On May 16, 2023, the online news agency New Mexico Sun published the below 750 word Dinelli opinion guest column on the proposed Charter Amendment to establish a City Council/City Manager form of Government:
HEADLINE: “ABQ councilors’ move to diminish mayor’s authority sparks debate”
“On April 27, first term City Councilors Democrat Louie Sanchez and Republican Renee Grout announced legislation proposing a City Charter amendment for a public vote that will make the Mayor of Albuquerque a member of the City Council. They want to transfer all the mayor’s executive and city management duties to a city manager chosen by the city council. According to the proposed legislation, the mayor would “be recognized as the head of the City government for all ceremonial purposes.” It turns out the legislation has never been vetted, researched or recommended for approval by the City Charter Review Task Force responsible for making recommendations for charter amendments.
Under the proposed legislation, a “professional” city manager would be selected by the City Council to oversee and manage all 27 city departments and directors. The city’s existing Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) already serves this function and presumably would be abolished. The city manager would administer the city’s personnel rules and regulations for the over 7,000 city employees. The City manager would be responsible to prepare and formulate the city’s annual operating budget for city council review and adoption. This year’s 2023-2024 proposed budget is $1.4 Billion.
The mayor would preside over council meetings, but would only be allowed to vote in case of a tie vote. The mayor would have no administrative duties, nor hiring authority, and be allowed to vote at council meetings only in the event of a tie. The mayor would have no veto power over enacted legislation and would have less power than a city councilor on pending and enacted legislation.
On September 28, 1998 the Albuquerque City Council enacted city ordinance § 2-1-7 creating the Charter Review Task Force. The charge of the Charter Review Task Force is to examine any and all articles, sections, and provisions of the City Charter for the purpose of recommending any amendments to the Charter deemed appropriate. The Task Force is required to hold one or more public hearings at which the citizens of the city shall be encouraged to give their views on the Charter. The Task Force is required to present its recommendations to the Mayor and the Council in the form of a final report.
Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez and Republican Renee Grout have pretty much made fools of themselves by proposing a City Charter amendment for a public vote that will make the Mayor of Albuquerque a member of the City Council and creating a city council appointed city manager without it being vetted by the Charter Review Task Force. What they have done smacks of pure political hackery motivated by frustration on their part and caused by sure ignorance of the process used and relied upon for decades to evaluate the city’s form of government.
Both Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez and Republican Renee Grout were elected on November 2, 2021 having never been elected nor served before in any other elective office. They have served a mere 16 months as city councilor having been sworn into office on January 1, 2022. Both now proclaim the city needs a complete and dramatic restructuring of city government with a 50 year throwback to the past city commission-city manager form of government without offering any substantive evidence that the current Mayor-Council form of government is failing or not working. All they offer is political rhetoric. They both prefer to sponsor legislation amending the Charter without the convening of the Charter Review Task Force which was created in part to prevent this sort of nefarious conduct by city councilors.
There is very little doubt what is motivating Sanchez and Grout. It is their sure dislike for Mayor Tim Keller and his progressive policies. Keller has repeatedly out maneuvered the City Council with his veto. In the last 16 months, Sanchez and Grout have tried and have failed to override at least 5 Keller vetoes. Thus far they have failed to stop Keller’s “Housing Forward ABQ Plan” which will allow 750 square foot casitas and duplexes in all residential back yards. They have failed to hold Mayor Keller accountable for impropriety, such as the violation of the anti-donation clause with the $236,622 purchase of artificial turf for the Rio Rancho Events Center for the benefit of the privately owned New Mexico Gladiators.
Their solution is get rid of Keller’s power as Mayor in case he runs again, which is likely, for another term, and wins, which is highly questionable. The council should vote NO rejecting the Charter Amendment.”
MAYOR KELLER REACTS
On May 15, a spokesperson for Mayor Tim Keller issued the following statement:
“We are committed to working with Council and taking a hard look at how we can work more efficiently, but an extreme change to our form of government is not the answer. This proposal would drastically alter Albuquerque’s local government, eliminating individual accountability and checks and balances, placing all city power into a committee and an unelected city manager.”
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO SUN
The New Mexico Sun is part of the Sun Publishing group which is a nonprofit. The New Mexico Sun “mission statement” states in part:
“The New Mexico Sun was established to bring fresh light to issues that matter most to New Mexicans. It will cover the people, events, and wonders of our state. … The New Mexico Sun is non-partisan and fact-based, and we don’t maintain paywalls that lead to uneven information sharing. We don’t publish quotes from anonymous sources that lead to skepticism about our intentions, and we don’t bother our readers with annoying ads about products and services from non-locals that they will never buy. … Many New Mexico media outlets minimize or justify problematic issues based on the individuals involved or the power of their positions. Often reporters fail to ask hard questions, avoid making public officials uncomfortable, and then include only one side of a story. This approach doesn’t provide everything readers need to fully understand what is happening, why it matters, and how it will impact them or their families.”
The home page link to the New Mexico Sun is here: