This is a guest column written by Rudolfo Carrillo in the form of an open letter to Mayor Tim Keller and 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. He is an artistic painter, sculptor and an award winning writer. His award-winning writings and analysis have been featured at international academic conferences and in notable literary journals as well as 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. Mr. Carrillo was not compensated for his guest column.
Dear Mayor Keller:
I wonder if you remember me. I was among the small group of journalists and well-wishers who came by your house on the evening of Nov. 30, 2017 when you were first inaugurated as the leader of this town.
I met Dennis Domrzalski, another old-timer, [former Alb. Tribune reporter, ABQ Free Press reporter and publisher of ABQReports] in front of your home. As we followed Martin Salazar, a journalist with the Albuquerque Journal, toward the door, a friendly young woman stopped us on the sidewalk and asked us to sign an agreement saying we agreed never to reveal hizzoner’s home address.
Inside the humbly appointed home near the river, a few family members fussed over flower arrangements; pets were corralled and your necktie was lovingly adjusted. When the time came, the small intimate gathering of friends, selected members of the press and your most trusted advisors sat in the living room—on comfortable couches and chairs—while a proper reverend swore you in as Albuquerque’s 30th mayor.
A big public inauguration and celebration followed the next day, but I didn’t go. I’m not one for large crowds and, besides, I was confident that I had already witnessed the heart and soul of a movement that I had faith would restore and advance our city.
THE BEFORE TIME
In the months leading up to the general election of Oct. 3, 2017, I admit I had a difficult time deciding which candidate the little newspaper I worked for would endorse. The general election featured some real characters, to put it mildly.
It took a mayoral forum I moderated at the Albuquerque Press Club to get me hep to the whole dealio, as my alter ego August March might say.
I recall the youthfully blind optimism of Gus Pedrotty, the stiff conservatism of Wayne Johnson, the perpetual electioneering of Brian Colon as well as Susan Wheeler-Deichsel’s quiet certitude. And, of course, I recall the deeply resonant yet coldly cavernous voice of Dan Lewis, the man you faced in the run-off election that followed on Nov. 14.
FOR THE RECORD
Then there was the guy who looked like District Attorney Harvey Dent in the Batman film The Dark Knight—the young blond guy with the chiseled, Robert Redford good looks, who spoke calmly above the din about cleaning up crime and police corruption in “Gotham City,” the man with a plan. That would be you, sir.
We talked a couple times on the phone. After you trounced Lewis in the run-off, we had a lengthy conversation as Thanksgiving approached. Here is one of the first things you told me:
“Glad to talk to you. I just appreciate it, man. When I needed inspiration, I would read your articles about the mayor’s race.”
You also told me, in regards to the Albuquerque Police Department, that “… we’ll start our APD reforms right away” following that up with, “I’ll try to build out some of the issue areas that are important to me. In particular, the social justice concerns …”
“Thanksgiving With Mr. Keller: New mayor reflects, looks forward”, by August March in Weekly Alibi, Volume 26, Number 47, November 23, 2017:
In February of that winter, I ran into you at a heavy metal concert headlined by Anthrax. You were friendly and personable, eager to be part of the community and do some good for the city.
A REVEALING CHAT
The next time we spoke in an official sense was during the summer of 2018. There was some confusion among the press folks at your office, who had been expecting August March to call but were instead presented with an overweight, long-haired writer with a nearly-impossible-to-pronounce, traditional Hispanic name.
This telephonic encounter was plainly different from other times we had spoken. You seemed irritated that I would call you up to discuss things like leadership, empathy, Trump, and immigration. I explained that—as a progressive leader during what was surely becoming a difficult time for citizens—those people looked up to you and would be reassured by your thoughtful words on such formidable subjects.
I still haven’t decided whether you intended that as a sort of awkward flattery or you thought baring your teeth would serve as a grandly acceptable display of privilege, because after I attempted some friendly banter about the weather—hey, it seemed okay at the time, after all, we had chatted about things like Thanksgiving and rocked out at the same concert, for Chrissakes—you replied sharply, asking me:
“… what else do you want to talk about?”
I tell you, brother: I came this close to hanging up the phone upon hearing those words; my heart was so torn by your tone. At that moment, I realized you were just another politician. So I went full policy-wonk on you, asking hard questions about things that had nothing to do with any of your projects or ideas.
For the publication of the interview, I intentionally chose a press photo of you that appeared similar in tone and affect to the heroic propaganda doled out by any number of communist states during the mid-to-late 20th century.
Ironically, all that paid off and our readers wrote in to say that your words had inspired in them something called hope. You seemed like a hero to many then but, sadly, I had begun to feel otherwise. You went from resembling Gotham City D.A. Harvey Dent to more closely mirroring Two-Face.
“Keller Fights the Good Fight: Immigration policy an ethical lapse” by August March in Weekly Alibi, Volume 27, Number 26, June 28, 2018:
At the end of that year, you stopped by for another formal interview. Beforehand, you mentioned a fancy electric guitar that a notable rock musician let you borrow. You intimated that you would stop by sometime so that I could check it out and play the thing for myself. Recalling our previous encounter, I had to excuse myself for a moment, stepping out into the hallway to stifle a hearty laugh.
Then, the interview commenced. We spoke about your accomplishments and your vision for the future of Albuquerque. Among the things you told me—and thousands of readers, voters and citizens—was this gem regarding the evolution of the Albuquerque Police Department:
“Our administration is fully on board with the reforms and so is the leadership over at APD.”
We also touched on the city’s homelessness problem and agreed that it was a complex issue driven by endemic poverty, addiction and the ill-considered dismantling of the state behavioral health system during the administration of La Tejana Susana Martinez. Speaking about your plans for a long-term solution, including new shelters and services, you said this:
“I don’t want another year to go by with no place for folks to go.”
Your final comments from this encounter were telling, comrade. They began with this statement:
“We’ve got a sort of sober optimism. We believe the road is long ahead and there will be challenges. But we are going to address them in all their complexity.”
That road has certainly been long and arduous, but I don’t believe that you and your administration have addressed those issues in all their complexity. Instead, you seem more focused on getting a new soccer stadium built.
“Year One: Keller on the long road to Burque” by August March in Weekly Alibi, Volume 27, Number 50, December 13, 2018:
COUNTDOWN TO PANDEMIC
At the end of 2019, right before winter came calling and just three months before a global pandemic plunged us all into chaos, I walked over to City Hall to meet with you. I was amazed to see a huge painting by my dear old professor John Wenger hanging in your office reception area. When you pointed out a framed clipping of one of my columns in your work area, I was pleased—not because you hung it up, but because it was presented alongside a painting created by a man whose art continues to deeply influence my own artistic output.
Anyway, this time the focus was once again on crime and homelessness. And you seemed relaxed, too, telling me that:
“We’re really working and are coordinating with all local agencies to get chronically violent criminals off the street.”
You closed with this comment about the city police and your administration’s reform efforts:
“You can feel the change [in culture] when you meet officers. They are now more confident and comfortable because they know the rules and understand our community a lot better.”
“Metal Mayor Makes Progress: Accomplishments, challenges and advances”, by August March in Weekly Alibi, Volume 28, Number 51, December 19, 2019:
Folks who read the resulting article commented that I had gone too easy on you. And I had—perhaps it was the proximity of that dang painting by Wenger, which had me imagining the city and all its people as magical entities, brightly colored and moving forward with gestural grandeur. My bad.
After that, the pandemic came, washing much away. Crime and homelessness became more pronounced as a consequence. But, rather than addressing these complex issues in a comprehensive manner, you have advocated for a new sports stadium, fired the police chief you hand-picked to bring reform to APD, and advanced the careers of a multitude of millennials at the expense of older, more experienced workers and job seekers here in the city.
TREAT THOSE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED
Mayor Keller, here’s a personal anecdote, presented near the close of this open letter. We haven’t spoken for almost two years now. As a mayor who touts concern for his constituents’ wellness, I am sure you’d like to know what I’ve been up to since we last talked, at least that is what I hope.
The pandemic came and the newspaper that I spent years working on—that you apparently read at some point with marked enthusiasm—disappeared forever from the local media landscape. My wife and I struggled profoundly in the interim but have so far survived the pandemic.
When the skies began to clear, back in spring 2021, I sought employment at the City of Albuquerque and a number of other local organizations. I applied for more than a few jobs with the city and landed exactly two interviews for positions in city departments. Although I still had the personal contact numbers for you and your handlers, I never considered attempting to contact you to ask for help getting a job with the city. I figured my resume would speak for itself and felt that contacting you for help would be inappropriate. Besides, I have always gained employment based on my professional experience and qualifications—without pulling any strings—so why would I start now?
I went through the same formal application and interview processes that any citizen would, never expecting any special treatment or recognition. Both times, I was treated like a dunsel by your staff and administration.
At the first interview, for a Public Information Officer (PIO) position in your office, your communications director came to the Zoom interview dressed for hiking or fishing, complete with hat, Columbia-brand vest and utility shorts. He only asked a couple basic questions before turning the interview over to an administrator who rambled on and on for half an hour before I realized that I would need to end the interview, which was very awkward.
Two days later, your scheduler called to tell me that you wanted to talk to me. I thought I had gotten the job, but that call was followed by an official notification from the city personnel office, telling me that I had not gotten the job. Baffled, I reached out to your administration to find out what was going on. No one that I spoke with knew why you had wanted to chat with me.
I didn’t get the job, after all. The people at the city’s Human Resources department told me that you have to do things your way. Someone else in your office believed you wanted to discuss “other opportunities” with me. I never found out what those opportunities were. I felt that your administrators and staffers were overstepping the bounds of accepted human resources best practices, so I canceled that meeting with you.
The second interview, at the city’s Aviation Department, went even worse. I felt I was being laughed at by two of your public relations people. They treated me in a condescending, disrespectful way. I sensed that their treatment of me had a lot to do with my age. It became clear to me they did not take me at my word about my experience. I have no doubt that my work experience far exceeded theirs, not simply because of their own ages but based on their painfully obvious immaturity.
My concerns about age discrimination and a lack of traditional Human Resources Department boundaries were strengthened when I read an article about a “whistleblower lawsuit” filed against you and your top administrators by a terminated Deputy Human Resources Director. That lawsuit maintains that this former HR director was repeatedly directed to hire “preselected people,” to “fabricate reasons for reassigning others” and to give preferential treatment to “millennial” job candidates and “friends and allies” of yourself and your executive management team. The lawsuit charges that your top managers manipulated city hiring and personnel processes, using that former deputy director to do their bidding, then firing her for raising concerns. She also claims she was fired for reporting these concerns to various parties in our city government, including the Office of the Inspector General and the city attorney.
The link to the full Albuquerque Journal article is here:
MAKING IT CLEAR
Mayor Keller, I want to make something absolutely clear to you. I do not expect—nor do I want—any favors from you. This is not about sour grapes. It’s about the way you treat others and your sense of entitlement to the job of mayor that is bothersome. The purpose of this open letter is to remind you of what you said to me about decency, transparency, and ethics.
Over the past few years, I certainly expected better from you, your Human Resources Department and the people who work directly for you. If you are re-elected, I sincerely hope that you and your administration learn to treat the working class of this burg with the dignity and respect that we deserve.
“Labor Day Guest Column by Rudolfo Carrillo: Something To Be: A Labor Day Reminiscence” by Rudolfo Carrillo at PeteDinelli.com, September 6, 2021:
CHANGES IN ATTITUDE, CHANGES IN JOBS
Today, I am working as a cook. It’s a job that I really like. Who knows, it may even become a management position for me. I’m making food that nourishes people. It’s hard but good work. After a couple months, I have regained the physical strength and endurance that allowed me to navigate the Annapurna Circuit without a guide in the fall of 1996. I also cut my hair. The people who I work with wonder if I’m in a witness protection program because I’m burly now, wear aviator frames and, according to them, I’m not like anyone else that they’ve ever met while working in a kitchen.
Now, I’m in almost as good shape as I was when I was a Boy Scout—I made it to Life Scout, Tim, and I still take that stuff about being prepared, kind, and civically engaged very seriously. When I mentioned my new occupation to one of my former colleagues, she nearly jumped out of her chair, amazed and asking what the heck happened to me. She said I ought to apply for some writing or communications positions or even a job at City Hall! Been there, done that. I told her that I gladly accepted my fate and laughed the same laugh I held back when you told me about the fancy guitar.
I have considered the totality of my experience with you, from your humble and precious private inauguration to the laughably indecent treatment I later received from your handlers. Finally, I recall that another colleague once told me you said you wanted to be mayor because it would be “really neat to be Mayor of my hometown” and that you’ve said you wanted to be mayor since you were in sixth grade. It is cool to get a job you’ve always wanted; I’ve always wanted to work as a cook, which is what I am now, and I enjoy it immensely.
What is not cool is your sense of entitlement to the job of mayor; that bothers me the most and my concerns are shared by more than a few of your constituents. For someone who was born and raised here, you’ve shown very little empathy or understanding of the major issues currently facing this city, perhaps thinking that your public relations acumen is an adequate substitute for all those broken promises.
Come Nov. 2, I will settle down to vote and will then, and only then, decide whether you actually deserve to be reelected to a second term as this city’s leader. After that, I will probably make at least 50 pizzas while listening to Bleach by Nirvana. I always dug that album’s final track, “Big Cheese”—hey, it may not be metal, Mr. Mayor, but sometimes proletariat punk is better.
Links to other guest columns by Rudolfo Carrillo are here: