ABQ Journal Guest Opinion Columns on City Council Charter Amendments; City Council Should Vote “NO” On All 4 Amendments

Conservative Republican City Council President Dan Lewis is leading the charge with sponsorship of 4 major city charter amendments proposing sweeping changes to Albuquerque’s City Charter and the way city government is run.

The first charter amendment sponsored by Republican Dan Lewis and co-sponsored by Democrat Councilor Klarissa Pena. It would reducing the vote threshold to win a City Council or mayoral race from 50% to 40%.  If no candidate secures 40% of the vote, then there would be a runoff.

The second charter amendment would create a committee, staffed with representatives from both the City Council and the Mayor’s Office, to recommend candidates for city attorney and city clerk. The measure would also require the roles to be filled within 90 days of the start of a mayoral term and ensure that the city attorney and city clerk can be removed for cause, determined by the Office of the Inspector General, by the mayor and a two-thirds vote from City Council.

The third charter amendment would change the requirements to remove a chief of police or fire chief. As the amendment stands now, the Mayor could remove either position for any reason or without cause.  The current charter requires cause to remove the police and fire chief. The City Council could also remove either position with a supermajority vote which would be 7 votes of the 9 member city council after cause is determined by the Office of the Inspector General.

The fourth charter amendment would creating a process to fill vacancies on the committee that is intended to handle separation-of-powers conflicts between the mayor and the City Council.

The link to a relied upon news source is here:


The sponsors of the 4 amendments 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 to override the vetoes. If the charter amendments  clear the  city council, they will  go directly to voters for their approval.

All 4 charter amendments are scheduled to be debated and voted upon at the June 17 Albuquerque City Council meeting.  


On June 3, the Albuquerque Journal ran a guest opinion column submitted by Mayor Tim Keller and on June 16, ran guest opinion columns submitted by State Senator Bill Tallman, Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis and City Councilor Juaquin Baca Juaquin on the 4 proposed charter Amendments. All 4 opinion columns are being published on www.PeteDinelli.com as a public service.

JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINE: “City Charter reforms would make Mayor’s Office less effective and less accountable”

BY Mayor Tim Keller

“Over the past six years, I’ve been honored to serve as your mayor. There’s no question that our city faces tough challenges, but I ran for mayor because I fundamentally believe that a mayor has the ability to impact meaningful change.

I also believe the mayor can – and is – held accountable to all residents in Albuquerque.

I write today not for myself or to explain my accomplishments or vision, but on behalf of the very institution that underpins “the mayor,” regardless of who the person is.

City Council has taken up a number of changes to city policy that are fundamentally about taking accountability away from the only citywide elected official – the mayor – and diluting that individual accountability by creating a system of “governance by committee.”

We know instinctively that if everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge. This is the wrong direction for our city.

Over a decade ago, voters gave a clear mandate and raised the minimum vote requirements for elected officials in our city from 40% to 50%. For me, this common-sense change was about strengthening our democracy and ensuring the broadest levels of support in our community for those in positions of power, including a mayor, who has direct accountability to all residents.

Despite this, some councilors have proposed removing the majority vote in our city elections.

Not only is the proposal undemocratic, it’s political, and the biggest beneficiary of the 40% threshold is incumbents.

As the saying goes, “it takes one to know one,” and this change would lower the bar for incumbents, in a city with no term limits, to stay in office.

And while this move would undoubtedly benefit my own electoral chances, I cannot in good conscious support something so self-serving.

It’s no secret that there are perks and privileges that come with holding elected office. Incumbents enjoy lower barriers of entry to receive media coverage, easier access to other community leaders, and a bully pulpit to communicate more broadly with the public.

These advantages are not typically accessible to those vying for office for the first time. By reducing the number of votes needed to win an election, City Council is inherently voting on a policy that would make it easier to stay in office while boxing out newcomers.

In totality, the charter changes are at best the wrong answers to outdated language, or at worst a political power grab that erodes the fundamental concept of a representative democracy.

Today, I am truly your mayor because the majority gave me this chance. I serve the whole city, not just a district or a party. This job gives me the ability to lead our city and manage our local government, and you rightly hold me accountability for that each and every day.

I know some folks may not always approve; I make missteps as well as progress, but it’s the job I ran for and the job you gave me. There is no dispute that I am your mayor.

These changes destroy that very dynamic, pushing the mayor toward ceremony and soundbite. They hollow out the idea of “the buck stops here” and fundamentally erode direct singular accountability in our city.

These are some of the moments where it matters most — politics aside — to double down on the democratic values that make our city great.

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.

Please join me in asking City Council to pause on these reforms and establish a Charter Review task force, as we have in decades past, to have an open and deliberate process with our community to make our democracy stronger.”

The link to the guest column is here:


 JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINE: “All four City Charter proposals are a power grab”

BY State Senator Bill Tallman, Albuquerque Democrat

“Several Albuquerque city councilors have introduced four ordinances dealing with elections and the appointment of certain city officials.

The first deals with reducing the percentage of votes needed for mayoral and City Council candidates to win an election from 50% to 40%. The proponents claim their motive is to save the cost of a runoff election. In truth, this is not about saving city funds, but rather it is all about the realization that the only way for a GOP candidate to win a mayoral or council election is to lower the percent of votes needed to win. Requiring less than a majority vote is undemocratic.

Furthermore, just a short 11 years ago, Albuquerqueans voted to change the percentage of votes needed from 40% to 50%.

The second and third proposals would greatly diminish the mayor’s authority to hire and fire the city attorney, city clerk, police chief and fire chief.

The fourth proposal would give the council an unfair advantage in selecting the third member of a three-member committee tasked with resolving separation of power disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

All four proposals can be characterized as a power grab.

These four proposals would greatly undermine the authority of the mayor and could lead to a weakening of the separation of powers between the policymakers/legislative branch — City Council — and the executive branch — mayor/department heads.

Having served as a city or assistant city manager for 35 years, I have a great deal of experience dealing with the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of city government. It is important that the two branches not be in conflict with each other.

No management expert would recommend this intrusion by the legislative branch into the proper functions of the executive branch. City councilors are similar to a corporation’s board of directors. Rarely would a board of directors intrude into the hiring and firing of the company’s department heads. It simply would not be on anyone’s list of best management practices.

If more of this type of intrusion continues to undermine the separation of powers, it could eventually lead down a slippery slope to chaos whereby everyone is in charge, so no one is in charge.

Why is separation of powers so important?

  1. Policymaking and implementation: Councils create policies, while mayors and city managers implement them. This division of duties ensures a balance between policy development and execution, preventing concentration of power in one branch.
  2. Checks and balances: Similar to the federal government, local governments rely on separation of powers. Councils serve as a check on the mayor’s executive authority, ensuring decisions are well-considered and transparent.
  3. Efficiency and effectiveness: By separating policymaking from operational duties, local governments enhance efficiency and service delivery. Elected officials focus on policy, while mayors and managers handle administrative tasks.
  4. Avoiding dominance: Without checks on power, either the council or the mayor could dominate the government. A city functions best when the mayor and city councilors stay within their respective roles. Separation of powers prevents undue influence and promotes collaboration.

In summary, this separation ensures a healthy balance, accountability, and effective governance within local communities. The last thing ABQ needs is a dysfunctional government.

Among the major cities in the Southwest, ABQ has had the smallest population growth since the 2008 recession and has the least robust economy. These proposed ordinances would do absolutely nothing to reverse our low ranking. Do we want to exasperate an already distressing situation?”

JOURNAL FOOTNOTE: Bill Tallman represents District 18 in the New Mexico Senate.

The link to the guest column is here:


JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINE: “Proposed charter amendments need further examination”

BY Juaquin Baca, Albuquerque City Councilor

“The recent changes proposed to the City Charter by several city councilors require more public input and education than allowed by the current council president.

These changes would reduce the votes needed to win council and mayoral elections without a runoff from the present 50% to 40% and increase the power of the City Council to hire and fire key members of any administration. At the last council meeting, the public comment was late-night, and held long after many members of the public had left.

When major changes to the City Charter involving elections and the balance of power between the various branches have been contemplated in the past, they have been thoroughly vetted in advance by a Charter Review Task Force.

In 2009, for example, a 15-member blue ribbon charter task force held 18 meetings — several of them televised, allowing ample time for public suggestions and testimony. The result was spirited discussion and civic engagement on the Election Code, councilor and mayoral salaries, confirmation of mayoral appointments by the council and methods for amending the charter, which was largely written in 1971. Proposed changes were referred to the council and many were adopted either there or at the ballot box.

To be clear, I do not support these changes to the charter. I don’t understand why we’re revisiting an issue that voters decidedly approved 10 years ago when this council has pressing issues like homelessness, public safety and housing to wrestle with.

All that said, a regular review of what amounts to our city’s constitution is a good idea. That’s why I’ve introduced a resolution, R-24-58, to create such a task force. The measure will be heard at Monday’s City Council meeting, and I invite the public to weigh in.

Like the 2009 task force, this proposed group would include 15 members, one member selected by each councilor, one at-large member selected by the council to chair the task force, and five members selected by the mayor. It would be staffed by both the City Council and the Mayor’s Office.

The current proposals to reduce the number of votes needed to be elected mayor or councilor without a runoff and those that would shift the balance of power between the council and the mayor would be topics, but the task force could consider other updates as well.

Yes, establishing a blue-ribbon Charter Review Task Force will slow down the amendment process. But what exactly is the rush? Is it to make sure that the reduced threshold for winning a council or mayoral election from 50% to 40% will be in place before the next city election?

If the council-initiated measure passes, it will affect current councilors and mayors, reducing the number of votes required to win. Do we really believe that is OK? It may be legal, but it certainly seems like a bad idea.

The 2009 Task Force was chaired by a district judge, and its recommendations, by in large, were adopted. Although its members did not always agree, it was a way to educate the public and forge a consensus, from which recommendations emerged.

That’s a far better way of amending our charter than through a rushed process, which excluded committee hearings, lasted just one month, and allowed for only the bare minimum of public input.”

JOURNAL FOOTNOTE: Joaquin Baca represents District 2 on the Albuquerque City Council, which includes the greater Downtown, North Valley, West Side, and Kirtland portions of the city.”

The link to the guest column is here:


JOURNAL EDITORIAL PAGE HEADLINE: Runoff elections are rooted in racist strategies in the South”

BY Dan Lewis, President Albuquerque City Council

“In 2011, union bosses in Albuquerque initiated a significant change to the city’s electoral system, transitioning from a plurality “most” vote requirement, which allowed for a diverse slate of candidates, to a majority vote winner system.

This shift has led to more than a decade of runoff elections and what many view as voter suppression.

The sole reason for this push was their strong aversion to then-Mayor R.J. Berry, a fiscal conservative who took office after 30 years of Democratic mayors. The city faced hundreds of millions in budget shortfalls at the beginning of Berry’s term, necessitating spending freezes that enraged the union bosses.

Although labor members eventually received unprecedented raises and Berry was reelected with a significant 68% of the vote, the union bosses vowed never to let another fiscal conservative become mayor.

Fast forward to today, and these same union bosses now decry the proposed change back to a popular vote with a 40% threshold as “undemocratic.” The hypocrisy here is striking, considering that many union leaders are elected by simply securing the most votes of their members.

The push for runoff elections is not only hypocritical but also, some argue, rooted in racism. The effort bears a troubling resemblance to historical racist strategies in the South designed to prevent minorities from winning seats long held by white politicians.

The reasoning was that minorities would be less likely to receive a majority of votes in an initial election that required a threshold percentage, and voter turnout would drop in runoff elections, ensuring the election of white candidates.

Democracy advocates like Rock the Vote have highlighted these concerns. In a 2022 article titled “Runoff Election: An Explainer,” the organization explained how, in the South, “white factions that existed in primary elections could unite in a runoff election to support one candidate and reduce the chances of winning for any candidate favored by Black communities or other communities of color.”

Now, the Albuquerque City Council is considering a slate of reforms to City Hall, including a ballot proposition to revert to a system allowing a more diverse slate of candidates.

A “yes” vote on Proposition 1 is a vote for democracy in Albuquerque.

The union bosses say they trust Albuquerque voters. Putting Proposition 1 on the ballot is an opportunity for their members and all Albuquerque voters to decide how they want their government to run.”

JOURNAL FOOTNOTE: Dan Lewis represents District 5 on the Albuquerque City Council and also serves as president of the council.

The link to the guest column is 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 has shown significant resistance to Mayor Keller’s progressive agenda as going too far.  Repeatedly the current more conservative city council have attempted to repeal ordinances and resolutions enacted by the previous more progressive city council and to limit the authority of Mayor Tim Keller.  Prime examples include the following:

  1. A resolution to repeal or limit mayoral authority during a public health emergency.
  2. A resolution baring the city from mandating covid-19 vaccines for the municipal government workforce.
  3. Resolution directing the city administration to consider and “push to renegotiate the terms of the federal court approved settlement agreement.”
  4. Repeal of a quarter cent tax increase in gross receipts tax enacted a few years ago.
  5. Repealing or attempting to amend the City’s “Immigrant Friendly” policy calling it a “Sanctuary City” policy and requiring  APD to assist and cooperate with the federal immigration authorities.


This 4 charter amendment are not the first time that the conservative city council has attempted to reduce the authority of Mayor Tim Keller by City Charter Amendments. The relations between Mayor Tim Keller and the more conservative majority city council deteriorated so significantly that 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 have been 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 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:



Its downright offensive to city voters that City Council President Dan Lewis is pulling the “race card” alleging runoff elections are rooted in racist strategies in the South. It also pathetic that he blames city union bosses for the change in the law.  He conveniently ignores the fact that it was voters who changed the charter provisions by requiring run offs where no one candidate secures 50% of the vote. Least anyone has forgotten, Tim Keller won the 2017 runoff for Mayor against Dan Lewis  by a decisive landslide with 62.20% by securing 60,219 votes to Lewis 37.8% who secured 36,594 votes. Dan Lewis is likely carrying a personal grudge against Tim Keller because of his inability to stop the Keller progressive agenda.

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.

All 4 City Council Charter amendments should be rejected outright. Voters and residents are urged to attend the June 17 city council meeting that will be held beginning at 5:00 pm in city council chambers located in the basement of city hall or call and voice their opinion and tell all city councilors to vote NO on all 4 of the proposed charter amendments. Their phone numbers and email address are:

CITY COUNCIL PHONE: (505) 768-3100



The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:

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

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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.