/

11. BALANCE BUDGET ENACTED

Mayor Keller submitted and the city council enacted a $577 million balanced general fund budget. Highlights include increases in funding for more police, increased funding in social services, youth programs, and programs to help the homeless. $1.5 million has been allocated to address the backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits that Keller found as New Mexico State Auditor.

For more on the city budget see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/05/23/city-council-enacts-keller-577-million-operating-budget/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/04/02/billion-dollar-budget-reflects-dramatic-change-in-city-priorities/

12. APD EXPANSION PROGRAM

The Keller Administration is implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. The 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provides for increasing funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040. The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates.

The Albuquerque Police Department’s very generous hourly pay increases and increased longevity pay incentive bonuses are allowing APD to recruit experienced police officers from other New Mexico law enforcement agencies. This year, APD has recruited 59 sworn police officers as “lateral hires” from other law enforcement agencies in the State of New Mexico. APD is projecting that it will have 980 officers by next summer by growing the ranks with both new cadets and lateral hires from other departments, including APD retirees. Police officers who are leaving other agencies to join APD are some of the more experienced and highly trained officers at the agencies they are leaving.

The problem with lateral hires is that it increases the risk of hiring problem officers from other agencies, which is what caused in part APDs problems in the first place with the Department of Justice. Keller and Geier need to realize that APD needs to recruit a new generation of young, committed police officers to start their careers who are fully trained in constitutional policing practices. Keller and APD Chief Geier are also hiring and returning to work APD retirees and the danger with that is APD may be hiring back cops that created, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the DOJ.

For more on APD’s recruitment of police see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/11/26/apds-gone-poaching/

13. CREATION OF DOWNTOWN “PUBLIC SAFETY” DISTRICT

On September 13, 2018, making good on a campaign promise, Mayor Tim Keller and the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced the creation of a “Downtown Public Safety District.” The goal is to have a permanent police presence in Downtown Albuquerque. The substation for the Downtown Public Safety District is located at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central SW and is a conversion of a prisoner transport holding area that will require remodeling to remove jail cells. A Deputy Police Chief has been appointed to manage The Downtown Public Safety District while all six of APD area commands are headed up by an APD Commander. Creating a special “Public Safety Downtown District” headed up by a Deputy Chief is viewed by many as giving preferential law enforcement protection to one area of the city at the expense to the poorer neighborhoods such as Southeast Heights that have extremely high property and violent crime rates.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/09/13/downtown-public-safety-district-created/

14. DOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION

On September 24, 2018, Mayor Keller declared himself the “promoter in chief” when it comes to promoting Albuquerque as a good place to live, work, play and invest, announced his plans for “Downtown Revitalization”.

Keller’s Downtown revitalization plan includes 3 major initiatives:

A. Opening 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. The substation is staffed by an APD Deputy Chief, police officers and a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) who are trained in dealing with behavioral and mental health issues.

B. 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.

C. Keller announced ramped 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.

Keller’s downtown revitalization plan is not dramatic nor visionary to revitalize Downtown Albuquerque which is very disappointing given the platform of change and economic development he ran on. Increasing law enforcement presence that is sorely needed and again trying to restore the historic Albuquerque Rail Yards is commendable, but is not a game changer.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/09/04/downtown-revitalization-deja-vu-all-over-again/

On November 30, 2018, Mayor Keller boldly proclaimed:

“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.”

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

The comments make great newspaper quotes but the problem is that it no way reflects what has been going on in the city for the last 60 years.

The Central Downtown Albuquerque in Albuquerque Keller was referring to has been transforming during Mayor Tim Keller’s entire life of 41 years plus another 20 years before he was born.

“Downtown Albuquerque” has become the government and financial district for the city with the location of city hall, the City/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, Central Downtown becomes a “dead zone”.

The center of Albuquerque and the new “Downtown Albuquerque” is the Uptown area of the city consisting of Coronado Shopping Center, the many shops at the Commons at Uptown, the Winrock development that will include even more retail shops and even luxury housing when it’s done not to mention all the restaurants that have popped up in the area with even more planned not to mention the commercial office space and banking in the area.

15. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

On the economic development front, Candidate for Mayor Tim Keller proposed as a “big idea” creating personal or individual Tax Increment Districts (TIDS), more use of industrial revenue bonds and tax incentives to attract new industry to Albuquerque and to create jobs.

On July 20, 2018, after a near full 8 months in office, Mayor Tim Keller unveiled his administration’s long anticipated economic development strategy for the city.

The Keller Economic Development plan has six main areas:

A. INCREMENT OF ONE: supporting homegrown entrepreneurship and “game-changer” business already in the community.

B. SMART RECRUITMENT: recruiting business in a strategic way. Recruitment outside of the state will focus on businesses that align with the city’s priorities.

C. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS: capitalizing on “unique placement” along two interstates with an international airport and foreign trade zone. Keller cited the Railyards as an example of the “Placemaking” initiative. In 2007, the city purchased the Railyards for $8.5 million and it is now being used for weekend markets and other events.

D. CREATIVE ECONOMY & FILM: emphasizing culture, cuisine, art music and film industries as key to economic development. The Keller Administration wants to establish a code of conduct for film productions here.

E. INTERNATIONAL MARKETING: The city will continue to market itself to businesses internationally, targeting Israel, Singapore, Taiwan, Germany and Japan, and is exploring how to bring a direct flight to Guadalajara, Mexico, to the Albuquerque International Sunport.

F. CITY BUYING LOCAL: Directing more government purchases to local businesses. City departments will be required to seek out local vendors with vendor registrations made available to all who want to register to do business with the city.

Keller’s economic development plan is considered lackluster by many within the business community. The plan is viewed as nothing more than “the same old same old” from the previous administration and not much of an inspiration. Keller has admitted that there is no “silver bullet” plan to bring jobs to Albuquerque.

On August 6, 2018, the Albuquerque City Council voted 7-2 to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto on a $2.6 million economic development package that would help Topgolf in constructing a $39 million restaurant/indoor golf entertainment complex at the site of the former Beach Waterpark at the southwest corner of Montaño NE and Interstate 25. Keller’s veto of the City Council’s subsidies for “The Topgolf” was considered by many as the right thing to do, but reflected Keller’s reluctance to try and salvage a major investment in Albuquerque for a very small amount of incentives by the city.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1205725/city-council-overrides-keller-veto-on-topgolf-project.html

In early October, 2018, Netflix announced it was buying Albuquerque Studios. The State is contributing $10 million of Local Economic Development Act funds. Albuquerque is contributing another $4.5 million of Local Economic Development Funds. The Netflix purchase of Albuquerque Studios is a very big deal and will have a ten-year, $1 billion investment here in film production.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/09/netflix-purchase-of-alb-studios-makes-city-contender/

Mayor Keller cannot claim all the credit for Netflix, but he does get enough credit to increase his grade from “F” to a “D minus” for economic development.

For more on Keller’s Economic Development Plan see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/26/keller-goes-from-f-to-d-for-economic-development-strategy/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/07/mayor-kellers-lackluster-economic-development-department/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2017/06/05/city-hall-needs-to-get-serious-about-economic-development/

16. HOMELESS INITIATIVES

On September 6, 2018, Mayor Keller announced his plan to assist the homeless.

The major highlights of the Keller plan include:

1. Opening a 24-hour shelter for the homeless
2. Providing more housing vouchers
3. Creating a new Downtown Public Safety District
4. Providing more addiction and other support services
5. Transforming the nighttime winter shelter on the West Side into a year-round, 24-hour shelter for men, women and children.
Keller’s initiatives to deal with the homeless is a slight expansion over the previous Republican’s Administration.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/09/07/citys-plan-to-address-homeless-crisis-revealed/

Keller has taken no position on the Tiny Homes project, a “village” of 36 one room structures measuring 10 by 10 feet for the homeless.

Keller has said that he feels providers to the homeless should take advantage of the city’s west side shelter and provide their services there as opposed to their current locations.

17. ART BUS PROJECT

For the first full year he has been in office, Keller has attempted to salvage the $135 million ART bus project calling it “turning lemons into lemonade”. The City was finally able to secure the $69 million federal grant funding from congress.

The Keller Administration itself created a problem with the ART buses when it took delivery of at least 10 of the buses delivered from the California plant where the buses were assembled. Instead of being shipped by rail, the buses were driven across country and sustained damages which may not be covered by the warranty or have voided the warranty.

However, after a full year, claiming he has lost patience with the bus manufacturer Build Your Dreams, Keller is embroiled and is threating litigation over the $25 million contract with the bus manufacturer. Keller proclaim the buses delivered “are unsafe at any speed” and do not meet specifications. In response, BYD claims that Keller has libeled and slandered its good name and that there is nothing wrong with the buses. The city demanded that BYD pick the buses up by November 30, 2018.

On November 28, 2018 it was reported that the buses were being driven back to California. The ART bus stop platforms will go unused until new buses are ordered and delivered which will take upwards of 18 months. The Keller Administrations has ordered 10 diesel powered buses from another company. Whether Keller likes the ART Bus project or not, it is irrelevant, and Keller is now stuck with it as if it were his own.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/bye-bye-buses-art-vehicles-leave-albuquerque/1624906172

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/06/12/dinelli-blog-articles-on-art-bus-project-listed/

18. CRIME RATES:

In 2016 and again in 2017, New Mexico had the country’s highest per capita rate of property crime and the second-highest per capita rate of violent crime. According to the annual FBI report released, the number of violent crimes in the specific categories of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, in Albuquerque increased by 23% in 2017 even though the City’s population remained essentially the same.

On September 24, 2018 the FBI released its “Crime in the United States” report and during Keller’s first year in office and for the first time in 9 years all crimes, except for murder, reportedly committed in Albuquerque have gone down as follows:

• Auto theft down 28 percent
• Auto burglary down 35 percent
• Commercial burglary down 18 percent
• Residential burglary down 14 percent
• Robbery down 39 percent

Notwithstanding, the city murder rate is exceptionally high. Nationally, the crime rate is 383 violent offenses per 100,000 residents and 2,362 property crimes per 100,000 residents. Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime rates are more than triple the national crime rates. In Albuquerque, homicides were 18.2% this year. On December 28, 2017 Albuquerque reached a record high of 75 murders in one year. The city is on track to break the record.

For more on Albuquerque’s crime rates see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/10/10/violent-state-violent-city/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/14/stolen-cars-only-tip-of-iceberg-for-a-violent-city/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

On November 28, 2018 political blogger Joe Monahan published his one-year job performance assessment of Mayor Tim Keller and assigned him an overall grade “in the B to B+ range” without identifying any specific grading categories.

You can read the entire assessment entitled “One Year Of Mayor Keller; How’s He Doing? Perspective Offered And Grades Assigned” at:

http://joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/

After a full year in office, Mayor Tim Keller appears to have settled into his job, is enjoying it and is now starting to make significant progress.

Based on the foregoing, Mayor Keller has indeed brought his grades up in the 3 areas of Public Safety, DOJ Reforms and Economic Development and one grade has gone down for his political appointments.

The grades for Mayor Keller’s second six months in office are as follows:

“A” for Public Relations in that Keller continues to portray a positive image for the city and has a 62% approval rating.

“C” for Political Appointments going from a “B” to a “C” for the second 6 months in office as a result of the recent questionable appointments.

“B” for Public Safety for the second six months increasing from a “C” to a “B” and given credit for reducing crime rates for the first time in 8 years offset by the city’s murder rates.

“B” for DOJ Reforms for the second six months going from a “C” to a “B” for the “extraordinary” progress reported by the federal monitor during the first 11 months of the Keller.

“D plus” for Economic Development for the second six months going from an “F” to a “D plus” for finally proposing and economic development program, lackluster as it is, and assisting with the providing city funding for the Nextflex purchase of Albuquerque Studios.

Overall, for his entire first full year in office, Mayor Keller has gone from a “C” average for his six months in office to a “B minus” average for his entire first year.

Keller was elected with a 62.2% vote and after one full year, Keller has a 62% approval rating according to a recent Albuquerque Journal poll.

Keller’s 62% approval rating should not be surprising at all given Mayor Keller’s penchant for public relations, media attention and press conferences.

Mayor Keller has 3 years left in office.

As is the case with any elected official, one month in office, let alone 3 more years is a lifetime in politics.

Over the next 3 years anything can happen and no doubt will happen, both positive and negative.

One disastrous mistake can tank a popular Mayor’s approval rating and send them into the mid 30’s ending a political career.

Many years ago, Mayor David Rusk lost his re election bid when he failed to have a “weed clean up effort” when weeds began to overcome the city after a lengthy rainy season.

The popularity of Mayor Martin Chavez reached a high if 72% after his first term when he decided to run for Governor and lost to Governor Gary Johnson.

Chavez became Mayor again and his popularity began to decline when he proposed a “light rail” system for Albuquerque and people labelled it a “trolly” not to mention he overstayed his welcome by running for a fourth term.

Five years ago, Berry was reelected by a landslide vote of 68% and he has aspirations of running for Governor or United States Senate.

Mayor Richard Berry’s popularity tanked over a few years because of his legacy ART Bus project, the killing of homeless camper James Boyd, rising crime rates and his failed leadership of APD and he left office with a 34% approval rating.

Rumor has it Berry was last seen leaving Albuquerque driving one of the ART buses manufactured by BYD back to California.

The bus Berry was driving stalled at 177 miles out of town when the batteries died and Berry was seen running around desperately looking for an electrical charging station and someone approached him and suggested where he should plug it in.

JPEC Is Just A Political Hit Squad

On November 28, 2018, the Albuquerque Journal published on page A-13 my 650-word guest commentary entitled “JPEC is really just a ‘political hit squad; No recourse for poor evaluation by Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission”.

Following is the article in full with a POSTSCRIPT:

The New Mexico Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) is a state taxpayer-funded commission created by the New Mexico Supreme Court supposedly to improve the performance of elected judges “to provide useful, credible information to voters on judges standing for retention.”

JPEC sends out confidential surveys to licensed attorneys, court jurors and others who interact with the courts, and then publishes its recommendations to “retain” or “not retain.”
JPEC evaluates judges in five major areas: legal ability, fairness, communication skills, preparation and temperament, and control over proceedings.

“No retention” recommendations usually result in about 12 percent fewer votes. There is virtually no recourse for any judge to dispute a “no retention” recommendation given to them.
Six weeks before the midterms, the JPEC issued “no retention” recommendations on four Metropolitan Court judges. Because of the exceptionally small fraction of the surveys returned, it was misleading and useless. JPEC also spent at least $160,000 to do the survey and published the results without allowing the judges to comment or dispute the results.

Presiding Metropolitan Judge Edward Benavidez and Metro Judge Kenny Montoya, a former New Mexico National Guard adjutant general, failed to secure the 57 percent retention vote to keep their jobs.

During my 40-plus years as an attorney, including seven years as a workers’ compensation judge, I have seen how lawyers and parties can react and carry a grudge when they disagree with a ruling.

All too often, certain segments of the New Mexico Bar, court personnel or police officers who appear before Metro judges have a strong dislike for them, and target and disparage the judges with the JPEC.

All state judges are strictly prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct from holding any elected or appointed positions in political parties. All state judges are strictly prohibited from endorsing any candidate for office and cannot solicit donations for elections. Candidates running for judge must have a confidential finance committee set up to raise money for them. Names of donors and amounts are not disclosed to judges to prevent them from knowing who donated to their campaigns to avoid the appearance and accusation of giving preferential treatment in decisions rendered. A judge is also prevented by the Code of Judicial Conduct from making “extrajudicial comments” that may reflect on his or her fairness and impartiality to the media or public. Judges are prohibited from defending their decisions and sentencings, and their job performance in a public forum outside of their courtrooms, so criticizing judges is like shooting fish in a barrel.
The JPEC does not give “equal time” on its web page to the judges who are rated, as would be the case during debates on an incumbent candidate’s job performance.
It is doubtful that confidential surveys from those who may have a personal axe to grind against any judge are of much use to give a complete and accurate picture of any judge’s job performance every day they are on the bench.

The JPEC wants voters to accept as gospel without challenge the recommendations it makes on retention. It is totally inappropriate for a government agency, funded with taxpayer money, to be spending and advertising to tell people who to vote for. Elected officials working in other branches of government are not subjected to similar evaluations. That is what political elections are all about.

There has to be a better way for JPEC to seek removal of judges for poor job performance than to go to voters with recommendations. If there is indeed a problem with the job performance of any judge that would justify removal, the appropriate remedy would be an investigation by the Judicial Standards Commission that results in the judge’s removal by the New Mexico Supreme Court.
The JPEC is a clear threat to judiciary independence on many levels. It has become nothing more than a “political hit squad” that uses taxpayer money to actively campaign against judges, and it should be abolished.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1251121/jpec-is-really-just-a-political-hit-squad.html

POSTSCRIPT

I do hope the New Mexico Supreme Court follows my recommendation and abolishes the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission.

The New Mexico Bar needs to recognize that no government entity should use taxpayer money to campaign against any elected judge.

If any judge is so bad in the areas of legal ability, fairness, communication skills, preparation and temperament, and control over proceedings to the extent that they should be removed, the bar or public should seek removal with the filing of complaints by licensed attorneys and with the Judicial Standards Commission and let the New Mexico Supreme Court make the removal.

March Of The Penguins, Swimming Of The Otters, And 4 Continents!

The BioPark, with its zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens, is the number one tourist attraction in the State of New Mexico.

What is “happening at Zoo” is worth taking notice.

FOUR CONTINENTS COMING TO ALBUQUERQUE

Bio Park Zoo Director Dr. Baird Fleming announced big plans for a 5-acre plot of land on the ABQ zoo’s northwest corner.

The Bio Park Zoo is in the process of planning a $20 million “Asia exhibit” and it will include new and currently housed animals.

According to Dr. Fleming:

“It’s going to be a place where we’re going to re-house our resident orangutans, our tiger, our snow leopard and siamang, basically any species we have from Asia in general. … We hope that people, when they’re coming into this area, are going to see what looks a lot like an Asian market.”

The new Asia exhibit is part of a grand “master plan” to convert the zoo into geographic regions of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

The intent is for the new exhibit to educate and entertain.

For Channel 4 news coverage see:

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/new-asia-exhibit-coming-to-albuquerque-zoo/5151884/?cat=500

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS

The first time Albuquerque tried to bring penguins to the zoo was when David Rusk was Mayor and for the last 10 years the city has been working on a plan.

The $12 million Penguin Chill exhibit at the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo is now complete and it will open soon.

The Penguin Exhibit is a massive exhibit.

The exhibit will hold more than 30 penguins of three different species.

It will have two floors from which to see the birds on land and in water, seven viewing areas including a glass floor and egg incubation rooms.

The main gallery features a 55-foot-wide and 8-foot-tall panoramic view of the penguins’ home.

The educational aspect of the exhibit is a major focus.

The exhibit has an “Education Gallery”, currently available and features interactive touch screens as large as a table, as well as several smaller tablets on which guests can play games and learn about the penguins.

Corrales-based tech firm Ideum is the BioPark’s high-tech partner that created programs and activities specifically for Penguin Chill exhibit.
For a full and expanded story see:

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2018/01/03/sponsorship-interest-in-biopark-penguin-exhibit.html

CHAOS AND MAYHEM AT THE ABQ BIOPARK

The new “River Otter Habitat” is now open at the zoo.

The otter habitat is at the aquarium and was built at a cost of $2.7 million in joint funding from the city, county, state, the New Mexico BioPark Society, Southwest Capital Bank and BioPark gross receipts tax enacted in 2015.

The habitat is the home to two 4-year-old female otters named Chaos and Mayhem.

River otters generally measure 3-4 feet long, can weigh up to 20 pounds and can live for about 10 years in captivity.

Many years ago the, the Rio Grande zoo had otters, but the enclosure was quite small and eventually close and demolished.

The new River Otter Habitat is off the aquarium main lobby on the south side of the building.

The River Otter Habitat features a 25,000 gallon pool inside a 3,000-square-foot sloping exhibit space.

A slide at the top of the slope allows Chaos and Mayhem to glide into their crystal-clear freshwater pool.

The Otter Habitat Exhibit contains multi-angle, above ground viewing areas, and underwater viewing panels in the exhibition space below the main floor.

Interactive and educational displays provide information about the otters.

The exhibit space is heavily planted with native New Mexico vegetation intended to mimic the riparian environment of the Rio Grande Gorge area.

In the early 1950s, river otters in New Mexico were driven to extinction by pelt trappers and by fishermen who sought to eliminate them, believing the otters were eating sport fish, which was proven false.

Jim Stuart, a specialist with the state Department of Game and Fish said that from 2008 to 2010, 33 trapped “nuisance” otters from other states were reintroduced into the Rio Pueblo de Taos, a tributary of the Rio Grande.

Since the reintroductions, the otters have been breeding and expanding their range.
For the full and expanded story see:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1192509/new-river-otter-habitat-opens-at-abq-biopark-aquarium.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Albuquerque cannot be just a cop on every corner, a fire truck on every street, a jail in every quadrant, a garbage dumpster at every turn, streets without potholes and buses like ART that no one can use because the city has bought lemons.

Any truly great city must include facilities that enhance the quality of life of its citizens, such as libraries, zoos, museums and aquariums, facilities that the ABQ Biopark represents.

The Rio Grande Zoo has gone from rows of simple chain link fenced cages and bar cages in the 1960’s to state-of-the-art open facilities in the present day.

The entire BioPark with the zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens is one of the finest attractions of its kind in the country.

In 1987 the Albuquerque City Council engaged in a process of public hearings to determine and identify what type of facilities and projects were needed for a thriving city that would enhance our quality of life and make Albuquerque an attractive City to raise a family.

By a unanimous, bipartisan vote, the Albuquerque City Council enacted the “Quality of Life” legislation that resulted in the construction of the Albuquerque Aquarium, the Albuquerque Children’s Science Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Balloon Museum.

The “Quality of Life” legislation funded the acquisition of critical open space with open land acquisitions completing the final phase of what forms the backbone of our “urban parks”.

During the 2015 municipal election, Albuquerque voters wisely approved with an overwhelming majority the voter petition drive initiative to increase the gross receipts tax for the BioPark.

The gross receipts tax initiative for the BioPark was needed because some $20 million dollars plus in repairs and maintenance to the facilities are needed and major repairs were ignored for eight years.

There are $40 million dollars in upgrades and exhibits needed to the BioPark facilities and without making those repairs, the city risks losing many national certifications.

The tax will raise $255 million dollars over 15 years for the BioPark.

In passing the gross receipts tax, voters decided to invest in their community and themselves and bypass the Mayor and the City Council.

The next 15 years will indeed be exciting times for the Bio Park when after all improvements are done and when we will see the exhibits reflecting the geographic regions of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

APD’s Gone “Poaching”

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) intends to spend $88 million dollars, over the next four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers.

The 2018-2019 fiscal year budget provides for increasing funding from 1,000 sworn police to 1,040.

The massive investment is being done in order to full fill Mayor Tim Keller’s 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates.

The APD recruiting plan to grow the size of the department includes the city increasing police officer hourly pay and increasing longevity pay.

GROWING APD WITH LATERAL HIRES AND RETIREES

APD is projecting that it will have 980 officers by next summer by growing the ranks with both new cadets and lateral hires from other departments, including APD retirees.

APD has recruited 59 sworn police officers as “lateral hires” from other law enforcement agencies in the State of New Mexico.

In October, APD graduated a lateral academy with 29 officers.

Another lateral academy with about 30 officers is expecting to graduate in December.

The 59 “lateral hires” from other law enforcement agencies include:

11 from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office
11 from the Santa Fe Police Department
8 from Rio Rancho Police Department
2 from the Farmington Police Department
2 from the Isleta Pueblo Police Department
2 from the Valencia County Sheriff’s Department
11 from other law enforcement agencies, including other Sheriff Departments, the Attorney General’s Office and the NM Corrections Department.
10 previously retired APD officers have been recruited to returned to work.
2 retirees from other departments have recruited to returned to work.

RIO RANCHO POLICE DEPARTMENT LATERAL HIRE RECRUITS

APD Chief Michael Geier is a retired APD Police officer and is the former Rio Rancho Police Chief that Mayor Keller recruited for APD.

Rio Rancho Police Officers start at $20.30 an hour while APD officers’ start at $29 an hour.

The Rio Rancho Police Department (RRPD) is authorized for 135 officers.

Currently, the RRPD has 16 vacancies and they have lost 11 officers to Albuquerque Police Department this year.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/rio-rancho-police-ups-recruitment-efforts/5157589/?cat=500

In early November, 7 Rio Rancho police officers announced resignations to join the Albuquerque Police Department.

Including the 7 officers who recently resigned, 11 Rio Rancho officers have left the Rio Rancho Police Department to join APD.

Eight former Rio Rancho police have either graduated or are currently seated in the APD Police Academy.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1248996/apd-snags-11-rio-rancho-officers.html

LUCRATIVE RETENTION AND INCENTIVE PAY

The Keller Administration and the APD Union negotiated and agreed to a 2-year contract.

The approved contract provides that the pay rate for officers with zero to four years of experience went from $28 to $29 an hour.

Starting pay for an APD officer right out of the APD academy is $29 an hour.

Under the new contract, officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour.

The new contract pays senior officers to between $30 to $31.50 an hour.

Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour.

The rate for sergeants went from $32 to $35 an hour, and lieutenants pay went up from $36.70 to $40.00 an hour.

APD’s hourly pay is significantly higher than what officers and deputies make in other law enforcement agencies in the state and for example include:

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies make $27.03 an hour.
Rio Rancho police officers start out making $20.30 an hour.
Santa Fe police officers make $19 an hour.

The approved longevity pay scale effective August 1, 2018 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is as follows:

For 5 to 9 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 10 to 14 years of experience: $150 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,900 yearly
For 15 to 17 years of experience: $200 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,200 yearly
For 18 to 19 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 19 to 20 years or more: $500 will be paid bi-weekly, or $13,000 yearly

The approved longevity pay scale effective the first full pay period following July 1, 2019, and that will replace the 2018-2019 is as follows:

For 5 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 6 years of experience: $125 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,250 yearly
For 7 to 9 years of experience: $225 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,800 yearly
For 10 to 12 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 13 to 15 years o experience: $350 will be paid bi-weekly, or $9,100 yearly
For 16 to 17 years or more: $450 will be paid bi-weekly, or $11,700 yearly
For 18 or more years of experience: $600 will be paid bi-weekly, 15,600 yearly

Specialty pay and longevity bonuses offered by APD can add $100 to $600 to an officer’s paycheck.

Time employed by lateral at other law enforcement agencies qualify for the APD longevity bonuses.

APD announced in October that officers from other departments can get credit for up to 10 years of experience they have had with other law enforcement agencies which means $3,900 longevity pay after working for APD for only 1 year.

In the past, lateral hires were given credit for only half of their previous work experience.

That work experience directly increases an officer’s pay in the form of yearly incentive retention bonuses.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

The Albuquerque Police Department’s new pay structure and increased longevity pay incentive bonuses are allowing APD to recruit experienced police officers from other New Mexico law enforcement agencies.

Police officers who are leaving other agencies to join APD are some of the more experienced and highly trained officers at the agencies they are leaving.

Mayor Tim Keller has said he has heard concerns from nearby local governments about Albuquerque taking officers from other departments.

Keller proclaims that fixing Albuquerque’s crime problem is his main priority, as it should be, but it is also at the expense of other municipal police departments and communities.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1233680/apd-growth-shaking-up-other-police-departments.html

Keller and APD hiring so many police officers from other agencies should come as absolutely no surprise.

On January 27, 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor and Albuquerque Mayor candidate Tim Keller was interviewed by the on line and now defunct Albuquerque Free Press.

Keller told the Albuquerque Free Press that the solution to APD’s shortage of sworn officers is that “you poach” them from other law enforcement agencies.

The term “poaching” although somewhat insulting as an illegal hunting term, is an accurate description of what Keller and APD Chief Geier are doing now.

Geier is the former Chief of Rio Rancho Police Department which explains to a degree why so many lateral hires are coming from Rio Rancho.

The problem with “poaching” is that it increases the risk of hiring problem officers from other agencies as lateral transfers, which is what caused in part APDs problems in the first place.

Keller and Geier need to realize that APD needs to recruit a new generation of young, committed police officers to start their careers who are fully trained in constitutional policing practices.

Keller and Geier are also hiring and returning to work APD retirees and the danger with that is APD may be hiring back cops that created, contributed or who did not stop the culture of aggression found by the DOJ.

APD needs to curb its efforts on hiring more lateral hires and concentrate on hiring younger new generation of police officer to begin their law enforcement career and to rebuild APD from the ground up.

Berry Is Now Lord Voldemort To The Albuquerque Journal

Following is the Sunday, November 25, 2018, Albuquerque Journal Editorial that appeared on page A-14, with the link provided thereafter:

Editorial Headline: ABQ and bus maker BYD locked in a costly game of chicken over troubled ART

Fasten your seatbelts, Albuquerque. It looks like we’re headed for a legal bus wreck down at the courthouse.

The rocky relationship between the administration of Mayor Tim Keller and Chinese-owned bus manufacturer BYD (Build Your Dreams), which had struck a deal with Keller’s predecessor to provide the city with 20, 60-foot-long electric buses for the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, veered off the highway and into the ditch this month.

From the perspective of an aerial traffic cam, the two sides’ narratives are on vastly different paths as both sides threaten legal action. For its part, the city says it still does not have the full fleet BYD promised to have here in late 2017, the buses that are here don’t perform as advertised, and many are riddled with safety hazards. Meanwhile, BYD says the buses are fine and the Keller administration’s criticism is politically motivated grandstanding that hurts Albuquerque residents and poses a threat to the company’s business reputation.

Since taking office, Keller’s team has pointed out various problems with the buses. Some problems were to be expected. After all, it’s a first-of-its-kind product in the U.S. – namely a 60-foot, articulated, five-door electric bus. BYD has vacillated between being defensive and pledging to fix any issues, and the city did have inspectors on-site in California where the buses are assembled – although their work is highly suspect.

Keller upped the ante considerably this month when he announced the city would pull the plug on the BYD contract and search for clean diesel or natural gas alternative buses. He hammered the BYD buses, citing problems with the brakes, doors that open when they aren’t supposed to, handicap wheelchair locks that release when the driver turns on a cooling fan, two-way radios that go dead, and malfunctioning ramp sensors that could lead to crushed feet on the passenger platforms designed specifically for this bus.

Oh, and he said there was a possibility the battery bank inside the bus could overheat and catch fire. All this on top of operational problems the city says are led by batteries that won’t hold anywhere near the charge needed for a bus to go the promised 270 miles. That’s a bigger problem than it sounds, because it means the city doesn’t have enough buses to operate on the ART route.

Keller said in a meeting with Journal editors and reporters that BYD has missed every benchmark under the contract and added “I just don’t trust them anymore. I think they are in way over their head in America. I don’t think they have a stable leadership team, (and) we’re not going to be their test guinea pig for R&D on electric batteries.”

The city then fired off a legal shot, telling BYD in a letter that in addition to rejecting the buses it would seek damages, costs, attorney fees and other relief.
It would be an understatement to say the mayor’s pronouncement didn’t sit well with BYD president Stella Li.

“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD,” the company said. “These statements show the city is not acting in good faith under the contract and further indicate a potential political agenda to discredit and throttle a public works project that the mayor has long criticized as part of his campaign platform.”

It’s true some of the Keller administration’s early criticisms of BYD’s products seemed to quickly run out of gas. BYD said the charging station instructions that were reportedly all in Mandarin simply required a user to change the language. Leaking axles had just been overfilled. And mirrors that struck station canopies could be adjusted to clear them.

But the newer issues appear far more serious.

Li promised to hire independent experts to prove the buses work and are safe. The company said it is the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer with 36,000 buses in service and City Hall’s actions have damaged BYD’s reputation. Indeed, any potential government customer looking for buses would surely pause given Albuquerque’s general description of BYD’s product as something akin to a rolling death trap – to the extent it will roll at all.

BYD shows no sign of backing down or going away, so at this point Albuquerque is engaged in a high stakes game of “chicken” with 60-foot electric buses on a collision course for the courthouse. Meanwhile, the city is stuck with $69 million in construction up and down Central Avenue built specifically for a 60-foot, five-door bus. Finding an alternative is expected to take at least a year and could mean the loss of $6 million in federal funds earmarked for the electric buses.

Let’s be clear. Whether Keller ever liked this project is irrelevant. What is relevant is he has an absolute duty not to knowingly put an unsafe product on the streets or to pay for buses that don’t work as advertised. So IF his team is correct in its assessment of BYD’s product, he’s done the right thing.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1250156/on-a-collision-course.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Former Mayor Richard Berry has now become Lord Voldemort to the Albuquerque Journal as “he whose name must not be spoken” when it comes to the disastrous ART Bus project.

The Albuquerque Journal does not even mention once the name of Mayor Richard Berry in the editorial calling him “Keller’s predecessor.”

On July 13, 2016, then Mayor Richard Berry said the buses being purchased from BYD for the ART bus project would be electric and powered by batteries, not diesel, a move Berry said would save money and reduce pollution.

Berry also proclaimed that “electric vehicles are the way of the future.” According to Berry, the BYD bus purchase would put Albuquerque in position to be the first city in the country to operate a fleet of 60-foot-long electric buses.

Berry proudly proclaimed “I’m a fiscal conservative … This is a fiscally conservative decision. It’s a proven technology … I’m very comfortable with this.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/806990/electric-buses-to-be-used-for-art.html

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 the lawsuit, not a single candidate for Mayor at the time attended any of the court hearings.

Soon after being sworn in as Mayor, Keller was urged to file a lawsuit over the buses.

Notwithstanding, Mayor Keller has said that too much has been spent on the entire ART Bus project and it would be too costly to Restore route 66 and to remove the platforms.

When 15 new buses were delivered, the Keller administration took possession and did not return them and only now is trying to cancel the contract.

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.

Rather admitting just how wrong they have been about the ART Bus project, the Albuquerque Journal editors chooses to no even mention the name of Richard Berry.

The time for talking is over and it’s time to get on with litigation to make taxpayers whole again and perhaps restore Route 66.

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed

Your Bus Drivers Need To Learn How To Drive Proven Technology!

On Tuesday, November 13, 2018, the city announced its plans to cancel the manufacturing contract with Build Your Dreams (BYD) with two major problem cited as the brakes and the batteries for the electric buses.

The city wants to return all the 60-foot electric buses manufactured and delivered for the disastrous ART Bus Project.

During the November 13, 2018 press conference, Mayor Keller revealed that the city sent a “registered mail” letter demanding that BYD take possession of the buses and the chargers by November 30, 2018.

The demand letter also put BYD on notice that the city intends to seek “damages, costs, attorney fees and any relief to which it is legally entitled to” essentially giving BYD notice that the city intends to sue.

On November 14, 2018, BYD President Stella Li issued a statement vehemently denying the accusations made by Mayor Tim Keller saying:

“Keller’s media statements slander and maliciously harm the reputation and good name of BYD, … These statements show that the city is not acting in good faith under the contract and further indicate a potential political agenda to discredit and throttle a public works project that the mayor has long criticized as part of his campaign platform. … [Albuquerque] City hall’s actions have not only wrongfully damaged BYD’s reputation, but also have deprived the citizens of Albuquerque of the world’s safest and most advanced pollution- and cost-reducing zero-emission transit bus. BYD will take all appropriate legal actions to protect itself in light of City Hall’s conduct.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1247449/byd-will-hire-independent-experts-to-examine-buses.html

On Monday, November 19, 2018 BYD Vice President Michael Austin told an Indianapolis television station that ABQ Ride bus drivers were to blame for reported braking problems.

During an on-air TV interview in Indianapolis, Michael Austin said BYD buses were inspected 3 times before they were sent to Albuquerque, and pronounced the BYD bus technology as safe.

Additional news media coverage can be reviewed here:

https://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/indianapolis/indygo-electric-bus-safety-questioned-after-alburquerque-points-out-major-problems-returns-them

https://www.abqjournal.com/1248943/bus-vp-blames-abq-ride-drivers-for-braking-problems.html

LONG DISTANCE ACCUSATIONS

BYD Vice President Michael Austin was in Indianapolis on Monday, November 19, 2018 to take local media on a test ride of one of their IndyGo buses, and when asked about the Albuquerque buses he said a lack of driver training was part of ABQ Ride problems.

IndyGo manages and operates the Indiana capital city’s public bus transit system and has purchased 13 60-foot electric buses from BYD in an effort to replace its mass-transit system’s older diesel fleet.

The city of Indianapolis has contracted to pay more than $1.2 million each for the buses that will run along a 14-mile route.

IndyGo told the TV station it is not seeing the same problems on their BYD test bus in part because the bus now uses different battery technology.

According to BYD, Albuquerque’s ART buses use iron-phosphate batteries that are “fire-safe, nontoxic and environmentally friendly.”

The IndyGo buses are using liquid-cooled batteries, according to Indianapolis Business Journal.

Albuquerque officials have said the battery life on the ART Buses is much shorter than promised, and that the batteries overheat and can be in danger of exploding.

According to Austin:

“We have 36,000 buses deployed. … We have not seen those issues. We know what the issues are, and they were more driver errors misreported to the media as safety issues.”

Austin is now blaming Mayor Tim Keller for coming up with falsehoods to get out of the purchase agreement by saying:

“The buses [manufactured for Albuquerque] were inspected three times before they ever left our factory, they passed all brake testing, and they still pass, so they were looking for a way out of the contract from the beginning. … When Albuquerque’s new elected mayor came into office he immediately asked to terminate the contract before any issues were found. Now he’s figuring out a way … He’s come up with some claims that we believe are false.”

Mayor Keller responded to Austin by saying:

“Well that’s not actually true, we never tried to terminate the contract. In fact, it was the opposite. We reached out and said can you help us get this done in a way that the busses will actually work. … We want to do business with companies that just keep their words, are professional and deliver on their contractual obligations.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/bus-company-blames-keller-for-art-deal-going-sour/5152070/?cat=500

REPORTED PROBLEMS WITH THE BYD BUSES

The reported problems associated with the buses that can be gleaned from newspaper and media accounts include:

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. BYD still has not provided the extra charging stations promised.
13. The bus batteries heat up so much that they can’t take a charge.
14. The batteries or not properly stored or cooled on the buses posing a fire hazard.

The Keller Administration reported that the deficiencies with the brakes, batteries and doors are “fleet-wide issues”.

Albuquerque city officials are standing by their previous comments on the BYD buses.

Alicia Manzano, spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller’s office, had this to say in response to Austin:

“We’ve laid out the facts since the beginning, and these buses are not safe for the road. We refuse to jeopardize the safety of our residents and want BYD to hold up their end of the deal.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is easy to imagine hearing the bus manufacturer spokesman say:

“All the problems with the new buses are driver error! There is nothing wrong with the the buses! Don’t you damn fools in Albuquerque believe former Mayor Richard Berry when he said that this is “proven technology”, we know what we are doing. You taxpayers have no right to demand to get what you paid for. Your elected officials know what is good for you and let the buyer beware!”

What is so damn laughable is the false accusation being made against Keller that when he was sworn into office last year he immediately asked to terminate the contract before any problems were found.

BDY’s accusation that the ART Bus project is a public works project that Mayor Keller has long criticized as part of his campaign platform to get elected Mayor is downright false and could not be further from the truth.

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 meetings held by the Berry Administration on the project, including the meetings hosted by city councilors.

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

From day one of being Mayor, Keller has said that too much has been spent on the project and it would be too costly to reverse the project.

When 15 new buses were delivered, the Keller administration took possession and did not return them and only now is trying to cancel the contract.

The time for talking is over and its time to get on with litigation to make taxpayers whole again and perhaps restore Route 66.

Dinelli Blog Articles On ART Bus Project Listed