After the December 7 City Council runoff election, the city council was split 5 Democrats to 4 Republicans as follows:
District 1 Conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Isaac Benton
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Pat Davis
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn
District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Moderate Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Trudy Jones
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout
Four years ago, and after serving two terms on the city council, Republican District 5 City Councilor Dan Lewis left the city council to run for Mayor. 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. Four years ago, Lewis was replaced by Democrat Cynthia Borrego who Lewis defeated on November 2, 2021 to return to the city council for a third term.
MAJOR TEST FOR DEMOCRAT MAJORITY
The election for a new Albuquerque City Council President and Vice President occurred on Monday, January 10. It was the very first meeting of the new year for the new City Council. The council president appoints all committee chairs. When the votes were taken, and to the surprise of many, progressive Democrat City Councilor Isaac Benton emerged as the new City Council President. Conservative Republican Dan Lewis, nemesis to Mayor Tim Keller, was elected Vice President. It was also announced that moderate conservative Republican Brook Bassan was appointed Chair of the “Committee of the Whole” which is considered the most powerful city council committee in that it presides over the city’s budget process.
The final vote to elect Isaac Benton as the new city council President was 6 to 3 with Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Pena, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Republicans Brook Bassan and Trudy Jones voting for Benson. Those voting for Dan Lewis for city council President were Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout and Conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez.
The votes for City Council President and Vice President were considered by many city hall observers as the first major test of whether or not the Progressive Democrats could hold onto a governing majority on a city council that has increasingly become more and more partisan and is now far more conservative after the November 2 elections. After his win on November 2, Republican Dan Lewis made it known that he intended to be the next City Council President. Lewis also made it known he intended to aggressively question Democrat Tim Keller’s department directors, including APD management and Mayor Keller’s representatives in person to hold them “accountable”. Lewis has already made it known to his supporters he intends to run for Mayor again in 2025 and use his city council seat as a springboard to the Mayor’s Office like he tried to do 4 years ago.
Confidential sources have confirmed that Lewis repeatedly talked with Isaac Benton to cut a deal where Lewis would be elected city council president and that Lewis would then appoint Benton Chairman of the Committee of the Whole and Finance Chairman. Lewis needed Benton’s vote in that he has a less than friendly relationship with his fellow Republican Brook Basaan.
LEWIS BEGINS HIS 4 YEAR OBSTRUCTIONIST AGENDA
After losing the vote to become City Council President, Dan Lew introduced 4 separate resolutions outlining what he intends to pursue in the coming few months. Those resolutions are:
1. Repeal the 3/8 of 1% gross receipts tax enacted 4 years ago. The city council enacted a 3/8 of 1% gross receipts tax four years ago on an 8-1 bipartisan city council vote. Lewis is proclaiming it’s a financial crutch the city does not need and reversal would put money “back into the pockets of hard-working Albuquerque citizens.” The enacted 2021 – 2022 city budget projects that the tax will generate $53.6 million this fiscal year. When originally enacted, the city was facing a $40 million dollar deficit and large cuts in essential services. Keller signed the tax increase despite his promise not to raise taxes without a public vote, even for public safety. The legislation initially required 60% of the proceeds to fund public safety and that requirement expired two years ago. Keller’s office, however, said money still goes to those efforts.
2. Bar the city from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for the municipal government workforce. Lewis says the bill answers concerns he has heard from police officers and firefighters about a potential vaccine requirement. Lewis claims he has been vaccinated himself but said he has a “big issue” with mandating them for city workers. According to Lewis “Many of them I know said they would quit[with mandated vaccines].” Lewis did not disclose if the oil distribution company he works for mandates vaccinations, if he threatened to quite if forced to get vaccinated or if he decided to get vaccinated to avoid termination.
It is well settled law that employers can mandate vaccinations as a condition of employment. The city is no different and could order all city hall employees to get vaccinated as a condition of continued employment. The city is preparing for a January 21, 2022 deadline that will mandate all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing for the virus under federal OSHA requirements. The city has over 6,000 employees that would be affected by the federal mandate. The OSHA mandate is being challenge in the United States Supreme Court with arguments heard by the US Supreme Court. Preliminary news reports are saying the conservative Supreme Court majority will strike the mandate down. As the US Supreme Court has yet to decide on an outcome, the city is continuing to move forward with the vaccination or testing mandates.
3. Repeal or limit mayoral authority during a public health emergency. The resolution would revoke most of the mayoral public health emergency authority the City Council added at the onset of the pandemic. In March 2020, the city council created a new “public health” category in the emergency powers ordinance, allowing the mayor to take actions like closing places of mass assembly and ordering retailers to limit the sale of certain items on a per-person-per-day basis. Under Lewis’ rewrite, the mayor can still proclaim a public health emergency but is limited to issuing public health “advisories or recommendations” thereby essentially gutting the Mayor’s authority during a health crises such and the pandemic.
4. Direct the city administration to consider and “to the extent advisable,” push to renegotiate the terms of the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA). The settlement mandates 271 reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). The settlement was entered into on November 14, 2014 after a Department of Justice investigation found that APD engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force and deadly force and had a “culture of aggression.”
The Lewis DOJ city council resolution cites U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s 2021 guidelines for federal court appointed monitors that local and state governments pay to oversee federally-mandated police reforms. Garland recommends that agreements limit monitor fees and that a termination process occur after 5 years. While new rules do not apply to existing agreements like Albuquerque’s, the Lewis resolution directs the city to review the new guidelines anyway. Ostensibly, Lewis does not know that the City and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have already announced they were reviewing the guidelines. The Lewis resolution also calls for petitioning to reopen the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) to address Garland’s recommendations “regarding capping independent monitor fees and assessing termination of monitors after no more than five years.” Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger has overseen the Albuquerque Police Department since 2015. APD continues to struggle with implementing the reforms.
According to Lewis, the 4 bills address important community concerns and he had this to say:
“I want them to go through the process. … I fully expect the councilors and the administration to take a good, hard look at these bills to understand them and to consider the outcomes and certainly to listen to the public.”
The link to news source material is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Like it or not, the tone of the new city council is more conservative with DINO City Councilor Louis Sanchez and conservative Republicans Dan Lewis and Rene Grout showing their willingness to take on and get in the face of Mayor Tim Keller to obstruct where they can under the guise of holding him accountable as Dan Lewis begins a 4 year quest to become mayor.
DISTRICT 1 “DINO” LOUIS SANCHEZ
Newly elected Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez became a “Democrat In Name Only” when he cast his vote Dan Lewis for city council president. The one vote for city council president clearly revealed exactly what kind of a Democrat Louis Sanchez really is, including thinking he is the swing vote on the city council. Least anyone forget Councilor Louis Sanchez made a big stink that he should not have to wait until January 1, 2021 to join the city council. He 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 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.
The link to the editorial is here:
Louis Sanchez was not satisfied with just winning his election over Lan Sena. What Louis Sanchez wanted to do is humiliate Lan Sean and force her off the council over his imaginary right of entitlement that he should be sworn into office before his term begins. Confidential City Hall sources 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.
DINO Sanchez appears to have had a rude awakening finding out the Republican Brook Bassan is emerging as the swing vote. She has shown herself more than capable of working with the Keller Administration, as was the case when she agreed with Keller on the passage of a gross receipts tax bond that failed to secure the required 6 votes. Should Sanchez decide to throw his support to Republican causes, and should he have higher ambitions, including running for Mayor or County Commission, he might as well change his party affiliation to Republican now and not pretend he is a Democrat. Sheriff Manny Gonzales landslide loss to Mayor Tim Keller is proof that pretending to be a Democrat in a Democrat City gets you no where fast.
DISTRICT 9 REPUBLICAN RENEE GROUT
District 9 Conservative Republican City Council Renee Grout, who replaced Conservative Republican Don Harris, had this to say about the new city council before she was sworn in:
“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 said she would 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.
The reason why the political hit piece is so important now that Renee Grout has been sworn in as the new District 9 City Councilor is the political promise to her supporters she made at events. Grout promised that she would introduce a resolution calling for the repeal of the “sanctuary city”. Demands are already being made by her constituents to see the legislation she intends to introduce but she has yet to produce even a rough draft of the legislation. 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.
OBSTRUCTIONIST AGENDA WAS PREDICTED
On December 31,2021, the blog article entitled “Red Flags” Of Confrontation Emerge Against Mayor Tim Keller With 4 New Council Members To Be Sworn In On Jan. 1st; Election Of Democrat Or Republican City Council President, Vice President Will Set Tone Of Cooperation Or Confrontation”. The article predicted major issues that Dan Lewis and Renee Grout are no doubt champing at the bit to oppose Mayor Keller in an attempt to be disruptive. All 4 of the new Lewis resolutions were predicted by the blog article. Those issues listed in the blog article, with the issues rearranged by the editor for this article, are as follows:
1. Oppose any and all increases in the gross receipts taxes or property taxes to fund city essential services even when deficits occur. One Lewis Resolution introduced calls for the repeal the 3/8 of 1% gross receipts tax the city council implemented four years ago on an 8-1 bipartisan city council vote.
2. 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. One Lewis Resolutions introduced calls for the repeal or limit mayoral authority during a public health emergency. A second Lewis resolution introduced bars the city from mandating COVID-19 vaccines for the municipal government workforce.
3. Opposition to the Department of Justice mandated police reforms. One Lewis Resolution introduced directs the city administration to consider and “to the extent advisable” push to renegotiate the terms of the federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
4. Opposition to any mandatory sick leave ordinances for the private sector.
5. Repeal of the city’s immigration friendly policy that Lewis and Grout falsely label as sanctuary city.
6. 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 provider corporation such as Planned Parenthood that offers late term abortions. Without a license to do business, the city planning department could order the closure of the business.
7. Opposition to or perhaps repeal of the city’s minimum wage ordinance.
8. Reduction in social service programs to help the homeless and the poor, including a scaling back of the Gateway Homeless shelter operations.
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.
With the introduction of his fist 4 resolutions at the very first meeting of the newly elected city council, Dan Lewis has made it clear he intends to be as disruptive as possible on the city council. Only time will tell if the city council conservative 3 stooges of Lewis, Grout and Sanchez will call for the other predicted obstructionist’s resolutions. Dan Lewis is nothing more than a pathetic Republican Party political schill and operative with an axe to grins in an election year hell bent on being divisive on the city council as possible so he can run for Mayor again in 4 years.
Lewis with his words and conduct make it very clear he has no desire to work with Tim Keller, so why should Keller even bother to try. Keller should make it known that he will veto the four resolutions introduced to send a clear and unambiguous message to Lewis.