This is a guest opinion column written by Rudolfo Carrillo submitted for publication on this blog.
Rudolfo Carrillo is a native New Mexican and was the news and music editor at Weekly Alibi from August 2015 until March 2020, where he used the pen name “August March” to write about Albuquerque culture, history and politics. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico’s fine arts program. His award-winning writing and analysis have been featured at international academic conferences, in notable literary journals as well as in local media outlets like the Albuquerque Journal. His latest work can be read at Infinity Report with the link here:
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Rudolfo Carrillo and do not necessarily reflect those of the political blog www.petedinelli.com. Rudolfo Carrillo was not compensated for his guest column.
“MEDIA REPORTS KELLER’S PROPAGANDA AS NEWS IN MAYOR’S RACE”
“The fact that traditional media outlets are not effectively covering local political happenings—keeping up to date on the local meat being ground into policy as well as the taste of the resulting civic sausage—becomes clear with just a quick glance at Burque’s vast media machine.
Over at the local daily, coverage of the Keller administration, the upcoming mayoral election and the weekly antics of the City Council—hey, we know they’re on vacay for July, but what about all the legislation they oversaw before their summery exit—have drifted too close to the realms of nonexistence and propaganda.
A news story from this week featured a very stern-looking Keller. His new, campaign-ready image in grey flannel and a crisp white business school-collar was a far cry from anything remotely resembling the “metal mayor” of yore (and lore, too). His gaze was a distant one, coming from a place where smiles don’t come easy.
The story itself is sure to make the local chamber of commerce happy and business owners across town may come to Keller’s side, as his spokespeople and AG Hector Balderas acknowledged that the growing tide of violence in the city has finally reached into retail, connecting itself to property crime, and, ultimately, organized crime, too.
TIP OF ICEBERG
That may seem like a good start toward changing things, crime-wise, in Albuquerque. But although the article goes to great lengths to show how shoplifting is just the tip of the iceberg, even leading into the story by stating that the AG and APD have asserted that “organized retail crime” is a driver of violence across the city” such ideas fly in the face of progressive thinking about crime, violence and their origins/consequences.
[“AG, APD to target ‘organized retail crime’”, Albuquerque Journal, July 6:
In fact, in an interview a year into his first term Keller had no problem agreeing with the interviewer that homelessness, addiction and mental illness—their effects exacerbated by the years-long dismantling of state and city health services—were in fact the underlying reasons for crime in the city.
[“YEAR ONE: Keller on long road to Burque”, Weekly Alibi, December 13-19, 2018,
APPOINTING A CHIEF WITH A NEFARIOUS PAST
Further, when asked directly during his candidate interview in April 2017—by the same reporter—“How are you going to address the crime issue,” Keller’s response seems leagues away from where he stands today when Keller said:
“Number one, we’ve gotta start by saying, ‘There has to be change at the top.’ That’s not personal … we need new leadership right away at APD. That, to me, is just a starting point.”
[“Tim Keller And The Details”, Weekly Alibi, April 6-17, 2017:
The current chief, Harold Medina, is an APD veteran with more than 20 years of service and a history that involves at least two officer-involved shootings.
[“Checkered history casts shadow on APD’s acting Chief”, Albuquerque Journal, September 15, 2020:
And, as they say, that might just be the tip of the iceberg.
Other important controversies courted by the current administration have failed to gain traction with the local media, as Keller presses a performative style that includes super-serious press conferences about things his public relations people think will matter to an electorate that is increasingly economically divided between the poor and the affluent. While the latter is bound to be reassured by Keller’s affect, the former, the working class, are yet to be convinced.
“BIASNESS'” AND FLUFF OVER SUBSTANCE
Over at a local newsweekly [The Paper] —run by a city councilor whose own connection to police-related gun violence is, at the very least, an eyebrow raiser—coverage of Keller’s work and criticism of his administration’s policy challenges is lacking. A dearth of experienced reporters, an over-reliance on the AP wire and a taste for gotcha journalism has resulted in a surprisingly unfocused site.
[“New Mexico official called on to resign over police shooting”, Associated Press News, June 25, 2020:
The fact that one of their political reporters spent time this week musing with city councilors about their favorite vacation spots—Wait a minute! Aren’t there at least two crises in this city that might be substantively written about?—seems not only out of touch, but also callous, given the economic status of many Burqueños post-pandemic.
[“City Councilors Check Out For July Vacation”, The Paper, July 6, 2021:
So, the list of issues that the Keller administration must successfully wrangle in order to be an acceptable candidate for reelection are numerous. They include the city’s disastrous economic condition and range from personnel issues, wherein a former city employee complained vociferously about rampant ageism in the administration—even as Keller apparently signaled his questionable preference for millennials in a recent press release—to the appointment of an APD insider as chief of police.
[“Past city official files whistleblower suit”, Albuquerque Journal, January 27, 2021:
[“Mayor Tim Keller Appoints Nyika Allen as Director of Aviation:
And this Saturday morning, just as it was almost safe to find and state a conclusion about all this mierda, Keller and crew find themselves embroiled in their biggest battle yet. It’s a controversy that could further bolster his campaign, but could also prove to be his undoing.
POLITICAL PROPAGANDA REPORTED AS NEWS
Mayoral candidate and Keller nemesis Manny Gonzales was denied public campaign financing by the city clerk, a Keller appointee. What’s unclear, though, is whether clerk Ethan Watson has the authority to make such a call prior to the case being heard by a city election ethics panel.
That uncertainty didn’t prevent the mayor from confidently expressing his belief that criminal activities at the Gonzales campaign were to blame for the funding refusal. Keller told the local daily paper of record:
“As the former State Auditor, where we investigated and uncovered cases of fraud and misuse of taxpayer dollars, I know a scam when I see it.”
Keller’s campaign manager, longtime Democratic political operative Neri Holguin also chimed in, telling reporter Jessica Dyer, “This is deliberate, this is systemic, this is widespread…”.
[“No Public Financing for sheriff’s mayoral bid”, Albuquerque Journal, July 9, 2021:
And those words, folks, are just accusations. They may be well-founded, they may come from “experts”, but haven’t been proven as fact; the panel hearing the charges won’t meet until later this month.
POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK
As for legal precedent in the case, well, there is none. When candidate Keller faced ethics complaints related to in-kind donations in 2017—ultimately being found guilty by a unanimous vote of the City of Albuquerque Board of Ethics Rules and Regulations—he was not penalized before or after the complaint was formally heard.
[“Ethics board: Keller violated rule with ‘in-kind’ donations, NM Political Report, November 13, 2017:
Given that this is, in no way, an endorsement of Manuel Gonzales III—his loving embrace of Donald Trump and William Barr is an unforgettable reminder of the candidate’s inappropriateness for the city’s top job—it’s unclear how citizens should proceed come election day.
[“Sheriff’s visit to Trump White House draws ire”, Albuquerque Journal, July 21, 2020:
FAILURE TO ADDRESS CONTROVERSIES
Certainly, Keller—and his handlers, good intentioned as they are—need to come clean with regards to the controversies still swirling around city hall. That includes addressing issues like crime, homelessness and violence—as well as continuing personnel issues—in a substantive, progressive manner that avoids performative acts. That’s what the candidate promised voters in 2017, after all.
If the man cannot adapt to what has become Albuquerque’s future under his watch, then someone else with values and vision needs to rise up from the ranks and challenge Keller—before his fumble on the Gonzales matter costs him the election.
Finally, it must be the job of the local press to render such matters transparent. As it is, local political bloggers are carrying the weight—providing a vision that needs to be shared by widely read and disseminated outlets in order to be truly effective. To do otherwise, as is apparently de rigueur in 2021, is a disservice to the citizens of this town.”
Links to 3 related blog article comparing the records of Keller and Gonzales are here: