Mayor Tim Keller was sworn into office on December 1, 2017.
Keller will have completed a full six months in office on June 1, 2018.
The first 6 months is used to hire key staff, make appointments, prepare a budget and announce major policy changes to be relied upon as a blueprint for the term.
The first six months of a new Mayor’s administration is the customary time frame to take note of major accomplishments, missteps and mistakes in order to grade success.
In the 6 months, Mayor Keller’s accomplishments can be listed as followings:
1. Appointed experienced city hall people like James Lewis, Lawrence Rael and David Campbell to key positions and woman to executive positions including Sarita Nair as Chief Administration Officer, Shelle Sanchez as Cultural Services Director, Mary Scott as Human Service Director and Ana Sanchez as Senior Affairs Director and Nyka Allen as Aviation Director.
2. Appointed a new Interim APD Police Chief and Interim Deputy Chiefs who are either retired or from within APD and shuffling and reorganizing the APD command staff and personnel staff. These interim appointments have stabilized the department somewhat.
3. Publicly committed to a federal judge in private and a court hearing to implement the Department of Justice reforms which are required under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The Federal Monitor is now providing “technical assistance” to APD and APD now has a compliance bureau.
4. Signing a city council-initiated $55 million dollar a year tax increase. Keller broke a campaign promise not to raise taxes without a public vote. The increased tax revenues raised is going towards a projected $40 million deficit. 80% of the new tax revenues are dedicated to public safety.
5. Submission and enactment of a $577 million balanced general fund budget with highlights including increases in funding for more police, increased funding in social services and youth programs and $1.5 million to address the backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits. APD has 898 sworn police when you include a recent graduating cadet class. The 2018-2019 approved budget funds 1,040 full time sworn police officer positions.
6. Proposed an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program over 4 years 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. Keller has vowed to return to community-based policing.
7. Attempting to salvage the $135 million ART bus project calling it “turning lemons into lemonade”. Keller has yet been able to secure the $69 million federal grant funding from congress after going to Washington and lobbying for a commitment.
8. Negotiating a $8 million settlement with the Albuquerque firefighters union, ending a pay raise dispute that dates back to 2011 when the previous administration was at impasse with all the City Unions.
9. Successful negotiation of a two-year contract with the police union providing for $12.2 million dollars in hourly wage increases and longevity pay increases to experienced police officers.
10. Announcing implementation of major changes to the city’s twenty five-year old DWI vehicle forfeiture program in response to a federal court ruling in a pending case. The policy change includes the city not seeking ownership of a vehicle and sell it at auction unless the suspect is convicted of DWI.
11. Signing a symbolic decriminalization of pot ordinance and a symbolic City Council resolution reaffirming Albuquerque is an “immigrant friendly” city as opposed to a “sanctuary city”, with both initiatives being city council initiatives and not the Mayor’s.
12. Mayor Tim Keller has taken photo ops to a new level by attending protest rallies to speak at, attending marches, attending heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, running in track meets and participating in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying re-living his high school glory days, and posting pictures and videos on FACEBOOK. People can take great pride with the positive image Mayor Keller is portraying.
Mayor Keller has had missteps and has made mistakes during his first 6 months in office.
TIM KELLER MISSTEPS WITH APPOINTMENTS MADE
One appointment misstep indicated a failed “vetting process” for political appointments.
A vetting misstep occurred when a City Clerk nominee withdrew her acceptance of Keller’s appointment because her financial problems and tax lien problems when investigated and reported upon by the Albuquerque Journal.
A second appointment misstep was soliciting and appointing beyond the advertised application closing date a City Attorney who needed to be confirmed by the City Council.
The soliciting and appointing a city attorney after the closure date for applications and after all applicant interviews had been conducted resulted in the charge of political cronyism against Keller’s Chief Administrative Officer who knows and went to law school with the city attorney selected.
The city attorney appointment misstep could have been easily avoided by advertising the position further and expanding the application time to have more interviews and solicit more applicants.
MISTAKES WITH THE APD CHIEF SELECTION PROCESS
Keller announced appointment of a 5-member selection committee and process for a permanent APD chief with the goal of hiring a chief by mid-June, 2017.
The selection committee consists of a former APD Captain, the Fraternal Order of Police President and 3 Keller Administration employees with no one from the general public nor affected groups.
There are no representatives on the chief’s selection committee from the American Civil Liberties Union, APD Forward, the District Attorney’s Office nor Public Defenders Office, nor any Hispanic, Native American or other minority groups nor communities affected by police actions.
There is no representation on the selection committee from any one of the stake holders in the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) mandating implementation of reforms and no representation from the Police Oversight Commission nor the Community Policing Counsels.
The APD Chief position was not posted nor advertised until May 1 with all applications requiring to be received by May 21 with less than 3 full weeks to collect resumes and do interviews by the selection committee and make recommendations to Mayor Keller.
The Keller Administration wants to complete the selection process and have the new APD Chief confirmed by the City Council before the City Council goes on summer break in mid-June.
The Keller Administration also wants a new chief in place before the new fiscal year begins on July 1, 2018.
The city council’s calendar and its summer break in no way should be rushing the process.
The selection committee should interview for the position of Chief and 3 deputy chief police positions in order to hire a management team that can take over APD.
Mayor Keller simply cannot afford to get this one appointment wrong because Albuquerque’s public safety is at stake.
MISTAKES FROM INEPT MANAGEMENT CREATING A PUBLICE RELATIONS NIGHTMARE
A major mistake by Mayor Keller was defending APD in the evidence gathering of a child abuse case where the blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child was collected by the child’s teacher.
The APD officer refused to take the child’s blood-stained garment and tag it into evidence.
Initially, both Mayor Keller and Interim Chief Geier insisted that no one with APD violated any policies or procedures, including when an APD officer tossed out the evidence.
Keller and Geier doubled down when they said that officers and detectives did everything they could with the information they had at the time.
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier defending the actions of APD they knew absolutely nothing about, even after courtroom testimony of the teacher, speaks volumes of their management ineptness and worse their reluctance to hold APD accountable.
After Keller and Geier doubled down defending APD, it was reported that two APD officers and two detectives with APD’s Crimes Against Children Unit looked into the allegation the 7-year-old child had blood on her underwear, someone from APD in fact accessed the states Children Youth and Families law enforcement portal.
According to a city interoffice memorandum, APD Real Time Center operators were ordered to use the portal in all cases in which a juvenile has been injured or neglected, there is a history of violence, and in “all cases where a juvenile call originated from a school.”
In other words, APD was aware or should have been aware of the family’s lengthy history with the Children, Youth and Families Department when and APD officer and a CYFD investigator met with the child’s teacher at the girl’s school.
Only after intense media coverage did Keller order APD to launched an Internal Affairs investigation to provide a more complete accounting of the department’s interactions related to the incident involving the parents and the child.
Mayor Tim Keller made a stunning admission when said during the news conference to discuss the Internal Affairs Investigation that he was not given the full story of the police department’s handling of the case.
Keller went as far as to say during the news conference: “We did not get the full story, it’s the same old culture” and went on to say that it will take time to change the department’s culture and make it fully transparent and accountable.
For his part, Chief Geier said “This is not the old APD, we are not going to sweep this under the rug” and vowed to find out the truth of what happened.
It was inept management and a failed oversight mistake for Chief Geier and Mayor Keller not to order the Internal Affairs Investigation in the first place.
The events occurred last year, before they took office, was something they could not do anything about other than get to the truth about what actually happened to a 7-year-old child.
Mayor Keller and Chief Geier defended the actions of APD when they knew absolutely nothing about them, even after courtroom testimony of a teacher.
Both Keller and Geier reversed themselves after intense media coverage.
Their reversal speaks volumes of their management ineptness and worse their reluctance to hold APD accountable.
Keller’s mistake in this case can be understood given his lack of understanding of law enforcement procedures and the fact he is not an attorney and is ignorant of the law of evidence.
However, Interim Chief Geier should have known better given his 40+ years as a cop and his knowledge of the law.
Despite Geier’s denial to the contrary, what happened in the case is evidence that nothing really has changed with APD management practices of the past.
MISTAKES WITH ART CONTINUE WITH KELLER
Since taking office on December 1, 2018, Mayor Keller has been trying to clean up the $135 million-dollar disaster known as the ART Bus Project.
The Keller Administration itself created a problem with the ART buses when it took delivery of at least 10 of the buses in California where the buses were assembled.
Instead of being shipped by rail, the buses were driven across country and sustained damages which may not be covered by the warranty or have voided the warranty.
A bus manufacturer spokesman stated the busses were not designed for cross country driving and damages caused by the delivery may not be covered by the warranty.
After a full 7 months since the previous Mayor dedicated the project as “up and running” Keller reported the electric busses still do not hold a charge and the city is in contact negotiations with the manufacturer.
The electric buses delivered are suppose to operate for 275 miles but they cannot go more than 180 miles before they need charging, which means more buses or more bus stations are needed.
After 6 months in office, Keller reported that there is still no word if the $75 million federal grant will be forthcoming.
Keller has found former Mayor Berry’s rose-colored glasses when he sees the federal government giving the city the $75 million, something the Berry Administration repeatedly lie to the public about and said was a guarantee.
The city has been forced to use funding from its working capital improvement resources to pay for the project.
According to Keller, abandoning the ART Bus project is not feasible.
Keller claims “junking” ART and putting Central back to what it was before construction began would cost $200 million.
Renegotiating the contract would mean in part that the city keeps only some of the 15 buses delivered to the city.
In an update of the project, Keller said the city is looking to “divorce” itself from the manufacturer and in the process of renegotiating its contract with the firm.
If a “divorce” is what Keller really wants, he needs to hire a good lawyer, file suit and seek damages for breach of contract for all the delays and breach of warranties relating to the buses.
Litigation is why we have a city attorney’s office as well a risk management department that both have had no problem settling cases and dishing out $62 million dollars in police misconduct and deadly use of force cases.
Keller still clings to hope the busses will be up and running by September or by the end of next year.
MISSTEPS WITH RISING CRIME RATES
Violent crime rates, especially the city’s murder rate, continue to soar under Keller’s watch.
Since January 1 of this year, Albuquerque has had 35 murders and counting.
Mayor Keller has failed to address the community on what he will do about the city’s murder rate, if anything can be done, other than hiring more cops to patrol our streets and increase APD response times to 911 emergency calls.
911 emergency call response times continue to be at unacceptable levels and many times calls for service to APD to report crimes go unanswered for hours.
The Mayor and APD command staff have failed to announce major policy changes or specific plans on how to bring down APD response times to the national standard.
MISTEP WITH NO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN
Albuquerque and New Mexico have some of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
During the campaign for Mayor, candidate Keller proposed as a “big idea” creating personal or individual Tax Increment Districts (TIDS), more use of industrial revenue bonds and tax incentives to attract new industry to Albuquerque and create jobs.
The Keller Economic Development Department employs 11 full time employees with an approved annual budget of $3,922,000.
The Keller Administration has yet to announce any economic development plan that is any different than the previous administration, let alone proposing any “big ideas.”
PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER MISHAPS
During the news conference by Mayor Keller and Chief Geier announcing an Internal Affairs Investigation (IA) in the case involving the blood-stained underwear of a seven-year-old child, the APD Spokesperson was given control over the press conference by Keller.
The APD spokesperson contradicted Mayor Keller’s decision and the need of the investigation when he said:
“We can’t just generate complaints based on speculation. … Somebody has to say something happened.”
Well something did happen and it was an inept criminal investigation of a child sexual abuse case and the handling of a referral from the state Children Youth and Families Department.
What happened at the press conference is a prime example the Keller Administration’s public information officers (PIOs) do not know exactly what they are doing nor how to stay on message.
Mixed messages were sent by the Keller Administration when it announced major changes to the DWI vehicle forfeiture program.
The changes to the DWI vehicle forfeiture program were in response to a pending federal case.
Media inquiries were left unanswered or different people responded to media and changes to the policy were announced on FACEBOOK.
Another failure in communication occurred when the Mayor’s office issued a press release regarding his signing of an ordinance banning the scourge of “coyote hunts” (sarcasm fully intended) in Albuquerque.
At the same time as the coyote hunt ban, no press release was issued when Keller signed the $55 million-dollar tax increase the same day breaking his promise not to raise taxes without a public vote.
Albuquerque appears to have a Mayor whose PIOs have no idea what his decisions are, nor understanding what his directives are, what he wants said to the media nor what he wants his top executives to be saying.
Keller needs to get a handle on his PIOs and order them trained and managed to stay on message.
Without training, we can expect the “amateur hour” to continue on the eleventh floor of city hall as well as the 5th floor of APD main.
Six months in office is not enough time to solve all of Albuquerque’s problems, especially when it comes to our rising crime rates and our economy.
Notwithstanding Keller’s short time in office, voters tend to be very impatient and are fickle minded changing loyalties with elected officials on a whim.
Voters gave Tim Keller an election mandate with a 62% landslide victory.
With all the promises he made during the campaign, Mayor Keller needs to be doing much better than he has during his first 6 months in office.
Voters are expecting the results Keller promised that he may not be able to deliver on as time progresses.
The leadership approach Mayor Tim Keller has taken is not at all inspiring and is the same old approach to our problems that no longer works.
Keller’s approach to governing thus far does not represent visionary change and in reality, it is not much of change at all, especially with the APD management team he has assembled and an economic development policy that appears to be nonexistent.
The appointed APD interim command staff does not represent a new generation of police management fully trained in constitutional policing.
Keller’s appointed APD command staff are a throwback and reliance on past management and practices of the department that have failed and contributed to the Department of Justice finding of a “culture of aggression”.
Trajectory indications from the first six months in office, the media relations, the executive appointments made and the accomplishment achieved by Mayor Keller are that Albuquerque is set to have another uninspiring approach to government filled with extensive photo ops, ribbon cuttings and social media communications.
If Mayor Keller’s first six months in office are any indication of what we are in store for, Keller may not go on to higher office as has been the case with virtually all of Albuquerque’s Mayors, let alone be re-elected Mayor come 2021 if he decides to run again.