On Saturday, January 1, 2022, along with Mayor Tim Keller, four new Albuquerque City Councilors will be sworn into office making it the single largest city council transition in the last 20 years.
It was in 2001 that 5 new city councilors were sworn into office. Those Councilors were Democrats Michael Cadigan, Eric Griego, Miguel Gomez, and Republicans Sally Mayer and Tina Cummins. This year, the City Council went from a 6-3 majority Democrat to a 5-4 majority Democrat.
The 2022 new council is far more conservative as a result of the departures of progressive Democrats Lan Sena and Diane Gibson. The 4 new city councilors who will be taking their oaths of office on January 1, 2022 are:
District 1 Louis Sanchez, conservative Democrat
District 5 Dan Lewis, Conservative Republican
District 7 Tammy Fiebelkorn, Progressive Democrat
District 9 Renee Grout, Conservative Republican
The councilors they will be joining on the 9 member council are:
District 2 Isaac Benton, Progressive Democrat
District 3 Klarissa Peña, Moderate Democrat
District 4 Brook Bassan, Conservative Republican
District 6 Pat Davis, Progressive Democrat
District 8 Trudy Jones, Conservative Republican
Two current city councilors and one newly elected city councilor commented about the changes and what it means to the 9-member city council.
Longest serving and Progressive Democrat City Councilor Isaac Benton declined to characterize the incoming council as more “conservative ”. Instead, he describes it as “independent-thinking” and had this to say:
“[Independent thinking] … might be a good thing right now. … It’s a big reset. … It will be more different than any other transition than I can remember, and everyone has to get used to each other.”
Northeast Heights Conservative Republican Trudy Jones, who has been in office for 14 years, said she is looking forward to the new city council turnover and said this:
“I think it will be a council that is more thoughtful about their legislation rather than just following their leaders. … It’s always beneficial to a council to have some new blood and new vision – people seeing the good and the bad of how things are running and perhaps some great new ideas. … I’m very optimistic about it.”
Newly elected Progressive Democrat District 7 City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn had this to say:
“I’m really heartened by the conversations I’ve had with [other councilors] on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from me politically. … We’re finding overlap and areas of interest we can agree on. … Talk to me again in three months and see if I’m still saying that.”
Fiebelkorn said she would spend her first month working to secure capital outlay funds from the Legislature and getting to know her peers better. She said she is taking office with “full confidence” in city leaders’ ability to come together to make Albuquerque a better place.
MAYOR TIM KELLER REACTS TO NEW CITY COUNCIL
Progressive Democratic Mayor Tim Keller for his part said he has a history of working with people across party lines both as a State Senator for 6 years and as New Mexico State Auditor for a year and a half and had this to say in a statement:
“This council will be no different just because the rhetoric and partisan landscape may have changed. … What it comes down to is this: we all got elected this cycle to work on our city’s challenges, not to point fingers or play the accountability blame game; we need proactive ideas and solutions to our problems. As long as the new Councilors follow that mandate from voters, we are going to have [a] great relationship.”
The link to news quotes is here:
During the January 1, 2022 swearing in ceremony, Mayor Keller told the 4 new City Councilors:
“For the new Councilors, you are ABQ’s newest politicians whether you like that label or not. Now you’re in the crosshairs of accountability for results. It’s time to move forward, to put the election, the negativity, the talking points and the partisanship behind us, it’s time to govern. Here’s the thing about a governing, it takes commitment to real results, real progress; and all of that, takes real work.”
The YOU TUBE link to the swearing in ceremony is here:
CITY COUNCIL RESISTANCE TO MAYOR TIM KELLER ALREADY SURFACING
Notwithstanding all the optimism expressed by 3 city councilors about the new city council, at least another 3 city councilors who will be be sworn in are already making it known things are about to change dramatically for Mayor Tim Keller.
DISTRICT 1 CONSERATVE DEMOCRAT LOUIS SANCHEZ DEMANDS TERMINATIONS
On November 2, 2021, conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez defeated progressive Democrat incumbent Lan Sena, who was appointed by Mayor Tim Keller to fill the vacancy and complete the term of long-time west side City Councilor Ken Sanchez who died on January 1, 2021. On November 15, a $110 million bond proposal resolution was formally introduced to the City Council and sponsored by outgoing progressive Democrat Incumbent Lan Sena.
Soon after the $110 million bond proposal was introduced, City Councilor Elect Louis Sanchez began to made a big stink that he should not have to wait until January 1, 2021 to join the city council. He demanded that he should be sworn immediately replacing Lan Sena so that he could participate in the December 6 city council meeting on the $110 bond package and saying the new 4 incoming councilors should be involved in such significant actions and said:
“This is a great deal of money. … It’s a big decision, and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be rushed.”
Sanchez went so far as to threaten to file a civil lawsuit, did news interviews and was interviewed on the Bob Clark morning radio program. Clark is decisively a right-wing Republican. Sanchez was no doubt emboldened when the Albuquerque Journal editorialized that he should file a lawsuit and get a definitive court ruling on the issue if he should be sworn into office immediately. The link to the editorial is here:
Confidential City Hall sources have confirmed that City Councilor elect Louis Sanchez met with Mayor Tim Keller in the Mayor’s Office and a verbal confrontation occurred wherein Sanchez demanded that City Attorney Esteban Aguilar and City Clerk Ethan Watson both be fired over their refusal to swear him in as the new City Council for District 1. According to confidential sources, Keller declined to terminate them. Sanchez told Mayor Keller that he intended not to vote to confirm either of them if they were not fired.
DISTRICT 5 DAN LEWIS “RETREAD EXTODINARE” INTENDS TO BE DISRUPTIVE TO RUN FOR MAYOR IN 2025
District 9 Conservative Republican City Councilor elect and “retread extraordinaire” Dan Lewis previously served two terms on the City Council from 2009 to 2017. On November 2, Lewis defeated incumbent Democrat Cynthia Borrego who had replaced him 4 years ago.
Lewis ran unsuccessfully for Mayor against Tim Keller in 2017. Keller won the 2017 runoff by a decisive landslide by securing 60,219 votes or 62.20% against Dan Lewis who secured 36,594 or 37.8% of the vote.
LEWIS RESORTED TO FALSE AND MALICIOUS ATTACKS TO RETURN TO COUNCIL
A few days before the November 2 election day, Republican Dan Lewis authorized Mc Clesky Media Strategies to send out a political hit piece mailer against Incumbent City Councilor Cynthia Borrego. The hit piece is a major “red flag” as to what Dan Lewis intends to do once he is sworn in as city council. The flyer reflects to what lengths Lewis is willing to go to win a political dispute. For that reason, the hit piece merits review and is a prediction what Lewis intends to do once sworn into office.
The political hit piece arrived on November 1, the day before election day. The hit piece was replete with lies and innuendo. Borrego did not have the time nor funding to respond. The mailer states in bold black letters that Borrego “Supports Sanctuary City” and says “Borrego voted to pass Sanctuary City policy that protects illegal immigrants who commit crime even for rape and murder.” These statements are absolute lies by Dan Lewis, this coming from someone who professes to be a Christian Pastor.
There is no such sanctuary city policy “that protects illegal immigrants who commit crime even for rape and murder.” Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city” and it’s not at all likely it is ever going to be one. The truth is that in 2001, a full 10 years before Borrego became a city councilor, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a resolution that declared Albuquerque an “immigrant-friendly” city. The “immigrant-friendly” resolution is symbolic and was sponsored by then-Republican City Councilor Hess Yntema, whose wife is a naturalized United States citizen from Columbia.
On the other side of the flyer Dan Lewis proclaims he will “Fight crime by ending “Catch and Release” of criminals from jail. This too is another Lewis lie in that the City Council has no control over the criminal justice system, let alone the jails and the courts. This is the very same “bullshit” promise Lewis made when he ran for Mayor 4 years ago and threatened to plaster judges faces on billboards to supposedly hold them accountable for failure to hold those charged with a crime until trial.
LEWIS STAMEMENTS MADE AFTER ELECTED
Actions and statements made by Lewis after he was elected on November 2 also reveal “red flags” on what he will be doing once sworn in.
On November 17, it was reported that City Councilor elect Republican Dan Lewis, strenuously object to the outgoing city council considering and voting on $110 million in general obligation bonds with a mere few weeks left in the year. Lewis said at the time:
“Four city councilors who would make a decision on this won’t even be here in January. … For that reason alone we need to deal with this with a new council in January.”
On November 23 New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan reported that backers of Lewis who have spoken with him said he “will demand accountability” from the administration and shake up the council which they say “has been a joke.” Lewis has said he is in the running to be the next city council president. Lewis has said once he becomes City Council President, he will end all Zoom meetings started at the beginning of the pandemic and that he intends to aggressively question Keller’s department directors, including APD management and Mayor Keller’s representatives in person. Lewis is also making it know that he intends to run for Mayor again in 2025.
Lewis told www.PeteDinelli.com after he was elected “you better believe that this mayor will be accountable now” essentially saying he intends to be as disruptive as possible over the next four years.
DISTRICT 9 REPUBLICAN RENEE GROUT AND THE LIES SHE PROMOTES
District 9 Conservative Republican City Council Renee Grout, who replaced Conservative Republican Don Harris, had this to say about the new city council she is about to become a part of:
“There’s going to be more checks and balances [with the new council members. Mayor Keller’s] unchecked power is going to be different.”
Grout has said she will use her early days in office to research, ask questions and listen. This coming from a liar and the lies she told her constituents along with a promise made to get elected.
On December 1, Republican Renee Grout mailed out a false “hit piece” campaign mailer against her opponent Democrat Rob Grilley. The political hit piece proclaimed:
“Grilley supports Sanctuary City that protects violent criminals . … Rob Grilley supports Sanctuary City policy that forces police to hide illegal immigrants from federal authorities, even if they commit crimes like rape or murder! In bold, bright red letters appear the words: “Protecting Violent Criminals.”
Below these words appears the following text:
“Jaqueline Vigil, a mother of two New Mexico Police Officers, was murdered by Luis Talamantes-Romero, an illegal immigrant with a lengthy criminal history. Vigil’s killer should have been deported before, but the city’s sanctuary city policy forced police to hide him from immigration officials.”
The political hit piece attacking Democrat Rob Grilley was simply a pack of lies told by Republican Renee Grout who resorted to fear tactics and misinformation to distract voters. Simply put, Albuquerque has never been a “sanctuary city” and it’s not likely it is ever going to be one. The truth is that in 2001, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a resolution that declared Albuquerque an “immigrant-friendly” city. The resolution was sponsored by then-Republican City Councilor Hess Yntema, whose wife is a naturalized United States citizen from Columbia.
An “immigrant-friendly” city implements “welcoming city” policies and does not provide for city enforcement of federal immigration laws, and addresses only city services, including licensing and housing. The focus is to create inclusive, immigrant-friendly, and welcoming policies. Albuquerque’s “immigrant-friendly” designation welcomes immigrants to the city and is mainly symbolic.
The accusation in the flyer “Vigil’s killer should have been deported before, but the city’s sanctuary city policy forced police to hide him from immigration officials” is the most glaring lie. When the murder occurred, it was first believed to have been a retaliation killing against Vigils’ two state police officer sons. APD did NOT “hide her killer from immigration officials” because APD had no idea who her killer was, and a search had begun while APD was investigating the murder.
What the investigation found is that the killer was “casing” homes at 5:30 am in the area, he came upon Jaqueline Vigil pulling out of her driveway to go to the gym and he shot her. The truth is Jaqueline Vigil’s killer had already been deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) a few months before the killing.
WHY IT MATTERS
The reason why the political hit piece is so important now before Renee Grout is even sworn in as the new District 9 City Councilor is that she made a political promise to her supporters at events. Grout promised that she would introduce a resolution calling for the repeal of the “sanctuary city”. Demands are already being made by constituents to see the legislation she intends to introduce but to no avail. Renee Grout is keeping her constituents waiting while she proclaims there will be more “checks and balances” on Mayor Keller. Then there is the matter of Renee Grout faced with the very embarrassing fact that she wants to repeal a nonexistent “sanctuary city” resolution.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The election for a new City Council President and Vice President will be held at the very first meeting of the City Council to be held January 18, 2022. The council president appoints all committee chairs. When the votes are taken on City Council President and Vice President, it will set the tone for at least the next 2 years.
Like it or not, the tone of the new city council will be more conservative with City Councilors Louis Sanchez, Dan Lewis and Rene Grout already showing their willingness to take on and get in the face of Mayor Tim Keller and to obstruct where they can under the guise of holding him accountable.
The challenges the new City Council face are very formidable and include:
1. Historical highs in violent crime rates and murder rates
2. Increasing homeless numbers
3. An ever deteriorating and spiraling out of control Albuquerque Police Department (APD)
4. A failure to implement the 271 mandated reforms of the Deaprment of Justice settlement agreement
5. The continuous problems posed by the pandemic
During the first year under the new city council, you can expect any number of initiatives and votes to setback progressive programs and policies promoted by Mayor Tim Keller over the last 4 years. Major issues that Dan Lewis an Renee Grout are no doubt champing at the bit to oppose Mayor Keller on include:
1.Repeal of the city’s immigration friendly policy that Lewis and Grout falsely label as sanctuary city.
2.Advocacy of late term abortion prohibitions as was placed on the 2013 municipal ballot and which failed. Should Roe v. Wade in fact be overturned by the United States Supreme Court, which is expected in June, it is more likely than not right wing Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout will seek to have abortions outlawed within the city by declaring no licenses to do business within the city shall be issued to any health care corporation provider that offers late term abortions.
3. Opposition to or perhaps repeal of the city’s minimum wage ordinance.
4. Opposition to any mandatory sick leave ordinances for the private sector.
5. Oppose enforcement by Mayor Keller of emergency health care orders for the Corona Virus Pandemic, including opposing any and all-mask mandates and opposing mandatory covid vaccinations of city employees.
6. Reduction in social service programs to help the homeless and the poor, including a scaling back of the Gateway Homeless shelter operations.
7. Opposition to the Department of Justice mandated police reforms.
8. Oppose any and all increases in the gross receipts taxes or property taxes to fund city essential services even when deficits occur.
9. Advocate the reduction in the size of city government and eliminate new departments and programs created by Mayor Keller by denying funding for such Departments as the “Office of Equity and Inclusion” that deals with immigrant relations.
10. Advocacy of increased criminal penalties as part of the city’s legislative package and bail bond reform measures.
MAYOR TIM KELLER
It is very difficult take Mayor Tim Keller serious when he says “…we all got elected this cycle to work on our city’s challenges, not to point fingers or play the accountability blame game”. It was also difficult to keep from laughing out loud On January 1 when Keller told the 4 new city councilors during the city inauguration ceremony “Here’s the thing about a governing, it takes commitment to real results, real progress; and all of that, takes real work.” These words coming from a Mayor who was first elected 4 years ago based upon his inflated public relations reputation as State Auditor and supposedly holding people accountable for “waste, fraud and abuse” by pointing fingers and playing the “blame game” himself to discredit people. These words coming from a mayor who during his first term got away with not being held accountable for breaking promise, after promise, after promise such as not raising taxes without a public vote, failing to increase APD staffing to 1,200 sworn police, failing to implement the DOJ consent decree reforms, and failing to bring down the city’s high violent crime rates and murder rates as he promised. During the last 4 years, Keller perfected the “accountability blame game”, especially blaming the city’s high crime and murder rates on the DOJ reforms and a national trend not to mention blaming his first appointed Chief of Police Michael Geier for APD’s failure to implement the reforms and firing Geier for it.
Mayor Keller’s claim of having a reputation of working with people across party lines and working and getting along with other elected officials is dubious at best. During his first year in office, he vetoed the “Top Golf” economic development funding allocated by the city council, and the council immediately overturn the veto despite being controlled by Democrats. It is well known at city hall that during the last four years, Keller has engaged in petty bickering politics with city councilors, including Progressive Democrats Pat Davis and Diane Gibson. Keller is well known for “snubbing” city councilors to the point of not inviting them to press conferences to announce initiatives held in their districts so that he can take all the credit. Things got so bad between City Councilor Diane Gibson and Mayor Keller that Gibson supported Sheriff Manny Gonzales for Mayor.
Keller said repeatedly when he ran for whatever office he was running for at the time how he would “take on the status quo” . Taking on the status quo was usually democrats. Keller’s former NM Senate colleagues would often complain behind his back about his “grandstanding” ways to seek higher office and his lack of interest in the State Senate process even after they elected him majority whip.
Keller has said that the biggest accomplishment he is the most proudest of as a State Senator is the naming of his Senate District the “International District” and claiming he cleaned up the area and it was no longer the “War Zone”. The truth is that it was under Mayor Marty Chavez that significant progress was made with nuisance abatement actions that cleaned up the area of crime, getting rid of violent bars such as the Blue Spruce and the Last Chance Bar and Grill. After he was elected NM State Auditor, Keller could not move fast enough out of his Senate District and move into the Albuquerque Country Club area. It is ironic now that after Keller became mayor, the International District has once gain become a “War Zone” and violent crime, drug abuse, property crime and murders have spiked in the area even worse than it was 15 years ago when Keller was the State Senator for the area.
RUNNING FOR A THIRD TERM?
Mayor Keller’s penchant for political opportunism and his eyes on much higher office is well known amongst political observers. When he ran for State Senate the first time, he moved into the Senate District to oppose long serving Democratic State Senator Shannon Robinson. After being elected to a second term as State Senator, he immediately ran for New Mexico State Auditor. Keller was elected to a four year term but during his first year as State Auditor, Keller announced he was running for Mayor. Once elected Mayor, Keller resigned having served less that half of his State Auditor term. Republican and former County Commissioner Wayne Johnson, who also ran against Keller for Mayor, was appointed to replace Keller as auditor. Brian Colon, who also ran against Keller for Mayor, later ran against Wayne Johnson and prevailed to become State Auditor. Colon is now running for New Mexico Attorney General.
Keller has said in the past he wants to serve two terms as Mayor and then run for Governor and could run in 4 years to replace Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, if she is elected to a second term in 2022. However, there are no term limitation for the office of Albuquerque Mayor.
There is one farfetched development that is already emerging from reliable sources. According to confidential sources, within a month after his landslide victory over Sheriff Manny Gonzales and Eddy Aragon, a person told Keller they were interested in running for Mayor in 2025. Keller quickly attempted to discouraged that person form doing so. According to the source, Keller said he intends to run for another term as Mayor in 2025. According to the source, Keller said he would announce sometime in 2023 believing the significant amount of federal monies the city will receive from the 2 trillion “Build Back America” bill will go a long way to allow him to take credit for infrastructure and get elected by another landslide.
During his first term as Mayor, Tim Keller had absolutely very little or no head winds getting the Albuquerque City council to go along with what he wanted. That is all about to change. Councilor Elect Louis Sanchez no doubt thinks is he is now the swing vote that can make or break Mayor Tim Keller’s progressive agenda. Keller will also have as a nemesis Dan Lewis, who has an axe to grind from 4 years ago, assisted by Renee Grout to do whatever they can to obstruct Keller’s progressive agenda.
Now that it has been determined that the City Council remains a 5-4 Democratic Majority, the biggest test for virtually all 5 of the Democrats is if they retain a working majority. 2022 is a mid-term election year where the Governor, the Attorney General the Secretary of State, all state house members as well as the State’s 3 congressional members are up for reelection. Should a Republican like Dan Lewis be elected City Council President, you can expect them to somehow try and exert influence over the midterms and push controversial policies like repealing sanctuary city, making abortions illegal, oppose pandemic restrictions and oppose mandatory vaccinations of city employees.
The argument that the City Council is nonpartisan, that it does not matter what party the President and the Vice President, is as bogus as it gets given the thousands raised and spent by measured finance committees to get the Republicans elected and to defeat Democrats. The votes for City Council President and Vice President will reveal exactly just what kind of a Democrats they really are or if they Democrats in Name Only (DINO).
Links to related blog articles are here:
$2.64 Million Paid In 2020 Senate Campaign and $450,734 Paid In 2021 ABQ Municipal Election to “McClesky Media Strategies”; McClesky Knows How To “Smear” Candidate Reputations And The Meaning Of “To The Victor Goes The Spoils”; McClesky Forced To Pay $375,000 For Defamation
Hypocrite Dan Lewis Objects To 4 Outgoing City Councilors Doing What He Did 4 Years Ago; “All That Crap” Nobody Reads And Getting “Your Ass Kicked”; Expect 4 Years Of Lewis Hypocrisy As Lewis Runs For Mayor In 2025