Up To The Challenge

The Albuquerque Journal did an excellent front page profile of Mayor Tim Keller on New Year’s Eve 2017 that went into great detail on his background, his family and hopes and aspirations for the new year and for Albuquerque.

The fact the article was written by Senior Editor Kent Walz says a lot.

(December 31, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A1, “FACE TO FACE WITH TIM KELLER”, “TAKING THE REINS”, “Dyslexia, football and a love of politics shape new mayor”)


The one quote that stuck out to me in the profile of Mayor Keller was his final comment “When I decided to run, I realized it might be the last job I ever get politically, so I’m ready for that. I think the key is to go through that and leave it all on the field in the sense you try to do everything you wanted to do. And then if it doesn’t work out, you gave it your best.”

This comment reflects a dramatic political maturity from 20 months ago when I asked him why he was running for Mayor and he said “because I think it would be really neat to be Mayor of my home town and I have done good at all the jobs I have ever held”. Frankly, I was somewhat taken aback by his initial naivete based on what he told me 20 months ago.

Hard fought campaigns are an education of candidates, not only on the issues, but also an education of learning a lot about yourself.

Mayor Keller won by a landslide with 62% of the vote in a runoff.

Keller now has a mandate for change and he needs to take advantage of that early on, especially when it comes to the Albuquerque Police Department, our economy, cleaning up the mess he was left and taxes.

Winning by such a historical margin the first time around just may mean his popularity has in fact “peaked” given the challenges we face as a community.

Mayor Keller’s popularity will take a hit once he starts making the hard decisions.

Most assuredly, Mayor Keller will be tested in a crisis as is are all Mayors.

We should all do what we can to support his efforts but nonetheless hold him accountable for his actions.

Frankly, I have no doubt now that Tim Keller is up to the challenge and he will be a good Mayor.

Only time will tell if he will serve multiple terms or goes onto higher office or for that matter nowhere at all as all other Mayors.

As the old Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times”.

Taxes Are The Dues We All Must Pay For Our Public Safety

Below are two guest editorial columns that ran side by side and were published on December 30, 2017 by the Albuquerque Journal under a bold red heading THE COST OF PUBLIC SAFETY.

The Albuquerque Journal Editor’s entitled my column as “Keller’s APD officer goal likely means a tax hike” and included the subtitle commentary “But Mayor should make the hard decision and back away from putting it up for a public vote”

My column stirred up a few nasty comments on the Journal’s website about liberals always wanting to tax and overspend and cops not doing their jobs.

The second column was by retired APD Police Officer Levi Borunda and the Journal Editors entitled it as “Incentives could have kept officers on force” with the subtitle commentary “Retirement options pushed out APD veterans who were on the fence about staying on duty”.

On April 1, 2018, the Keller Administration will be submitting the proposed City budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 and at that time we will learn how they intend to deal with the $40 million deficit projected.


Keller’s APD officer goal likely means a tax hike
By Pete Dinelli / Former Albuquerque City Councilor
Saturday, December 30th, 2017 at 12:02am

Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference to address the $6 million deficit this fiscal year and the huge $40 million budget shortfall the city will be dealing with next fiscal year.

Mayor Keller said, in part, “Because we have a deficit situation, we are really going to have to focus on prioritizing what is important this year for our city. … The tougher question is, how do we actually get more officers on the streets? And we’re going to be working with our police chief and the City Council to find a way to do that.”

Currently, the Albuquerque Police Department is budgeted for 1,000 police officers but actually employs 836 with only 430 assigned to the field to take calls for service.

Money from the 150-plus police officer vacancies has gone to pay police overtime, and the Albuquerque Police Department busted its overtime budget by $4 million going from the $9 million budgeted to $13 million.

On the campaign trail, candidate Keller laid out his plans for APD and for completing the Department of Justice reforms.

Keller made the campaign promise that he wanted to increase the number of sworn police officers from the current 836 positions filled to 1,200, or by 350 sworn police officers, and return to community-based policing.

Getting to the 1,200 level of sworn officers is going to take years and probably will not be accomplished without a tax increase.

On the campaign trail, candidate Keller said he would raise taxes as a last resort for public safety and only with voter approval.

It is disappointing when mayors and city councilors proclaim they will put increases in taxes on the ballot, thereby trying to avoid the political “hot potato” and accusation that they increased taxes when they run for office again.

People have no business running for office if they do not want to make the hard decisions, especially when it comes to taxes and public safety and providing police services.

In any representative form of government, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents.

Public safety and police services are among the few areas that elected officials should never resist increasing taxes when there is a crisis such as we have now in Albuquerque with our high crime rates.

On a federal level, our military defense is akin to police services on the local level, and you never see Congress put to a public vote the Pentagon budget.

Keller is quickly learning, albeit the hard way, there is a big difference between campaigning for elective office and making a lot of promises that you may be unable to keep versus actually governing and making the decisions that have to be made that will most assuredly anger people.

A mayor making decisions with an eye toward future office or a legacy is a recipe for failure.

One of those decisions that upset voters is having to increase our taxes.

As former Mayor David Rusk said, “Taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society.”

It is the City Council that has the authority to raise taxes, not the mayor.

Keller needs to have a frank conversation with the Albuquerque City Council pointing out that they are the ones that have the budget responsibility to fully address our public safety needs.

If Keller feels we need a public safety tax for police and the DOJ reforms, he should advocate its enactment by the City Council and not put it to a public vote.

It’s great being mayor during good economic times and low crime rates, and miserable being mayor during a bad economy and rising crime rates.

A few mayors have found out the job is way too close to the garbage cans and the job turned out not to be what they expected.

Incentives could have kept officers on force
By Levi Borunda / Retired Albuquerque Police Officer
Saturday, December 30th, 2017 at 12:02am

When I retired from the Albuquerque Police Department in 2016, I did so with mixed feelings. On one hand, I loved serving the Albuquerque community in my role as an officer in a department filled with wonderful women and men who are dedicated to keeping Albuquerque safe. I also knew that most of Albuquerque’s citizens had faith in us, in our integrity and our commitment to them.

However, I also believed the department was moving in the wrong path, exemplified by lack of clear direction in the face of a Department of Justice settlement agreement, as well as an apparent unwillingness to incentivize experienced officers to stay on with APD. There was also the associated issue of lack of personnel, which often made the job of a uniformed officer very dangerous. Lastly, when the New Mexico state Legislature enacted necessary reforms to the Public Employment Retirement Association’s cost-of-living adjustments, they obviously didn’t consider the effects that these changes could have on law enforcement retirements. In my own situation, if I didn’t retire before June 1, 2016, I was looking at having to wait seven years before I received a small increase in my retirement pay when I finally did retire.

What would have encouraged me and other officers in my situation to stay with APD? I can truly only answer for myself, but I’ve spoken with individuals who left APD around the same time I did, and I think a combination of serious recruitment efforts along with some monetary incentives would have gone a long way in keeping us motivated to remain beyond our retirement dates. About two years before I retired, the city gave officers with 18 or more years in PERA a monthly longevity stipend, and I observed that many officers who would have retired stayed on instead, which helped our staffing levels. This incentive also went to senior command officials, a decision I don’t think was popular with either the public or rank-and-file officers. In fact, when the incentive quickly went away for regular line officers, the city continued paying this stipend to high-ranking officials, which didn’t sit well with me.

In my retirement letter to then-Chief Gorden Eden, I communicated that I would consider delaying my retirement if the city would offer a monetary offset to the negative financial impact of the PERA cost-of-living extension. I never got an answer, and I quietly retired. God bless the brave men and women who remain in the fight to keep Albuquerque safe and secure; there are just not enough of them to keep up with the growing crime problems facing us today and in the future.

APD Homicide Investigation Unit Overwhelmed

Albuquerque has now reached a record high of 75 murders in one year.

(December 28, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “The city has reached 75 homicides with decomposed body, police say”)


The record high was originally 70 murders in the year 1996.

Currently, there are only five homicide detectives, with three in training, and a sergeant, that are currently investing the 75 murders.

APD’s homicide clearance rate has usually been in the 80% and and it is now only 59%.

Complicating the murder investigations is the increase in the number of homeless people that have been murdered this year.

Fifteen (15) of the 75 murders involve homeless people.

The murder of homeless people are usually very difficult to solve because the murders usually occur in the outdoors and there is not much of a crime scene left where evidence and witnesses can be found.

Clearly APD’s Homicide Detective Unit is overwhelmed by the caseload and needs immediate help and resources.

The Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be at least 15 detectives.

APD Police Spokesman Simon Dobrik says “You can’t just go out to the field and grab two officers and, all of a sudden, make them homicide detectives”.

Officer Dobrik is correct when he says that it takes years of grooming through various positions, from impact to robbery and burglary detectives, as they “refine” their skills.

That may be the case, but APD is in a crisis mode and it needs to concentrate on recruiting seasoned homicide detectives from other departments if necessary.

At the very least, APD needs to ask for temporary assignment of personnel from other agencies such as the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department or the State Police to help clear out the cases.

The longer a homicide case takes to complete an investigation or is neglected because of lack of personnel, the less likely the cases will be solved.

Adding to the crisis is the emotional toll an unsolved murder takes on the families of the victims.

Legalize, Regulate and Tax With Comprehensive Legislation

State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) is once again attempting to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in New Mexico and will once again introduce legislation in the upcoming 2018 New Mexico legislative session to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for voter approval.

That means getting a majority of legislators to agree to a constitutional amendment to put it on the ballot for voter approval.

Senator Otiz y Pino needs a majority in both the Senate and the House to place the measure on the ballot for voters to decide.

For a number of years, Ortiz y Pino’s his efforts to place the issue on the ballot has failed.

Governor Suzana Martinez would not be involved and could not veto the legislation because it would be a constitutional amendment.

It is very disappointing when the New Mexico Legislature feels the need to seek constitutional amendments for voter approval for the sake of by passing Governor Martinez because of her “my way or the highway” philosophy.

In any representative form of government, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents.

During the 2017 Legislative Session, Ortiz y Pino’s resolution was tabled in committee when two Democrats expressed opposition.

The Democrats who opposed the legislation both argued they knew people with drug problems and the argument was made that pot is an “entry level drug” for harder drug abuse.

The same argument can be made that alcohol is also entry level drug and “prohibition” failed in this country years ago.

The truth is, our war on drugs has been a miserable failure in this country, especially when it comes to pot, and that is coming from someone who has prosecuted narcotics cases.

Legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana is the real message of State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque), and it is one that should be listened to by all.

I am not sure Senator Ortiz y Pino completely understood the implications of what he was saying when he said “Legalizing marijuana wouldn’t make it more available. It’s already available. Any high school kid worth their salt can find marijuana within a half-hour”.


That may be true if the kid has a dealer at school he can contact who will probably have more than just recreational pot for sale.

Keep under age kids out of the argument and the availability of drugs.

Senator Ortiz y Pino argues the goal is to legalize, regulate and control the pot more effectively and legalization would significantly boost the New Mexico economy.

If the Senator’s goal is truly to legalize, regulate and control the drug as he claims, then he should draft comprehensive legislation to do just that and get it approved by the legislature with simple majority votes.

State Senators and State Representatives need to voice their true position on the issue and not just pass it on to voters.

Get the candidates for Governor and those running for the legislature to take a stand.

In all likelihood, Governor Martinez, the former Dona Ana District Attorney, will veto the legislation

At this point in time no one should really care about what Governor Martinez has to say in that she will be leaving office in a year and we will have a new Governor and a new legislature on January 1, 2019.

Healthy debate on comprehensive legislation in the 2018 session could be a pre-cursory to drafting viable legislation and adopted the following year.

After a healthy debate, Martinez just may change her mind on legalization for the sake of having accomplished at least one thing during her eight (8) as Governor.

Governor Martinez should seriously consider how she will make a living after she leaves elective office.

Martinez could apply for a dispenser’s license and go into business with former Governor Gary Johnson and sell and market pot as “NM Governor’s Choice”.

“Sneaks We Is” Chamber of Commerce

No one should be at all surprised that the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce is supportive of the proposed new mandatory sick leave ordinance sponsored by Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris.

(See December 22, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Business Section, page A-12, “Paid Sick Leave Redux”)


Sherman McCorkle, the Chamber of Commerce’s well known Republican political operative seems to like the new ordinance as well.

You got to ask why, given their strong opposition to the Healthy Work Force Ordinance which was defeated by less than 800 votes in then October, 2017 municipal election.

Least anyone forgets, Sherman McCorkle endorsed and supported County Commissioner Wayne Johnson for Mayor.

Wayne Johnson was a huge opponent of the Heathy Work Force Ordinance and actually went to District Court hearings that were held to keep it off the 2016 general election ballot fearing it would pass.

McCorkle also opposed the ballot Healthy Workforce voter initiative.

McCorkle says “This is incredibly more business-friendly than the prior one. … This is much more fair and is something that the (chamber of commerce) board would look very favorably on”.

McCorkle and the Chamber are downright “sneaky” when they say it is “much more fair” and saying they would look more favorably on it.

The reason why they are “sneaky” is because they know damn well very few employees will be covered by the new ordinance and it will only affect businesses that employ 50 or more people, meaning only 6% of all employees in Albuquerque will be covered.

The truth is 94% percent of all employers in Bernalillo County have fewer than 50 workers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 there were 15,746 private sector establishment in Bernalillo County and of those, 14,846 had fewer than 50 employees meaning that a grand total of 900 had 50 or more workers.

Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, told the City Council that the ordinance if enacted will be one of the weakest in the country and said 28 other cities and nine states have paid sick leave laws.

Wagoner said proposed ordinance “excludes many part time workers, most of whom want full time jobs or work multiple jobs to make ends meet. It excludes between 90 to 95 percent of Albuquerque businesses from coverage altogether. And it denies coverage for many important family caregiving relationships.”

And the Chamber wonders why it is losing membership and so much credibility with the community.

ABQ Reports: Sick Leave Bill Would Affect 6% of All City Employees

Sick Leave Bill Would Affect 6 Percent of City Employers
December 18, 2017
By Dennis Domrzalski, ABQ Reports

“You’ve got to hand it to city councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris; they’re either incredibly bold in their attempts to deceive the public, or stunningly uninformed. Maybe both.

These two geniuses plan to introduce a mandatory sick leave ordinance that would require all companies in the city with 50 or more employees to provide mandatory sick leave to their workers.

The announcement made for a good headline, but it failed to mention that this proposed law would affect a massive 6 percent of the city’s employers.

That’s right, 6 percent.

That’s because 94 percent of all employers in Bernalillo County have fewer than 50 workers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 there were 15,746 private sector establishment in the county. Of those, 14,846 had fewer than 50 employees. A grand total of 900 had 50 or more workers.

When you figure that probably all of the 390 establishment with more than 100 workers offer their employees sick leave, you have, really, a minuscule about of employers that would be affected by their proposed law.

I’m not saying that mandating employers to provide sick leave to their workers is good, or that that’s government’s role, I’m saying that their proposed bill would affect almost no one and that they should be called out for this deception or ignorance.

So here’s a look at employers by size in Bernalillo County:

1 to 4 employees: 7,798
5 to 9 employees: 3,080
10 to 19 employees: 2,321
20 to 49 employees: 1,647
50 to 99 employees: 510
100 to 249 employees: 307
250 to 499 employees: 58
500 to 999 employees: 16
1,00 or more employees: 9

… [E]establishments with fewer than 50 workers wouldn’t be affected by the proposed ordinance.”



A coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations was formed last year to oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance in court and included:

• Apartment Association of New Mexico
• Associated Builders and Contractors
• Associated General Contractors New Mexico
• Albuquerque Economic Forum
• Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
• American Subcontractors Association of New Mexico
• Commercial Association of Realtors New Mexico
• Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors
• Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
• Home Builders of Central New Mexico
• National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP)
• New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry
• New Mexico Restaurant Association
• New Mexico Utility Contractors Association.

A “measured finance” committee called “ALBUQUERQUE COALITION FOR A HEALTHY ECONOMY” was also formed to mount a campaign to fund and oppose the ordinance.

The business coalition no doubt has already done some sort of economic impact a mandatory sick leave ordinance will have on the city’s private industry.

Notwithstanding all the problems with the proposed ordinance, perhaps a mandatory sick leave ordinance can still emerge that all the city councilors can support and the Mayor can sign without putting it on the ballot this time.

A bigger obstacle is how the business community and the private sector will react to the ordinance and what extent the opposition will be to it.

It would make common sense for the Mayor or the City Council to contact the coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations that was formed last year to oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance and get their input and recommendations on what they could support.

Then again, common sense is something Sanchez and Harris appear to be lacking seeing that their proposed ordinance was written in a vacuum without any input from the Mayor and it will only benefit 6% of employees.