City Wants To Purchase Motels and Convert To Public Housing; Two Public Meeting Scheduled After First  Had “Sold Out” Reservations And  Hostile Opposition To “Motel Conversions”

On November 10,  Mayor Tim Keller announced his “Housing Forward ABQ” plan to add 5,000 housing units to the existing housing  supply by 2025.  Keller called his plan  “transformative” and it includes  updates to Albuquerque’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO)  to carry it out.

MOTEL CONVERSIONS

A zoning change already enacted by the city council earlier this year eased the process for city-funded motel conversions by allowing microwaves or hot plates to serve as a substitute for the standard requirement that every kitchen have a cooking stove or oven.

Mayor Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ” places great emphasis on “motel conversions”.   “Motel conversions” includes affordable housing where the City’s Family & Community Services Department will  acquire and renovate existing motels to develop low-income affordable housing options. Keller’s plan calls for hotel/motel conversions to house 1,000 people by 2025.

The existing layout of the motels makes it cost-prohibitive to renovate them into living units with full sized kitchens. An Integrated Development Ordinance amendment provides an exemption for affordable housing projects funded by the city, allowing kitchens to be small, without full-sized ovens and refrigerators. It will require city social services to regularly assist residents.  The homeless or the near homeless would be offered the housing.

One area of the city that has been targeted in particular by the Keller Administration for motel conversions is “Hotel Circle” in the North East Heights. Located in the area are a number of motels in the largest shopping area in SE and NE Albuquerque near I-40. The businesses in the area include Target, Office Depot, Best Buy, Home Store, PetCo and the Mattress Store  and restaurants such as  Sadies, the Owl Café, and Applebee’s and other businesses.

The city is looking into buying potential properties and claims it has  not yet completed any purchases.

Sources have confirmed the Keller Administration  wants to buy the fomer  Sure Stay Hotel located at 10330 Hotel Circle NE   and also has  its eye on purchasing the abandoned and boarded up Ramada Inn for a motel conversion.  The City Department of Family & Community Services is in the process purchasing the Sure Stay Hotel by using Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding of $3,059,662.12 in Community Development Block Grant,  $2,443,724.00 from Public Facilities monies  and $615,938.12 from Foreclosure Prevention for a total property purchase of  $6,119,324.24. She also outlines how the Department of Family and Community Services has  submitted a request to the HUD Albuquerque  Field Office for the release of  CARES and HOME American Rescue Plan funding to be used to purchase Sure Stay Hotel  and the renovation project for the permanent housing with supportive services.

Strong neighborhood and business opposition has emerged and galvanized around  the city’s attempted purchase of the Sure Stay Motel, with some petitioning the city to change the zoning code to disallow motel conversions. A petition with well over 250 signatures of business owners and residents in the area was secured within a few days has been submitted to the city.

CITY’S FINANCIAL COMMITMENT TO HELP LOW INCOME HOUSING

On June 23, 2022 Mayor Tim Keller announced that the City of Albuquerque was adding $48 million to the FY23 budget to address housing and homelessness issues in Albuquerque. The City  also announced it was working on policy changes to create more housing and make housing more accessible. The key appropriations passed by City Council included in the $48 million are:

  • $20.7 million for affordable and supportive housing
    · $1.5 million for improvements to the Westside Emergency Housing Center
    · $4 million to expand the Wellness Hotel Program
    · $7 million for a youth shelter
    · $6.8 million for medical respite and sobering centers
    · $7 million for Gateway Phases I and II, and improvements to the Gibson Gateway Shelter facility
    · $555,000 for services including mental health and food insecurity prevention

The link to the quoted source is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/family/news/mayor-keller-signs-off-on-major-housing-and-homelessness-investments

In fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) the Family and Community Services Department and the Keller Administration spent upwards of $40 Million to benefit the homeless,  near homeless including  affordable housing initiatives. The 2021 enacted city budget (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022 ) for Family and Community Services Department provides for affordable housing and community contracts totaling $22,531,752, emergency shelter contracts totaling $5,688,094, homeless support services contracts totaling $3,384,212, mental health contracts totaling $4,329,452, and substance abuse contracts for counseling contracts totaling $2,586,302.

The link to the 2021-2022 city approved budget is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy22-approved-budget-numbered-w-hyperlinks-final.pdf

Mayor Keller  has increased funding to the Family Community Services Department for assistance to the homeless with $35,145,851 million spent in fiscal year 2021 and $59,498,915 million being spent in fiscal 2022  with the city adopting a “housing first” policy.

Mayor Keller’s 2022-2023 approved budget significantly increases the Family and Community Services budget by $24,353,064 to assist the homeless or near homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915.

The 2022-2023 enacted budget for the Department of Community Services is $72.4 million and the department is funded for 335 full time employees, an increase of 22 full time employees.  A breakdown of the amounts to help the homeless and those in need of housing assistance is as follows:

$42,598,361 total for affordable housing and community contracts with a major emphasis on permanent housing for chronically homeless. It is $24,353,064 more than last year.

$6,025,544 total for emergency shelter contracts (Budget page 102.), down $396,354 from last year.

$3,773,860 total for mental health contracts (Budget page105.), down $604,244 from last year.

$4,282,794 total for homeless support services, up $658,581 from last year.

$2,818,356 total substance abuse contracts for counseling (Budget page 106.), up by $288,680 from last year.

The link to the 2022-2023 budget it here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

The 2022-2023 adopted city contains $4 million in recurring funding and $2 million in one-time funding for supportive housing programs in the City’s Housing First model and $24 million in Emergency Rental Assistance from the federal government.

TWO PUBLIC MEETINGS TO BE HELD ON MOTEL CONVERSIONS

The city’s Family and Community Services Department announced it is hosting a public meeting to discuss motel conversions.   The meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 6  from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Albuquerque Convention Center.  The city  requested  attendees RSVP.

Katie Simon, a city spokeswoman, said the  reason the city is holding the informational meeting is to address the publics concerns about motel conversions and said this:

“We hope to really educate about what we’re trying to do with these projects.  I think there’s a lot of misinformation and just not a lot of understanding about what the vision is for these conversions.”

For more information on the meeting and to RSVP, go online to https://bit.ly/3VHHVqB.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2554493/city-officials-to-discuss-converting-hotels-to-housing.html

Within hours of giving notice of the December 6 meeting and requesting RSVPs from the public, the city announced that reservations were no longer being accepted for the first event and that it was was “sold out”.  The event is in fact free of charge but the reservation app was not modified to state “reservations closed”.  In response to the public outcry,  the city added an additional public meeting to discuss its plans to convert hotels into permanent housing. The second meeting will be virtual and is scheduled for Tuesday, December 13.

https://www.abqjournal.com/2555252/city-of-albuquerque-adds-additional-public-meeting-on-dec-13-to-detail-housing-plan.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

There is absolutely no doubt that the Keller Administration and the Family and Community Services Department is hosting the public meetings to discuss motel conversions simply because the issue has resulted in a severe backlash. Giving a 4 day notice on a Friday of a public meeting and then asking for RSVP from the public was  nothing more than a ploy to suppress attendance by hoping no one would  see the notice. It’s a ploy that did not work and the city was inundated with reservation requests forcing the city to schedule a second  meeting.

It was downright offensive for City Spokesperson Katie Simon to say  that the purpose of  meeting is to  try and educate what the city is trying to do with motel conversions and saying there’s a “lot of misinformation about them”. The public and the business community  are not ignorant.  They know what is going on and have legitimate concerns that motel conversions will destroy neighborhoods and established business areas.

The comments given by Simon give  the definite impression that the meetings are  not for the city to listen to public concerns  but to “educate the public”,  in other word’s lecture the public,  and the public will not be allowed to ask questions and without any consideration of the neighboring businesses or residents.

The public has already gone down a similar road of being totally ignored by Mayor Tim Keller, his Family and Community Services  Division and the Planning Department and the City Council when it comes to “Safe Outdoor Spaces” which are city sanctioned homeless tent encampments for upwards of 50 tents. Despite public opposition and outcry, the city amended the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) to allow for  2 Safe Outdoor Space homeless tent encampments  in each of the 9 City Council Districts with at least 3 already approved. One Safe Outdoor Spaces for woman who have been are victims of sex trafficking’s is being appealed.  There is also city council legislation pending to repeal Safe Outdoor Spaces.

It’s the Family and Community Service Division that is spear heading both “motel conversions” and Safe Outdoor Spaces to the point of cramming both down the publics throats despite strong public opposition.  The department works closely with and gives preferential treatment to Safe Outdoor Space applicants by offering funding to operate and identifies city and federal funding to purchase abandoned or vacant motels for motel conversions usually all done behind closed doors.

Given the millions already being spent by the Keller Administration on affordable and supportive housing,  the biggest unanswered question is does the city have any business going into the “hotel conversion”  business and begin operating such facilities?  Further, how many motels have been identified for purchase to achieve the 1,000 unit goal and for what amounts and what are the locations? It will be interesting to see of Mayor Tim Keller or any City Councilor  will show up at either meeting.

The public is encouraged to attend either the December 6 or the December 13 meeting and voice their concerns.

 

Governor Lujan Grisham’s Office Releases Names Of 10 Applicants For Bernalillo County District Attorney To Replace Raúl Torrez

On November 16, it was reported that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office was  accepting applications to fill the vacancy of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez who was elected Attorney General on November 8 and who will be  is sworn in January 1. Lujan Grisham plans to appoint a replacement to serve the remaining 2 years of Torrez’s 4 year term which expires on January 1, 2024.  Applications for the post were due by December 2.

Late Friday December  2, the Governor’s office released to the Albuquerque Journal a list of 10 attorneys who have applied for the appointment.  The link to the Albuquerque Journal article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2554895/nine-attorneys-respond-to-governors-call-for-da-applications.html

The 10 attorneys who have applied with their background information are:

  1. Sam Bregman, a former Democratic Party State Chairman.  He  is a respected trial attorney who manages his own private law firm. Bregman currently serves on the New Mexico Gaming Commission. His has trial experience in both civil and criminal defense and he has handled high profile criminal defense cases. including defending former APD Officer Dominic Perez who was one of 2 APD SWAT Officers who  shot and killed homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia Foothills,  He served as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney from 1994 through 1997. Bregman was an elected Albuquerque City Council from 1995 until 1999 and has a served as Deputy State Auditor for the State of New Mexico.  Bregman unsuccessfully ran for Commissioner of Public Lands and Mayor of AlbuquerqueSources have confirmed that Bregman is making a serious run for the Governor’s appointment and has been making calls to secure support within the defense bar and the Democratic party.

 

  1. Damon Martinez, a former United States Attorney for New Mexico. From 2000 to 2013Martinez was an Assistant United State Attorney. In 2014, he  was appointed United States Attorney by President Barack Obama  and unanimously confirmed in the United States Senate in 2014.  Martinez led the US Attorney’s Office during the Department of Justice’s investigation and settlement agreement with the city of Albuquerque over the Albuquerque Police Department when the  Department of Justice found excessive use of deadly force and a culture of aggression within APD.  On March 11, 2017 Martinez resigned as US Attorney and went into private practice.  In 2018, Martinez was an unsuccessful candidate for the First Congressional District to replace Michelle Lujan Grisham. Martinez is currently an Albuquerque Deputy City Attorney who works as APD’s Chief Policy Advisor and on legislative matters for Mayor Tim Keller and the city and lobbies in Santa Fe during legislative sessions.

 

  1. Private Attorney Ed Perea, a retired APD  Police Commander.  Perea became an attorney after 24 years of service as  police officer. Perea ran for District Attorney against Raúl Torrez in 2016.  Perea has served as a Special Assistant Prosecutor in the 13th District. He’s also served as Executive Director of the Center for Law, Policy and Public Safety and has taught at CNM.

 

  1. Joseph Gandert, a private Albuquerque attorney.  Gandert is a native New Mexican and has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1977. He is a seasoned  trial attorney. He was with the New Mexico Public Defenders Office for 13 years and headed the Juvenile Division.  He was  with the Federal Public defenders office for 20 plus years. Mr. Gandert is now in the private practice of law and works with his son’s law practice.

 

  1. Joseph Gribble, an Albuquerque attorney. Gribble is a 1977 graduate of University of New Mexico law school.   Mr. Gribble has extensive experience in criminal and civil litigation and he  lists his areas of practice to include  Federal and State Criminal Defense work,  Commercial Litigation,  Civil Litigation, Medical Malpractice,  Wrongful Death and  Employment Law.  Mr. Gribble started his career in the District Attorneys Office where his work resulted in the successful prosecution and death sentence of a serial killer. Upon leaving the District Attorney’s Office as a Deputy District Attorney he settled into his current private practice. Mr. Gribble has handled hundreds of criminal cases throughout the State of New Mexico and in all jurisdictions, including by not limited to metropolitan, magistrate, district, tribal and federal courts.

 

  1. Evan Cochnar, is a 2006 graduate of the University of New Mexico where he earned a B.A. in International Relations, Political Science and History.  He is a 2009 graduate of Syracuse University College of Law. He  has served as an Assistant District Attorney in the 11th Judicial District from 2011 to 2020.  He currently works for the New Mexico Risk Management Division.
  1. Assistant Attorney General Ashley Schweizer. Schweizer was appointed an Assistant Attorney General by Attorney General Hector Balderas. She is currently handling the prosecution of serial shoplifter Isaiah Martinez who  is responsible for stealing nearly $60,000 worth of designer sunglasses and has been charged with 21 counts related to his brazen crime spree, as well as conspiracy and aggravated assault. She is also one of the prosecutors handling the prosecution of former Maintenance Technician/Detention Officer Nathan D. Sena.   Sena was employed by the GEO Group, Inc. and was a detention officer for a New Mexico Women’s Recovery Academy treatment facility. It is alleged he  preyed upon women under his control at the facility and  engaged in multiple sexual acts, which resulted in eight charges of criminal sexual penetration as a person in a position of authority.

On November 18, 202,  a group of 49 trial attorneys in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office signed a letter asking Lujan Grisham to appoint one of the 3  deputy DA’s as Torrez’s successor.  As expected, all 3 of the Deputy’s have applied and they are:

  1. Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone who was appointed by Raul Torrez to  oversees the Metropolitan Division. Boone earned his B.A. in political science from the University of New Mexico in 2000, and his  law degree  from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2004.  In  2014, Boone was a  candidate for the 2nd Judicial District Court in New Mexico. He ran for election to the Bernalillo Metropolitan Court, but lost the 2014 primary. Boone  has developed and  posted on the internet a website entitled “Joshua Boone for District Attorney” thereby making him an announced candidate to run in 2025.  The website is a slick campaign web site for a candidate for office. The link to the Josh Boone for District Attorney web page is boonefornewmexico.com.

 

  1. Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney John Duran, who oversees the District Attorneys’ Major Crimes Division. From 2003 to 2013 John Duran was  a Bernalillo County Assistant District Attorney.  From 2013 to 2016 he was a Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge.  He was appointed to Division 8 of the  Metro court on March 28, 2013, by Governor Susana Martinez (R).  He was defeated in his bid for re-election in November 2014 but was reappointed to Division 3 on the court soon after.  He ran for election in 2016 but was defeated in the primary on June 7, 2016.  Duran filed as a Democratic candidate in 2016, but he ran as a Republican in 2014.

 

    10.  Bernalillo County Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia who oversees the DA’s Juvenile Division. She has been with office for 16 years. (No further information could be found.)

The link to the Albuquerque Journal article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2554895/nine-attorneys-respond-to-governors-call-for-da-applications.html

BERNALILLO COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

As of November 21,2022, according to the New Mexico State Government Sunshine Portal, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has a $30,350,800 million operating budget with an adjusted operating budget of $36,680,800 which includes all sources of financing including federal grants.  The office is budgeted for 337 full time positions.  The office employs 102 attorneys (81 filled, 21 vacant) who are “at will” and 255 other “classified” employees consisting of paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance division personnel who can only be terminated for cause under the state personnel rules and regulations.  276 of the positions are “active” meaning filled. The office has an alarming 61 vacancies. The number of vacancies in the office is larger than most other District Attorney’s offices in the state.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It’s more likely than not that the Governor will now schedule interviews of the applicants and within a matter of 7 to 10 days make an announcement.  Now that the names of all applicants have been released, the general public is urged to weigh in on who the Governor should appoint.

Great qualifications for the job does not necessarily make a person a good fit for an elected position.  Each one of the applicants possesses positive and negative skill sets and different types of qualifications for the job. In other words, there is no one perfect candidate suited for the job who has applied, but that is usually the case with any elected or appointed politcal position.

The next Bernalillo County District Attorney needs to have strong prosecutorial and case management experience, personnel management experience,  be a proven trial attorney, have  the ability to work well with all stakeholders within the criminal justice system, including the courts, the defense bar, law enforcement and the legislature and be an effective leader who can attract attorneys to work for the office.

This is one appointment where politics should absolutely not play any role, but probably will given the high profile nature of the office.  The Governor should appoint who she feels is the most qualified candidate.  If the Governor has any reservations about those who have applied or she is not fully satisfied with the applicants, she should seek more applicants.

 

NM Sun Dinelli Guest Column: ABQ’s 2023 municipal elections take shape

On November 22,  the online news agency the New Mexico Sun published the below Pete Dinelli guest column:

HEADLINE:  Look ahead: ABQ’s 2023 municipal elections take shape

Democrat Pat Davis And Republican Trudy Jones have announced that they will not seek another term on the Albuquerque City Council in the 2023 municipal election. A total of 4 City Council seats will be on next year’s municipal ballot and include District 2 now represented by progressive Democrat Isaac Benton and District 4 now represented by conservative Republican Brook Bassan.  

Republican Jones, 73, represents District 8, Albuquerque’s far Northeast Heights and Foothills.  She will complete 16 years of service in 2023. She is a retired realtor and was the co-sponsor of the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO), which in 2017 replaced all the city’s zoning codes.  This year she voted to support “Safe Outdoor Spaces” for homeless tent encampments and “motel conversions” to allow the city to purchase motels to be converted into long-term low-income housing. 

Democrat Davis, 44, was first elected in 2015 representing District 6, which encompasses the International District, Mesa Del Sol, Nob Hill, Southeast Heights, and the University of New Mexico. Davis is considered the leading progressives on the city council and worked on the city’s early solar energy initiatives and co-sponsored legislation that strengthened the city’s immigrant-friendly status, and another bill that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana before the state legalized recreational cannabis. 

Both Davis and Jones failed at APD police oversight and did nothing when it came to APD reforms mandated by the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement. Neither challenged the previous and the current Mayor and APD command staff in any meaningful way demanding compliance with the Department of Justice consent decree police reforms.

Both Republican Trudy Jones and Democrat Pat Davis voted for the final adoption of the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO),  which is  now having  long term impact on historical  neighborhoods as it  favors developers. The IDO is nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy and the “gutting” of long-standing sector development plans. For decades, the development community sought to repeal those sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their historical character.

The two other City Council District seats that will be on next year’s 2023 municipal ballot are District 2 represented by 4 term Democrat City Councilor Isaac Benton and District 4 represented by first term Republican Brook Bassan.  Benton and Bassan have not said if they will be running again, but if they do it is expected they will have strong opposition.

Democrat Ike Benton, 71, is a retired architect.  District 2 includes a large area of downtown Central and the North Valley which leans left and is heavily Hispanic.  Benton, like Jones and Davis, voted for enactment of the IDO in 2017 despite District 2 having the biggest concentration of historical neighborhoods that is now being adversely affected the most by the IDO as it encourages gentrification.  Benton also did nothing when it came to APD reforms mandated by the court settlement agreement after the Department of Justice found a “culture of aggression” and “excessive use of deadly force” by APD.  Benton never challenged the previous and the current Mayor and the APD command staff demanding compliance with the DOJ  consent decree reforms.

Republican Brook Bassan is the District 4 City Councilor serving her first 4 year term on the city council.  The major borders of District 4 are generally Montano/Montgomery on the South, Tramway on the North, Academy/Ventura/Holbrook on the East and Edith on the West.  It was in June of this year that Brook Bassan became embroiled in controversy when she became the sponsor for  the “Safe Outdoor Spaces” amendment to the IDO.  The change now permits 2 homeless encampments in all 9 city council districts with 40 designated spaces for tents, allowing upwards of 50 people, requires hand washing stations, toilets and showers, requires a management plan, 6 foot fencing and social services offered.  Bassan apologized to her constituents for her sponsorship of “Safe Outdoor Spaces” and introduced legislation to repeal the land use, but the damage has been done with upwards of 6 applications for Safe Outdoor Spaces made with 3 approved and with one appealed. 

The 2023 municipal election will give voters a real opportunity to select upwards of 4 new city councilors that could dramatically change the direction of the city policy as well as the balance of power.  Citizens who are truly concerned about the direction of the city are encouraged run for City Council and provide real choices to those who are stepping down and from those that are already on the city council.

Pete Dinelli is a native of Albuquerque. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney with 27 years of municipal and state government service including as an assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes, city of Albuquerque deputy city attorney and chief public safety officer, Albuquerque city councilor, and several years in private practice. Dinelli publishes a blog covering politics in New Mexico: www.PeteDinelli.com.

https://newmexicosun.com/stories/635342866-look-ahead-abq-s-2023-municipal-elections-take-shape

 

 

Tim Keller’s 33% Approval And 40% Disapproval Ratings Deep Hole Of His Own Making He May Not Be Able To Climb Out Of; Keller’s Statewide Ambitions Likely Unrealistic As He Signals Desire For Third Term

On November 3, the Albuquerque Journal released its poll on the job performance of Mayor Tim Keller. The poll was conducted by its long-time polling firm Research & Polling which is considered the gold standard when it comes to political polls because of its accuracy.  The poll was part of the highly comprehensive polling the Journal does and reports on every election year.  The 2022 general election year poll covered all the major State and Federal elections and included polling on the top issues including abortion, crime, the economy, and education.

POLL RESULTS

The Journal poll asked the singular question “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Tim Keller is handling his job as Mayor?”

The results of the poll were dramtic:

DISAPPROVE:  40%

APPROVE:  33%

MIXED FEELINGS:   21%

WOULD NOT SAY: 5%

DEMOCRATS

49% of Democrats polled APPROVE of Keller’s job performance

20% of Democrats polled DISAPPROVE of Keller’s job performance

25% of Democrats polled expressed MIXED FEELINGS

REPUBLICANS

 9% of Republicans polled APPROVE of Keller’s job performance

70% of Republicans polled DISAPPROVE of Keller’s job performance

14% of Republicans polled expressed MIXED FEELINGS

INDEPENDANTS

29% of Independents polled APPROVE of Keller’s job performance

48% of Independents polled DISAPPROVE of Keller’s job performance

20% of Independents polled expressed MIXED FEELINGS

The data breakdown of the poll was reported as follows:

GENDER

MALE

32% of males approved of Keller’s job performance

44% of males disapproved of Keller’s job performance

19% of males had “mixed feeling” of Keller’s job performanc

FEMALE

34% of females approved of Keller’s job performance

37% of females disapproved of Keller’s job performance

22% of females had “mixed feeling” of Keller’s job performanc

ETHNICITY

HISPANIC

39% of Hispanics polled APPROVE of Keller’s job performance

39% of Hispanics polled DISAPPROVE of Keller’s job performance

21% of Hispanics polled expressed MIXED FEELINGS

ANGLO

32% of Anglos polled APPROVE of Keller’s job performance

40% of Anglos polled DISAPPROVE of Keller’s job performance

21% of Anglos polled expressed MIXED FEELINGS

CHRONOLOGY OF KELLER’S DECLINING POPULARITY

It was just one year ago during his campaign for a second term that Keller registered a 50% approval rating in the Journal Poll.  Previous Journal Polls found a majority in Albuquerque approved of Mayor Tim Keller during his first term, including 60% in 2020 and 61% in 2018.

In 2017 then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller was elected Mayor coming in first by beating all 7 of his opponents to get into a runoff. He went on to win in 2017 by a decisive landslide against City Councilor Dan Lewis who secured 37.8% with Keller winning with 62.2% of the vote.

Mayor Keller won his 2021 election to a second 4 year term with  56% of the final vote and beating Sheriff Manny Gonzales who secured 26% of the vote and Der Führer Trump Radio Shock Jock Eddy Aragon  secured 18% of the vote.

MAYOR TIM KELLERS REACTION TO CRATERED POLL NUMBERS

Confidential sources within and without City hall confirmed that the poll results came as an absolute stunner to Mayor Tim Keller and to  many within his Administration. So much so that Keller reached out to many of his political associates and advisors on how to respond to the Albuquerque Journal poll numbers.  Mayor Keller’s public response was the results came as  “no surprise”  to him  given the outcome of the city’s Citizen Satisfaction Survey released in August of this  year.

The Citizen Perception  Survey found that 52% of Albuquerque residents are concerned about the city’s direction. Keller told the Journal he, too, is frustrated with some of the city’s challenges and what he called the current “hard times.” Keller also proclaimed the city survey validated some of his major initiatives, including the forthcoming Gateway Center Homeless shelter and services center.

The postscript to this blog article contains detailed poll results of the Citizen Perception Survey in the 5 key areas of   Direction City is Going, Personal Safety, City Services and Homelessness that likely had an impact on Keller’s popularity and his unfavorable rating.

Mayor Keller had this to say about the Journal poll:

“At the end of the day, mayors take the heat for all of America’s problems, so that’s just part of the job. …  It shows our city needs continued help from every level of government.”

Keller, the eternal optimist, placed his own political spin on the results and  noted that those who approve and those who reported mixed feelings together make up  54%  of those polled.  He noted that the 54% is nearly equal to  his performance in last year’s election and that he sees opportunity to turn those on-the-fence respondents into believers. Keller told the Journal this:

“I think there is certainly plenty of runway left.”

FACTOR’S CITED FOR REASON OF DECLINE

Brian Sanderoff, the President of Research & Polling who did the poll, was interviewed by the Journal and was asked to give his opinion as to the reasons why Keller has had such a sharp decline in his popularity. Sanderoff said voter concern about crime and homelessness are likely the biggest factors in the latest poll results and he said this:

“There are many government agencies and branches of government that play a role in addressing crime; however, the mayor and the city police department are front and center with the public.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/2545820/mayor-kellers-job-approval-rating-sinks.html

FAILURE TO ADDRESS SPIKING VIOLENT CRIME

Over 5 years ago, in August, 2017, then New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller, candidate for Albuquerque Mayor, had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:

“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”

 In 2017 Tim Keller ran for Mayor  on the platform of reducing the city’s high crime rates, implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and all the 270 mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to “community based policing”, no tax increase without a public vote even for public safety, address the homeless crisis by building a centralized shelter, stopping waste fraud and abuse, and a commitment to transparency and economic development.

During his full 5 years in office, Mayor Keller has initiated numerous crime-fighting initiatives. All were initiated before the pandemic hit the city hard in February of  2020.  It was on  March 11, 2020  when the Corona Virus was declared a world wide pandemic and the country began to shut down and people began to quarantine and businesses began to close.

It was in 2018 to 2019, during a 9 month period, in response to the continuing increase in violent crime rates, Mayor Keller scrambled to implement 4 major crime fighting programs to reduce violent crime. Those programs are:

  1. The Shield Unit

In February 2018 the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) created the “Shield Unit”. The Shield Unit assists APD Police Officers to prepare cases for trial and prosecution by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. The unit originally consisted of 3 para legals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1325167/apd-expands-unit-that-preps-cases-for-prosecution.html

  1. Declaring Violent Crime “Public Health” issue

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Keller and APD announced efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque. Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems.

3.The “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP program)

On November 22, 2019 Mayor Tim Keller announced what he called a “new initiative” to target violent offenders called “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP). The VIP initiative was in response to the city’s recent murders resulting in the city tying the all-time record of homicides at 72 in one year. Mayor Keller proclaimed the VIP is a “partnership system” that includes law enforcement, prosecutors and social service and community provides to reduce violent crime. According to Keller vulnerable communities and law enforcement will be working together and building trust has proven results for public safety. Mayor Keller stated:

“… This is about trying to get these people not to shoot each other. …This is about understanding who they are and why they are engaged in violent crime. … And so, this actually in some ways, in that respect, this is the opposite of data. This is action. This is actually doing something with people. …”

  1. The Metro 15 Operation program.

On Tuesday, November 26, 2019 Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rates. At the time of the press conference, the city’s homicide count was at 72, matching the city’s record in 2017.

Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year. Keller dubbed the new program “Metro 15 Operation” and is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program. According to Keller and then APD Chief Michael Geier the new program would target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. It’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.

Links to news coverage are here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1394576/city-launches-violence-intervention-program.html

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/mayor-keller-touts-new-plan-to-tackle-violent-crime/5561150/?cat=500

Despite all of Keller’s programs to bring down violent crime, he has been a failure. During each year of Mayor Tim Keller’s years in office, the city’s murder rates rose, dropped only one year, and then rose to a historical high. Following is the breakdown of homicide by year:

2017: 72 homicides
2018: 69 homicides.
2019: 82 homicides
2020: 76 homicides
2021: 117 homicides  (3 declared self defense reducing homicide number to 114)
2022: 115 homicides as of  December 3, 2022. 

The link to quoted source material is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1534762/homicide-numbers-high-despite-pandemic.html?amp=1

https://www.cabq.gov/police/documents/apd-homicide-list-for-web-site-as-of-11nov2022.pdf

Police shootings are not included in the number of homicides the city has.  On November 30, it was reported that the city has had record  17 police shootings this year.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/albuquerque-marks-record-number-police-shootings-2022-93084096

OVERALL CRIME IN CITY

Overall crime in Albuquerque also rose in 2021 for the first time since 2018.  It marked the first increase in property crime since the city notched back-to-back 10% drops, pushing decreases in overall crime even as violence steadily rose over the past several years.

Travelers Worldwide is a voluntary organization that was set up in 1994 to report on places to work, live and visit. When it comes to Albuquerque, Travelers Worldwide put it this way:

In Albuquerque, crime rates are high across the board. According to the Albuquerque Police’s annual report on crime, there were 46,391 property crimes and 15,765 violent crimes recorded in 2021.  These numbers place Albuquerque among America’s most dangerous cities. Tourists visiting Albuquerque are at increased risk of experiencing aggravated robbery, auto theft, and petty theft.  The chances of becoming a victim of property crime in Albuquerque are 1 in 20, an alarmingly high statistic for tourists looking for a peaceful vacation. Simple assault, aggravated assault, auto theft, and larceny are just some of the most common criminal offenses in Albuquerque. Burglary and sex offense rates In Albuquerque are also higher than the national average.

https://www.volunteerworld.com/en/review/travellers-worldwide

KELLER’S FAILURE TO GROW APD TO LEVEL PROMISED

In 2017, Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. To that end, the Keller Administration began 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 massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 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. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term.

Fast-forward 5 years later. The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is the largest city budget out of 27 departments. The fiscal year 2023 approved General Fund budget is $255.4 million, which represents an increase of 14.7% or $32.8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level. The approved General Fund civilian count is 665 and the sworn police count is 1,100 for a total of 1,765 full-time positions. Despite all the money thrown at APD by Keller over the past 5 years, APD is still seriously understaffed and the return to community policing is still elusive.

APD’s general fund budget of $255.4 provides funding for 1,100 full time sworn police officers, with the department fully funded for 1,100 sworn police for the past 3 years and not the 1,200 sworn police Keller promised 5 years ago. However, as of October 7, there is an anemic  857 sworn officers in APD.   During the October 7, 2022 news conference, APD Chief Median reported that APD has 857 sworn officers and this is down from the 917 sworn police number reported on December 6, 2021 to the Federal Court overseeing the consent decree.

As of October 2022, APD has 514 civilian professional staff, 40 public safety aides, 73   911 operators, 23 dispatchers, 41 retired officers that have returned to the department with more than 50 retired officers on contract work for the department.  The latest APD cadet class has 26 people in training to become police officers. The upcoming next cadet class is likely to see between 50 to 60 people.

KELLER’S  ALL THE ABOVE APPROACH TO SOLVE THE HOMELESS CRISIS

The homeless have reached crisis proportions with them becoming far more visible and aggressive by illegally camping in parks, on streets, in alleyways and in city open space,  whenever they want and declining city services. Keller has proclaimed an “all the above approach” to deal with the homeless costing millions.

For five years, Mayor Tim Keller has made the city’s homeless crisis a major priority and now proclaims an “all-the-above approach.” It’s an approach that is costing millions and it is failing. Keller has done the following:

  • Over two years, budgeted $33,854,536 for homeless emergency shelters, support, mental health and substance abuse programs and $60,790,321 for affordable housing programs for the low-income, near homeless.
  • Established two 24/7 homeless shelters, including purchasing the Gibson Medical Center for $15 million to convert it into a homeless shelter.
  • Established a “no arrest” policy for violations of the city’s camping, trespassing and vagrancy laws with an emphasis on citations.
  • For five years, allowed Coronado Park to become a “de facto” city-sanctioned homeless encampment, which he was forced to close down because of drugs and violent crimes.
  • Advocated and funded city-sanctioned safe outdoor space (SOS) homeless tent encampments. The Environmental Planning Commission is recommending the City Council repeal this land use.

As the homeless remained a persistent and pervasive challenge for Keller while city residents have expressed frustration  and even anger with the city’s response to the issue.

In June, the city released its government-funded satisfaction poll.  70% of those surveyed felt  the City is doing a poor job of addressing homelessness, 9% of residents gave City Government positive marks for addressing the homelessness issue and 20% gave the city mixed or neutral rating. The percentage of residents who give the City positive scores for addressing homelessness had risen from 13% in 2019 to 29% in 2020 but it has now fallen by 20% and is  9% currently. The link to the full survey is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/documents/final_coa-citizen-sat-2022.pdf

KELLER DOUBLE DOWNS ON DEALING WITH HOMELESS

Since the citizen satisfaction survey Keller doubled down on his efforts to address the homeless crisis.  He increased city funding to the Family and Community Services Department by over $24,353,064 going from $35,145,851 in the 2021 fiscal year to $59,498,915 in the 2022 fiscal year to provide services and housing to the homeless and he made controversial decisions intended to address the city’s homeless crisis. Those decisions included closing Coronado Park, the  de facto city sanction homeless encampment Keller had encouraged and he had to close because crime, illicite drugs and contamination, advocating for city sanctioned tent encampments known as Safe Outdoor Spaces and  advocating for “Motel Conversions” where the city will purchase existing motels and convert them into low-income housing.

Safe Outdoor Spaces are organized camp sites where upwards of 50 people who are homeless can legally sleep in tents or cars while accessing showers and other amenities with as many as 18 such campsites will be allowed. The City has already approved one Safe Outdoor Space for victims of “sex-trafficking victims” and other vulnerable populations  to be located on vacant land at 1250 Menaul Blvd, NE . The approval is being appealed by at least 7 appellants.

The city is already on track to purchase the Sure Stay Hotel on hotel circle in the North East  Heights for a motel conversion for low income housing by using Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding of $3,059,662.12 in Community Development Block Grants,  $2,443,724.00 from Public Facilities monies  and $615,938.12 from Foreclosure Prevention for a total property purchase of  $6,119,324.24.

COUNCIL TURNOVER RESULTS IN A MORE CONSERVATIVE BODY AND CLASHES WITH KELLER

The 2021 municipal elections resulted in a turnover of  4 city  council seats out of 9  with two councilors deciding not to run again and  two  other Democrat  incumbents losing to challengers.  The City Council went from a 6 to 3 Democrat  solid  “progressive” majority to a 5 to 4 Democrat majority that is decidedly more conservative leaning.  This change is in large  part to the election of  Westside  conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez who defeated progressive Democrat Lan Sena and the election of right  wing  Republican Dan Lewis who defeated Democrat Cynthia Borrego.

Sena was  appointed by Mayor Tim Keller after the death of City Councilor Ken Sanchez.  Sena  is a progressive Democrat activist who  was a bad fit from the get go for the moderate to conservative working class District.  Keller was more interested in appointing a political ideolog who had to be female  than appointing a  moderate to the council.  Her loss was a clear loss for Keller as he lost a reliable ally and  vote on the council.

Republican  Dan Lewis defeating Cynthia Borrego came as no surprise. Lewis was a two term city councilor before and had significant support of the Republican party and his campaign manager was none other Jay McClusky, the right wing, slash and burn politcal operative who managed the campaigns of Mayor Richard Berry, Governor Susana Martinez and Mark Ronchetti’s US Senate race and Governors race.   Lest anyone forget, 5 years ago, City Councilor Lewis ran and lost to Mayor Tim Keller in a landslide.  Lewis is already saying he intends to run for Mayor again in 2025, especially if Keller seeks a third term.  Borrego is considered a moderate and has now been elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives.

After the December 7 City Council runoff election, the 5 Democrats on the  city council as of January 1, 2022 are:

District 1 Conservative  Louie Sanchez (Elected on November 2 defeating Lan Sena.)
District 2 Progressive Isaac Benton
District 3 Moderate Klarissa Peña (Ran unopposed on November 2 .)
District 6 Progressive  Pat Davis
District 7 Progressive Tammy Fiebelkorn

After the November 7 runoff election, the 4 Republicans on the new city council are:

District 5 Conservative Dan Lewis (Newly elected defeating Cynthia Borrego)
District 4 Conservative  Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Trudy Jones
District 9 Conservative Renee Grout

Because of the 2021 municipal election and its move to the conservative right, it has  taken to  reevaluating  progressive  policies adopted by the previous city councils. That includes the city’s plastic bag ban repeal by the current council, attempting to reduce the Mayor’s emergency authority during a health crisis, and considering whether to replace the zero-fare bus pilot program.

2023 MUNICIPAL ELECTION

A total of 4 City Council seats will be on next year’s municipal ballot.  Progressive Democrat Pat Davis, District 6, and Conservative Republican Trudy Jones, District 8, have made it official and announced that they will not seek another term on the Albuquerque City Council.   District 2 now represented by Progressive  Democrat  Isaac Benton and District 4 now represented by Conservative Republican Brook Bassan are also on the ballot. Both Benton and Bassan are expected to have strong opposition is they do run.  With upwards of 4 city councilor incumbents being replace, the balance of power on the city council may continue to shift for Keller and his influence diminished even further.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Tim Keller has always been the eternal optimist with a smile on his face and a grin in his voice.  A very good example of his optimism is when Keller noted that the 33%  who approve of his job performance  and the  21%  who reported mixed feelings together make up  54%  of those polled and saying  the 54% is  nearly equal to  his 56% performance in last year’s election.  Keller told the Journal this:

“I think there is certainly plenty of runway left.”

That’s a very good politcal spin, but it’s not how reality works, and if Keller believes what he is saying, he is not facing reality and lying to himself.  Keller may be the eternal optimist, but realty tends to humble and to prevail over arrogance in politics. Keller will likely successfully takeoff again but it’s not at all likely he will soar to the heights he once flew in past elections.  A 40% disapproval rating and a  33% approval rating by all  measure is a deep hole to climb out of, but on many levels, it’s a hole he has dug for himself making promises he could not keep.

Then their is a real possibility that Keller’s number could plunge even further.  Sooner the public demand results and ignore the optimism and public relations. Political observers are saying the odds are very high he will not be able to turn around his popularity so long as crime and the homeless continue to be his second term curses and as it stands both are only getting worse as each year passes during Keller’s tenure as Mayor.

Sources have confirmed that Keller is already signaling he will run for a third term as Mayor recognizing he has no other options when it comes to running for  statewide offices.  A run for Governor in 4 years, which was  said to have been Keller’s initial plan, is not likely in that he would be facing far more popular candidates such as United States Senator Martin Heinrich, Secretary of Interior Debra Haaland,  Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver or AG Hector Balderas, all 4 who have expressed an interest in running for Governor in 2026 to succeed Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Then there is the matter of Governor Lujan Grisham not at all too happy with Keller having to go to his aide when it comes to the city’s spiking crime and homeless.

Running for United State Senator is also not realistic for Keller with Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan being as young and as popular as they are. Heinrich must run for re election to the Senate in 2024, and if he is elected, and then runs for Governor in 2024 as has been suggested, he would appoint his successor to the Senate and there is no guarantee that Heinrich would appoint  Tm Keller to replace him. Then you have the very ambitious Attorney General Raul Torrez who is close to Heinrich,  given that Heinrich appeared in Torrez  AG commercials,  who  has made it known he has national ambitions.  Torrez  is not above trashing his opponents as he did with Democrat  Brian Colon in the primary and Republican Jeremy Gay in the general to become Attorney General and running against Keller for Senate in a statewide campaign  and smearing him with his failure as Mayor would be all too easy.

One option Mayor Tim Keller does have is to try to secure a cabinet appointment in a President Joe Biden second term, but that is only if there is a second Biden term, and that’s a very big if. And even bigger if is Tim  Keller being able to secure a third term as Mayor.

_____________________________________

POSTSCRIPT

CITIZEN PERCEPTION SURVEY

Each year, the City of Albuquerque commissions a survey to assess residents’ satisfaction with various City services and issues relating to crime, homelessness, and public safety.  The study is required by City ordinance.  On September 6, the City has released the City of Albuquerque Citizen Perception Survey dated August 2022. The link to the full survey is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/mayor/documents/final_coa-citizen-sat-2022.pdf

There are five major categories covered by the survey that likely had a impact on the perception of Mayor Keller’s job performance:

 Direction City is Going

Personal Safety

City Services

Homelessness

An edited summary of results in these 4 categories  of the survey are as follows:

CITIZEN SURVEY RESULTS ON “DIRECTION CITY IS GOING”

The survey results revealed that over half those surveyed, 52%, say they are concerned about the city’s overall direction. This compares to 43% who say they are hopeful. In the December 2020 survey, 50% said they were hopeful.  The percentage of residents who say they are hopeful about the direction of the City has fallen from 50% in December of 2020 to 43% in 2022.  Although 43% of residents say they are either somewhat hopeful with 34% or very hopeful with 9% about the direction of the City, just over  52% say they are either somewhat concerned at 30% or very concerned at 22%. Anglo residents with 58% are more apt than Hispanics with 44% to rate the quality of life in Albuquerque as being either good or excellent. The percentage of residents who rate the quality of life in Albuquerque as being either good or excellent has fallen from 54% in 2018 to 48% in 2022.

It is not surprising that many residents are concerned about the direction of the City given the challenges currently being faced across the nation. The survey noted that residents across the nation have concerns about where the country is heading as a whole.   An example is the website RealClear Politics calculates the average of different polls conducted among voters and adults across the nation and currently shows that an average of 74% believe the country is currently off on the wrong track, while an average of just 18% feel the country is heading in the right direction.

The survey results on citizens perception on the direction the city is going should is a major red flag of failure for Mayor Keller and the City Council.  A  very disturbing trend revealed by the survey is that residents show less satisfaction with current quality of life in the city and there is growing concern about Albuquerque’s future.  Although 50% of those surveyed believe Albuquerque is doing “about the same” as other cities dealing with problems and carrying out its responsibilities, the survey generally shows worsening perceptions of life in the city.

CITIZEN SURVEY RESULTS ON “PERSONAL SAFETY”

“Crime and feelings of personal safety are important components to perceived quality of life.  Overall, 81% of Albuquerque residents say they feel in their neighborhood during the day.  (Very Safe at  51%  + somewhat at 30% = 81%)

 However, the 81%  drops to 57%  felling safe at night. (Very safe at  24%  +  somewhat safe at 33%  =  57%.) In other words, there is a day and night different of  24%.  

 The gap has narrowed from  2020, when 68% reported feeling safe in their neighborhoods at night and only 24% said they felt unsafe.”

One of the most disturbing statistics from the Citizen’s Survey is that only 57% of those surveyed felt safe at night in their own homes.  It likely that 57% is on the very low side. At the core of citizens do not feel safe in their homes at night is the City’s high violent crime and homicide rates.

An Albuquerque Journal poll found that 82% of the public feel that crime is very serious, 14% said crime is somewhat serious for a staggering total of 96%.  Albuquerque has seen a major spike in violent crime and the rates are some of the highest in the country.

In the last 3 years, Albuquerque has had a breaking number of homicides each year.  In 2021 the city had 117 homicides.  As of August 30, APD reports that there have been 88 homicides, with the city well on it way to breaking the 2021 all time record.

apd-homicide-list-for-web-site-as-of-02sep2022.pdf (cabq.gov)

https://www.abqjournal.com/2528871/ex-those-most-likely-to-vote-also-worry-about-the-economy-and-public.html

CITIZEN SURVEY RESULTS ON “CITY SERVICES”

“The percentage of residents who feel Albuquerque City Government is responsive to community needs has dropped from 48% observed in 2020, which was an all-time high dating back to 2011, to 32% a 17% drop.  Specifically, 32% agree Albuquerque City Government is responsive to community needs, 38% have a neutral opinion, 28% disagree that City Government is responsive.

These results are similar to those observed in previous studies dating back to 2011 with the exception of the 2020 study which saw a big spike in positive reviews. The 2020 results may have been an anomaly given that so much attention was being given to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated shutdowns coupled with the fact that the majority of residents give City Government high marks for the City’s response to COVID.

Residents were asked to rate how well Albuquerque City Government is handling specific issues using a five-point scale where five is excellent and one is very poor.

47% give City Government positive marks with a score of 4 or 5 when it comes to maintaining city parks and open space areas.

34% give positive ratings supporting renewable and clean energy programs.

34% give positive ratings for maintaining roads and streets

32% give positive ratings for supporting the local economy”

It’s very clear from the survey that dissatisfaction with city response to community needs has increased dramatically.  The percentage of residents who feel Albuquerque City Government is responsive to community needs has dropped from 48% observed in 2020, which was an all-time high dating back to 31% found in 2011, a 17% decline.

This is very difficult to accept, let alone understand, given that Mayor Tim Keller has submitted, and the City Council has approved in 2 consecutive years the 2  largest city budgets in its history, one for $1.1 Billion in 2021 and the other for $1.4 billion in 2022.

On May 17, 2021, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to approve the 2021-2022 city budget of $1.2 billion, $711.5 million of which is the General Fund. The General Fund covers basic city services such as police protection, fire and rescue protection, the bus system, street maintenance, weekly solid waste pickup, all city park maintenance, city equipment, animal control, environmental health services, the legal department, risk management, and payroll and human resources

On May 16, 2022, the Albuquerque City Council approved the 2022-2023 city budget. The overall budget approved by the city council was for $1.4 Billion with $841.8 representing the general fund spending with an increase of $127 million, or 17.8%, over the 2021-2022 c budget of $1.2 Billion.

The link to city approved budgets is here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/budget/annual-budget

SURVEY RESULTS ON THE “HOMELESS”

“The issue of homelessness continues to be a major challenge in Albuquerque as it is in many other cities.  70% feel the City is doing a poor job of addressing homelessness and a mere  9% of residents give City Government positive marks for addressing the homelessness issue.  20% give a mixed or neutral rating.

The percentage of residents who give the City positive scores for addressing homelessness had risen from 13% in 2019 to 29% in 2020 but it has now fallen by 20% and is  9% currently.  Although there has been a lot of attention focused on homelessness in the news, few  of Albuquerque residents say they are aware the city is the Gateway Center.  The shelter will be a 24/7 shelter providing to women experiencing homelessness during the first phase of its operation.”

The Citizens Survey of 70% feeling the city is failing in its response to the homeless is likely inaccurate and the public attitude has only gotten worse. A recent Journal poll found that 77% of the general public believes the homeless crisis is very serious and 16% feel it is somewhat serious with a staggering combined total of 93%.

What is clear from the Citizen Perception Survey is that Albuquerque residents are dissatisfied with the Keller Administration’s response to the homelessness crisis despite the city’s huge financial commitment to dealing with the homeless.   The survey confirms that residents feel Mayor Tim Keller and his administration are failing to deal with the homeless crisis.

70% of citizens survey respondents rate the city poorly for its performance in dealing with the homeless crisis.  This includes 41% who gave city hall the lowest possible rating.  Meanwhile, only 9% gave the city’s homelessness response a favorable review. In other words, 7 times more people rate the city poorly on the issue than offer a positive assessment.  This is a dramatic change from 2020 when only 36% gave the city poor marks for how it was tackling homelessness, including just 22% who offered the worst rating, while 29% provided a positive assessment.  There has been a dramatic 20% drop in how people feel the city is dealing with homeless from 29% in 2020 to 9% in 2022.

The 9% approval rating in the citizens survey  on the homeless issue should be very alarming to Mayor Tim Keller and his administration.  Since day one from becoming Mayor on December 1, 2018, Mayor Keller has made dealing with the homeless a major cornerstone of his administration so much so that he advocated the construction of a 24-7 homeless shelter.  This ultimately resulted in the purchase of the massive 560,000 square foot Gibson Medical Center, formerly the Lovelace Hospital, for $15 million. The facility is being renovated and it is anticipated to open in the winter of 2022 as a 24/7 shelter.

The Keller Administration has adopted a housing first policy when it comes to dealing with the homeless crisis which also includes funding provided to at least 10 service providers. This past fiscal year 2021 ending June 10, 2021, the Family and Community Services Department and the Keller Administration have spent upwards of $40 Million to benefit the homeless or near homeless.

The 2021 adopted city budget for Family and Community Services Department provides for mental health contracts totaling $4,329,452, and substance abuse contracts for counseling contracts totaling $2,586,302 and emergency shelter contracts totaling $5,688,094, affordable housing and community contracts totaling $22,531,752, homeless support services contracts.  Mayor Keller’s 2022-2023 approved budget significantly increases the Family and Community Services budget by $24,353,064 to assist the homeless or near homeless by going from $35,145,851 to $59,498,915.

The links  to the adopted 2021-2022 and 2022-23 approved budgets are here:

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy22-approved-budget-numbered-w-hyperlinks-final.pdf

https://www.cabq.gov/dfa/documents/fy23-proposed-final-web-version.pdf

“ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT”

 “Residents were asked to rate how strongly they either agree or disagree with several statements relating to the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) using a 5-point scale where 5 is strongly agree and 1 is strongly disagree.  [The results of the survey were]:

 53% of residents agree APD is respectful in its treatment of citizens as indicated by a score of 4 or 5.  This is up from 48% two years ago. That is down from 49% in 2019 and the lowest number for any survey going back to at least 2011.  20% strongly agreed compared to 15% who disagree, with a score of 1 or 2.

 29% have neutral or mixed feelings about APD with a score of 3.  47% of residents agree APD reflects the values of the City’s residents, with 18% disagreeing and 30% have a neutral opinion of APD and 27% disagree.”

 According to the citizen’ survey, 38% of residents agree APD is doing a good job of addressing public safety issues and making quick responses to emergencies, while 30% have a neutral opinion and 27% disagree. 

A plurality, or 41%, of those surveyed said the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice-mandated reform effort within APD has had no impact, while 24% say it has been positive and 14% say it has been negative.  There is no getting around it, even with the recent news that APD has improved in compliance levels with all of the reforms, APD still has a major image problem.

Over the last 7 years, the DOJ reforms have place great emphasis on implementing constitutional policing practices, increased training and crisis intervention and implemented community policing councils and a Citizens Police Oversight agency. Despite all the efforts made, an astonishing 41% of those feel the reforms have had no impact on APD.

The 38% of residents agreeing that  APD is doing a good job with response times to emergencies  is very low and should come as  no surprise. There have been news investigative reports on APD’s response times for Priority 1 calls. Priority 1 calls include shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, sexual and aggravated assaults, domestic violence with weapons involved and home invasions.  According to the data, the time it takes officers to get to a crime scene stayed relatively consistent between January 2018 to May 2021 and was roughly between 9 and 12 minutes. In 2020, it was reported that there was a 93% increase in APD response time over a 9-year period. In 2018, clearing a scene ranged from an hour to an hour and 12 minutes. Fast forward to 2021 and APD was averaging more than 2 hours to write reports, gather evidence and interview witnesses, a full hour longer than three years ago.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/abq-4ward-examining-apds-response-times/6204745/

https://www.koat.com/article/apd-response-times-continue-to-climb/31028667

 

 

3 Others  Applying Or Expressing Interest In Replacing DA Raúl Torrez; AG-Elect  Torrez Has “Checked Out”  DA’s Office As ADA’s Engage In Prohibited  Political Activity; Journal Editorial Downplays Need For Governor To Appoint Outsider District Attorney

On November 23, the Albuquerque Journal published a front page below the fold article entitled “Gov. urged to appoint deputy DA to office”.   The article reported that group of 49 prosecuting attorneys in the Albuquerque based 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office  signed and sent a letter requesting  Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to appoint 1 of 3 current Deputy District Attorneys to replace Raúl Torrez as District Attorney.  The 49 attorneys who singed the letter  are either Assistant District Attorneys, Trial Attorneys, Senior Trial Lawyers and one Deputy District Attorney.  The  attorneys are among 81 trial attorneys currently employed by the office with a total of 102 full time fully funded positions and 21 attorney positions vacant.

The 3 Deputy District Attorneys recommended in the November 18 letter to the Governor  are Deputy DA John Duran, who oversees the DA’s  Major Crimes Division, Deputy DA Diana Garcia who oversees the DA’s Juvenile Division and Deputy DA Josh Boone who oversees the Metropolitan Division.  Duran and Garcia told the Journal they did not know about the letter until reading about it on the political website New Mexico Politics With Joe Monahan.  Duran said he is interested in the position while Garcia said she is considering applying. The Journal could not reach Josh Boone for comment.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office  is budgeted for 337 full time positions.  The office employs 102 attorneys, all who are at will,  and 255 other “classified” employees who can only be terminated for cause under the state personnel rules and regulations. The classified employees  consist of paralegals, administrative assistants, victim advocates, investigators, IT managers and personnel and finance division personnel.  There are  276 that  are “active” meaning filled.  The office has an alarming 61 vacancies. The number of vacancies in the office is larger than most other District Attorney’s offices in the state.

NOVEMBER 23 JOURNAL ARTICLE

The Albuquerque Journal November 23 article reports in part:

“The letter of recommendation has come under attack by former Albuquerque City Councilor Pete Dinelli, who questioned its propriety on his blog. He also blamed Torrez for wanting to continue his influence over the office and contended the trial attorneys who signed the letter were engaging in prohibited political activities while on the job. … Dinelli, who was a chief deputy district attorney in the 1990s, has been a frequent critic of Torrez’s.  In a recent blog post, Dinelli urged the governor to bring in an outsider to run the office. Moreover, Dinelli questioned whether personnel rules or regulations for state employees were violated. … Writing or signing letters of recommendation “is clearly prohibited ‘political activity’ while on duty,” he wrote. It wasn’t clear, though, where or when the letter was written or signed. …  Dinelli wrote that Torrez needs to demand the letter be withdrawn immediately and demand an apology from the attorneys who signed it.”

Raúl Torrez, through the District Attorney Office spokeswoman,  disavowed any knowledge of the letter.  The DA spokeswoman said this:

“Attorney General-Elect Torrez is focused on the ongoing demands of leading the state’s largest prosecution office while simultaneously organizing a smooth transition into the Office of Attorney General. He was not involved in and had no knowledge of the letter submitted by prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office regarding his possible replacement.”

Deputy DA Diana Garcia, who has been with the DA’s Office 16 years,  when asked about the letter by the  Journal said “I wasn’t a part of it at all.” Deputy DA Duran for his part dismissed Dinelli’s accusations as “far reaching”  but said he is interested in being appointed but has not yet applied. Deputy DA Duran told the Journal:

“I’ve never seen the letter and no one asked me for permission to use my name.”

The Journal reported that Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone  has developed and  posted on the internet a website entitled “Joshua Boone for District Attorney” thereby making him an announced candidate to run in 2025The website is a slick campaign web site for a candidate for office. The link to the Josh Boone for District Attorney web page is boonefornewmexico.com. The website has 3 major pages: a home page, a biographical page and platform page. All 3 pages have emblazoned at the top:

JOSHUA BOONE for District Attorney

Democrat for District Attorney

You can read full unedited and quoted Albuquerque Journal article here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2552322/gov-urged-to-appoint-deputy-da-to-office-ex-the-appointee-will-be-o.html

THREE OTHER ATTORNEYS APPLYING FOR OR EXPRESSING INTEREST IN APPOINTMENT

Confidential sources within the office and outside politcal observers have confirmed that in addition to  Deputy DA John Duran,  Deputy DA Diana Garcia and Deputy DA Josh Boone expressing an interest in applying for or who are running for the office, there are 3 other attorneys  who have shown an interest in the Governor’s appointment with at least one application filed. Those attorneys are:

  1. Sam Bregman, a former Democratic Party State Chairman.  He  is a respected trial attorney who manages his own private law firm. His has trial experience  in both civil and criminal defense and he has handled high profile cases.  He served as an Assistant Bernalillo County District Attorney from 1994 through 1997. Bregman was an elected Albuquerque City Council from 1995 until 1999 and has a served as Deputy State Auditor for the State of New Mexico.  Bregman unsuccessfully ran for Commissioner of Public Lands and Mayor of Albuquerque. Sources have confirmed that Bregman is making a serious run for the Governor’s appointment and has been making calls to gauge his support within the defense bar and the Democratic party.  A firm confirmation of a Bregman application has not been made.

 

  1. Damon Martinez, a former United States Attorney for New Mexico. From 2000 to 2013, Martinez was an Assistant United State Attorney and in 2013  was appointed United States Attorney by President Barack Obama  and unanimously confirmed in the United States Senate in 2014.  Martinez led the  US Attorney’s Office during the Department of Justice’s investigation and settlement agreement with the city of Albuquerque over the Albuquerque Police Department.  On March 11, 2017 Martinez resigned as US Attorney and went into private practice.  In 2018, Martinez was an unsuccessful  candidate for the First Congressional District to replace Michelle Lujan Grisham. Martinez is currently an Albuquerque Deputy City Attorney who works on APD policy and legislative matters for the city and lobbies in Santa Fe during legislative sessions.

 

  1. Private Attorney Ed Perea, a retired APD  Police Commander.  Perea became an attorney after 24 years of service as a police officer. Perea ran for District Attorney against Raúl Torrez in 2016Perea has served as a Special Assistant Prosecutor in the 13th District. He’s also served as Executive Director of the Center for Law, Policy and Public Safety and has taught at CNM.

According to the Journal November 23 article, the Governor’s Office has set December 2 as the  deadline for all applications.  A spokeswoman for the governor said the office has received “a number of letters of interest” but the Journal did not report who those letters of interest are from nor did the Governor’s office  tell the Journal  who has actually applied.

Applications for the post are due by December 2. Application forms can be downloaded from the governor’s website at www.governor.state.nm.us.  Applications may be submitted via email to donicia.herrera@state.nm.us. The application is  3 pages long, asks about  work history in  both civil and criminal practice,  requires 3 to 5 recommendations and writing samples.

JOURNAL EDITORIAL

On Friday, November 25, the Albuquerque Journal published the following editorial with the disclaimer that it was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers:

HEADLINE: “Editorial: Next 2nd District DA must be proven leader”

BY ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD
PUBLISHED: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 25TH, 2022 AT 12:02AM

“Wanted: Proven crimefighter.”

That should be the sign in the window of the Governor’s Office for the largest and busiest district attorney’s office in the state.

Second District Attorney Raúl Torrez, whose district is Bernalillo County, will step down sometime before he’s sworn in on Jan. 1 as New Mexico’s new attorney general. His four-year term as DA ends Dec. 31, 2024, meaning a successor needs to be named to fill that position for two years.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has the sole power to fill vacant DA positions. Senate confirmation isn’t needed. DAs are not subject to term limits and can therefore serve an unlimited time in office. The governor’s appointee will be only the third person to run the office in 22 years.

Applications are due Dec. 2. Minimum qualifications include a law degree from an accredited law school and seven years’ experience practicing law. That’s a pretty low bar for the top prosecutor in the state’s most populous and crime-ridden county.

Torrez, first elected DA in 2016 and again in 2020, had strong credentials as a DA candidate having been a former federal prosecutor and assistant New Mexico attorney general. And he inherited a mess, with 8,000 boxes of unlaunched felony case files lining hallways and rooms in the Steve Schiff Building when he took over the office in January 2017. It took a tremendous amount of work and leadership to clear that backlog; unfortunately, there is a new — albeit smaller — backlog due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Torrez took office, he increased grand jury capacity to draw down the felony case backlog, invested in technology to share crime data in real time, advocated to strengthen pretrial release rules to detain more serious violent offenders, and worked to mitigate secondary trauma on sexual assault and child abuse victims by aligning criminal procedure with national standards.

That record helped get him elected attorney general.

A group of 49 trial attorneys in the 2nd District DA’s Office said in a letter to the governor last week the next DA will face a “herculean job” of managing over a thousand cases set for trial in the first half of 2023. In their Nov. 18 letter, the trial attorneys say the job should go to someone who can immediately pick up where Torrez left off for the “safety and welfare of our community,” while suggesting three current deputy prosecutors in the office to replace Torrez.

The governor has a big decision to make. Whether the next DA should be from within or outside the office is debatable. The bottom line is the next DA needs strong prosecutorial and case management experience, a passion for fighting crime and an ability to work well with lawmakers.

Working with lawmakers is key to moving the criminal justice system forward.

There are currently 84 trial attorneys in the 2nd District DA’s Office, and that’s proven not to be enough. The office launches between 7,000 and 9,700 adult felony prosecutions per year. Our DAs and public defenders both need more state funding. It’s imperative for the state’s largest DA’s Office to clear its backlogs because crime victims and suspects deserve swift justice.

Politics should absolutely not play a role. The job should go to the most qualified candidate, not the most connected, because Bernalillo County must have a proven crimefighter to succeed Torrez.

The link to the editorial is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2552678/new-da.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

What Raúl Torrez said through the District Attorney Office spokeswoman disavowing any knowledge of the letter to the Governor merits repeating:

“Attorney General-Elect Torrez is focused on the ongoing demands of leading the state’s largest prosecution office while simultaneously organizing a smooth transition into the Office of Attorney General. He was not involved in and had no knowledge of the letter submitted by prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office regarding his possible replacement.”

It is painfully obvious from the statement issued that District Attorney and  Attorney General Elect Raúl Torrez has  already “checked  out” of the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office as he continues to be paid his District Attorney’s  salary. Ostensibly, Torrez declined to be interviewed by the Journal but  instead  issued the  statement.  If Torres is in fact “focused on the ongoing demands of leading [the DA’s office] ” as the statement says, then why did he have “no knowledge of the letter submitted by prosecutors”.  Confidential sources within the office have said Torrez was fully aware of the letter but chose not to do anything about it thinking it was no big deal.

For the sake of argument, even if Torrez was not aware of the letter at the time it is was circulated, he is aware of it now.  The Journal failed to asked him personally about the letter and failed to asked if he intended to do anything or why he has not done anything about it.

Torrez  has 49 attorneys within his office using their titles promoting their own political agenda to the Governor to select one of thier 3  supervisors. The Journal made no mention if it contacted  the  attorneys who did not sign the letter or  refused to sign the letter and did  not to mention the other 255 other “classified” employees within the office.  The letter is a dream come true for any private attorney who practices employment law who may be approached by others in the office who want to argue they have been retaliated against for failure to sign the letter.

VIOLATIONS OF DISTRICY ATTORNEY PERSONNEL & COMPENSATION PLAN

All State prosecutors must be above politcal influence and approach. For the 49 attorneys to exert themselves in the politcal process and attempt to sway Governor Lujan Grisham as to who she should appoint and have a say as to who should be their next boss, is a clear conflict of interest. It’s an abuse of their titles and authority creating an appearance of impropriety. The conduct is unacceptable and should be condemned in no uncertain terms by the elected District Attorney.

Politcal blogger Joe Monahan never disclosed how he got ahold of the letter or if it was leaked to him by someone within the office so he could write about it.  The prosecutors within the office all complain how busy they are with their caseloads but the Deputies appear to have enough time to read and gossip about what is in a politcal gossip blog.

It is not all likely given the “office gossip” reputation the agency has that any one of the 3 Deputies recommended did not know that the letter was being circulated on their behalf.  It is believed by many within the office that all 3 of the Deputy District Attorneys were aware the letter and that it was being circulated with at least one Deputy condoning it. If they did know, and they condoned it, they failed to excercise their supervisory authority to stop its circulation.  Ignorance on their part of the  “District Attorneys’ Personnel & Compensation Plan” and its prohibition on political activities  should be grounds for disqualification for the appointment

It’s damn laughable that Deputy District Attorney John  Duran would say of the accusation that there is a violation of the personnel rules and regulation  was  “far reaching” .  He  admits he is interested in being appointed but has not yet applied. Deputy DA Duran told the Journal:

“I’ve never seen the letter and no one asked me for permission to use my name.”

Really?  Confidential sources within the office have said it was Deputy District Attorney John Duran who was circulating the letter asking for signatures. Ostensibly, the Journal did not make any effort to ask those within the office who signed the letter who asked them to sign it to give the 3 their support.

The letter of recommendation violates a number of the Administrative Office of the District Attorneys Personnel and Compensation Plan provisions that applies to all at will attorneys within the offices.  The link to review the District Attorneys Personnel and Compensation Plan is here

Click to access 082020_DA_Pers_Plan.pdf

The violations are as follows:

All the attorneys are “AT WILL” employees, who serve at the pleasure of the District Attorney and can be terminated without cause.  As such they have given up a degree of their first amendment rights of “free speech” while at work.  As “at will employees,” they are strictly prohibited from engaging in political activities  while on duty.  Writing and/or signing letters of recommendation to the Governor to recommend who should be appointed District Attorney is clearly prohibited “politcal activity” while on duty.  (Section 9.2 “AT WILL” EMPLOYEES, District Attorneys’ Personnel & Compensation Plan”.)

Use of District Attorney  titles is use  of official authority for the purpose of interfering with or to affect the result of the selection or a nomination for office of a person is prohibited activity.   (Prohibited activity, Section  17.2.3 “District Attorneys’ Personnel & Compensation Plan”.)

If District Attorney office letter head, fax machines or District Attorney  office postage was  used to send the letter to  Governor Lujan Grisham it  would be “using office supplies, equipment or facilities in connection with  political activities”    (Prohibited activity,  Section 17.2.4, District Attorneys’ Personnel & Compensation Plan.)

If any attorney who was a supervisor  of another attorney solicited signatures on the letter, that would be “directly or indirectly coercing, attempting to coerce, commanding or ordering any employee to … contribute anything of value (in this case a recommendation to the Governor)  to a party, committee, organization or person for a political purpose”  which would  be for the appointment of  District Attorney. ”    (Prohibited activity, 17.2.5  District Attorneys’ Personnel & Compensation Plan.)

Deputy District Attorneys John Duran and Diana Garcia mentioned in the letter both told the Journal they are interested in applying for the job. Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone is an announce candidate with his web page.  All 3 can seek the job so long as it does not interfere with the function of the office and the District Attorney, otherwise, they must  resign to seek such public office. The circulation of the letter for signatures of support was interfering with the functions of the office.

State law is also clear that full time state employees cannot run for any state office and must resign once they become announce candidate. (NMSA  10-9-21, 1978) In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, all 3 Deputies should take a leave of absence if in fact they have applied until the Governor makes the final appointment.

TORREZ HAS ABANDONED POST AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY

Confidential sources within the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office have said that Torrez has not been seen in the office since election day. It is painfully obvious that Torrez has at a minimum abandoned his post as District Attorney as he organizes “ a smooth transition into the Office of Attorney General” when he says through his spokesperson he has  “no knowledge of the letter submitted by prosecutors.”

Torrez has allowed his appointed prosecutors to run amok and engage in prohibited political activities and practices that are in violation of the Office of District Attorney’s Personnel Rules And Regulations prohibiting politcal activity on duty.  They are attempting to influence the Governor as to who she should  appoint to replace him.  Hell, Deputy District Attorney Josh Boone has even set up a slick campaign webs site proclaiming he is Democrat running for District Attorney.

ALUQUERQUE JOURNAL EDITORIAL IGNORED TORREZ RECORD OF FAILURE

The Albuquerque Journal  editorial should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone for its failure  to call out  Raúl Torrez for not doing  anything about the letter sent  by his appointed prosecutors.   For 6 years, the paper has promoted his every move on its front pages. The editorial simply ignores how the District Attorney office has become politicized under Torrez.   The letter is proof of just how politcal posturing and politcal considerations in the office have  become systemic.

The Journal editorial  embellished the Torrez record of accomplishments proclaiming those accomplishments are what got him elected Attorney General.  The Journal editors totally ignore the smear campaigns Torrez ran against his opponents Democrat State Auditor Brian Colon and Republican Jeremy Gay as he proclaimed only he, as a career prosecutor, could be Attorney General.

The Journal overlooked Raúl Torrez’ s many shortcomings during his time in office and as he ran for Attorney General. Those shortcomings include  Federal Judge Christina Armijo  and  State District Judge Charlie Brown admonishing him for his misconduct.  Federal Judge Armijo admonished Torrez in a court order when he was an Assistant Unites States Attorney  for altering a transcript in a drug case he was prosecuting.  The court said  he intentionally mislead her and the defense counsel.   State District Judge Charlie Brown admonished DA Torrez for his out of court statements in a pending murder case. It was surprising that neither judge did not sanction Torrez nor refer Torrez to the state bar for disciplinary action.

TORREZ FAILURE TO WORK WITH CRIMINAL JUSTICE STAKEHOLDERS

The Journal editorial sentence “Working with lawmakers is key to moving the criminal justice system forward [and the]  ability to work well with lawmakers” is a reflection that the Journal editors do not fully understand the District Attorney’ s office nor how it needs to function nor what Torrez has done.  Lawmakers are the very last who any District Attorney needs to be able to work with. All District Attorneys are critical to making our criminal justice system work. They need to be able to work with the courts at all levels (Metro Court, State District Court, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.) They need to work with the State Public Defenders office, private defense attorneys, and municipal, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

DA Raúl Torrez’ is well known for his constant public disparagement of judges and orders despite ethics rules that prohibit such conduct and comments.  Torrez has blamed judges for high crime rates.  He has had very public disputes with New Mexico Supreme Court over the case management rule mandating expediting criminal prosecutions and evidence disclosures.

Torrez  has refused to cooperate and  has done his best to interfere with the Second Judicial Courts move to “preliminary hearings” which are  a proven best practice. The overwhelming majority of DA offices in the state rely on preliminary hearings instead of grand juries.  Torrez has accused defense attorneys of “gaming the  system” to keep his office from getting convictions and forcing  trials accusing  defense attorneys of  not recommending to their  defendant clients  to take plea agreements.

The Journal Editorial proclaims that we need a District Attorney that has the “ability to work well with lawmakers” yet that has not been the case with Torrez. For the last 2 years, Raúl Torrez has advocated a change in law that would create a “rebuttable presumption” that a defendant is a threat to the public when charged with a violent crime.  Torrez claims that defendants accused of violent crimes  should be jailed until pending trial without bond or conditions of release.

In 2022, the New Mexico legislature rejected the change in the law. In March of this year, the  Legislative Finance Committee released their analysis  that conviction rates inside the Bernalillo County  District Attorney office had fallen to 59% and that showed why rebuttable presumption  would not improve Albuquerque’s crime crisis. In response, Torrez accused the legislature of using erroneous data and said the legislature and the judiciary were making changes to the criminal justice system that were detrimental to public policy and public safety.

https://www.kob.com/archive/district-attorney-responds-to-lfc-report-on-rebuttable-presumption/

Reputable presumption of being violent is an affront to our constitutional right of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.  When the legislature rejected rebuttable presumption, Torrez became openly hostile to the legislature condemning the legislature as a  failure and alleging the legislature was contributing to the “revolving door” of releasing violent criminals. 

DA’S OFFICE FAILURE TO PROSECUTE

A District Court study in 2018 presented to the New Mexico Supreme Court  revealed the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office under  Raúl Torrez has a 65% combined dismissal, acquittal and mistrial rate. For the full 6 years Torrez has been District Attorney, Torrez has proclaimed that our criminal justice system is broken, yet he has refused to take any responsibility for his offices failure to prosecute serious violent crime cases  authorizing prosecutors to dismiss cases. The data presented to the Supreme Court showed in part how overcharging and a failure to screen cases by the Bernalillo County District Attorneys Office was contributing to the high mistrial and acquittal rates.

PERSONNEL MISMANGEMENT

The Journal editorial  totally  ignored the office mismanagement by Raúl Torrez.  There are currently 61 vacancies withing the DA’s office, which includes 21 attorney vacancies. Attorney vacancies has been a chronic problem the entire 6 years Raul Torrez has been District Attorney.  He has never had a fully staffed office of attorneys during his tenure. The sure volume of vacancies is a sign of mismanagement of the office.  This coming from a DA that constantly complained to the New Mexico legislature that he needed more funding and was short staff. The truth is Torrez could not attract attorneys to go to work for him given his reputation of politicizing the office.

Throughout his 6 years as District Attorney, Raul Torrez has never once been the lead prosecutor in a criminal trial. His predecessors District Attorneys Kari Brandenburg, Jeff Romero, Bob Schwartz  and Steve Schiff were all known to go to court and actively being  involved with prosecuting cases.   The Journal editorial brought into the “red herring” argument that the office is faced with a herculean job of managing over a thousand cases set for trial in the first half of 2023.”  It’s the 81-trial attorney’s already on the job,  with 21 vacancies that should be filled, that will by trying those cases.  The blunt truth is those thousands of cases are on trailing dockets and many  will likely go away. It’s highly likely 95% of those cases will be plead out, voluntarily dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office  or  motions and agreements to vacate  filed. There will be very few trials.

It was very disappointing that the Journal editors made absolutely “no comment” on the propriety of the 49 prosecutor’s attempting to influence the Governor.  The letter reflects just how politics has infected the office. Politics within the office is systemic because Torrez allowed it to be.  Failure to condemn the conduct is condoning the unethical conduct and condoning prosecutors to be involved with promoting their own politcal agendas.

It also disappointing that the Journal editors wrote “Whether the next DA should be from within or outside the office is debatable.” Selecting any one of the 3 Deputies, or someone else from within the office, means a continuation of the Torrez policies and defending his failed legacy. The office needs a complete overhaul that only outside new leadership can bring to the office.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham should order the release of the names of all applicants and allow the general public to make comment before she commences the selection process, interviews and makes a final decision.

There are only 3  sentences in  the Journal Editorial that make any real sense  and that people should be able to agree with:

“The governor has a big decision to make.  … The bottom line is the next DA needs strong prosecutorial and case management experience, a passion for fighting crime and an ability to work well [with others]  …  Politics should absolutely not play a role. The job should go to the most qualified candidate, not the most connected, because Bernalillo County must have a proven crimefighter … . “

__________________________

POSTSCRIPT

Following is the full, unedited letter sent to Governor Lujan Grisham by the 49 attorneys within the office:

November 18, 2022

Dear Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham,

Those of us signing this letter are line attorneys from various divisions within the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office. We all want to do everything in our power to keep Bernalillo County safe, and we need a leader who will enable us to do exactly that. In light of Raul Torrez’s recent election as the Attorney General for the State of New Mexico, we are respectfully writing you to request that Joshua Boone, John Duran, or Diana Garcia be appointed as the next District Attorney of the Second Judicial District.

As you are well aware, Raul was a career prosecutor before becoming the District Attorney for the Second Judicial District, and worked as a prosecutor for the Thirteenth Judicial District, the New Mexico Attorney General, and as an Assistant United States Attorney. Under his leadership, our office cleared out an extensive back log of cases that had been neglected by the previous administration, and was modernized so we could focus our attention on the criminals causing the most harm in our community. Now, we are facing a backlog of cases that accumulated under the delays caused by the pandemic.

 In the first half of 2023 alone, the next District Attorney will have to deal with over a thousand cases that have been set for trial in the District Court. It will be imperative to the success of this office, and therefore the safety and welfare of our community, to have a District Attorney that can hit the ground running, that already understands how this office has been run and the systems that are already in place. We will need a District Attorney who is already familiar with the challenges our district faces, from the complexities of the timelines mandated by LR2-308 (that has only recently gone back into effect with recently introduced nuances to account for COVID) to the multiple software platforms and legal agreements needed just to send and receive discovery from multiple law enforcement agencies  (Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’, s, New Mexico State Police, Isleta Police Department, Laguna Police Department, etc.)   The days of showing up to court with paper files are over, our office has been technologically integrated directly with law enforcement. We have new systems (such as Case catcher) that have already been funded and developed that are just now being deployed and are already understood by our current managers. The herculean job of the next District Attorney will require someone who already has considerable, and recent experience managing the people of this office specifically.

 As our caseloads continue to skyrocket and we struggle to fight the crime of the past and present simultaneously, we are asking for a leader who knows what we are up against, because they have been in the same position themselves. We are asking for someone who already knows the strengths and weaknesses of the individual employees, and already has a team in place that can immediately continue where DA Torrez left off. We believe that leader is already in our office. If we stumble and have to start over again with someone who has no experience running this office, the community is the one who will pay the price.

Sincerely,

Assistant District Attorneys of the Second Judicial District

The link to review the letter is here:

https://www.scribd.com/document/609067682/Letter-to-the-Governor-Final

 

Council Enacts “Pedestrian Median Ordinance” On 7-2 Vote; “Activist” City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn Gives A Self Centered, “Flaky” Excuse To Vote “NO” Ignoring Public Safety Issue

On November 21, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a new and improved “pedestrian safety ordinance” on a 7 to 2 vote. The city council action  amends a city ordinance that severely restricted panhandling and that was ruled by a federal court and a court of appeals  as unconstitutional.

The new  ordinance specifically bars individuals from standing in or entering street and highway travel lanes unless they are “legally crossing.” It also prohibits using or occupying medians on 30 mph or faster roads where there is not a flat surface of at least 4 feet wide  having no greater than 8% grade.  A city council legislative  analysis determined that the ordinance will  affect just over 17% of the linear feet of higher-speed arterial roadway medians across Albuquerque. Nonetheless, these are the medians on  roadways with the highest traffic flows  and highly visible to the driving public.  In other words 83% of medians in the city will be available for constitutionally protected free speech activities.

Under the new ordinance, if pedestrians are on a median that doesn’t meet the bill’s requirements, a $100 citation will  be issued.  APD and the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS) will  be authorized to give warnings, or  are a person can be criminally charged with a misdemeanor and fined a $100.

The updated ordinance removes the unconstitutional provisions of the original ordinance, including the part banning exchanges between drivers and pedestrians, and loosens up where pedestrians can be on sidewalks.

The link to a quoted news article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2552022/city-council-oks-revised-median-restrictions.html

PREVIOUS ORDINANCE RECALLED

It was in 2017 that Albuquerque City Councilor Trudy Jones sponsored the original “Pedestrian Safety Ordinance” that was enacted unanimously by the city council. The 2017 Pedestrian Safety Ordinance was very restrictive as to make it “unconstitutional” making it illegal to occupy certain medians and stand on highway entrance and exit ramps. It also barred “any physical interaction or exchange” between pedestrians and vehicle occupants while the vehicle was in a travel lane.

The American Civil Liberties Union  (ACLU) filed  a federal civil rights lawsuit challenging  the original  city ordinance after repeated warnings were made to the city council.  The  ACLU  represented  multiple plaintiffs including a woman who is homeless and routinely used the medians to ask for donations as well as  individuals who distributed  donations from their vehicles.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack in Albuquerque ruled in 2019 that the ordinance violated free speech protections because it was “not narrowly tailored to meet the City’s interest in reducing pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.”  The city appealed the ruling and in 2021 the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Brack’s ruling.  The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in its ruling  wrote:

“[The city was]  unable to establish that the ordinance does not burden substantially more speech than necessary to further its interest in pedestrian safety … [and] has almost completely failed to even consider alternative measures that restrict or burden the speech at issue less severely than does the ordinance.”

City Attorney Lauren Keefe said the amended  ordinance was written to address the specific concerns raised  by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Keefe told the city council:

“The biggest concern from the court was whether the ordinance as drafted burdened more speech than necessary, meaning it took away more places people could stand and engage in expressive conduct than necessary in order to ensure people remain safe.”

Voting YES to enact the ordinance were Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, and Louie Sanchez and Republicans Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis.  Voting NO were Democrats  Klarissa Peña and Tammy Fiebelkorn.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

CURING A DEFECTIVE ORDINANCE

The biggest problem with the original ordinance sponsored by Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones is that it was obviously directed at the homeless or panhandlers and also at drivers stopping to pass items such as food, money or anything a driver wanted to give as a handout to help make a beggar’s or a homeless person’s life a little less miserable. It came across as downright cruel and lacking any compassion interfering with people simply wanting to help with a handout.

In 2017, the city council was repeatedly warned about the language of the original ordinance by the ACLU and the City Council simply ignored what it was being told and that the original ordinance was unconstitutional.  What was truly amazing is the poor advice the City Council was likely given in 2017 by the City Attorney’s Office and the fact that the City Attorney office appealed the original ruling.

From review of the new language and with the deletions of the unconstitutional language, the new version of the ordinance has a much better chance of being upheld as constitutional or even going unchallenged in federal court. Now that the ordinance has been enacted, the Mayor should sign it into law quickly and the city should dedicate resources and proceed to enforce it.

FIEBELCORN GIVES  FLAKY JUSTIFICATION TO VOTE NO

Klarissa Peña in casting a NO vote raised concerns about enforcement saying that the city already lacks enough personnel to focus on other ordinances. Peña’s concern are legitimate.

Tammy Fiebelkorn on the other hand  gave a downright “flaky” personal excuse for  voting  “NO” saying  the ordinance’s purpose seemed “trivial” and said this:

“I’ve been an activist for 44 years. … When I’m protesting something or holding up a political sign, it matters where you are. I don’t want to have a political sign three blocks from where I wanted to have it.”

The link to the quoted news article is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/2552022/city-council-oks-revised-median-restrictions.html

Street “right of ways” are for safe driving and not for protesting of for that matter the unhoused. There is nothing “trivial” about the ordinance as Fiebelkorn claims.  It’s bad enough Albuquerque divers have to keep close attention to traffic signals and signs  and avoid collisions and even the risk of  hitting pedestrians. The last thing drivers need  to worry about are protesters who get up in your face, the likes of activists such as Tammy Fiebelkorn, and the “unhoused”  who stick what many feel are  obnoxious  signs in front of their windshields and faces obstructing their views increasing the risk of accidents.

THE LEADING  “FLAKE”  ON  THE CITY COUNCIL ADVOCATING FOR HER OWN POLITICAL AGENDA

Fiebelkorn has become the leading “flake” on the city council with some of her actions and comments. This  includes  her over the top complaints and demand for an investigation about chickens, roosters and sheep not being properly fed and watered at the City’s Biopark Heritage Farm facilities.  At the time, Fielbelkorn said  the animal’s conditions were  so bad, she wanted  the city to consider sending them to a “sanctuary” and said this:

“I am requesting officially that these animals be seen by an actual veterinarian, clearly not the veterinarians who are caring for them now. I would like an independent survey of if they are okay, I would like to be present at that visit, and I would like to discuss a plan to release these animals to sanctuaries because they are clearly not getting the care they need.”

It turns  out that all the  animals were in fact  under veterinarian’s care, they were receiving care, antibiotics, topical ointments and  high calcium diets  according to  Brandon Gibson, Biopark Deputy Director.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-city-councilor-claims-animals-are-being-neglected-at-biopark/

On November 18, Fiebelkorn sent out a Thanksgiving email best wishes to her constituents that said in part:

“I hope you are all making plans to spend next week with family, friends, or chosen family members. My partner, Paul, and I are heading to meet our dear friends, Mike and Dan, for our annual Thanksgiving celebration. We have a wonderful celebration with a extravagant vegan feast and some much-needed “down time”. I encourage everyone to consider making your Thanksgiving celebration cruelty-free this year.”

No doubt Fiebelkorn believes if you enjoyed  a  turkey, ham or prime rib roast with your family and friends during Thanksgiving this year, you and your family are cruel people  and only a vegan feast was acceptable to her.

Then there is that matter that after a mere 6 months of service on the city council, Fiebelkorn wanted to completely gut her  own city council district and gerrymander and realign it to be more favorable to her with more progressive Democrats. On June 4 it was reported that City Councilors Pat Davis and Tammy Fiebelkorn submitted to the City’s citizen-led City Council redistricting committee a map they came up with by themselves. The proposed map dramatically realigned  both City Council District 6, represented by Pat Davis, and City Council District 7, represented by Tammy Fiebelkorn. The map was the most radical of all the 10 maps reviewed.

https://www.cabq.gov/council/documents/cabq_citizen_map_4_maps_table

City Councilor Fiebelkorn said of the concept map she wanted adopted would be  give the International District’s “large, culturally significant population” a more united voice on the council.  She said she thought the  International District residents may have “more in common” with residents just north of Lomas than with the current district that includes Nob Hill, which she called a “completely different demographic.”  It was the progressive Nob Hill area that Fiebelkorn wanted to be included in her newly aligned district and to exclude a Republican leaning area of her district. City Councilor Fiebelkorn had this to say:

“One of the baselines of redistricting is that we find ways to make marginalized communities have a voice. This is just an idea. I want to hear what the folks who have been living and breathing this the last several months think in terms of these various options and what would be the best to make sure everybody is represented in a fair and equitable way.”

City Councilor Pat Davis for his part had this to say about the proposed concept map:

“I think we should have some different voices on the City Council. … If you look at it now, the entire east side of the city is represented by white folks, and I think that shows the current districting is leaving some people out of the process.

The problem is Fiebelkorn does not represent the International District and she did not want it to be included in her new district.  She knows very little about the International District  in that  she is not a part of any marginalized community nor is she a person of color but  she is  a strong  animal rights advocate, yet she felt compelled to advocate for the International District.  Fiebelkorn and Davis are both one of those “white folks” Pat Davis complained about. 

No one should be surprised if “activist” City Councilor Tammy Fielbelkorn steps down from the City Council dias and  gets out her poster boards, crayons and magic markers and produces a “protest sign” over the new ordinance and goes standing and  waiving it at the intersection  of  Montgomery and San Mateo, the busiest intersection in the State of New Mexico, which also falls partially in her city council district, to protest the City Council’s enactment of the ordinance.