On Monday, March 22, Mayor Tim Keller announced formally he is running for a second term. The announcement surprised no one. Tim Keller made it known in a November 5, 2018 radio election night news coverage that he intended to run for a second term. In his March 23 reelection announcement, Keller said he filed his candidate paperwork. Keller started campaigning on April 17 when the qualifying period for public financing began.
What was surprising was Tim Keller made the announcement with a press conference and no fan fair, no crowd, no rousing emotional speech. Keller stood outside in front of the old City Hall, south of the APD Main station in Downtown Albuquerque with his wife and two children by his side. Keller’s announcement was very low key in comparison to the orchestrated public relations he is known for such as his state of the City addresses and his townhall meetings where thousands are called the day before. The announcement appeared to be hastily arranged as he read a hand-held statement.
In his March 22 announcement, Keller proclaimed the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the signature accomplishment of his first term and had this to say:
“Shepherding our city, leading our city, making those tough decisions was a trial like no other. I think it’s shown we are tested by a crisis our city has not seen in decades, or in modern history. … That puts us in a great position going forward. … Now I believe our city is finally going in the right direction, and we must keep the course. … It’s time we hit the accelerator and we do not go backwards.”
We are poised to come out of the pandemic stronger and safer with thousands of new good-paying jobs for working families; revitalized public safety efforts; and taking on homelessness, which has been exacerbated by COVID, in a real way. That’s on top of our nationally-leading sustainability efforts, our innovative new safety department, and our commitment to social justice, equity, and inclusion. Now that we’re finally going in the right direction, it’s time to hit the accelerator, not go backward—and that’s why I’m running for re-election.”
This article is a candidate profile of Mayor Tim Keller and a review of his record as Mayor and his accomplishments. The link to the candidate profile of Mayor Keller’s major opponent Manny Gonzales is here:
PERSONAL BACK GROUND
Mayor Tim Keller, 43, was born and raised in Albuquerque. He is a graduate of St. Pius X High School. He attended Notre Dame University where he graduated with a degree in Art History. He then went on to earn a Master’s of Business Administration with honors from the Harvard Business School. Keller was elected twice to the New Mexico State Senate and in 2014, he was elected New Mexico State Auditor, leaving the position midterm to run for Mayor in 2017. Keller always portrays a positive image for the city with a smile on his face and a grin in his voice that has served him and the city well.
Mayor Keller is married to Elizabeth J. Kisten Keller, PhD, who was also born and raised Albuquerque. She has a B.A. in in Political Science and Latin American Studies as a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her Masters and PhD in International Development Studies as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. She currently works in systems research and analysis at Sandia National Laboratories. The couple have two young children below the age of 10.
PROMISES MADE, PROMISES BROKEN
In 2017 when the New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller ran for Mayor, he ran on the platform of reducing the city’s high crime rates, implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and all the mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to “community based policing”, no tax increase without a public vote even for public safety, address the homeless crisis by building a centralized shelter, stopping waste fraud and abuse, and a commitment to transparency and economic development.
With that said, there are any number broken promises, failures and controversies that will likely emerge in an attempt to deprive Mayor Tim Keller of a second term. Keller’s record of broken promises and failures from the beginning to the present are easily identified:
1. BROKEN PROMISE NOT TO RAISE TAXES WITHOUT PUBLIC VOTE
Candidate for Mayor Tim Keller during a televised debate with his run off opponent promised in clear words not to raise taxes without a public vote, even if it was for law enforcement or for public safety. In May, 2018, 4 months after Keller was sworn in as Mayor, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a gross receipt tax increase that raises upwards of $50 million a year. The tax was enacted was in response to reports that the city was facing a $40 million deficit. Mayor Keller broke his promise to demand a public vote on the tax and signed off on the $50 million a year tax increase. He signed off on the tax increase without any fanfare and without proposing any alternative budgets dealing with the deficit. The $40 million projected deficit never materialized. The City Council never repealed the tax. Keller went on a spending binge.
2. KELLER EMRACES DISASTEROUS ART BUS PROJECT
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 over half of his term to complete the ART Bus project and the city is still trying to make it work.
Since starting service November 30, 2019, the ART buses have had accident after accident and upwards of 25 major accidents and upwards of 30 minor accidents. The accidents range from a minor “vender benders” to more serious crashes, including two that temporarily sidelined two buses. Multiple crashes have resulted in damage to other vehicles, including at least 3 that involved Albuquerque police officers. There have also been crashes involving pedestrians, one of which left an 18-year-old woman dead.
Notwithstanding all the accidents, and the proof of a poorly designed project, Keller refused to shut down the bus line and find alternative uses for the bus stop platforms. Berry’s Boondoggle became Keller’s Crisis Project that has now destroyed historic Route 66.
Keller with great bravado ordered the filing of a breach of contract lawsuit against the bus manufacture saying in part:
“We’re no longer going to be guinea pigs [for the bus manufacturer] anymore … Obviously, we very concerned about what we’ve been put through as a city … I think down the road, we’re interested in being fairly compensated for what we have been misled on these buses.”
A few weeks later, Keller settled the case with a mutual dismissal of claims. Absolutely no damages were paid to the city by the bus manufacturer, even for the loss revenue to the city for the delay.
The ART Bus was temporarily suspended as a result of the corona virus pandemic. During the temporary closure of the bus line, the Keller Administration began spending in January, 2021 over $200,000 more to construct “pin curbs” which are concrete edging to form barriers to boundaries for the dedicated bus lanes to prevent vehicles from traveling into the dedicated lanes.
3. KELLER’S FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT DOJ REFORMS
In 2017, Tim Keller aggressively campaigned to be elected mayor by vowing to implement the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms agreed to after the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” within APD and repeated unconstitutional “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” cases. Upwards of $62 million in judgments had been paid over the previous 10 years in police misconduct cases.
Keller vowed to implement the DOJ mandated reforms even as he received the endorsement of the APD Union who opposed the reforms. Keller has spent 3 full years trying to implement the consent decree reforms, the exact same amount of time his predecessor used, for a total of 6 years combined. The difference is that Keller has also spent millions more on the reforms to no avail. Truth is that Mayor Keller failed miserably to implement the DOJ reforms. The federal court action has not been dismissed even though the consent decree was to be fully implemented by November 16, 2020.
APD is still failing with “operational compliance” levels, which is the most critical of the 3 compliance areas required in the consent decree. It reflects failure to implement the reforms by all APD personnel, from the Mayor to Chief to the command staff to the rank and file sworn officers. The Federal Monitors $4 million contract has been extended with an additional $1.5 appropriation. Its likely it will have to be extended again.
On September 25, 2020, APD Chief Michael Geier was forced to retire by Mayor Tim Keller. At the time of Geier’s forced retirement Mayor Keller said in part:
“ … We know reform efforts have hit some snags, and we know there have been back office challenges and distractions. Chief Geier’s retirement comes at the right time for a new phase of leadership to address the old embedded challenges that continue to hamper the department. … .”
Keller saying that the “reform efforts have hit some snags” was Keller’s “spin” at its very best and a Keller lie at its worst. Keller was given advanced notice what was coming in the 12th federal monitor’s report to be released on November 2.
On Friday, October 6, in a hearing on the 12th Federal Monitors Report, Federal Monitor James Ginger told the court:
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD. … [The department] has failed miserably in its ability to police itself. … If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned. But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street. So as a monitor with significant amount of experience – I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the Court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”
On November 2, 2020, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed with the Federal Court his 12th Compliance Audit Report. The 12th Federal Monitors report provides the following scathing overall assessment of APD management, all upper command staff appointed by Tim Keller 3 years ago:
We have no doubt that many of the instances of non-compliance we see currently in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! … issues we continue to see transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”
“… The monitoring team has been critical of the Force Review Board (FRB), citing its past ineffectiveness and its failing to provide meaningful oversight for APD’s use of force system. The consequences are that APD’s FRB, and by extension APD itself, endorses questionable, and sometimes unlawful, conduct by its officers.
“During the reporting period … virtually all of these failures can be traced back to leadership failures at the top of the organization.
“[The federal monitor] identified strong under currents of [resistance to APD reforms] in some critical units on APD’s critical path related to CASA compliance. These include supervision at the field level; mid-level command in both operational and administrative functions, [including] patrol operations, internal affairs practices, disciplinary practices, training, and force review). Supervision, [the] sergeants and lieutenants, and mid-level command, [the commanders] remain one of the most critical weak links in APD’s compliance efforts.”
KELLER’S STUNNING ADMISSION OF IGNORANCE
Many excuses can be given for Keller’s failure to force APD to fully implement the DOJ reforms. In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal editors Mayor Keller said he wishes he’d known earlier about the serious problems the Albuquerque Police Department was having with its reform effort and said:
“I think what we have learned is how deeply challenged some of these areas are, including self-monitoring. For us at a senior level, we were led to believe that things were much improved, and it turns out they weren’t as much.”
A link to the Journal story on APD’s progress is here:
Keller’s comment that he “was led to believe that things were much improved” is a stunning admission of Keller’s ignorance of what was and what is going on in his police department after 3 years in office.
Simply put, Keller’s does not know what he is doing and neither does his appointed Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair when it comes to APD. Keller does not understand how bad APD really became under the leadership he handpicked.
Candidate for Mayor Keller never showed any real curiosity about how bad thing were with APD when he ran for Mayor. Keller did not bother to attend a single court hearing when he was running for Mayor where the Federal Monitor gave the Court an update on his reports and the consent decree. Keller pretended at forums that he was “deeply concerned” and knew what was happening. What was misleading is that Keller said he knew what needed to be done and he was “uniquely qualified” to be Mayor. Voters bought into his false campaign propaganda.
4. KELLER’S FAILURE TO BRING VIOLENT CRIME RATES DOWN AS PROMISED
In August, 2017, New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller and candidate for Albuquerque Mayor had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:
“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”
The crime statistics released for 2018, 2019 and 2021 make it clear that despite all of Mayor Tim Keller’s promises to bring down skyrocketing violent crime, he has failed. In 2019, Keller implemented 4 new programs to address violent crime, increased APD personnel by 116, and spent millions. Violent crime is still “absolutely out of control”. Regrettably , Mayor Tim Keller has failed to do his “job to actually address crime in Albuquerque.”
Given Mayor Keller’s words as to whose job it is to address crime, a discussion of crime statics during Mayor Tim Keller’s tenure is in order.
VIOLENT CRIME UNDER KELLER
In 2018 during Mayor Keller’ first full year in office, there were 6,789 violent crimes, 3,885 Aggravated Assaults and 491 Non-Fatal Shootings.
In 2019, the category of “Violent Crimes” was replaced with the category of “Crimes Against Persons” and the category includes homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault. In 2019 during Keller’s second full year in office, Crimes Against Persons increased from 14,845 to 14,971, or a 1% increase. The Crimes Against Person category had the biggest rises in Aggravated Assaults increasing from 5,179 to 5,397.
On Monday, September 21, 2020, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released statistics that revealed that overall crime in the city was down by less than 1% cross all categories in the first six months of 2020 as compared with the first six months of 2019. Crimes against persons are all violent crimes combined and include murder, deadly weapons assault and injury and rape.
The decreases in “violent crime” from 2019 to 2020 was a decrease by only 21 crimes or a 0.28% decrease. Over a 2-year period, it decreased 4%. According to the FBI statistics released, there were 7,362 crimes against persons reported in the first six months of 2020 and there were 152 more in the second quarter than in the first.
HISTORICAL HIGH HOMICIDE NUMBERS WITH FAILED PROGRAMS UNDER KELLER
In 2018, during Mayor Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 82 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was in 2017 when 72 homicides were reported in Mayor Berry’s last year in office. The previous high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides. The year 2020 ended with 76 homicides, the second-highest count since 1996. The decline dropped the homicide rate from 14.64 per 100,000 people in 2019 to about 13.5 in 2020.
In 2019, Mayor Tim Keller reacting to the spiking violent crime rates, announced 4 programs in 9 months to deal with and bring down the city’s high violent crime rates . Those APD programs are: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “public health” issue, the Metro 15 Operation, “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP Program). Based on the city’s high violent crime and murder rates, it appears Keller’s programs have been a failure.
On Thursday, April 16, 2021 it was reported that killings in the city have nearly doubled. According to the report, the Albuquerque Police Department has investigated 34 homicides this year, almost twice as many as the city had at this point in each of the past two years. By April 15 in both 2020 and 2019, there were 19 killings. APD ended up with 77 homicides in 2020 and a record 80 in 2019. Of the 34 homicides, APD has made an arrest in six cases and filed an arrest warrant for 15-year-old Josef Toney in the double homicide of two women.
As of April 21, there have been 44 homicides thus far in 2021.
It is clear the city is on its way to the highest murder rate in its history.
A link to the news sources are here:
HISTORICALLY LOW HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATES UNDER KELLER
For the past three years during Mayor Keller’s tenure, the homicide clearance percentage rate has been in the 50%-60% range. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017, under Mayor Berry the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade. In 2020 the clearance rate has dropped to 50%. Of the 75 homicides thus far in 2020, half remain unsolved. There are only a dozen homicide detectives each with caseloads high above the national average.
AUTO THEFTS STILL HIGH UNDER KELLER
On June 26, 2019 the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual list of cities with the most stolen vehicles reported. Despite a 28% reduction in auto thefts over a two-year period, Albuquerque ranked No. 1 in the nation for vehicle thefts per capita for the third year in a row. On July 30, 2020, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that Albuquerque is now ranked #2 in the nation for auto theft.
KELLER’S FALSE CLAIMS OF REDUCING CRIME
When Keller took office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD released the city’s crime statistics, Mayor Keller would do a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. He did so on July 1, 2019. Mayor Keller reported that crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops, in nearly every category.
On Sunday, December 1, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal reported that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in his July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed by big percentages. Both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.
At an October 2019 meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics but failed to disclose to the council that the numbers had changed drastically. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal. Mayor Keller for his part has never issued his own personal apology for misleading the public and trying to take credit for bringing down crime rates by using false statistics.
The corrected crime statistics from those announced by Keller are:
Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced by Keller
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
The link to the full December 1, 2029 Journal article is here:
5. KELLER’S FAILURE TO GROW APD TO LEVEL PROMISED
Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. To that end, the Keller Administration began implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. The massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term.
As of January 9, 2021, APD payroll shows that there were 953 sworn officers with only 48 cadets in the academy. During the February 8, 2021, City Council Public Safety Committee, Chief Harold Medina reported that APD has 957 sworn police. Of the 957 sworn police, Medina reported a mere 371 sworn police are in Field Services responding to calls for service or 39% of the entire sworn force. The 371 sworn police taking calls for service are spread out over 3 shifts and 8 area commands to patrol and based on crime rates in the areas. Medina also told the committee that Field Services has 6 area commanders, 18 lieutenants, 53 sergeant’s, 21 bicycle officers for a total of 511 officers assigned to field services. The problem is commanders, lieutenants, sergeant’s, and bicycle officers do not patrol the streets and are not dispatched to calls for service as are the field officers.
On April 14 the on line news ABQReports reported that APD reported having 998 officers during the first week of March, 2021, but a check of APD payroll reflects only 984 sworn officers. According to ABQReports:
“Losing 15 officers in one month is not a good trend, but in cities like Albuquerque, Portland and Seattle it is a way of life. A source within APD advised that dozens of officers have inquired about retiring and quitting. Who can blame them in today’s toxic atmosphere and another hot summer on the way.”
6. UNDER KELLER’S FECKLESS LEADERSHIP, APD CONTINUES TO IMPLODE
In 2017, when campaigning for Mayor, Keller promised sweeping changes at APD, especially within the upper command of the Chief’s office. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, he did not make the dramatic management changes he promised as a candidate. Keller appointed APD retired past management who continued with archaic management practices. The appointed Chief and Deputy Chiefs were APD insiders and have been with APD for a number of years and many are eligible for retirement whenever they want.
Keller conducted a sham national search for a new chief outside of APD simply to turn around and appoint a retired APD “retread” as APD Chief. Confidential sources have confirmed Keller met with Geier and made Geier a 4-year commitment to be APD Chief months before he was elected Mayor. After elected, Keller appointed APD management that were “throwbacks” to past practices and failed management philosophy. Chief Geier and the “new” APD Deputy Chiefs came up through the ranks under former Chiefs Ray Schultz and Gordon Eden. Keller’s appointed management team was “old guard” that held onto the status quo and no change in management style nor philosophy.
KELLER FIRES APD CHIEF GEIER
On Thursday September 10, 2020 APD Chief Michael Geier and Mayor Keller held a joint news conference to announce that APD Chief Geier was “retiring” for a fourth time from law enforcement after a 47-year career. Geier was APD Chief for close to 3 full years. Within a few days, it was revealed that former Chief Michael Geier was forced to retire by Mayor Tim Keller and his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair.
According to sources Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier chose to retire. It was revealed that it was First Deputy Chief Harold Medina who orchestrated Geier’s removal. According to Geier Mayor Keller and his CAO Sarita Nair micro managed APD’s priorities while then First Assistant Harold Medina undermined all of Geier’s efforts. Geier intended to take personnel action against Medina for insubordination. Immediately hearing of the pending action against him, Medina went to CAO Nair and working together, the convinced Mayor Keller to terminate Geier or force his retirement.
KELLER APPOINTS INEPT, PROBLEM COP AS APD CHIEF
During the September 10, 2020 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller announced First Deputy Harold Medina was the Interim APD Chief. Keller announced a national search would be conducted to find a new chief as was done when he appointed Chief Geier. On Monday, March 8, 2021, Keller announce that Harold Medina is the new APD Chief of Police.
The Medina appointment confirmed what confidential sources within city hall said in September: that it was a done deal that Keller would appoint Medina and that the national search was the same sham Keller pulled when he appointed Chief Michael Geier. Keller’s sham process is first appoint who he wanted to be permanent Chief as Interim Chief first, announce and go through the motions of a national search and interview applicants to placate the public as if interested in what they had to say and then announce as Chief who you always wanted to appoint in the first place.
Medina has a history of reactive decision-making and failed leadership resulting in the killing of two mentally ill people having psychotic episodes, a 14 year old boy and an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD threatening to kill himself while pointing a gun to his head. APD Chief Harold Medina successfully convinced Keller and Nair the two tragedies are a positive credential to run the APD saying because of the shootings he now understands the DOJ reforms, their need and can implement them. Medina’s conduct in the two shootings is the very type of conduct that resulted in the Department of Justice investigation in the first place.
With two separate fatalities involving the mentally ill, APD Chief Harold Medina represents the total opposite of what the city needs in a police chief. It is very critical to have a police chief with experience with reducing use of force, not one who has used deadly force. A a chief who has knowledge of crisis management, not one who causes a crisis. A Chief who understands the importance of protecting civil rights, not one who has violated civil rights, and a Chief able to tackle the issue of a police department interacting with the mentally ill, not one who has been involved with the killing of two mentally ill people. The fatal shootings Medina was involved with show he possesses none of the desired traits.
Truth is, Medina is part of the problem with APD that brought the DOJ here in the first place. Medina had no business being interim Chief let alone being made permanent. Medina helped create, did not stop and he participated the “culture of aggression” and the use of deadly force that resulted in a DOJ investigation.
7. KELLER’S FAILURE TO DEAL WITH APD POLICE OVETIME ABUSE SCANDAL
On Monday July 13, New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colon said his office was ordering a special audit of APD’s overtime payment policies to APD Police Officers. Auditor Colon ordered a special audit of all APD overtime policies after he said his office found enough red flags related to overtime practices and internal controls at the department. State Auditor Colon has also asked Attorney General to assist in the investigation of APD.
The announced audit came after longtime APD spokesman Sgt. Simon Drobik abruptly retired from the department as he was under investigation by APD’s Internal Affairs for overtime pay abuse. In 2018, Drobik was paid $192,973 as a result of massive amounts of overtime claimed and he was continuing his pace of overtime pay in 2020. Drobik’s base salary was approximately $68,000 a year.
The City maintains a list of the 250 top city hall wages earners and what they are paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. The City of Albuquerque list for the year 2019 reflects that 134 police officers were paid between $107,885.47 t0 $193,666.40 with many being paid 2 and 3 times their base pay.
The breakdown is as follows:
There were 32 APD Lieutenants in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $108,031 to $164,722. Hourly pay rate for APD Lieutenants is $40.00 an hour or $83,200 yearly.
There were 32 APD Sergeants in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $109,292 to $193,666. Hourly pay rate for APD Sergeants is $35 an hour, or $72,800 a year.
There were 70 APD patrol officers first class, master, senior in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $108,167 to $188,844. Hourly pay rate for Patrol Officers is $29.00 an hour to $31.50 an hour depending upon years of experience.
Mayor Keller is now faced with the likelihood that more than a few police officers will be found to have engaged in criminal activity and that criminal charges will be filed against police officers who claimed overtime and paid overtime for hours never authorized or never worked. The problem for Keller is that he was fully aware of what was going on with APD’s overtime abuse and was made aware of two separate audits that were conducted. Two attempts were made to place overtime caps on APD, but the programs were never fully implemented.
If APD is hit with a series of indictments of police officers for overtime time fraud and “waste, fraud and abuse by government officials” it will damage Keller’s re-election chances along with the skyrocketing violent crime rates Keller promised to bring down when he ran in 2017. What is ironic is that State Auditor Tim Keller made a name for himself investigating government officials for “waste, fraud and abuse”.
8. KELLER FLIP-FLOPS BACK AND FORTH ON CENTRALIZED 24-7 HOMELESS SHELTER WITH PURCHASE OF MASSIVE GIBSON MEDICAL CENTER FOR SHELTER
Mayor Tim Keller made it known that building a new, centralized homeless shelter was one of his top priorities. The new homeless shelter would replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side.
Mayor Keller deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week temporarily shelter for the homeless was critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter was projected to assist an estimated 300 homeless residents and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility would have served all populations of men, women, and families. Further, the city wanted to provide a place anyone could go regardless of gender, religious affiliation, sobriety, addictions, psychotic condition or other factors. The city facility was to have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward counseling, addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources.
On Wednesday, May 7, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller in a surprise announcement, said that the city was abandoning the development concept of a single, 300-bed homeless shelter. He announced the city will be proceeding with a “multi-site approach” to the city’s homelessness crisis. Mayor Tim Keller went so far as to state that the 300 bed Gateway Center was “off the table”.
After Keller abandoned plans to build one centralized homeless shelter, he said the city was taking a “multi-site” approach that could mean a series of smaller facilities throughout the community. It can be viewed as Keller’s “spread the homeless” pain policy. Ostensibly, there would be no single resource hub in one large facility as was originally proposed with the 300 bed Gateway Center. Small shelters would be 100 to 150 beds of emergency shelter that could be defined as a smaller shelter.
On Tuesday, April 6, 2021 Mayor Tim Keller held a press conference in front of the Gibson Medical Center to announce the city had bought the massive complex for $15 million and his intent to transform it into a Gateway Center for the homeless. The Gibson Medical Center is a massive complex of well over half a million square feet. It not only includes a hospital bed capacity of 200 beds but has operating rooms, waiting areas, lab areas, treatment area and offices that can be easily converted into more bed capacity. The facility also has a lecture auditorium.
Keller made it clear either way, like it or not, the site has now been selected and the Gibson Medical facility will be used to service the homeless population as a Gateway Center. After his April 6 press conference, Mayor Keller came under severe criticism for his failure to reach a consensus and take community input before the Gibson Medical Center was purchased. Keller said he plans to confer with residents in the future.
Many who reside in the surrounding neighborhoods of the Gibson Medical Center have said they supported and voted for the $15 million bonds to build the Gateway center and fully agree that the city should provide more services to the homeless. The biggest worry is that the Gibson facility will in fact be converted to “mega-shelter” as was originally proposed by Keller and what he wanted and it will impact the neighborhood if that happens.
9. KELLER’S COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT NOT WHAT HE PROMISED
On Monday, June 15, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller announced plans to create a new Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS). It was proposed in part as a response to police shootings happening throughout the country, especially after the killing of African American George Floyd. Keller proclaimed it was the “first of its kind” department in the country. Keller received national news coverage on the concept, including the in the Washington Post. It turns out the only “first of its kind” aspect was a department. Using social workers to take call for service instead of cops has been going on for years in other major cities.
The new department as originally announced was to have 192 positions with 32 people for each of the 6 area commands, staffed around the clock, to respond to tens of thousands of calls for service a year. The estimated annual cost of the new department was $10,201,170. The ACS as Keller originally presented to the public was to have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts. They were to be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crisis calls for service to APD. The new department was to connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The intent is to free up the first responders, either police or firefighters, who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.
Two words that best to describe Keller’s Public Safety Department are “publicity stunt.” The new department as proposed by Keller was simply thrown together in a haphazard manner so he could call national news media outlets, which he did, and then hold a press conference for local news media outlets, which he also did.
On Thursday, September 3, Mayor Tim Keller released his proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The new city department was pared down significantly to $7.5 million in personnel, equipment and contractual services. Not a single licensed mental health professional, social worker, councilor, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts were included.
Keller cut the new ACS Department from the originally suggested 192 positions to 100 employees with 60 positions taken from other city departments. The 100 employees included 40 transit security officers, 13 security staffers from the Municipal Development Department, 9 parking enforcement workers, 6 crossing guard supervisors and one from the city’s syringe cleanup program.
On October 15, the proposed Keller budget for the new department was slashed to the bone from $7.5 million to $2.5 million for fiscal year 2021. The City Council removed virtually all of the positions originally proposed by Keller. Cut from Keller’s proposed budget for the new department were 83 employees and a $7.5 million cost. The staffing cut include 53 security personnel, 9 parking enforcement employees and 6 people from the city’s crossing guard program.
10. A CRISIS MANGEMENT MAYOR
On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, less than 48 hours after the Albuquerque City Council passed and amended “Emergency Powers Ordinance”, Mayor Tim Keller declared a “public health emergency” to deal with the corona virus epidemic in the city. The Mayor announced and signed the “Declaration of Local State of Emergency Due to Novel Corona Virus COVID-19” on a video posted on social media and distributed to the local new outlets. In the video announcement, Keller said the declaration “frees up financial resources for our city and flexibility so we can deal with this situation the best way possible.”
With his Public Health Emergency declaration, Mayor Tim Keller became the first Mayor in the city’s history to become a “crisis management Mayor” to deal with a major health crisis and epidemic.
By all accounts, Mayor Tim Keller took as many initiatives that he could in order to deal with the corona virus pandemic. He did show leadership as he tried to keep up with the ever-evolving crisis and as he tried to follow the lead of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Ever since Mayor Tim Keller assumed office on December 1, 2017, he has taken photo ops and press conferences to all new levels. Keller attended protest rallies to speak at, attended marches and political protests, attended heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, ran in track meets and participated in exhibition football games as the quarterback and enjoying reliving his high school glory days and posting pictures and videos on his FACEBOOK page.
With the pandemic, Keller began conducting daily press briefings on the city’s efforts to deal with the corona virus and attempting to keep up with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s daily briefings on the state level. The corona virus pandemic also allowed Mayor Keller to take his public relations efforts to even higher levels to announce city initiatives and inform the public. Keller took his public relations efforts to a whole new level by conducting “virtual town hall” meetings. The town hall meetings are sophisticated telephone conference calls to thousands at one time to provide to the public information and to answer the public’s questions regarding what the city is doing.
For over a full year since the pandemic hit the city and after he declared a public health emergency, Keller touted the city government’s ability to avoid employee layoffs and continue delivering services despite the pandemic. He also benefited from the $150 million in federal relief money the city received last spring and it was a key factor with the city’s success. Keller argued that Albuquerque fared better than other comparable cities during the crisis because of his leadership.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
In 2017 when then State Auditor Tim Keller first announced he was running for Mayor, he was asked point blank why he was running and his response was:
“Because I really think it would be neat to be Mayor of my hometown and I have done good at all the jobs I have ever held.”
Keller’s words were a reflection of shallowness and being self-centered and consumed with ambition. Now that he got what he wanted, its the voters who must decide if he has done a good job as Mayor.
Tim Keller now has a record he must run on and defend. Keller’s accomplishments have been less than stellar. Keller has not come close to the change he promised in 2017. It’s hard to believe that Keller’s record as Mayor will generate the same level enthusiasm from progressives and progressive organizations that it did 4 years ago.
The city’s high murder rate is rising even further. There will be more violent crime during the hot summer as people break out of quarantine as things return to normal. After being elected, Keller signed a tax increase after promising not to raise taxes without a public vote. Keller failed to make the sweeping changes to the Albuquerque Police Department, and his promised implementation of the DOJ reforms stalled so much that he fired his first chief.
Keller has appointed Harold Medina, a cop who has a nefarious past with the use of deadly force against two people suffering from psychotic episodes, permanent chief. Keller is not even close to reaching the 1,200 sworn police officers promised nor to community-based policing. Keller’s promise to bring down violent crime never materialized and four programs to bring down violent crime have failed. For three years, murders have hit an all-time record, with many still unsolved.
During the last 3 years under Mayor Tim Keller’s leadership, things have only gotten worse in the city. The sweeping and dynamic change that Keller was perceived to represent in 2017 never materialized. APD continues to implode, violent crime is still out of control, and with the pandemic, the state and city are likely headed for another major recession.
In normal times, Tim Keller would be a one term Mayor given his record of broken promises and failures. Normally, voters are a very fickle lot and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. But not in the age of the Corona Virus. Campaign promises made in 2017 and promises not kept by 2021 really do not matter from a political standpoint.
The tragic truth is that no one really cares about a politician’s poor job performance when they are struggling to make a living, make ends meet and struggling to keep themselves and their family’s healthy and safe from the Corona Virus as bills add up. The ultimate factor that will determine if Tim Keller is a one term Mayor is if anyone will emerge as a viable candidate.
In the age of the Covid 19 pandemic, none of Keller’s failures nor broken promises will likely make much of a difference to the voting public given the image he has carefully crafted with his relentless public relations and the lack of viable, Democrat progressive candidates to oppose him.
On November 2, 2021 Voters will decide if Keller has “done a good” job of leadership and if he deserves a second 4-year term.