Conservative City Council Continues With Personal Vendetta Against Mayor Tim Keller And His Progressive Agenda; Council Proposes Sweeping City Charter Amendments To Impact Mayor Keller Re-Election Chances And To Give City Council More Power Over Appointments If He Is Re Elected, Which Is A Big If

Conservative Republican City Council President Dan Lewis is leading the charge with sponsorship of 4  major new city charter amendments proposing sweeping changes to Albuquerque’s City Charter and the way city government is run.  Lewis suggests that the amendments are all about giving city councilors, and by extension voters, a little more power in how the city is governed.

The first charter amendment sponsored by Republican Dan Lewis and co-sponsored by Democrat Councilor Klarissa Pena would lower the minimum vote total to win a mayor or city council race to 40% instead of the current 50%. If no candidate hits 40%, then there would be a runoff.

In 2009, the city  had a 40% threshold for elections, but that was changed by voters to 50% after Mayor Richard Berry was elected defeating 3 term Mayor Marty Chavez.  In 2009 Mayor’s race, Richard Berry received 44% of the vote  with 36,466 votes, Mayor Marty Chavez received 36% of the vote  with 29,140 votes and former State Senator Richard Romero received 20%  of the vote with17,458 votes. Richard Romero divided the Democratic Party vote thereby delivering the race to Richard Berry.

City Councilor Dan Lewis had this to say about the vote change :

“[It’s] been a decade ago and the result of that has been more runoff elections. The city spends an incredible amount of money on runoff elections and voters just have to go to the polls twice to vote.  So, you could say we want people’s vote to count. …  This is an opportunity to be able to [have] full transparent elections where every vote in the city of Albuquerque counts. And so it brings the threshold to where we reduce the amount of run-offs that happen amongst city council races and the mayor’s race, and we give opportunities for people that have a majority vote to be elected.”

Lewis  has failed to acknowledge that in  3 out 4 of the past most recent elections for Mayor, there has been no run off.  It was in  his race in 2017 when Lewis  lost to Mayor Tim Keller  that there was a run off. In the 2009, 2013 and the 2021 elections for Mayor there was no run off.

The second and third charter amendments would give the city council a bigger role in the appointment and removal processes for the key city positions of city attorney, city clerk, fire chief and police chief. The second charter amendment proposal would create a committee to recommend selections for city attorney and city clerk with the council still making the final approval. The Mayor would still have a major say when it comes to picking people to fill those positions, but Lewis says it’s time city councilors get a say too. Lewis said this:

“The city council is closer to the districts, to the people in our city that are affected by these leadership areas. …  It’s important that the council is able to weigh in, have a legitimate role in these incredibly important positions. … They work for us, they work for the entire city, not just the mayor. And so this is, again, it gives a legitimate role to the city council that’s closer to the city of the people, the City of Albuquerque, to have a legitimate role in bringing about some of these key executive leaders in our city.”  

The charter amendment that would be sent to voters if approved by the Council states: 

“The Police Chief and Fire Chief shall have an employment agreement with the City specifying the terms and conditions of employment including a provision for early termination of employment. The Mayor may terminate either employment of the Police Chief or the Fire Chief at any time. The Council may terminate the agreement at any time, with notice to the Mayor and affected Chief, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the entire membership of the Council.”

The fourth charter amendment centers on the separation of powers ensuring the Conference Committee has enough appointees to resolve issues between the mayor and city council. The sponsors say the changes would streamline and add transparency to city elections and hiring procedures.

All four of the Charter Amendment will have to clear the city council before they  are put  on the November ballot unless the Mayor vetoes the measures and the council does not vote override the vetoes. If the legislation clears city council, it would go directly to voters for their approval.


Mayor Tim Keller said the proposals threaten the efficiency and integrity of city government. Mayor Tim Keller issued the  following statement in response to the proposed charter amendments:

“A group of City Councilors is introducing a slate of charter amendments under the guise of streamlining City government procedures for hiring selection and City elections, but these charter amendments reflect the opposite of transparency and efficiency. It is unfortunate that faced with crime and homelessness, a group of Councilors are wasting time on the politics of power, instead of bringing real solutions to the table” 

“Our community expects, and deserves, us to be focused on tackling crime and finding solutions to curb homelessness, not wasting time on distractions that are ultimately political ploys for power,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “I’m always open to a charter reform task force and community discussion, but over-politicizing police and fire, removing safeguards for patronage and corruption, and ignoring the public’s referendum for ‘majority wins’ elections, is simply out of step with what our city needs.” 

“One proposal would modify the minimum votes required for candidates for Mayor or Councilor from 50% down to 40% of the total number of votes cast. This proposal is not only undemocratic, it reverses an 11 year old public referendum, when voters decided that our elected leaders should be elected with a majority of the votes to hold office. Further, the proposal would not eliminate the need for runoff elections.” 

“They are also suggesting that our City change the procedures to appoint and remove the City Attorney, City Clerk, and Chiefs of Police and Fire. These ‘govern by committee’ proposed changes would erase critical checks and balances that are in place to prevent corruption and patronage. They would essentially make these key city jobs “at-will,” and beholden to the needs of a few council districts, rather than the city as whole – as represented by the Mayor. The additional bureaucracy, creating 10 bosses for most executives, would politicize recruiting and promotion of professionals, create more turnover, and weaken the stability of police and fire leadership that our community relies on.” 

“Given the enormity of the potential impact and the number of changes, the appropriate course of action would be to convene a Charter Review Task Force made up of City Council, the administration, and other representatives.”

Links to quoted and relied upon news sources are here:’


On January 1, 2024  the new city council after the November, 2023 election was sworn into office. The philosophical breakdown of the city council  is as follows:


District 1 Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez
District 2 Progressive Democrat Joaquin Baca
District 3 Moderate Democrat Klarissa Peña
District 6 Progressive Democrat Nichole Rogers
District 7 Progressive Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn


District 5 Conservative Republican Dan Lewis
District 4 Conservative Republican Brook Bassan
District 8 Conservative Republican Dan Champine
District 9 Conservative Republican Renee Grout

Although the City Council is split with 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans, Conservative Democrat Louie Sanchez has often allied himself with conservative Republicans Dan Lewis, Renee Grout, and Brook Bassan and Dan Champine to approve or kill measures on a 5-4 vote but being unable to override Mayor Tim Keller’s veto’s with the required 6 votes.

The first item of business of the new city council once they were sworn in on January 1, 2024 was the election of a new City Council President and Vice President. It came as no surprise that Conservative Democrat City Councilor Louis Sanchez voted for Republican Dan Lewis as the new City Council President and voted Republican Renee Grout for Vice President with the votes being Sanchez, Lewis, Bassan, Champine and Grout.


Notwithstanding the Democrat majority, the new more conservative city council began to show resistance to Mayor Keller’s progressive agenda as going too far.  In November, Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis sponsored two separate resolutions, one to replace the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and another to place on hold the boards plans to dramatically change environmental justice regulations by increasing regulations and prohibitions on the issuance of air quality permits. The resolution increased regulations and prohibitions on the issuance of air quality permits and mandated excessive environmental studies. The Air Quality Board was conducting hearings on the environmental justice regulations. Mayor Tim Keller vetoed both resolutions. The City Council voted  to override both vetoes with bi partisan votes, one on a 6 to 3 vote and the other on a 7 to 2 vote.

On April 27, 2023 first term City Councilors Democrat Louie Sanchez and Republican Renee Grout announced legislation proposing a City Charter amendment for a public vote that would have made the Mayor of Albuquerque a member of the City Council.  They wanted 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”.  The legislation was never 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.


It was in 2017 that there were 8 candidates for Mayor and at the time unless one candidate achieved 50% of the vote, a runoff was required between the two top vote getters.  It was  Tim Keller and Dan Lewis who made it into the runoff and ran against each other for Mayor. Then Democrat State Auditor Tim Keller was a mere one year into his 4-year term as State Auditor. Then Republican District 5 City Councilor Dan Lewis gave up his seat after serving 2 terms on the city council to run for Mayor.

Keller won the 2017 runoff by a decisive landslide with 62.20% by securing 60,219 votes to Lewis 37.8% who secured 36,594 votes. Fast forward to 2021when Mayor Tim Keller ran for a second term and was elected over Democrat Bernalillo County Sherriff Manny Gonzales and radio talk show host Republican Eddy Aragon. Democrat Mayor Keller won his 2021 election to a second 4 year term with 56% of the final vote and beating Democrat  Sheriff Manny Gonzales who secured 26% of the vote and Republican  Radio Shock Jock Eddy Aragon who  secured 18% of the vote.

In 2017, Republican Dan Lewis ran to regain his city council seat and defeated incumbent Cynthia Borrego who later was elected a Westside Side NM State Representative. From day one of being sworn into office as a city councilor for his third term, Dan Lewis  made it known privately that he intended  to run for Mayor again in 2025, perhaps again against Tim Keller. With that in mind, Lewis has carried on a very personal vendetta against all things Mayor Keller and Keller’s progressive agenda with the goal of running for Mayor again in 2025, especially against Keller. Lewis has carried out his plans with the assistance of a more conservative city council.


On January 10, 2022 at the very first meeting of the Alquerque City Council, newly sworn in District 5 Republican Dan Lewis announced the introduction of 4 major resolutions he was sponsoring to undercut Mayor Tim Keller and his  progressive agenda. The resolutions are summarized and how they  fared are as follows:


Early in the COVID-19 pandemic when Democrats had a 6 to 4 majority, the council expanded the Mayor’s authority during a public health crisis. On March 10, 2022, the Albuquerque City Council voted to narrowly reverse the City Councils 2020 action. The Council passed legislation on a 5 to 4 vote, with Republican Councilors, Dan Lewis, Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones and lone Democrat Louie Sanchez voting in support and all 4 remaining Democrats voting no.

The council voted to revoke Mayor Tim Keller’s power to do such things as ordering closures of streets or places of mass gatherings, canceling city events and reallocating up to $1 million in the city budget. Under the enacted ordinance, the Mayor was relegated only with the ability to merely make “advisories and recommendations.

Councilor Dan Lewis proposed the changes, saying Keller had hardly invoked his powers and mostly deferred to orders issued by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.  Keller ultimately vetoed the legislation. Overriding a mayoral veto takes 6 votes, but only 5 councilors supported the override during the March 21 city council meeting and they were Republicans Bassan, Grout, Jones, Lewis and Democrat Sanchez.


Lewis initially said the bill answered concerns from police officers and firefighters. It is well settled law that private business can impose vaccine mandates to protect their workforce and the public they interact with. The city is no different. Unvaccinated police and fire officers can easily catch and spread the virus endangering public health, safety and welfare.

Notwithstanding, on March 21, the Council passed legislation on a 5 to 4 vote, with Republican Councilors, Dan Lewis, Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones and lone Democrat Louie Sanchez voting in support and all 4 remaining Democrats voting no. The resolution would have  barred the city from mandating that employees get vaccinated and from penalizing those who do not.

Lewis himself admitted the city could not control what the federal or state governments might ultimately require, but said the legislation would demonstrate that the local government itself would not impose a vaccine standard and he said:

“Our policy will not be to mandate vaccines on our city employees and would give them the peace of mind (that) they wouldn’t have to make a decision between taking a vaccine they may not want or need and their jobs.”

Democrats City Councilors Pat Davis, Isaac Benton, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted in opposition, and rightly so saying the city should not cede its ability to regulate its workforce because the public relies heavily on services and having “the staff available to them.” Not requiring inoculation of city employees and then allowing those same city employees to deal with the general public no likely creates a liability issue for the city if a member of the public becomes infected with COVID by a city employee.

The link to quoted news source material is here:


On March 10, 2022 the Albuquerque City Council passed a resolution directing city officials “to the extent advisable” to “petition” to reopen and renegotiate the Court Approved Settlement Agreement mandating the reforms of the Albuquerque Police Department. The council resolution passed on an 8-to-1 vote with City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn the only councilor to vote against the resolution.

The city council resolution says the “petition” should address recommendations contained in a released by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on September 13, 2021, including putting a cap on how much an independent monitor overseeing court-mandated reforms can be paid and assessing ending the monitorship after 5 years. The problem is the Garland recommendations apply to future consent decrees and have no binding effect on the City’s Court approved settlement agreement.

The resolution enacted by the city council for the city to renegotiate to the extent advisable” the Court Approved Settlement Agreement is a reflection of sure ignorance on the part of the City Council and the reforms mandated. It was the epitome of meaningless fluff. It reflects that the city council did not have a basic understanding of the court process nor the true meaning of a federal court order.

Simply put, there was nothing to negotiate. The city and the DOJ entered into a binding court order settlement agreement on what APD needs to do to come into compliance before the case can be dismissed. Because the settlement is a court approved order, any and all changes, even if agreed to by the Department of Justice and the city, must be approved by the Federal Judge.


Mayor Tim Keller was sworn in for his second term on January 1, 2022. City Councilors Republican Dan Lewis and Democrat Louis Sanchez were also sworn in on January 1st, 2022.

Mayor Keller chose NOT to replace Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, City Clerk Ethan Watson, City Attorney Esteban Aguilar, APD Chief Harold Medina and Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Gene Gallegos. All 6 of Keller’s top executives continued to do their jobs after Keller was sworn in. The council confirmed all 6 during Keller’s first term and each was approved by a unanimous vote.

Within weeks after Lewis and Sanchez were sworn in, they began to demand that Mayor Tim Keller again nominate Nair, Rael, Watson, Aguilar, Medina and Gallegos so they could hold confirmation hearings and be allowed to vote to reject them for the positions they held. The councilors said  the City Charter requires a fresh confirmation in a mayor’s new term.

The City Charter requires the council’s “advice and consent” for just a few positions the mayor appoints. Those positions are Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) , Deputy CAOs, Police Chief, Fire Chief, City Clerk and City Attorney. The City Charter provides that appointees requiring city council approval “shall be presented to the Council for confirmation within 45 days after the Mayor takes office.” The City Charter contains no provisions mandating that the Mayor nominate his top ranking executives a second time so that a newly elected city councilor can confirm.

Mayor Keller disputed the city council’s right to another confirmation vote, but forwarded City Clerk Ethan Watson and City Attorney Esteban Aguilar Jr., for another vote. Both have held the roles since Keller’s first term and previously went through council confirmation. Keller said the charter differentiates the clerk and attorney from the other positions, specifically stating that the clerk and attorney appointments “shall be for a term that coincides and terminates with the term of the Mayor making the appointment.” It does not use the same language for the other positions.

In the interest of compromise, Mayor Keller forwarded the names of Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, APD Chief Harold Medina and Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Gene Gallegos in the form of an “executive communication” that required that they all be confirmed with a single vote, not separate votes and as a “package deal”.

On March 11, Mayor Tim Keller announced in a statement that Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair resigned her position. Nair had  been the city’s chief administrative officer since late 2017 when she was confirmed by a unanimous city council vote. No reasons were given for her sudden resignation and the city and Nair declined all requests to interview CAO Nair.  Confidential sources confirmed that Sarita Nair did not have the confidence and support of Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis. When you add Republican’s Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and “Democrat In Name Only” Louis Sanchez to the mix, it’s likely that CAO Sarita Nair would not have been confirmed.


It became painfully obvious that the only reason why Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis and Democrat Louie Sanchez demanded Keller’s top executives previously confirmed be re submitted for a second time for confirmation was to try and shame and intimate them and to vote against them.

On March 7, City Clerk Ethan Watson was confirmed on a 7-2 bipartisan vote of the city council. Republican Dan Lewis and Democrat Louie  Sanchez crossed examined Watson over his job performance during the 2021 municipal election. Both Lewis and Sanchez questioned Watson’s impartiality in administering the city’s taxpayer-funded public campaign finance system, ignoring the fact that Watson is license attorney and as such an officer of the court who has taken an oath of office himself.

Lewis focused on Watson’s move to reject mayoral candidate Manuel Gonzales’ application for the money on the grounds he’d submitted fraudulent documentation, questioning if he’d applied the same scrutiny to Keller’s campaign. Lewis ignored that a state judge ultimately upheld Watson’s decision. Lewis at one point became very condensing and mean spirited when he asked Watson “how we can trust you moving forward in future elections?. This coming from Dan Lewis who engaged in smear tactics and lies against his opponent incumbent Democrat Cynthia Borrego to get elected saying she was in favor of “sanctuary city polices” and the releasing of violent criminals. Dan Lewis’ paid Republican Political Operative Jay McClusky to run his campaign.

Not at all surprisingly, Sanchez claimed his own 2021 city council campaign race against incumbent Lan Sena was treated unfairly by Ethan Watson, even though Sanchez won the race. It was Sanchez who proclaimed he was the rightful city councilor to have been elected and demanded that Watson swear him in before the term he was elected began on January 1, 2022. Sanchez wanted to vote against legislation that was pending and sponsored by outgoing City Councilor Lan Sena and his demands were essentially an effort to shame former City Councilor Lan Sena.

The link to quoted news source material is here:


It is common knowledge that Mayor Tim Keller is seeking a third term as Mayor in 2025. Mayor Keller does so despite the fact that an Albuquerque Journal poll found that Keller has a 33% approval rating which in all likelihood is only getting worse.  A 2024 Citizens Satisfaction Survey found that 63% of residence are concerned over the direction the city is going and 61% disagree that City Government is responsive to Community needs with both survey results reflecting poor leadership of city resources by Mayor Keller. The links to review both polls are here:

Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis after being elected to return to the City Council in 2021 also made it known to his supporters he has every intent to run for Mayor again in 2025. This explains his full frontal assault on Mayor Tim Keller and his agenda from day one on his return to the City Council.

The relations between Mayor Tim Keller and the more conservative majority city council have deteriorated because of the sure frustration the conservatives on the council have experienced in not being able to stop the Keller progressive agenda with overriding vetoes.  As a result, the city council is once again trying to get city voters to change our basic form of city government with charter amendments in order to carry out a personal vendetta against a Mayor they do not like and who they perceive as ineffective and unpopular.

Links to related blog articles are here:

Sanchez and Grout’s Power Grab Of Striping Mayor Of Executive Powers And Creating Council Appointed City Manager Not Vetted By Charter Review Task Force; A Failure Of Leadership, Not Of Government Continues To Plague City

Dan Lewis and Louie Sanchez Are The New “Twiddle Dee” and the “Twiddle Dum” of Albuquerque City Council; Their Agenda Of Obstruction Has Limited Success; Keller and Medina Push Back; Expect More Antics

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.