In 2019, Dinelli Blog Had 68,622 Views, 43,227 Visitors; 2020 Promises To Be Even Bigger!


On November 16, 2016 www.Pete was launched as political blog because of the belief the local news outlets gloss over so much without getting into the real substance of stories and ignoring meaningful analysis of what is being reported. The blog does not generate income, there is no advertising, no subscription fees and it is absolutely free to anyone who wants to read it and for that matter wants to share the articles.

2019 proved to be a wild and wonderful year that saw a huge spike in blog article readership at The most common question is how many people actually read the articles or go to the blog site? The blog has a tabulator that has been installed by the web site manager. The tabulator reports on days, weeks, months and years of views and shares of articles and by visitors. The tabulator breaks the numbers down according to VIEWS and VISITORS.

A VIEW is counted when a visitor to the blog loads or reloads an article to be read. A VISITOR is counted when a user or browser for the first time makes a visit in a given period: day, week, month, or year.


In a little over three full years of the blog, the number of VIEWS, or article “reads” more than doubled from 30,411 to 68,622. The number of VISITORS, or first-time visitors to the blog, also more than doubled from 15,807 to 43,227.

Following are the numbers for the first few weeks of publication in 2016 and the following 3 full calendar years:

2017: 30,411 VIEWS, 15,807 VISITORS
2018: 42,397 VIEWS, 26,092 VISITORS
2019: 68,622 VIEWS, 43,227 VISITORS.

The blog does have a “CONTACT” tab on the web page at where anyone can send a message and make comments on articles that allows further contact and messaging. Suggestion on articles or information for articles is always appreciated.


Since the blog started on November 16, 2016, there have been written and published 829 blog articles. Many news reporters have said the articles are way too long for “news” articles, but they miss the purpose and intent of the blog: to attempt to inform and share research and institutional knowledge and lessons learned as a public figure for 28 years and a licensed attorney for 43 years. The approach taken with the articles is to first report on current events with research and then followed by “ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY”. The commentary usually includes suggested solutions to problems identified. One public official said, “I read another known political blogger for the political gossip and your blog for the facts.”

The goal from day one of the blog has been to be informative and to give insightful political analysis relying on institutional knowledge after 28 years in government, and knowledge as former elected official, public servant and a 43-year career as a licensed attorney. It is more to be informative than just a political gossip column. The single most common remark I get from people is that they read the blog articles, they do not always agree with what I have to say or my opinions, but enjoy reading it. I have never hidden the fact that I am a progressive Democrat especially on social issues and civil rights issues, which explains those that disagree with what I say, especially about the President. But it is not a Democrat, Republican or Independent blog, but my blog.

The blog articles are always posted on my FACEBOOK page and other FACEBOOK pages. The blog reaches thousands more on the internet. I email the articles to those whose names are actually mentioned and include government officials and elected officials who I think may be interested in the topic. The blog articles are not written to please all the people who read them all the time. The articles are an effort to promote civil discussion. I do publish “guest opinion columns” from others from time to time. I also submit Guest Columns to the Albuquerque Journal and the Journal has been very accommodating over the last 3 years, has published them and I then publish them again on the blog. The blog does have some detractors. I always tell people who “unload” on me for an article, there is no need to get upset and if you do not like what I write, then don’t read the blog articles and unfriend me on FACEBOOK.


Over the last three years, the blog has covered all sorts of topics including: city elections and debates, city budgets and finance, court hearings on the DOJ consent decree and the 10 federal court monitor’s reports, court hearing on the ART Bus project and city news on the ART Bus Project, the Railyards Development, Downtown Redevelopment, city history from the perspective of being born and raised in the city, the minimum wage, mandatory sick leave, public financed campaigns, city election code reform, city and state economic development, gun control legislation, sanctuary city, immigration reform, mass shootings, legalization of marijuana, the war on drugs, city crime rates, city zoning issues including the comprehensive plan and nuisance abatement laws and actions, the city and state economy, economic development proposals, our public education system, UNM athletics, the homeless crisis, mental and behavioral health care services, taxation, state elections and issues, PERA reform and solvency issues, the Albuquerque Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the City Council, our criminal justice system, the Judicial System, bail bond reform, the Department of Justice Consent decree, the Governor, the New Mexico legislature, the Mayor, New Mexico politics in general and national news and the press. I downright enjoy writing about the sure stupidity at times of some of our elected officials and their actions, including the job performance of our President, Governor, the District Attorney, City Councilors and the Mayor, especially when I write satirical pieces.


I have no doubt I have offended more than a few politicos, even within my own political party, but I make no apology. I have done my very best to be accurate in my reporting. I do get very frustrated finding clerical and spelling errors after I publish them and try to correct them as soon as I can, but that is the hazard of doing your own editing and kicking out articles on an almost daily basis. All the 827 articles are posted and can still be read at Being fully retired, I enjoy my freedom to say what I want, when I want and how I want without any fear of reprisal, something I had never experienced as a public official and especially when I was a judge. Our First Amendment Freedom of Speech is the most important right we have as citizens.

I am truly humbled by the sure number of views and shares that I have had over the last 3 years. I am also very proud of the steady increase for each year. To all those who read the blog, thank you for reading. To my FACEBOOK friends, please follow me on FACEBOOK and share the blog articles when you can!


Debate On Location Of City Homeless Shelter Heats Up; ABQ Journal Accuses Mayor Keller Of “Bait And Switch”; Likely Issue In 2021 Mayor’s Race; Take The Survey!

On November 5, voters approved general obligation bonds of $14 million for a city operated 24-7 homeless shelter that will house upwards of 300.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week facility to temporarily shelter the homeless within the city as critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter would assist an estimated 300 homeless residents and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility would serve all populations, men, women, and families, and offer what Keller calls a “clearing house” function.

The city facility would have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources. According city officials, the new homeless shelter would replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side. The former jail is so remote that the city must bus homeless to the facility and back at a cost of $1 million annually.

According to Mayor Tim Keller, the new homeless shelter will provide first responders an alternative destination for the people they encounter on so-called “down-and-out” calls. Many “down and outs” today wind up in the emergency room even when they are not seriously injured or ill. According to city officials, only 110 of the 6,952 “down and out” people were taken by first responders to the Emergency Room in a recent one-year period had life-threatening conditions.


According to a December 15 news article, the City has revealed 5 potential locations for the centralized emergency shelter for the homeless:

1.The old Lovelace hospital on Gibson

2.University of New Mexico property near Lomas and Interstate 25

3. Montessa Park, south of the Sunport

4. An area near Second and Interstate 40

5. Continue to use the old West Side Jail 20 miles outside the city limits and build new facilities at that location.

City officials stress that nothing is set in stone and is asking the public to provide their own suggestions for where the shelter should be located.


The Keller Administration has set up an online survey that people can give input on where the 24-7 city homeless shelter should be built. There are only two specific places on the survey where the $30 million homeless shelter is being suggested to go. Those two areas are the area of 2nd Street at I-40 near downtown and a large empty lot that borders the UNM Health Sciences Center.

The city’s other options for the shelter in the survey are very broad and include the northeast heights, the south valley area, and the north valley area. There are only 5 questions on the survey. The first question on the survey is as follows:

1.What is your location preference for the new Homeless Shelter?

I-40 and Second Street Area
Other location in Downtown Area
UNM Health Sciences Center south of the State Laboratory
Northeast Heights Area
North Valley Area
Southeast Heights Area
South Valley Area
Current Location (Westside Center/Former Bernalillo County Jail)
Other location in the Westside Area
Other – Please provide suggestions for a location in box below

Other – Please provide suggestions for a location:

The survey can be found and be taken by clicking on the below link:


On December 23, the Albuquerque Journal published an editorial entitled “Keller must reverse course on his shelter bait and switch”. The Journal excoriated Keller in no uncertain terms for including the Westside jail on the list of shelter locations being considered. The Journal pointed out that Keller campaigned aggressively to get the $14 million in bonds past for a new location saying the west side jail was not sustainable and there was a need for a centralized location in the city for the homeless to be able to easily get services they need. The Journal went so far as to say “Keller ought to be ashamed of himself”. You can review the entire editorial in the postscript below that also has a link to the editorial.


On December 20, a KRQE News 13 investigative report uncovered emails that show the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center are at odds over where the City of Albuquerque’s homeless shelter should be built. The emails obtained show groups representing both do not want the shelter to be built near them. In an email, chamber leaders make it clear they want the homeless shelter to go near the UNM Health Sciences center and ask people to vote for that location on the city survey.

There are proposed locations near downtown, but having the homeless shelter there does not fit with the Chamber’s vision of what downtown should be. The Chamber has said through a spokesperson that the homeless dissuades people from going downtown.

Norm Becker, who works for the Chamber of Commerce and leads a team trying to make downtown more appealing, was interviewed and said he thought the homeless downtown is the biggest problem in making downtown more attractive. He also said the University of New Mexico Health science location is the best location and not downtown and said:

“If it was downtown, the access to services, the behavioral health services, and the mental health services don’t exist downtown. They exist at the UNMH health sciences center. … I think if [UNMH] saw what I saw they would say this is not only good but it’s better than what we have today, even if it is in my backyard. … I didn’t say I didn’t want it downtown. There’s no place to put it downtown.”

Another email uncovered was written by the head of the UNM Cancer Center, Dr. Cheryl Willman. She says many of the 400 doctors and staff are concerned about the homeless shelter bordering their offices. According to Willman, they don’t know the homeless shelter design or what access to it will be like and it could cause safety issues to the hospital employees.


The single most controversial bonds on the November 5 ballot were the $14 million in bond money designated for a centralized, 24-hour, 7 day a week homeless shelter. Mayor Tim Keller since day one of becoming Mayor has made it a top priority. The shelter is controversial not because it’s needed but because established businesses, neighborhoods and many charitable homeless providers object to the location or the need for a centralized facility somewhere in downtown. Opposition arguments range from negative impacts on well-settled business areas, residential areas, increases in crime, reducing neighborhood safety to cost justification. One major argument is that there are too many charitable and private homeless providers clutered to each other or too close to downtown. It’s the classic case of “not in my back yard” (NIMBY).

The city did not identify a location for the shelter until after voters approved the funding, no doubt for fear that the bonds may fail. It is very disappointing, but typical, that the city was not upfront on the locations being considered so that a more informed decision could have been made by the voting public. Notwithstanding locations are now being discussed.


Each year the “Point in Time” (PIT) survey is conducted to determine how many people experience homelessness on a given night in Albuquerque, and to learn more about their specific needs. The PIT count is done in communities across the country. The PIT count is the official number of homeless reported by communities to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help understand the extent of homelessness at the city, state, regional and national levels. The PIT count represents the number of homeless people who are counted on one particular night. This year, the count in Albuquerque was made on January 28, 2019. According to the 2019 Point-In-Time count, there are 1,524 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people counted in Albuquerque. Government agencies and nonprofits report that the city’s homeless numbers are greater than the 1,524 found by “a point in time survey” and the number of homeless in Albuquerque approaches 4,500 in any given year. The Keller Administration estimates that 5,000 households will experience homelessness over the course of a given year in Albuquerque.

According to some reports, approximately 80% of the cities chronic homeless are suffering from mental illness. The city does provide extensive services to the homeless that include social services, mental or behavioral health care services, substance abuse treatment and prevention, winter shelter housing, rent assistance and affordable housing development, just to mention a few. But more needs to be done by the city to reduce the ever-increasing numbers. The only way the city is going to be able to reduce the number of homeless in the city is to reach a viable consensus and implement an aggressive plan on how to reduce the number of homeless. This will mandate the city to work with virtually all the charitable providers, “pooling of resources” and work to get input from the public as to final location.


Major issues that will no doubt be up front and center as Mayor Tim Keller seeks a second term in 2021 include the city’s murder, violent crime and property crime rates, the DOJ consent decree reforms not fully implemented, the failed disastrous ART Bus project that Keller embraced and completed that has now destroyed historical Route 66 and Mayor Keller signing off on a $55 million dollar tax increase without a public vote as he promised.

Remember, the ART Bus Project was called by the City Council as Mayor RJ Berry’s project and they went along with it. The 24-7 homeless shelter will be viewed as Keller’s project and like with the ART Bus project the City Council is likely to go along with putting it where ever Keller wants it. There is no doubt as the debate rages on where to put the Keller 24-7 City Homeless Shelter, there is a likelihood a large segment of the voting public will get upset, no matter how necessary the shelter is needed. What is also likely is that the shelter may not be built until the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021, just in time as the 2021 race for Mayor begins to heat up, which is what happened with the ART Bus construction project.

Many will be watching exactly what is Mayor Tim Keller’s preferred location for the shelter which is the location likely the City Council will adopt. If not handled properly by building a consensus, Mayor Tim Keller will be adding the location of the 24-7 city homeless shelter location he has advocated since being elected to the list of issues that could conceivably divide large segments of the city and deprive him of a second term. Being accused of “bait and switch” by the Journal does not help.



Below is the Albuquerque Journal editorial published on December 23:

Editorial: Keller must reverse course on his shelter bait-and-switch

When Mayor Tim Keller spent months earnestly explaining how Albuquerque needed to do more to address the rising tide of homelessness in the city, people listened.
That was in part because of the very public nature of the issue, especially to those who live and work near places like Coronado Park. But it was also in part because the mayor and his staff made a clear, logical and compelling argument as to why the resources currently available to homeless people were not getting the job done, and why the city-owned Westside Emergency Housing Center past the west edge of Petroglyph National Monument is not a long-term viable option due to its distance from the city center.
In the run-up to the November election – in which voters ultimately approved a bond package that included $14 million for a centralized homeless shelter – some people were nervous that we didn’t know where Keller’s new shelter would be.

But we always knew where the shelter would not be.

At least, we thought we did. Now, voilÃ, in a magical post-election specialty – the New Mexico bait-and-switch dinner hour, your choice of chile on the side – the Westside shelter is back on the table for the forthcoming “Gateway Center.”

According to a Dec. 15 story by Journal reporter Pilar Martinez, city officials revealed the possibility when presenting four other potential sites. City spokeswoman Alicia Manzano said the city already owns the shelter property, and if there is strong support for that location, it would be considered.

Keller ought to be ashamed of himself.

For months, he and his staff have been on a media blitz that in no small part involved a detailed cataloging of the Westside shelter’s shortcomings: It’s not within walking distance from services homeless people need like bus lines, government agencies, the VA Medical Center and more. Taxpayers spend about $1 million each year to pay for shuttles to run to and from the shelter – and it’s a long ride many don’t want to take. It’s also too far for police and/or ambulance drivers to drop people off for a safe place for a night.

The problems were real six months ago, they’re real today, and they are a large part of why the Journal Editorial Board supported and endorsed Keller’s ask of $14 million from taxpayers for what’s described as phase one of the shelter.

It has always been clear the mayor and city staff are in for a NIMBY battle over the shelter’s placement. While many want to help folks get off the street, few want such a shelter next door to their homes and workplaces. But if you truly want to serve the homeless by setting up a shelter near bus lines, near government agencies, near the places they want and need to be – and the mayor says he does – the prospective list of locations gets very short indeed.

In coming weeks, there will be plenty of discussion about the pros and cons of the other potential locations under consideration (the old Lovelace hospital on Gibson, an area near Second and Interstate 40, a parcel of University of New Mexico land near Lomas and Interstate 25, and Montessa Park south of the Sunport). That’s as it should be, and the mayor should expect a lively debate and considerable push-back.

But it’s unacceptable to bait the election hook with the Westside’s inherent flaws, only to flip-flop once the bond approval is in hand.

Keller should quickly and publicly take the Westside center off the table – or risk gaining a reputation that may come back to haunt him next time he comes to taxpayers’ well with his pail in hand.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

For a related blog article see:

Compromise, Consensus And Concessions Needed For City Homeless Shelter; Vote YES On Bond Question 2

ABQ Reports: “Morphing” Pictures of Mayor Tim Keller Into Former Mayor RJ Berry Are Worth A Thousand Words

On December 13, the on line news and opinion outlet ABQ Reports published a political satirical piece that was a little too close for comfort. The article was written and published by editor Dennis Domraski.

For a number of years, Mr. Domraski was a reporter for the Albuquerque Tribune where he covered city hall and APD and he is one of the most knowledgeable reporters in Albuquerque when it comes to APD and city hall. He has over 34 years experience as a reporter. The link to ABQ Reports is here:


The December 13 ABQ Reports article published 3 photos of Mayor Tim Keller “morphing” into former Mayor Richard Berry.

The first photo is that of Mayor Tim Keller and what he looked like after he was elected and served a full year describing him as “handsome, confident and, as usual, smiling, and ready to play football, go jogging or attend a heavy metal concert.”

This second photo has Mayor Tim Keller slowly morphing into former Mayor R.J. Berry and to quote the article:

“complete with that creepy mustache. … At this point, Keller is starting to hide from reporters and has sneaked in to a couple of NAIOP luncheons. He’s even starting to have warm feelings about the ART project and think that retail and restaurant chain outlets should replace every independently owned business on Central Avenue.”

This third photo is described what Mayor Keller

“will look like at the end of his third year in office if he doesn’t immediately change his ways. He’ll hire [former APD Chief] Gorden Eden as the police chief, bring back Rob Perry, become NAIOP’s executive director and proclaim ART the greatest public works project in the history of the human race. No more heavy metal concerts for this dude! He’ll be watching Lawrence Welk reruns on cable, lusting after the Lennon Sisters and eating Swanson TV dinners while complaining loudly that they need more salt. And then he’ll slink away in disgrace never to be heard from again.”

Below is the link to the full ABQ Report article where you can review the morphing photos:…/Is-Keller-morphing-into-RJ-Berry


As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The 3 “morphing photos” courtesy of ABQ Reports of Mayor Tim Keller turning into former Mayor RJ Berry are creepy, but none the less, fair game in politics and are legitimate political commentary. The article should be funny, but it sadly reflects what has been happening to Mayor Tim Keller for the first two years of his term.


Mayor Tim Keller a few months after being elected announced that the ART Bus project was “a bit of a lemon”. Instead of abandoning the project, Keller made the deliberate decision to finish the ART Bus Project. Keller spent half of his term to complete the project, even having to file a breach of contract lawsuit against the original bus manufacture only to settle the case with a mutual dismissal of claims and no damages paid to the city. With 11 bus accidents in the first few weeks of operation, Berry’s Boondoggle has now becomes Keller’s Nightmare that has destroyed historic Route 66.


The building of $125 million disastrous ART Bus project was considered by many as Berry’s legacy project. Berry called it a “world class project” and he crammed it down the cities throat without any public vote. Mayor Tim Keller has now found his own version of a legacy project and it is the Railyards Development, but this project is one that has the risk of being nothing but a money pit where taxpayer money will be thrown down a hole.


Immediately after Mayor Keller was elected, he appointed as APD Chief Michael Geier, a retired APD commander. Keller also appointed many retired APD officers or officers eligible for retirement as command staff to Deputy Chief positions, essentially failing to appoint a new generation of command staff. Keller’s approach to replacing the APD command staff was essentially identical to what Mayor Berry did when he appointed Republican political operative and former sheriff Darren White as Chief Public Safety Officer, decided to keep APD Chief Ray Schultz and later hired former US Marshal and former Gov. Susana Martinez Cabinet Secretary Gordon Eden who brought back Bob Huntsman, a retired APD commander, and created and appointed him as “Assistant Chief”. Huntsman was the one who secretly recorded federal monitor James Ginger and the city later used the recording to try and get the removal of James Ginger as the federal monitor.


During the last two years under Mayor Tim Keller, there have been APD personnel mismanagement issues identical to that under Mayor Berry, including police overtime abuses that were the targets of city audits and failure to hold people accountable for conduct.

Keller, like Berry, has failed to hold APD personnel accountable for their actions, such as the fiasco of reporting bogus crime statistics, negligence in the collection of evidence in cases, and botched murder investigations. Recently, a 17-year-old child was arrested and spent 6 days in jail and was falsely accused of murder by APD homicide detectives.

The APD Homicide unit has now hit an all-time low of a 49% clearance rate. Like Berry, Keller is nowhere to be found when bad press involving APD is reported, such as the day the city’s murder rate broke the all-time record of 74 murders. Keller refused to answer questions on the subject during a morning press conference, said a statement would be issued and he then proceeded be unavailable for interviews all the rest of the day. Channel 4, after repeated requests for an interview, tracked Keller down outside of city hall on his way to participate in phone banking for a candidate for City Council. Keller had trouble answering Channel 4’s questions.


In 2013 during Berry’s reelection bid for Mayor, Berry insisted crime was down dramatically. It was a lie. The truth was the city hit a historical high number in murders, property crimes and drug offenses. The city’s murder and violent crime rates continued to rise as did all crime rates in general during Berry’s second term. Since taking office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD has released the city’ crime statistics, Mayor Keller has done a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. In July, 2019, Mayor Keller reported crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops in nearly every category, between the first six months of 2018 and the first six months of 2019. The 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 had to be revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final crime rate numbers released showed violent crime actually increased under Mayor Keller. The city has now had 78 homicides in one year, the highest in its history for one year.


Former Republican Mayor Richard Berry was notorious for paying astronomical, out of line salaries to his top political operatives, especially during his second term in office. For example he gave former CAO Rob Perry a $33,000 raise in one year paying him $189,000 a year while only giving rank an file city hall wage earners 1.5% to 2.5% wage increases and even cutting wages paid one year. Former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry pay of $189,936 made him the #1 highest paid employee at city hall. Former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699 (#2 highest paid employee), former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319 (#4 highest paid employee), former City Attorney Jessica Hernandez was paid $150,217 (#5 highest paid employee), former Fire Chief David W. Downey was $138,993 (#11 highest paid employee), former Deputy Fire Chief Eric Garcia was paid $133,872 (#13 highest paid employee) and former APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman was paid $132,435.

Keller is now paying all of his Department directors literally thousands more a year than Berry paid his department directors. Keller is paying many of his top managers $20,000 more a year than when they started with the city two years ago. Keller’s Chief Administrative Office (CAO) Sarita Nair started with the city being paid $169,556.80 a year and is now paid $190,000 a year. Berry’s Former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936. Keller’s Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael started with the city being paid $165,524.80 a year and is now paid $185,000. Berry’s Former Chief Operations Officer Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319 a year. Keller’s APD Chief Michael Geier started with the city being paid $159,513.60 and is now paid $187,000 a year. Berry’s former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699. Keller’s Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow started with the city being paid $132,691.20 a year and is now paid $153,005 a year. Berry’s former Fire Chief David W. Downey was paid $138,993 a year. Keller’s Finance Administrative Service CFO/Director Sanjay Bhakta. Bhakta started with the city at $131,200.00 a year and Berry’s former Director of Finance Department Lou Hoffman was paid $99,732 a year.


Mayor Berry convinced the Albuquerque City Council to get behind and support the ART Bus project and to even allocate funding for the project. Berry also supported the City Council to unilaterally enact $65 million in revenue bonds for city projects such as pickle ball courts and baseball fields, all pet projects, without public input or voter approved bonds. Mayor Tim Keller convinced the city council to enact a $30.5 million dollar “Sports Tourism Lodger Tax” to upgrade or build facilities he wants throughout the city without a public vote, which is essentially what Berry did with revenue bonds.


The enactment of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan, known as IDO, was a major priority of Republican Mayor RJ Berry. The development community pushed hard for its enactment before Berry left office. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the construction and development community, including the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NAIOP), pulled all stops to get the plan adopted before the October 3, 2017 municipal election, no doubt to support Mayor Richard Berry. It is no secret that Berry, a construction contractor and developer himself, was the all-time darling of the construction and development community, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as NAIOP because he did their political bidding.

The ABC-Z project rewrite was nothing more than making “gentrification” an official city policy. It “gutted” long-standing sector development plans designed to protect neighborhoods and their character and help developers who wanted to repeal those sector development plans. When running for Mayor, Tim Keller took absolutely no position on the enactment of the new comprehensive plan and neither did any other candidate. This past year, amendments to the plan were offered by Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones to reduce even further public hearing input for objections by neighborhoods to developments. Mayor Keller took no position on the legislation and signed off on it. By all appearances, Mayor Keller is continuing with the pro development agenda of Mayor RJ Berry.


Former Mayor Berry was known for his yearly and bi annual presentations to NAIOP, the Economic Forum and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce at functions and luncheons not open to the general public. NAIOP is the construction industry organization whose membership benefited from and were given ART Bus construction contracts. Mayor Keller gave his very first State of the City Address to NAIOP. Keller has continued with the Berry practice of giving city government updates to NAIOP, the Albuquerque Economic Forum and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce at functions not open to the general public.


The December 13 ABQ Reports ended with this final comment after the third photo where the “morph” had been completed:

“This is the future for Keller unless he immediately starts acting like a real leader. Tim, is this what you want? Think of your wife and children! Please! No more horror shows for Albuquerque! One was too many.”

Mayor Tim Keller has already made it known he is seeking a second term as Mayor. If he keeps going the way he is, and he is elected, it will be the fourth term of Mayor RJ Berry. So much for electing change two years ago.

All Time Low APD Clearance Rate; Charging And Jailing An Innocent Child For Murder; Can Lead Homicide Unit To Water But Refused To Be Trained

As of New Years Eve December 31, the City has had 80 reported homicides, an all-time record. APD homicide detectives spent Christmas morning investigating two deaths and one shooting that resulted in a woman taken to a hospital in “very critical condition.” On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, breaking the all-time record of homicides in one year. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. Before 2017, the last time the City had the highest number of homicides in one year was in 1996 with 70 murders that year.

Among the recent murder victims was a mother of two police officers gunned down in her driveway during a robbery. Another was the young woman shot and killed in a park while playing Pokemon Go.

According to Albuquerque Police Commander Joseph Burke, APD homicide detectives have solved 38 out of the 77 of the cases, or 49% of the homicides committed this year. Burke acknowledged that the clearance rate is unacceptable and nowhere near where they want to be in solving all the murders by saying:

“It is a high number [of unsolved cases] and we recognize that. … We always want to be at 100% and anything less is unacceptable. … We need help from the community. We need witnesses. We need people who potentially have information for us so we can follow up and help solve some of these homicides and hold people accountable. … Just know that we have leads [on the two recent murders] and we’re following up on those leads. They’re good leads. We’re confident we’re going to be able to hold people accountable in those investigations.”

The homicide clearance percentage has sat in the 50%-60% range for the past two years, but this is lowest clearance rate in the last decade. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017 the clearance rate was 70% and the clearance rate for 2018 was 56%. The clearance rate is now below 50%.

Since taking office on December 1, 2017, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier have increased the homicide unit from 5 to 11. According to APD, this is the most detectives they’ve had in the unit in more than 20 years. Confidential sources within APD have said that upwards of 5 of the 11 detectives are seeking transfers from the unit.


The APD Homicide Unit has a dubious history of botching a number of high-profile murder investigations. The APD Homicide Unit has compiled a history of not doing complete investigations, misleading the public, feeding confessions to people with low IQs, getting investigations completely wrong and even arresting innocent people.
A listing of homicide investigations reflecting negligence include:

– 2005 to 2008: Robert Gonzales: A a mentally retarded young man was arrested by APD and charged with the rape and murder of an 11 year old neighbor. Weeks after the arrest DNA evidence confirmed Gonzales was not the offender. The Homicide and the Bernalillo County DA never turned this evidence over to the court and defense attorneys. Only after Gonzales spent 965 days in jail for a crime he didn’t commit and and only after he was released by the judge was the DNA evidence exposed.

– 2007 to 2011: Michael Lee and Travis Rowley, working as a group of salesmen, were arrested and charged with the murders and rape of an elderly Korean couple. Both Lee and Rowley had below normal IQs. Lee confessed to the murders, Rowley did not. Shortly after the arrests, DNA evidence excluded both men and confirmed that Albuquerque serial killer, Clifton Bloomfield was the offender. APD and the DA kept both men locked up for over a year before they were released.

– 2015 to 2016: Christopher Cruz and Donovan Maez are wrongly arrested for the murder of Jaydon Chavez Silver. They spent10 months in jail before the Bernalillo County DA reviewed the entire case sent to them by APD Homicide, finding that there was no evidence that Cruz and Maez were involved. APD Homicide is alleged to have fed witnesses information for them to repeat in interviews and threaten witnesses to provide false information.


The most egregious negligent murder investigation was the murder investigation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens. On August 24, 2016, she was murdered, dismembered and here body was burned in a bathtub. The initial APD Homicide investigation alleged that it was Jessica Kelley that stabbed 9-year-old Victoria Martens and that Fabian Gonzales strangled her while Michelle Martens, the child’s mother, watched the murder.

Gonzales was accused of drugging, raping and killing 10-year-old Victoria. After further investigation, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez was forced to abandon the prosecution’s theory of the case and forced to drop the rape and murder charges against Gonzales. DA Torrez then accused Gonzalez of helping his cousin dismember the body of 10-year-old Victoria Martens after the child was reportedly killed by an unidentified man who was looking for Gonzales for revenge.

It was revealed that Jessica Kelley did not murder the child. Michelle Martens falsely admitted to committing the crimes. Forensic evidence revealed she and her boyfriend Fabian Gonzales were not even in the apartment at the time of the murder, they did not participate in the murder and that there was an unidentified 4th suspect in the case who committed the murder with supposedly DNA evidence found on the child’s dead body. The unidentified 4th suspect in the case is still at large.

On November 20, 2019, it was reported that Defendant Fabian Gonzales was released from jail pending his trial. He was released to the court’s pretrial services division, which is tasked with finding an appropriate place for him to live until his trial and keep tabs on his whereabouts.


On December 5, 17-year-old Albuquerque High School Student Gisell Estrada was arrested and charged with a murder she played no part in. She was never arrested before and had absolutely no criminal record of arrest and conviction of any crime, misdemeanor nor felony. She spent 6 full days in jail on a case of “mistaken identity.” Estrada has been described as a “shy student who would often eat lunch in her teacher’s office” a far cry from someone who would be involved with or commit a murder.

According to news reports, an APD homicide detective asked for help identifying a murder suspect from a Facebook photo and an Albuquerque Public Schools employee cooperated. The APD homicide Detective did no follow up with witnesses to confirm the identification of the minor child nor her involvement with the murder. No contact was made with the child nor her parents.

The 17-year-old child was charged by a criminal complaint that was sealed. The sealed complaint left Estrada’s Public Defender attorney blind to the allegations against her. According to Estrada’s defense attorney, the sealed complaint and the homicide’s detectives unwillingness to share any case details, including the victims’ names, witnesses and dates, left the Public Defender’s Office no choice but to advise Estrada to not make a statement to police, but to turn herself in, which she did. According to APD, Estrada’s refusal to speak left them with no choice but to book her on the charge of murder.

On November 8, Estrada was booked into the juvenile detention center on an open count of murder, armed robbery and conspiracy charges in the July 10 slaying. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office then filed a motion to detain her until trial alleging:

“The community is not safe if she is not detained. … There are no conditions of release this court can impose which will prevent her from planning another robbery or prevent someone else from dying.”

Notwithstanding the motion for detention, Estrada was released six days later after she was arrested and the charges were dismissed. Review of the motion for detention, it is clear it contains “boiler plate language” with the District Attorney’s Office failing to conform the motion to the actual facts of the case.


As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but cannot make it drink. Same goes for the APD homicide unit.

Sources have confirmed that the firm “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services” were retained earlier this year on a three-month, sole source contract for $75,000 to train the APD homicide unit on investigations. All APD sergeants, detectives and lieutenants, who investigate and supervise violent crime investigations, were given the training. A total of 126 APD personnel went through and completed the training and instructions provided by a former retired APD homicide detective now with “Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services”. At the time of his retirement from APD, the former APD homicide detective had a 95% clearance rate, one of the highest in the country, and has been qualified as an expert witness in high profile cases on a national level.

Law Enforcement Training and Consulting Services reviewed the arrest warrant regarding Gisell Estrada and concluded it went against everything APD officers had been trained on. The firm stated they could provide no reason why the homicide division made such “colossal” mistakes contrary to all they had been trained and the arrest could have been prevented had the detective followed basic follow up practices to confirm identity. Instead, the detective ran with the information he had without even an attempt to verify, either out of being lazy or incompetence.


The District Attorney and a District Judge are the check and balance to protect the innocent from being falsely accused by law enforcement. In the case of wrongly accused minor Gisell Estrada’s case, the Bernalillo County District Attorney failed her twice:

First when an Assistant District Attorney approved her arrest warrant that did not satisfy the minimum standards for probable cause.

Second when another Assistant District Attorney did not review the arrest warrant and went ahead and filed for preventative detention motion.

District Attorney Raul Torrez should be ashamed of himself for what his office has done to a 17 year old innocent child. Noot at all surprising is he is nowhere to be found with any kind of an apology to her or her parents, let alone apologizing to her for spending 6 days in jail for being falsely accused for murder by his office.

The District Court Judge who contributed to the fiasco needs to take responsibility for their part in the false arrest of a child for murder and make sure it never happens again.


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

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

Given the sure number of homicides and the pathetic homicide clearance rate, the Homicide Investigation Unit needs to be increased from 11 detectives to at least 25 detectives. Further, given the units low clearance rate and past performance, more needs to be done with respect to recruiting and training. 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 Sheriff’s Department or the New Mexico State Police to help clear out the cases.

Mayor Tim Keller and APD Michael Geier need to recognize the fiasco the APD homicide unit has become and hold the unit responsible for incarcerating an innocent 17-year-old girl for murder.

Four “Metro 15” Arrests Made; Re-branding Of Old Programs

On Tuesday, November 26, Mayor Tim Keller and APD Chief Michael Geier held a press conference to announce a 4th program within 9 months to deal with the city’s violent crime and murder rates. On December 9, 2019, the city recorded its 74th homicide, the all time record of homicides in one year in the city’s history. The previous record was in 2017 with 72 murders. 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”. It is part of the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) program Keller announced the week before. According to Keller and Geier the new program will target the top 15 most violent offenders in Albuquerque. In other words, it’s the city’s version of the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. According to Keller, the top 15 are identified by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office and other agencies. Once a violent offender is caught, another violent offender will be added to the list.

According to APD Chief Geier, the Metro 15 the operation is different from similar tactics because the agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Office of Superintendent of Insurance, and state Probation and Parole, have narrowed their focus to where they believe they’ll have the most impact and identifying people for the list. Chief Geier also said APD will be tracking down the Metro 15 by visiting their addresses and former addresses, knocking on doors and talking to friends and relatives.


On Thursday, December 12, the Albuquerque Police Department released the first of the 15 most wanted suspects. The names of 3 of the most wanted were submitted by the Office of Superintendent of Insurance and 10 names on the Metro 15 list were provided by Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez’ office. According to Adolfo Mendez, the chief of policy and planning with the DA’s Office:

“To identify individuals for the list, our office reviewed defendants with a violent history who had active warrants and a viable open case. … A primary consideration was whether our office had previously moved to detain the individual. We subjected each warrant to a vetting process to verify the status of the warrant and evaluated the strength of the available evidence.”

The “Metro 15” were identified as follows:

• Jesus Cereceres-Trijo
• Chantelle Tapia
• Lawrence Chavez
• Daniel Drake
• Edward Laird
• Gerald Marquez
• Manuel Ortega
• Eric Peralta
• Russell Kimber
• Santana Downey
• John Trujillo
• Ahmad Williams
• Richard Howell
• Michelle Glascock
• Jamil Lewis

It turns out authorities already had made an arrest of one of suspects 10 days before. Edward Laird, 54, has been in the the Santa Fe County jail since Dec. 2 on warrants related to property crime cases. The name of Edward Laird was submitted by the Office of Superintendent of Insurance but Laird’s warrant had not cleared from the system.


On December 19, the Albuquerque Police Department announced it has arrested four people from its first group of Metro 15.

The most recent arrest was that of 21-year-old Jamil Lewis who had previously been wanted under the Analysis-Led Recidivism Team (ALeRT) program that identified serious repeat offenders. According to an APD spokesman, Lewis has been wanted for multiple felony warrants since September 2019 on charges of receiving and transferring a stolen motor vehicle, racketeering, possession of a controlled substance, and most recently was charged with drug trafficking.

The other three Metro 15 offenders who were arrested include Manuel Ortega and Eric Peralta, and Edward Laird who had been arrested 10 days before the first Metro 15 list was issued.
APD and the District Attorney’s office has yet to identify replacements for the 4 arrested.


The Metro 15 is supposed to be a list of the most wanted “violent offenders” in Albuquerque that are on the loose. The goal is to advertise their names to the public in hopes of securing tips so APD and law enforcement can make an arrest.

According to Violence Intervention Division APD Commander Mizel Garcia the suspects are considered “drivers of violence” who have a connection to guns and gun crimes and he explained it this way:

“I [give] the example of … the burglar who is breaking into homes … specifically targeting weapons and in turn selling them to either other known offenders, violent offenders and potentially gang members. … This is a driver of violence, because he’s providing these weapons. Plus, the subject himself has a background of crimes against our community.”

In an Albuquerque Journal report, it was found that three of the “most violent” offenders in Albuquerque were given to APD by the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI). A review of court documents that the Metro 15 appear to be wanted on warrants stemming from a range of charges, including shooting at or from a motor vehicle, armed robbery and drug possession.

According to the article “Two didn’t appear for arraignments and another suspect cut off a GPS monitor and never showed up to court. One pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in 2002 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released and has since violated probation multiple times, according to court documents.”


Much of the “Metro 15” is nothing more than a re-branding and is similar to other programs Keller announced and in particular the “Shield Unit” and the “Alert Program.


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 paralegals. It was announced that it is was expanded to 12 under the 2019-2020 city budget that took effect July 1, 2019.

According to a June 6, 2019 press release issued by the city expanding the Shield Program:

“In addition to providing police reports [to the DA’s office], the unit orders and provides the audio from 911 calls and dispatch logs, all reports and dispatch records mentioned in any report, all documents referenced, copies of any photos/CDs/DVDs/USBs which are tagged into evidence, and copies of any items tagged into evidence which can be copied, … They often contact businesses for any surveillance video of events, and receipts for damage which occurred. All of this together provides the DA with a solid case to prosecute.”

The city press release proclaimed that throughout 2018, the Shield Unit provided discovery documents for 2,871 felony cases and in 2019 it has provided discovery for 2,787 felony cases. The Shield Unit works on felony cases for officers across the department, except in cases involving homicide, vehicular homicide, gangs and vice. The unit is expected to work on discovery for about 6,000 cases by the end of the year.

THE AleRT Program

Over two years ago, the previous Republican administration created the ALeRt Program to work in conjunction with the City’s Real Time Crime Center. ALeRT stands for Analysis-Led Recidivism Team. Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI partner for the project and it is based out of the City’s Real Time Crime Center.

The AleRT program is a team of crime analysts working at APD headquarters whose aim is to quickly flag people who are arrested that police considered “habitual offenders” and alert prosecutors and detectives so that they can aggressively prosecute the case. Fifty people were originally flagged by ALeRT analysts. To narrow the list of targets, the team consider only the previous three years when studying a person’s criminal history to see if he or she should be flagged upon arrest.

At the time of its creation, APD officials said the habitual offenders in the ALeRT system had been arrested on felony charges about 350 times in the previous three years. Repeated arrests, especially arrests for violent crimes and crimes that are increasing in Albuquerque, such as auto theft, can land someone on the ALeRT list.

It was on June 13, 2017 that the success of the ALeRT program was hailed by the previous Republican Administration as APD’s answer to repeat offenders when two repeat offenders were arrested under the program.

Two years later and on April 12, 2019 it was reported that the ALeRt program still exists. According to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos:

“It’s working really well … essentially, it’s a something driven by our real-time crime center but involves a great partnership with a lot of different folks.”

According to Gallegos, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of repeat offenders getting convicted as a result of the program. Additionally, the program prioritizes suspects accused of stealing cars or violent crimes.


Mayor Keller and Chief Michael Geier have now announced 4 separate programs within nine months to combat our city’s violent crime and murder rates. Those programs are:

4. THE “METRO 15”

Both Mayor Keller are beginning to look desperate to portray themselves as being proactive when they announce new programs within days after major crime news. They also are beginning to look foolish when they hold press conference after press conference to announce new programs that are nothing more than re-branding of existing programs, such as the “Shield” and ALeRT programs, and calling it the “Metro 15.”

Sooner rather than later, citizens demand and want results. No amount of data collection, public relations or nuance programs are going to satisfy those demands or make people feel safe.

Perhaps with the arrest of 4 of the Metro 15, the Keller Administration has finally hit on a successful program to help bring the City’s violent and murder rates down, even though it’s a re-branding of already implemented programs.

Governor Lujan Grisham’s 2020 Legislative Agenda: Education, Recreational Pot, PERA Solvency, Public Safety, “Red Flag” Law; No Tax Code Overhaul

On January 21, 2020, the 30 day New Mexico legislative session begins. The 30-day session is referred to as the “short session” which are held in even number years while 60-day sessions occur in odd number years. Thirty-day sessions are limited to budgetary matters and issues approved for consideration and placed on what is referred to as the Governor’s call. Revenue bills, such as taxation, may also be considered during 30-day sessions. State lawmakers have already pre-filed nearly 90 bills ahead of the upcoming legislative session, but what actually gets put on the agenda is totally up to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

This blog article is an in-depth report on the Governor’s 2020 legislative priorities.


On December 18, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in part what she referred to as an “ambitious” agenda for the 2020 legislative session. Among the legislation she intends to propose are bills calling for the legalization of recreational cannabis, parole reform and what she referred to as a “temporary gun seizure” law. The Governor has been meeting regularly with legislative leaders during the year and will continue to do so up and until the 2020 session begins on January 21, 2020.


On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The Judge found that it was clear that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

As a result of the State Court ruling, the 2019 legislature approved a whopping $3.2 Billion public education budget, a 16% increase over the previous year’s budget, out of the total state budget of $7 Billion. Included in the budget was a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay.

A major priority of Governor Lujan Grisham in the 2019 legislative session was the creation of a new “Early Childhood Department” starting in January 2020. Funding for the new Department is now a priority during the 2020 session. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

On December 19, during a town hall meeting in Albuquerque with parents, teachers and others, and joined by her department heads for public education, higher education and early childhood education and care, the Governor outlined her education priorities for the 2020 legislative session. Three major legislative priorities include:

1. A new scholarship program called “Opportunity Scholarship” that would cover the cost of tuition for students enrolled at New Mexico colleges and universities. The scholarships are expected to cost $25 million to $35 million. The scholarships offered will be aimed at covering the remaining gap for students after other awards and scholarships, including New Mexico’s lottery program scholarships or other sources.

2. A new $300 million endowment fund that would help pay for early childhood education services. The endowment would increase state spending on prekindergarten, home visiting programs for new parents and other early childhood services. Lujan Grisham described the endowment proposal for early childhood programs as a “prudent way” to expand spending on prekindergarten and reach “universal pre-K” that prepares every child to start school.

3. Increased funding to help at-risk students and additional pay raises for educators in public schools.


On March 7, 2019 the state House passed House Bill 356 (HB 356) with a two-vote majority of 36 to 34 that would have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. HB 356 bill included a provision for state run and regulated stores. House Bill 356 was a broad marijuana legalization proposal and dedicated some of the tax revenue from cannabis sales to research into cannabis impairment, purchasing roadside testing equipment for law enforcement and to train police officers as drug recognition experts when drivers are stopped. Every Republican Representative in the House voted against HB 356 joining 10 Democrats in opposition to it. The bipartisan proposal to allow cannabis sales at state-run shops narrowly cleared the state House but failed to make it through the Senate.

After the Legislature adjourned on March 21, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she would add the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana use to the 2020 legislative agenda. To that end, on June 28, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the creation of a “Cannabis Legalization Working Group.” The task force consisted of 19 members including the Democratic and Republican legislators who sponsored the unsuccessful legislation and included representatives of a labor unions, sheriff’s department, health care business, Native American tribes, medical cannabis businesses, a county government association, and commercial bank and hospital company.

On August 15, 2019, the Governor’s Cannabis Legalization Working Group was told by a consultant that if recreational marijuana is legalized in New Mexico, the state can expect out-of-state tourism and the reduced stigma and other factors to help fuel sales of recreational marijuana. It was reported that the demand for recreational marijuana and related cannabis products has far outpaced expectations in the State of Colorado since it was made legal. It was estimated the annual revenue for state and local governments could hit $120 million in five years, well beyond what legislative analysts estimated earlier this year. The market will also depend on the tax structure and the of regulatory decisions that will have to be implemented.

On September 10, 2019, the Governor’s task force endorsed and recommended a traditional licensing system for private companies that would grow and sell marijuana. The state would not operate retail stores. The licensing system is the same system as used for the State’s medical cannabis program. The proposal is a complete shift from the legislation that advanced through the state House last session where Democratic lawmakers embraced the idea of state-run cannabis stores as a part of a compromise with Republicans.

According to Governor Lujan Grisham, a recent poll showed 76% of New Mexicans are in favor of recreational marijuana. However, the poll does not mean lawmakers will be able to agree on a plan that best benefits New Mexico. In interviews, the Governor has acknowledged that winning approval of the marijuana legalization plan will be difficult. She believes the Senate will be the biggest hurdle and she had this to say:

“I think cannabis [recreational legalization] is going to be really hard [and] it should be. That is not something to run into without being really clear. … If I have it on the call, I’m serious about getting it passed”


The Public Education Retirement Association (PERA) is the legislative created and state regulated retirement association for all state, county and municipal government employees. PERA administers the pension funds for active, inactive, and retired public employees in New Mexico. PERA includes state, county and municipal plans, firefighters, police officers, blue collar workers and various municipal plans.

PERA pays pensions to more than 40,000 retirees and also has upwards of 50,000 active members who are working and paying into the system. PERA manages a $15 billion pension fund and income from fund investments helps pay pensions owed.

Over the last few years, it has been reported that PERA is in serious financial trouble because of long term liabilities of benefits to paid retirees in the future will exceed literally by the billions the funds that are available. PERA’s estimated unfunded liability, which is the gap between future retirement benefits owed and expected future assets on hand, has increased over the past four years from $4.6 billion to $6.6 billion in unfunded liability.

The PERA’s retirement system’s funded ratio, which is the plan’s assets divided by its liabilities, is now at 70%. The PERA governing board has set the goal to reach 100% funding of liabilities by the year 2043. The PERA pension system’s $6.6 billion in unfunded liabilities, or shortfall, has already damaged New Mexico’s credit rating.

For the 2020 legislative session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has endorsed a complex proposal to overhaul New Mexico’s chronically underfunded PERA proposed by Democratic legislative leaders. The proposal builds on the work of a PERA task force established by the governor with some major changes. The most controversial recommendations by her task force involved the 2% cost of living (COLA) currently guaranteed to all retirees.

According to media reports, the legislation will establish a “profit-sharing” model for the annual cost-of-living adjustments that most retirees now receive. Rather than an automatic 2% increase in their pensions each year, the actual amount would fluctuate, anywhere from 0.5% to 3%, depending on investment returns.

Under the proposed legislation, government employers and employees will pay more into the system with a schedule that phases in higher contributions. Other changes will help retirees who are older than 75, disabled or receiving pensions of less than $25,000 a year, despite 25 years of service.

With respect to annual cost-of-living adjustments, they would be increased by half a percentage point to 2.5% for retirees who are 75 or older. This was a change made after requested by Governor Lujan Grisham.

Under the proposed legislation, many retirees would receive a temporary reduction in their cost-of-living increases. For 3 years, retirees would get an extra check equal to 2% of their pension. Such a “one lump” sum payment in one check would eliminate the compounding effect of having each 2% build on the previous 2% increase.

The PERA reform legislation also calls for injecting $76 million in state funding into the system to cover the cost of the extra checks. According to PERA officials and legislative finance analysts, the net effect would be an immediate $700 million reduction in the pension system’s unfunded liability.

The retirement system’s funded ratio is now about 70% and the legislative changes are aimed at wiping out the liability within 25 years resulting in 100% funding of future liabilities.


In her proposed 2020-2021 budget Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to ask for enough funding for 60 additional New Mexico State Police Officers. Such an increase in personnel will give the governor the option to do more with the “Fugitive Apprehension Unit” as well as to conduct law enforcement surges as was done in Albuquerque.

There are more than 660 State Police officers across New Mexico. Right now, only about 60 of them are stationed in the Albuquerque area district, which covers 6 counties. On December 18, Albuquerque Republican State Senator Sander Rue went on record saying he wants the New Mexico State Police to have a larger presence in Albuquerque for at least a year to help the understaffed Albuquerque Police Department (APD) tackle crime. Senator Rue wants 30 more State Police officers in Albuquerque as early as next summer. Legislation he is advocating would increase that number up to 90, with at least 30 of them designated to only Albuquerque.

On May 10, the Governor announced she was assigning 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work in Albuquerque to conduct a law enforcement surge to help combat violent crime. The surge lasted approximately 3 weeks and resulted in 738 arrests for felony or misdemeanor warrants. Based on the number of arrests, the surge was a success.

However, most of the cases involving the State Police were dismissed but many can still be refilled by prosecutors. An analysis found that 52% of the cases were dismissed for a variety of reasons, including deficient paperwork or a lack of evidence. A number of the cases were dismissed because state police officers did not show up to scheduled court hearings. Many of the State Police officers were not assigned to Albuquerque permanently had had to return to their assignments in other communities, which explains their failure to appear at scheduled proceedings.

Two NM State Police Officers were involved with shootings during the surge that resulted in severe criticism by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and APD civilian oversight groups that the New Mexico State Police were not following the mandates or reforms of the Court Approved Settlement (CASA), including not firing their guns at fleeing cars, which is what happened with one of the cases. The blunt truth is that the New Mexico State Police as well as the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office are not under any obligation to follow the CASA mandates.

On October 30, in part because of the success of the New Mexico State Police surge in Albuquerque, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham order the creation of the “Fugitive Apprehension Unit” to apprehend hundreds of criminal defendants across New Mexico who have not shown up for court hearings or wanted on bench warrants. The Fugitive Apprehension Unit consists of State Police officers and state Corrections Department staffers. The unit works with local law enforcement officials around New Mexico to track down and arrest people charged with committing violent crimes.


On December 2, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller revealed his legislative priorities for the upcoming 2020 New Mexico Legislative session that starts in January. Keller said his top priority will again be public safety. His requests include $10 million for his violence intervention programs and $20 million for modernizing crime fighting technology and to “modernize” APD’s data reporting system. Keller said $20 million dollars will go to changing the way police file reports and produce crime stats and how they connect all the crime-fighting data into one.

Keller’s request in funding was made within days after is was revealed the Keller Administration released statistics and crime rates that were seriously flawed and inflated showing dramatic reductions in crime not at all accurate. The crime rate fiasco was attributed to antiquated data collection systems. In a Channel 7 interview the Governor signaled her support of Mayor Keller’s request for the funding in the 2020 legislative session and said:

“I want the mayor to be unabashed. He needs to have the tools and the resources, and we all need to be accountable.”
You can review related news reports here:


Throughout all her years as a congresswoman for the First Congressional District, Michelle Lujan Grisham was a strong advocate for gun control measures on the federal level and she continues to do so as Governor on the state level.

On March 8, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law Senate Bill 8 (SB-8) enacted by the 2019 Legislature which requires background checks for guns sold privately and at gun shows. Debate on the legislation was hot and heavy, but SB 8 passed the Senate on a 22-20 vote and passed the House 42-27 vote. The Governor signed the legislation and it became law effective July 1, 2019. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also signed Senate Bill 328 which prohibits gun possession by someone who’s subject to an order of protection under the Family Violence Protection Act which prohibits the possession of firearms by domestic abusers.

Elected County Sheriffs repeatedly spoke out against the gun legislation during legislative committee hearings. Some elected sheriffs testified that they simply would not enforce the legislation if it became law. Twenty-eight of New Mexico’s counties as well as a few municipalities in the state have passed “Second Amendment Sanctuary” ordinances in defiance to the enacted legislative gun control measures. Things got so bad that Attorney General Hector Balderas sent a strongly worded letter to all the elected Sheriff’s reminding them of their legal obligation to enforce the laws regardless of whether they agree with the legislation and saying:

“As law enforcement officials we do not have the freedom to pick and choose which state laws we enforce. … In short, the taxpayers of your city or county assume the financial risk of your decision to impose your personal views over the law. … [Discretion] cannot subvert the rule of law. All New Mexicans, including public [law enforcement] officials, are equally subject to the law.”

During the 2019 session, a red flag bill sponsored by Democratic Representative Damon Ely past the house but failed in the Senate. The bill was one of the more controversial bills causing New Mexico Sheriffs around the state to lobby heavily against it. After the 2019 session, the Governor signaled that she would place another “red flag” law on the 2020 call. You can expect the same opposition from law enforcement. Any proposed “red-flag” law would allow courts to order the temporary taking of firearms from individuals deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Lujan Grisham has said a “red flag” law will make communities safer and for that reason she has attempted to work with the Sheriff’s to reach a compromise, but has been unable to win support for a “red flag” law. The New Mexico Sheriffs Association opposes “red flag” laws believing they are ineffective and that they infringe on Second Amendment constitutional rights to bear arms. Sheriffs are elected officials just like the Governor, and as such the Governor has little control over how they should approach law enforcement.

For a related blog article see:


Republican State Representative William “Bill” Rehm has pre-filed House Bill 35, a measure that would enhance the penalty for using a firearm in the commission of a crime from 1 to 3 years. The governor said she supports proposed legislation, but the question remains if it will even make it through the Democratic controlled legislature which traditionally has difficulty in enacting firearm enhancement penalties.


Absent from the Governor’s call is legislation dealing with overhauling New Mexico’s tax code system. The Governor is signaling that tax overhaul will have to wait until the 2021 session in order to give a state tax advisory committee more time to study potential changes. The Governor made it clear she does not plan to include legislation exempting Social Security income from taxation and no legislation that would make changes to the state’s gross receipts tax code. In particular, the Governor has said no to House Speaker Brian Egolf’s legislation aimed at shaving half a percentage point off New Mexico’s gross receipts tax rate, a bipartisan bill that he was hoping to have ready for the 2020 legislative session.


According to news reports state revenue collections are roughly $273 million above projected levels, and will in all likely be even higher, due primarily to skyrocketing oil production in southeastern New Mexico that has led to a regional economic upswing. Royalties, taxes and other direct revenue from oil and natural gas production now make up more than 35% of all revenue collected by New Mexico.

The higher-than-expected revenue surge has the state on track to collect an unprecedented $7.8 billion in the budget year that ended June 30. Such revenues could allow for additional spending increases on public schools, roads, shoring up the PERA pension funds and other state programs in the upcoming 2020 legislative session.

New Mexico was already expecting a $1.3 billion budget surplus for the fiscal year. However, a Legislative Finance Committee revenue tracking report suggests that the final surplus figure will likely end up being larger. Most of the revenue windfall is due to an oil boom in the Permian Basin that has been driven by improvement in drilling techniques and production methods and has made New Mexico the nation’s third-highest oil producing state.


The 2020 New Mexico Legislative session will be Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s second legislative session, but she has been through sessions before as a cabinet secretary, knows the drill and knows how to count votes. The 2019 legislative session accomplishments will be a very difficult act to follow, especially during a 30-day short session. (See postscript below on 2019 legislative session). Notwithstanding, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has indeed announced an ambitious agenda that is still very much evolving and that no doubt will include much more.

The three most controversial legislative priorities that without a doubt are the most controversial are PERA reforms, legalization of recreational marijuana, and gun control measures in the form of “red flag” laws. Any one of the 3 measures could have serious political repercussions that will affect her popularity among voters and even alienate some of her core supporters.


PERA Governing Board meetings held during the general election race for Governor were packed with standing room only by very angry and very upset PERA retirees demanding explanations and information on the solvency of PERA pension system which was being reported as failing. Audiences were extremely diverse, and retirees vote. The audiences were at times confrontational with the PERA Board members. Accusations of mismanagement of the funds were also made.

During her campaign, candidate for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would oppose cuts to benefits, including any reduction in the annual inflation-related pension adjustments that retired state workers and teachers receive. According to a campaign spokesperson at the time:

“She does not believe that New Mexico needs to eliminate our defined benefit system for current or future educators and state employees and opposes any reduction in cost-of-living adjustments.”

The PERA solvency plan the Governor supports runs a significant risk of alienating some of her strongest supporters that could signal trouble for her in three years when see seeks a second term. Governor Lujan Grisham received a significant number of union endorsements and campaign donations especially from state government unions such as AFSME. The PERA solvency changes could very well “poke the bear” of 90,000 PERA contributors, retirees and their family members.

The PERA governing board has set the goal to reach 100% funding of liabilities by the year 2043 declaring there is a PERA pension fund “crisis”. The truth is, there is no crisis. The PERA pensions funds have always operated in the red, with investments ebbing and flowing to pay retirement benefits as they incur. It is the funds financial advisors who want a 100% funded program, no doubt motivated by getting their hands on more money to invest and getting hirer investment fees.

The New Mexico PERA pension program has 70% of funded liability in current funding assets to future liability making it one of the strongest pension programs in the country. The two major pension funds that are currently problematic are shortfalls of 7.99% of State General pensions and 13.87% for Municipal Fire Pension programs. Contribution shortfalls of State General and Municipal Fire are up and until 2066. PERA management has failed to articulate in clear terms all the options available to insure PERA will reach a 100% funding ratio by 2043.

Notwithstanding, PERA Pension reform must again be undertaken. The difference is the New Mexico Legislature has time to address the PERA pension system and the sky is not falling. The legislature can make adjustments like increasing age of retirements, change the formula to calculate retirement, make increases in contributions and infuse state funding into the pension funds, but only those that are underfunded which currently the municipal fire fighters fund and the general worker fund. Better management of the pension funds and increasing returns on investment are always relied upon to pay for benefits. At a minimum, the PERA Pension plans are solvent for at least 23, if not more years.


New Mexico has some of the highest DWI rates in the country and ranks #1 in heroin overdose deaths with the state having a serious opioid crisis. Legalizing recreational marijuana has the danger of contributing to the State’s high alcohol and drug addiction rates, a legacy no Governor wants to be remembered for after they leave office. Notwithstanding, a recent poll shows 76% of New Mexicans are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Further, any recreational marijuana law needs to ensure that the states highly successful medical marijuana program is not placed in jeopardy.

When it comes to the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, the legislature needs to avoid a traditional licensing system like it created for full-service alcohol licenses. With present alcohol full-service licenses, the number of licenses is capped and based on population numbers. Liquor licenses are now being sold for upwards of $1.5 million where only the wealthy or major restaurant chains can only afford them.

The result and unintended consequence will be identical with recreational marijuana licenses purchased for a few thousand dollars from the state and held onto as an investment and for a windfall profit. The exact same thing will happen with recreational marijuana licenses unless the licenses are not tied to population. There should be no limit on the number of recreational pot licenses that will create a market of licenses that increase value and are considered an investment by the private sector as opposed to regulation by the state to protect the public health safety and welfare.


There are 33 elected county sheriffs in the state of New Mexico. There is also a Sheriff’s Association. One group of elected officials no Governor wants to offend and who any Governor has to work with are the elected Sheriffs, with each one having their own agencies, law enforcement philosophy to address their communities law enforcement needs. The “universal background” check legislation enacted last year resulted in a severe backlash with many elected Sheriff’s and County Commission’s declaring they would not enforce the law or declaring their counties “2nd Amendment Sanctuary Counties.” The law also resulted in a lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers that is still pending. This is one piece of legislation that perhaps should be placed on hold until 2021 to allow gun control measures such as background checks to be fully implemented by the Sheriffs and who no doubt will need funding for the new programs.

For a related blog article see:


One thing is for certain, the governor’s job of promoting her programs during the 2020 legislative session will be made much easier because of the oil boom that has propelled New Mexico’s government revenue to record highs with debate now over how to spend the windfall. The surplus should allow the Governor to virtually fund all the education programs she wants, invest in capital projects and infrastructure as well as shore up the PERA pension funds, but only if the legislature allows her. Another major source of revenue for the state would be the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, if done properly, with responsible regulation and taxation.

Before the commencement of the 2020 legislative session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham needs to exercise great caution with the 3 issues of PERA Solvency, recreational marijuana and a red flag Law. The Governor should not expend precious political capital on legislation that is doomed for failure in either the New Mexico House or Senate. It’s a simple issue of math, securing a majority consensus and counting votes. She should not put anything on her call during a 30-day session that she knows will fail. Too much is at stake on all three issues that has the potential of alienating many of her base supporters and resulting in nothing getting accomplished and causing more damage than good.

There is always the 2021 sixty-day session and for that matter, special sessions to deal with major issues.



By most accounts, the 2019 legislative session was one of the most productive sessions in recent memory. The legislature and the Governor came together and were able to get things done. Absent from the 2019 session was the acrimony and confrontation created by the former, two term, Republican Governor “She Who Must Not Be Named”. Those accomplishments include:

Enacting a $7 billion plus state budget, the largest budget ever enacted in state history.

Enacting a $3.2 Billion education budget including additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay.

Enactment of tax hikes in over a decade that raised a combined $70 million for the state’s general fund through a personal income tax rate hike for the state’s higher earners, internet consumer sales and vehicle sales. The previous Republican Governor’s refusal to raise taxes resulted in sever cuts in government personnel and a reduction in government essential services.

Creating a new “Early Childhood Department”, raising the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour in increments and will rise to $12 an hour in 2022.

Shore up New Mexico’s two major pension funds by increasing how much the state pays into workers’ retirement accounts with an approximate amount of $13.7 million.

Creation of the Ethics Commission.

Enactment of nearly universal background checks for all gun sales.

Creating a new, independent ethics commission setting powers and procedures of the commission.

Enacting legislation to allow expungement of criminal records where defendants are allowed to seek court approved orders to expunge or “wipe out” an arrest or a conviction from their records.

Increasing the film tax credit cap from $50 million to $110 million.

Overhauling campaign finance regulations and require more disclosure from those who make “independent expenditures” in political campaigns. A measure was also passed that closed a loophole that exempted lobbyist spending from public disclosure. Lobbyists will be required to report their cumulative spending on individuals’ meals or entertainment items that cost less than $100.

Enactment of the “Energy Transition Act”, a renewable energy bill, was enacted by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature. The legislation requires that 80% of the state’s power from large utilities must come from “renewable energy” sources by the year 2040 and be 100% carbon free by 2045.

Decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The state “two-tiered driver’s license system” created by the previous Republican Governor’s Administration was amended to make it easier for undocumented workers to get drivers’ licenses.

Same day voter registration and automatic voter registration when getting a drivers’ license.

For a full analysis on 2019 session see:

It’s Called Governing: More Consequential Legislation Enacted In 60 Days Than In 8 Years