Mayor Tim Keller Gives Thousands Of Raises To His Political Appointees While Average City Employee Gets 2% Pay Increase

KOAT TV Target 7 reported that Mayor Tim Keller has given his appointed, highest paid city hall administrators literally thousands of dollars in raises.

The raises were given without informing the City Council and giving an after the fact justifications to the media for the raises.

You can view the entire Target 7 report at this link:

https://www.koat.com/article/top-city-officials-get-big-raises/27459126

CLASSIFIED VERSUS UNCLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES

The Albuquerque City Council is in the process of reviewing the 2019-2019 $1.2 Billion dollar proposed budget that goes into effect July 1, 2019. The City of Albuquerque employs approximately 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees with 26 separate departments. The City of Albuquerque pays an average of $17.61 an hour to City Hall employees or $36,628.80 a year depending on the positions held and required education level and training levels. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year = 2,080 hours worked in a year X $17.61 paid hourly = $36,628.80) Roughly 4,500 City Hall employees are considered “classified employees” who are covered by the city’s personnel rules and regulations.

There are 223 full time “ungraded” positions at City Hall, who are in unclassified positions and “at-will” employees who can be terminated “without cause” and who work at the pleasure of the Mayor or the City Council. All of the Mayor’s top administrators and City Hall Department Directors are “unclassified employees” and serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and can be terminated without cause.

At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall. The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. In February, 2019, City of Albuquerque updated the list of the 250 top wage earners at City Hall for 2018. You can review the entire listing of all 25o wage earners at the below link.

POLITICAL APPOINTEES GIVEN THOUSANDS IN RAISES

KOAT TV Target 7 reviewed the city’s transparency website and found 5 political, at will employee appointees received raises in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Keller has given APD Police Chief Michael Geier a $27,000 raise and he is now being paid $187,000 a year.

Keller has given his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair a $20,000 pay increase and she is now paid $190,000 a year.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow’s pay went from $132,000 to $150,000, or $18,000 more.

Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael is now being paid $185,000, up $19,000 from last year.

Keller gave his Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta a $13,000 raise and his pay is $131,200.01.

Because Keller’s top administration employees are appointed by the mayor, the City Council does not have to approve any of raises. The approval of all the raises came from Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair, who had to approve her own $20,000 pay raise and Mayor Keller.

Mayor Tim Keller issued a statement through a spokesperson indicating all the raise he gave were needed for the city to stay competitive and the statement said:

“We looked at salaries for these positions throughout our region and found that, even after these raises, our salaries are much lower than those offered in cities in the region of a similar size. We also have to compete with the new state administration which pays higher salaries, and to which we lost several key people, and a city council that has given consistent annual raises. By offering more comparable salaries, our goal is to attract and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque.”

COMPARING THE SALARY INCREASES

Following is the salaried paid all 5 that appeared in the February, 2019 list of 250 top wage earners comparing their salaries to their predecessors at city hall:

Chief Administrative Office (CAO) SARITA NAIR: $169,556.80, now paid $190,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936.

Chief Administrative Office Chief Operations Officer LAWRENCE RAEL: $165,524.80, now paid $185,000. Former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319.

Albuquerque Police Department Chief MICHAEL GEIER: $159,513.60, now paid $187,000 a year. Former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699.

Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief PAUL DOW: $132,691.20, now paid $150,000. Former Fire Chief David W. Downey was paid $138,993.

Finance Admin Svc CFO/Director SUNALEI BHAKTA: $131,200.01. Former Director of Finance Department Lou Hoffman was paid $99,732.

The Mayor’s salary and City Council salaries are determined by the Citizens’ Independent Salary Commission. Beginning January 1, 2018, the Mayor’s salary went from $103,854 a year to $125,00 a year. Mayor Keller is provided with a car, expense account as well as an APD protection detail. Eight Albuquerque City Councilors are paid $30,000 annually and the City Council President is paid $32,000 annually. The city council also increased their contituent contact fund from $5,000 to $20,000.

https://www.cabq.gov/audit/citizens-independent-salary-commission

2% RAISES FOR ALL OTHER CITY EMPLOYEES

On April 1, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted to the Albuquerque City Council a $1.1 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019. The proposed budget represents an 11% increase in spending over the current year. Under the proposed budget, general fund spending, which covers most city government operations, climbs $65 million to $642 million. Buried in Keller’s 2019-2020 proposed budget is city workers will get a 2% pay raise under the Keller budget plan, though those represented by unions could get more based on their units’ agreements.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1299497/abq-budget-could-surpass-1-billion-for-the-first-time.html

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In the normal world outside of city hall, even in other government agencies and in the private sector, huge salary increases are associated with promotions, additional responsibilities taken on or exceptional job performance above and beyond the call of duty. The truth is that it is difficult to identify with any clarity exactly how APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta have set themselves apart or have gone above and beyond the normal job performance required by their positions.

It is these types of out of line salary increases that creates a tremendous amount of animosity among the personnel of the city of Albuquerque. It is these types of raises that essentially tarnishes the reputation of elected officials by allowing their top paid administrators to engage in a money grab with the public perceiving poor performance, no results and even mediocrity.

Former Republican Mayor Richard Berry was notorious for paying astronomical, out of line salaries to his top political operatives, especially during his second term in office. For example former Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry was paid $189,936 (#1 highest paid employee), former APD Chief Gordon Eden was paid $166,699 (#2 highest paid employee), former Chief Administrative Officer Michael Riordan was paid $152,319 (#4 highest paid employee), former City Attorney Jessica Hernandez was paid $150,217 (#5 highest paid employee), former Fire Chief David W. Downey was $138,993 (#11 highest paid employee), former Deputy Fire Chief Eric Garcia was paid $133,872 (#13 highest paid employee) and former APD Assistant Chief Robert Huntsman was paid $132,435.

The most disgusting pay increase Berry gave was a 22%, $33,000 pay increase to Chief Administrative Officer Rob Berry who was paid $190,000 a year and became the top paid city hall employee of all time. What made Perry’s raise so disgusting is that he made sure all other city employees were given pay cuts of 2% at the time or zero or 1% or 2% pay increases and even going so far as cancelling the negotiated pay increases for police officers. Berry justified his salary increases by using similar or identical arguments Keller is now using saying that the salary increases were needed to keep people from going elsewhere and retain talented leaders to serve the city of Albuquerque. Yeah, right.

https://www.abqjournal.com/292346/ex-councilor-ken-sanche-zcalls-increase-unacceptable-administrator-perry-had-been-finalist-to-lead-nm-finance-authority.html

To be perfectly blunt, the salaries now being paid to APD Police Chief Michael Geier, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque Fire and Rescue Chief Paul Dow, and Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta now are probably the most they have ever been paid in their careers. At least 4 appointees were hired by Keller without a real national search to fill their positions and are considered Keller’s political operatives and “inner circle” of loyalist. The “national search” for a new APD Chief was considered by many as a sham with Geier always considered the front runner. Geier also has two other retirements that are vested. There was no need to attract many with pay in that they worked for Keller when he was state auditor.

Given all the recent stories on Albuquerque’s violent crime rates and the murders, the $27,000 raise for Chief Geier is highly questionable and very difficult to justify to the public. Adding insult to injury, APD Chief Geier decided not discipline APD’s Public Information Officer Simon Drobik for claiming massive amounts of overtime and being paid $192,000 in 2018, despite recommendations by the Police Oversight Commission he be terminated. What Geier and Drobik are being paid is considered nothing but a money grab, as is all the other pay raises in the double digits.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/05/01/pathetic-but-not-surprising-no-discipline-for-apd-192000-spokesman/

Mayor Tim Keller prides himself in being well educated and a quick learner and said when he was running for Mayor he said he “had done good at all the jobs he ever held.” With only one year and six months in office, Keller has learned very quickly to make sure his political operatives are well taken care of by giving them out of line salary increases that approach what many city hall employees makes in a full year. Mayor Keller will now have to deal with the animosity among average city hall workers his pay raises will no doubt create. One thing is for sure is the 4,800 to 5,000 full time city hall employees who did not get raises do vote, as do their families, and Keller will have to decide was it worth it.

For a related blog article listing the 250 top wage earners in 2018 see:

“$100,000 Or More” Paid To All 250 Top ABQ City Hall Employees

“Desperate Measures For Despicable Crimes” And Another Press Conference

The expression “desperate times call for desperate measures” is commonly attributed to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. In his work “Amorphisms”, Hippocrates wrote: “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure, as to restriction, are most suitable.”

In Albuquerque when it comes to the cities’ violent crime rates, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torres have come up with their own version of the expression: “Desperate Measures For Despicable Crimes” with yet another response to yet another senseless murder and another press conference to announce initiatives. Mayor Tim Keller for his part has also begun blaming the courts to some extent.

THE CITY’S 26TH MURDER AND COUNTING

On May 4, 2019, 23-year-old University of New Mexico student Jackson Weller was shot and killed outside a crowded “Imbibe Night Club” in the heart of Nob Hill making him the 26th person killed by gun violence in Albuquerque this year. APD responded to the shooting call out around 2:15 a.m. and found Weller lying in the street. He had been shot once in the chest and was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to news reports, those inside the club described a single gunshot heard outside the nightclub. Customers quickly ran out through the front door to see what was going on. In the street, a woman was screaming and others yelled for an ambulance as a crowd gathered around Weller’s body.

Jackson Weller just turned 23 last month and went to UNM to play baseball. He was a member of the Lobos baseball team in 2018 and was planning on rejoining the team this fall. Weller grew up in Keller, Texas where he played baseball throughout middle school and his high school years.

Weller’s killing is the 26th homicide in Albuquerque this year. Thus far, 15 of the homicides remain unsolved. Law enforcement authorities reported that there have been 114 people shot in 112 days in Bernalillo County including the city of Albuquerque through April 23, which is a 36% increase over last year during the same time period.

For a related story and statistics see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/04/30/headlines-114-people-shot-in-112-days-albuquerque-police-deal-with-a-day-of-mayhem-da-torrez-and-mayor-keller-lose-election-bids/

SUSPECT APPREHENDED

On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) announced detectives had arrested Darian Bashir, 23, for the killing at a Northeast Heights apartment. According to the arrest warrant affidavit filed, a video surveillance showed a man, later identified as Bashir, walk up to Weller, pull a gun from his waist and shot him point blank in the chest. Bashir is then seen getting into a vehicle that speeds away through a back alley. According to the arrest warrant affidavit three witnesses identified Bashir as the man who shot Weller. One witness told police he heard a gunshot and saw Bashir walking away holding a gun. Two other witnesses say they saw Bashir shoot Weller and walk away as Weller collapsed to the ground. Friends of Weller’s who were with him told detectives that he had been in a fistfight with several people before the shooting but that Darian Bashir was not one of them.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1314397/apd-arrests-suspect-in-slaying-of-unm-baseball-player.html

In November 2017, Darian Bashir was charged with aggravated battery resulting in great bodily harm after he allegedly walked up to another young man in Downtown Albuquerque and shot him at point-blank range in the chest. However, the case was dismissed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office because the victim, who survived being shot, did not testify. The case was dismissed in January 2018 after the DA’s Office failed to comply with court mandated hearing deadlines, including not arranging witness interviews.

According to District Attorney Raul Torrez, although his office missed a few deadlines, the case fell apart when the victim didn’t show up to multiple pretrial interviews and Torrez said: “In cases that have this type of violence, sometimes we don’t have cooperative witnesses … So we have enough to initiate an arrest but not enough to complete a prosecution.”

The case has since been refiled, and Bashir was indicted April 9, 2019 by the District Attorney.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1314265/suspect-in-nob-hill-fatal-shooting-has-violent-record.html

ANOTHER PRESS CONFERENCE, ANOTHER INITIATIVE

On Friday, May 10, 2019, in reaction to the murder of 21-year-old Jackson Weller, Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier, UNM President Garnett Stokes, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez held a joint press conference to announce initiatives aimed at making the Nob Hill Business District safer and reducing violent crime up and down the Central corridor.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not attend the May 10 news conference, but she was the main focus of the news conference because of the action she took. She revealed that there were a series of meetings throughout the week where she pledged the assistance of her administration, including State Police, the state Probation and Parole Division, and the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

The initiatives announced at the May 10 press conference include:

1. Assigning an additional 50 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque. Seven NM sate police officers already work here which will bring the number up to 57.

2. Giving UNM police access to the substation and having them coordinate patrols with Albuquerque Police Department officers.

3. Expanding the hours of the Triangle Community Substation on Central and Dartmouth until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays after bars close.

4. Stationing three bike patrol teams to work in Nob Hill during the day and three or four additional officers to patrol on Friday and Saturday nights.

5. Working with the Fire Marshal and the New Mexico Registration and Licensing Department to crack down on issues relating to overcrowding and over-serving in bars that could contribute to late night violence.

6. Using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to match casings to guns used in shootings throughout the state.

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/gov-assigns-50-nmsp-officers-to-patrol-albuquerque-to-crack-down-on-violent-crime/5348521/?cat=500

Governor Lujan Grisham in a news release stated:

“Violent crime in Albuquerque is a scourge, and we will attack the roots of that scourge with targeted deployments of manpower and resources. … New Mexico residents must be free to have every expectation of safety in their homes and communities. It’s our duty as a state to take every action we possibly can to realize that freedom, and I’m proud to stand with our partners in Albuquerque in providing immediate, directed assistance.”

During the May 10 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller had this to say:

“I am saddened and angered by the news that a student’s life was taken last night. … I am getting updates regularly from APD as they work hard to solve this case and bring the killer to justice … Gun violence is not a problem with a quick or obvious solution, but we are determined to fight back in every way. … We understand the urgency of this moment, and I want to say to the people and businesses of Nob Hill that we are not giving up on Nob Hill. … No one is giving up on Nob Hill. We are increasing our efforts because we understand, especially because of the proximity to UNM, that Nob Hill is just as critical as any other part of our city.”

Mayor Keller has also said “Over the last decade, violent crime driven by drugs, gangs, guns, and domestic violence has become an increasingly deadly challenge for this community. … We have made this dangerous mix of crime our top priority.” Keller also disclosed that he had been working with the state to come up with a plan to bring down violent crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1310999/man-shot-killed-in-southeast-albuquerque.html

For the first time since becoming Mayor, Tim Keller has adopted the practice of his predecessor Mayor Richard Berry and began to blame the courts for a violent crime. Keller told the news conference that:

“This suspect was recently released from jail on his own recognizance for a felony firearms case in February, in which he was openly firing out of a vehicle … Unfortunately, this individual was back on the street.”

Keller was essentially saying the Defendant was guilty of drive by shooting that he had never been charged with and that Jackson Weller would not be dead if the defendant had not have been free pending trial in the first place by the Courts. Keller made no mention that it was the DA’s Office that was responsible for the dismissal.

According to Court records, it was District Court Charlie Brown that released Bashir back in January pending trial because he had a “minimal criminal history” and “no felony convictions” and noted “He was charged with a violent felony in 2017, but the charges were dismissed.”

Transcripts of the previous hearing revealed the judge “was troubled by some inferences,” including the idea that Defendant Bashir and the others he was with, had been shooting at police officers an allegation the APD police officers did not include in the criminal complaint they filed with the court. Ultimately, Judge Brown found that although Bashir posed a safety risk to the community, that risk could “be reasonably addressed with appropriate conditions of release” which ostensibly was not objected to by the DA’s office.

SENATOR VICTIM OF ROAD RAGE

During the May 10, 2019 joint press conference, District Attorney Raúl Torrez for his part, and not at all surprising, proclaimed the “preventative detention” system is not working and said he will pursue policy changes to keep violent offenders off the streets and said:

“Next week, I intend to introduce a proposed package for legislative action that I will be asking the Governor and the leadership in Santa Fe to take action on in the next session.”

No doubt that Torrez was also reacting to interviews made by South Valley Senator Jacob Candelaria who was a victim of a road rage incident and who called out Torrez saying Torrez was given significant increases in his budget and the office was not doing much. On May 9, 2019, it was reported that South Valley State Senator Jacob Candelaria was almost a victim of gun violence while driving home from work. The incident occurred on Academy near Wyoming when a driver flashed a gun at Candelaria. In a TV news interview, Candelaria stated “[A] Car speeds up, gets behind me, tries different maneuvers to try and pull up next to me, I knew something was wrong. … [When I saw the gun] I peel out of there and I get into a residential area. .. It was probably the most frightening experience I’ve had in my entire life.” Senator Candelaria went on to say “Two years ago, the legislature – and I was part of this – appropriated millions of dollars more for the Albuquerque district attorney … We were promised as a legislature immediate result. I have not seen those results.”

https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/lawmaker-demands-action-after-road-rage-close-call/5347779/

VIOLENT CRIME IS CITY WIDE PROBLEM

During the May 10, 2019 press conference, APD Chief Geier said APD plans are to increase the presence of police throughout the area and in the Southwest Area Command, where gun violence is the most prevalent. The 57 State Police officers will be stationed along Central, from UNM to Wyoming. According to Geier: “The whole southeast is part of the initiative … The Nob Hill area right now is the most visible because of the recent homicide, the business owners and their concerns.”

Data from the District Attorney’s Office reveals that shootings with injury or death are not just a Downtown and Nob Hill area problem. Gun violence is heavily concentrated elsewhere in the Southeast Area Command, with the majority occurring east of San Mateo.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has implemented a data collection program called “Ceasefire”. Ceasefire is supposedly a data-driven approach to combat gun violence.

According to the DA’s office a breakdown of data from January 1, 2019, to April 23, 2019 is as follows:

There were 101 shootings in which individuals were injured or killed, several of which had multiple victims
114 people were shot, 17 of whom were killed.
95 incidents happened in the city.
6 incidents happened outside the city but within the county.
2 people were shot by law enforcement.
10 cases were self-inflicted shootings.
The shortest time between shootings was 16 minutes.
The longest time was a five-and-a-half-day stretch in early January.
The average number of shootings was just over one shooting per day.
Suspects have been identified in 42 cases, although it’s unclear how many have resulted in an arrest.
There were 27 more shootings so far in 2019 compared to the same time period in 2018 when there were 74 shootings.

CHRONOLOGY OF PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED INITIATIVES

The May 10 press conference was only the first in recent months where the city and APD made announcement of plans to deal with violent crime.

MAY 3, 2019 CITY COUNCIL INITIATIVES FOR NOB HILL

On May 3, 2019, Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Ken Sanchez held their own press conference to announce public safety initiatives for Nob Hill. The 4 City Councilors announced their proposal to invest up to $1.5 million in specific Central corridor for “public safety” initiatives and marketing measures for fiscal year 2020. Included is $500,000 in one-time funding for grants to nonprofit business associations and merchant groups along the central corridor.

Many business owners along the Central Corridor where the ART Bus project was constructed have complained about repeated vandalism in the area, break-ins resulting in the businesses having to spend money on expensive repairs and even security measures. Other Nob Hill business owners have expressed mounting frustration, fear and anger struggling to recover from the 18 months of Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) construction.

The business owners in Nob Hill asked for 12 bike officers and six dedicated motorized police units every night in the Nob Hill business district. This may sound familiar because that is what happened in downtown central, but on a much larger scale. The proposed $1.5 million investment supposedly will help lure customers back to the area because many businesses had to close during the disastrous ART Bus project down central.

DA RAUL TORREZ HIGH TECH INITIATIVE

On April 29 and 30, 2019, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez show cased his Crime Strategies Unit (CSU), which he touted as being “intelligence-driven prosecution”. According to Torrez, the initiative is less about putting people in jail and more about seeing the bigger picture of fighting crime and how to prevent it.

According to Torrez “[The CSU] is a group of investigators and analysts who use a variety of technology, platforms and tools to build and develop a comprehensive picture of who’s engaged in crime, particularly violent crime in the community.” Launched in August last year by Torrez, the CSU office will be fully implemented by the end of May.

https://www.koat.com/article/bernalillo-county-da-showcases-tech-based-crime-fighting-tools-to-prosecutors-across-us/27327157

APRIL 8, 2019 CITY DECLARES VIOLENT CRIME “PUBLIC HEALTH” ISSUE

On April 8, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller and APD announced a new program and efforts that will deal with “violent crime” in the context of it being a “public health issue” and dealing with crimes involving guns in an effort to bring down violent crime in Albuquerque.

Mayor Keller and APD argue that gun violence is a “public health issue” because gun violence incidents have lasting adverse effects on children and others in the community that leads to further problems. APD supposedly is tracking violent crime relying on the same methods used to track auto thefts, weekly reports summarizing shootings, refining policies, and learning from best practices used by other law enforcement agencies. One goal is for APD to examine how guns are driving other crimes, such as domestic violence and drug addiction.

The initiatives announced on April 8, 2019 include:

1. Using data from APD’s Real Time Crime Center to focus on areas with a heavy concentration of gun violence and identify any patterns.
2. Forming units of officers called Problem Response Teams in each area command. The Problem Response Teams will be made up of officers who don’t take calls for service but will be available to help community members as they need it. After a violent crime, the teams, along with Albuquerque Fire Rescue, will visit the neighborhood and provide resources or information.
3. Identifying those who are selling firearms illegally to felons or juveniles.
4. Working with agencies and universities to conduct research on gun violence as a public health issue.
5. Implementing a standardized shooting response protocol that police must follow within the first 72 hours of a reported crime. APD intends to collect and test all casings at shooting scenes and intends to purchase new equipment and technology that can assist detectives in investigating gun crimes.
6. APD is in the process of hiring additional personnel for the crime lab and securing technology that will increase efficiency around DNA testing including automating the entire unit. The unit that tests DNA and the unit that tests latent fingerprints will be split in an attempt to reduce a backlog of evidence that needs to be tested.
7. Increasing the use of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and the Problem Response Teams. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network program is used to identify which guns have been used in multiple crimes by analyzing all casings they can find at violent crime scenes where a firearm has been discharged
8. Use of a placard police officers can hang on doors to encourage residents to call with information about a crime.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1301057/police-to-focus-on-gun-violence.html

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 DOWNTOWN PUBLIC SAFETY DISTRICT

On September 12, 2018, Mayor Tim Keller announced a new “Downtown Public Safety District” for Central Downtown that assigns up to 12 police officers specifically to the area and applying other city resources, such as a Family and Community Services Department social worker. The Downtown Public Safety District” created by Keller was in response to a petition drive by Downtown businesses and residents demanding such a substation. The substation for the Downtown Public Safety District is located at the Alvarado Transportation Center at First and Central SW. The substation gives a permanent police presence in Downtown Albuquerque.

The congregation of the homeless in the Central Downtown area have been a chronic problem especially around the Alvarado Transportation Center. Consequently, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) was assigned to the district to address homelessness and behavioral health needs.

Several other city departments a well as community organizations providing services to the homeless and mentally ill contribute resources to the district. The other city departments that provide services to Central Downtown area include:

1. Albuquerque Fire Rescue (AFR) has increased its presence near Central Avenue during high-volume call times and by driving a loop around the district after each call for service.
2. The Transit and Municipal Development departments contribute security personnel to the district in coordination with APD patrol plans.
3. The Family and Community Services Department is contributing a social worker to coordinate service providers and implement Project ECHO to train mental health workers in the district.
4. The Municipal Development and Solid Waste departments have expanded the use of street cleaning machines throughout Downtown, including alleyways, and add collection routes for Downtown businesses to address overflow of trash from Saturday nights.
5. Solid Waste is using its “Block by Block” program to wash sidewalks and its Clean City Graffiti crew to eradicate graffiti as soon as possible.
7. The Family and Community Services Department is working with Heading Home’s ABQ Street Connect program to help people with significant behavioral health disability and who are experiencing homelessness.
8. The Family and Community Services is also working with HopeWorks and outreach partners including APD’s COAST team, APD’s Crisis Intervention Team and ACT teams to do mental health outreach and are working with the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness to help service providers for homeless people.

https://www.cabq.gov/police/news/mayor-tim-keller-unveils-new-downtown-public-safety-district

DISTRICT ATTORNEY TORREZ BUDGET INCREASES

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office employs 330 full time personnel which includes 118 full time attorney positions. During the 2018-2019 legislative session, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez secured a $4.2 million increase for the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office. During the 2019-2020 that just ended, the office received another $5,000,000 increase in budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Torrez now has $24.8 million-dollar budget to run his office.

According to the New Mexico sunshine portal, District Attorney Raul Torrez currently has 330 fully funded positions within his office. The Sunshine Portal also reveals that Torres has 55 vacancies, 21 which are attorney prosecutor positions.

MAYOR KELLER’S DEDICATION OF RESOURCES

In 2017, then State Auditor Tim Keller campaigned for Mayor proclaiming he had the right plan for reducing crime, police reform and community-based policing. On April 1, 2019, Mayor Tim Keller submitted his first proposed budget to the Albuquerque City Council which was approved. The City Council Approved Mayor Tim Keller’s spending of $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. Keller further implemented a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing. By July, 2019, APD should have up to 950 sworn police which is still 250 below the desired number of police officers.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torrez asking Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for help and succeeding in having the Governor assign a total of 57 New Mexico State Police officers from across the state to work out of Albuquerque can be described as “desperate measures for despicable crimes”.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s action does come with considerable risk to other New Mexico smaller communities given the fact that significant law enforcement resources from the New Mexico State Police are being diverted from much smaller communities that need them more than Albuquerque.

Notwithstanding, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham with her words and actions announced in a press release showed far greater sense of urgency acknowledging the crisis than did Keller, Geier and Torrez.

The fact that Mayor Tim Keller, like his predecessor Mayor Richard Berry, began to blame the courts for a violent crime is extremely disappointing. It is also evidence that Keller knows his policies are failing. Despite Mayor Keller’s increases APD budget and personnel, he has not shaken the stark reality that the city is way too violent. Mayor Keller is relegated to issuing condolences to victim family’s that ring hollow when he conducts news conferences to repeat or try and come up with new initiatives to reduce violent crime in any given area. Mayor Keller should probably save a lot of time and effort and just video tape one press conference that could be played on a video loop to save time in that he seems to say the same things over and over again: how sad he is for the death or current tragedy, this has been going on for a long time, it is going to take more time for things to get better, we are “One Albuquerque” and this is what APD will now be doing.

Both Torrez and Keller campaigned to get elected DA and Mayor on platforms that they could and would bring down our skyrocketing crime rates. No at all surprising, Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez have tried to take credit for crime rates being on the decline in all other categories other than gun violence offenses.

In 2016, Raul Torrez campaigned on a platform of reducing crime arguing that crime rates were too high, our criminal justice system was broken and that he was the guy to fix it. Torrez during his first year in office blamed judges for our high crime rates because of reduced sentences given to violent criminals and dismissal of cases until it was revealed that his office voluntarily dismissed cases at much higher rates than the courts.

After more than two years in office, blaming judges for high crime rates and constant complaining about lack of resources without filling over 55 vacancies in his office, DA Torrez only now realizes that has not worked and finally reached out to others to find better strategies, such as his “Ceasefire Program” and his “Crime Strategies Unit” .

https://www.abqjournal.com/1308746/san-francisco-da-analyzing-data-helpful-in-fighting-crime.html

Both DA Torrez and Mayor Keller have initiated programs in an effort to bring down violent crime rates and gun violence. As the shootings, assaults and killings continue to rise, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller are increasingly focused on the gun violence and the city’s murder rates, but time is running out for both of them despite their efforts.

Notwithstanding, voters are very fickle and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. The Bernalillo County District Attorney Office is now Torrez’s full responsibility and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates and bungled prosecutions. APD is now fully in the hands of Mayor Tim Keller and his appointed command staff, and he cannot blame his predecessor for continuing increases in our crime rates, so he now appears to be changing tactics an blaming judges.

Mayor Keller, APD Chief Geier and DA Torrez asking for additional resources and more personnel from the State is essentially an admission by them that all they have been doing for the last two years is failing and they need still more, money and resources. Keller, Geier and Torrez are also realizing that governing and law enforcement takes more than just press conferences to get results and if people they have hired are not getting the job done, personnel changes are in order, including asking for more than a few resignations.

If you are being given everything you want and have asked for, and then some, sooner or later people demand results. What is becoming increasingly concerning for the City is that all the increases in APD budget and personnel and increases and new programs at APD and the DA’s Office are not having any effect on bringing down the violent crime and murder rates.

It is no longer an issue of not having the money, personnel nor resources. It is now an issue of management, or mismanagement of resources, by Mayor Tim Keller, APD Chief Michael Geier and District Attorney Raul Torrez. Why bother with real results when it is so much easier to hold press conferences, give out condolences, do TV interviews, blame the courts for violent crimes and hold your hands out for more money and resources.

An Albuquerque Mother’s Day Tribute, 2019

Rose Fresques Dinelli was born on August 30, 1921 in Chacon, New Mexico. She passed away on September 6, 1997 at the age of 76 after a five-year battle with breast cancer. Rose Fresques Dinelli left a legacy of love, family, character, compassion for others, and true courage in the face of adversity, struggles and even death.

My mother Rose came from a family of 7 raised in Chacon, New Mexico with 4 sisters and 3 brothers. They were dirt poor with my grandfather being a “carpenter” and a field laborer when needed. When the depression hit, she remembered that her family would say “What depression, we’re already poor! During World War II, she saw her older brothers Fred and Mac Fresques go off to war and they both saw action. She told me that during the war, she took off to California and worked on an airplane assembly line to help build US war planes. She worked as a “riveter” on the planed assembly line and she said she would laugh when people called her “Rosie the Riveter”.

“Harvey Girl’s” were trained at the Alvarado with dormitory facilities provided to young woman in need of work. A very young Rose Fresques Dinelli in her mid-twenties lived in the dormitory and was trained to be a Harvey Girl. Many years later, she would meet Paul Dinelli at the Alvarado Hotel. Again, many years later Rose would again become a waitress at other restaurants after Paul became seriously ill and she initially supported the family of five on the minimum wage. Paul and Rose were married for 27 years before Paul passed and she never remarried. Rose Dinelli was a waitress for some 30+ years before she passed away in 1997 at age 76. Rose Dinelli passed away in the very same Mossman-Gladden home she had purchased with her husband Paul around 1962.

Rose Fresques Dinelli supported a family of 6 and was able to kept us together when my dad became 100% disabled from a WWII service-connected disability when I was around 12. For a number of years, she had to work “split shits” from 11:00 am to 2 pm to work lunches and then working from 5:00 pm to 12:00 pm to work dinner hours. My mother returned to work as a waitress working for minimum wage and tips to support her family. She loved being a waitress for over 34 years. My mother loved people and the restaurant industry! She was one of the most independent, hardworking, determined people I have ever known. Sure, there was love, but just as important there was immeasurable respect for someone who sacrificed so much for her family. I have no doubt she lived the meaning of “woman’s liberation” many years before the term was ever coined. She was part of “America’s Greatest Generation” who lived through the Great Depression and World War II.

Mom worked at some of the best places in Albuquerque, including the Four Hills Country Club, the Sundowner, Diamond Jim’s Restaurant, the 4 Seasons Crystal Room and Maria Teressa restaurant she helped open and the closed after working there for so many years. She often told me the restaurant business was one of the few places to work where you would always see people at their very best behavior and their worst behavior in the manner of a few hours. She also said that a measure of a person is reflected on how they treat people who work for them.

It was not until many, many, years later when I was an adult and after she had passed that I came to really appreciate how many young woman’s lives she had touched and influenced over the years. Many would approach me and tell me what she had done for them. One woman in particular has opened a very well-known restaurant in Albuquerque with her husband and has told me of many memories she had of “Rose”. What I found is that there were many times young, struggling woman would turn to her for guidance and help who were struggling to make a living, needing help handling a crisis in their personal lives and struggles.

I remember Winrock Shopping Center growing up as a kid. My family lived on San Pedro north of Menaul in a red brick Mossman Gladden home across from Quigley Park. My mother worked as a waitress at Diamond Jim’s Restaurant at Winrock until the day it was closed.

A branch of First National Bank was in the North area outside the mall with a Safeway Grocery store and a Value House Jewelry Store. Many years later, when I was an adult and running for Mayor in 1989, I ran into a teller who retired from the bank and who was working at a retail store. She asked me in an affectionate tone of voice if I was the son of the “ones” lady.

I looked at the woman very puzzled. I did not understand until the she told me she knew my mother Rose. They had become friends when she was a bank teller at First National Bank and she said my mom would deposit her tips daily from her job as a waitress at Diamond Jim’s when she worked “split shifts”, the lunch and dinner shifts. All of her tips were always in one-dollar bills. Bank tellers who did not know my mother by name would call her the “ones” lady.

My mother instilled in me the importance of getting an education, honesty, integrity, hard work, the true meaning of family and the meaning of character and courage in the face of adversity and doing what is right in life. I talk to my mother every day and thank her for what she did for our family and for me over the years.

The white peones flower was my mother’s favorite flower of all time. The peones has the sweet smell of a rose when it blooms only once a year. My mother had a very large group of peones “bulbs” in her back yard she cater to for years at the very house where we grew up. In late October, 1997 after she passed, I remember one very rainy, muddy and cold night going to her home and digging up the cluster of bulbs and then taking the ball of dirt and transplanting the bulbs in the front of our home. I had serious doubt the plants would live. To our delight, my mother’s flowers survived the winter transplant, grew and on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1998, the white peones were in full bloom as they have done each year around Mothers Day!

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY ONE AND ALL! GIVE YOUR MOMS A BIG HUG AND A KISS!

When At First You Do Not Succeed, Try, Try Again, Especially When You Have A Leaky Roof!

On Monday May 6, 2019, the Albuquerque Public School (APS) Board voted unanimously to seek voter approval on the November 5, 2019 election ballot of a mill levy and bonds for school maintenance, education and music equipment, technology and school security. The mill levy if passed will generate $190 million over six years and $100 million in general obligation bonds will be issued over four years for capital projects and needs.

In February, voters rejected 3 separate, much larger initiatives, including the renewal of an expiring mill levy for maintenance and upgrades aging facilities. In February voters overwhelmingly struck down APS’ two mill levy questions and bond issue in a mail-in election. Those ballot initiatives would have brought in $900 million over six years in part through a tax increase. APS would have raised its tax rate from 10.45 to about 12.45, a 19% rate increase that would have result in a 4.7% uptick on residents’ total property tax bills.

$190 million is a far cry from $900 million and with no new taxes! Unlike the February failed mail in ballot initiative, there will be no property tax increase. What APS will be asking for is to re-establish the mill levy for school maintenance, repairs, education and music equipment, technology and school security with the existing mill levy set to expire later this year. Without replacing that mill levy, there will be no funding to repair the 142 facilities APS operates.

APS is projecting that a total of $302 million in election revenue, including state matching money, will be generated if voters approve the single measure. According to APS officials, $114 million in “capital improvement revenue” will be generated and go toward maintenance and operations and include a projected $13.5 million for school security and $85.5 million for design and construction of school facilities. Capital improvement revenue is separate from the APS operational budget and cannot go toward operational issues such as teacher or staff salaries.

The APS Board also voted to re prioritize funding voters approved previously and redirect money to higher priority projects that can be completed right away instead of going toward planned projects that won’t have enough money to be finished due to the failed February election. The APS Board identified 12 projects as priority construction projects, including work on bus depots in the district and new classrooms for Career Enrichment Center and Early College Academy and Navajo Elementary School.

Scott Elder, the APS Chief Operations Officer for all APS facilities was blunt about what will happen if the new initiative fails at the polls:

“The loss of maintenance, technology and equipment is a pretty significant and tremendous burden … If [voters] do not continue to impose this mill, we do not have the money to maintain our facilities.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1312110/aps-to-go-before-voters-again-in-november.html

APS IN A NUTSHELL

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district and among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools. The average age of an APS school is 50 years old, with many needing serious repairs, new roofs, plumbing and upgrades along with enhance security measures. APS employs 14,000 total employees consisting of 12,000 full time employees, 6,063 teachers and librarians and 1,800 teacher aides.

APS serves more than a fourth of the state’s students, nearly 84,000 students. The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:
65.8% Hispanic
22.9% Caucasian/White
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs. There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools. The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

CITY GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS ALSO ON NOVEMBER 5, 2019 BALLOT

The Albuquerque City Council is placing $127 million in general obligation bonds on the November 5, 2019 ballot for voter approval.

Over $53 million is being proposed to be put into community facilities that includes:

• $13 million toward the historic Rail Yards property through 2029.
• $11 million for various projects at the Albuquerque Museum over the next decade.
• $7 million to a new APD southeast substation at Kathryn and San Mateo.
• $7 million for a year-round homeless facility.
• $5.5 million for the International District Library.
• $5 million in funding for Family & Community Services Section 8 Affordable Housing.
• $2.8 million for Community, Health, Social Services Centers.
• $2.5 million for a new exit off I-25 to Balloon Fiesta Park.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In February when voters overwhelmingly rejected Albuquerque Public Schools’ two mill levy and one proposed bond questions, they not only rejected funding for the district’s future capital improvement master plan but the critical and necessary funding of $190 million to repair and maintenance of the 142 aging APS schools. The APS school system went into a major tail spin and it does not have much of a choice to try again to get voter approval for school maintenance and security. Voters in November will in essence be asked to decide between building a homeless shelter, a community library, fund museum projects, make road repairs and clean up the Albuquerque Rail Yards versus providing funding to maintain and repair aging and deteriorating APS public schools.

APS desperately needs the funding for maintenance and repairs of aging school facilities. APS needs the tax funding for maintenance and repairs just as much as the city needs general obligation bond funding for capital improvement projects. It is not a sure bet that voters will go along with both on the same ballot. The November 5, 2019 ballot will be a “consolidated” ballot and will have city, sate and APS issues on the ballot and it will not be a “mail in ballot” as was the February, 2019 APS ballot initiatives.

Mayor Tim Keller, the City Council, the APS School Board and APS administration need to confer with each other and come up with a winning strategy to ensure all measures are successful in the November 5, 2019 election.

New Mexico Ranks #1 In Child Hunger; Hunger Not Only Problem Facing Our Kids

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. It has a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs scattered throughout the United States. Altogether, the network of organization provides meals to more than 46 million people each year.

Every year, Feeding American conducts a survey known as the “Map the Meal Gap 2019” annual report to identify the extent of at risk of childhood hunger and “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is defined as “inability of individuals or families to know where a portion of their food will come from at any given time.”

According to the just-released 2019 report from Feeding America, 24.1% of children and young teenagers age 18 and younger in New Mexico, or one of every four children, are at risk of childhood hunger and food insecurity making New Mexico’s rank dead last in the country. In 2018 “Map the Meal Gap” also ranked New Mexico as dead last, and in the 2017, the state ranked 49th.

Arkansas is this year’s 49th place holder with 23.6% of children at risk for childhood hunger followed by Louisiana ranked 48th with 23% and Mississippi at 47th with 22.9%. According to the “Map the Meal Gap” report, the states with the fewest percentage of kids who are at risk of food hunger are North Dakota, ranked first with 9.8% of kids, followed by Massachusetts at 11.7%, New Hampshire with 12.3% and Minnesota with 12.6%.

What is striking is how pervasive hunger in New Mexico really is. The Map the Meal Gap reported that 324,000 people of all ages or 15.8% in the State of New Mexico are at risk of hunger. The report ranked the worst five counties in New Mexico with the highest percentage of child hunger and they are: McKinley County with 33.5%, Luna County with 33.4%; Cibola and Catron Counties each with 30.4%; and Sierra County 27.8%.

According to Roadrunner Food Bank spokeswoman, Sonya Warwick, the actual cause of the problem are many factors and she said:

“In some instances, that food insecurity results from adults in a family having unreliable seasonal jobs, or hourly workers suddenly finding that their hours were reduced, people who are unemployed or underemployed, those facing homelessness, domestic violence or health issues. … [Many people fall into the gray area] “where they’re still very poor, but make just over what might qualify them for federal food assistance programs.”

The biggest single factor causing New Mexico’s child hunger and “food insecurity” is the number of children who live in poverty. New Mexico is near the top of this list also. A spokeswoman for New Mexico Voices for Children, said 27% of kids in our state live in poverty, ranking us 49th on this list, tied with Mississippi, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Only Louisiana fares worse, ranked in 50th place with 28% of kids living in poverty.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1310364/new-mexico-again-leads-nation-in-child-hunger.html

HUNGER AND POVERTY NOT THE ONLY CRISIS

For the first time in five years, New Mexico has fallen to last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of its children, according to a nonprofit that tracks the status of U.S. kids. According to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, 30% of New Mexico’s children were living in poverty in 2016, compared to 19% nationwide that year, the earliest figures available. In educational measures, the report says 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S. The most troubling in the 2018 Kids Count Data Book is New Mexico’s steep drop in ranking for health care measures which previously was a bright spot for the state.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/report-new-mexico-ranks-last-in-child-well-being/article_0f6865fc-d34a-5050-9f74-21680e98a2a5.html

In New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners. Further, 14.8 percent of students have disabilities, and 10.6 percent are Native American. Proficiency rates for Native American students in the past 3 years, was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

2019 LEGISLATURE TACKLES THE PROBLEM

During the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session, the legislature approved an education budget of $3.2 Billion, 16% over last year’s budget, out of the total budget of $7 Billion. Included in the budget is a $500 million in additional funding for K-12 education and increases in teacher pay.

The massive infusion of funding to public education is the result of the District Court ruling that ruled the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education. The District Court found that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

Early childhood programs will be given a major increase in funding. Under the enacted 2019-2020 budget, every public-school district will be allocated significantly more funding. Teachers have not had any raises to speak of for the last 8 years. Teachers and school administrators will be given 6% pay raises with more money to hire teachers.

A new “Early Childhood Department” was created starting in January 2020. This was a major priority of the Governor Lujan Grisham. The new department will focus state resources on children from birth to 5 years of age. A major goal of the new department, coupled with other investments, will be more New Mexico children growing up to secure gainful employment as adults who don’t require government services.

ALBUQUERQUE PUBLIC SCHOOLS

APS has an approved 2018-2018 approved budget of $1.38 Billion. Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students.

The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:

65.8% Hispanic
22.9% Caucasian/White
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs. There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools.

APS is among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation and the largest in New Mexico. APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools.

APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program. The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

PROTECTING CHILDREN

Albuquerque and New Mexico during the last 4 to 8 years has been stunned, shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents. Eight years ago, the former Republican Governor was elected in part because of publicity she garnered as an elected District Attorney prosecuting the “Baby Brianna” child abuse case. Lest anyone forget, baby Brianna Lopez was the 5-month old who was brutally raped and beat to death in 2002 by her own mother. Since 2001, in New Mexico, no less than 24 children, ranging from ages of 5 weeks old to 3, 4, 5 months old to 3, 4, 5, and 11 years old, have been killed as a result of child physical and sexual abuse.

(Re: August 31, 2016 Albuquerque Journal Editorial Guest column by Allen Sanchez.)

Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department. The New Mexico legislature allocated an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department. Under the enacted budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division.

COMMENTARY ANALYSIS

The rankings and financial numbers are depressing and staggering:

** New Mexico ranks 50th for at risk of childhood in hunger and “food insecurity.”

** New Mexico is last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of children.

** 27% of New Mexico kids live in poverty, ranking New Mexico 49th on this list.

** 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.

** In 2019, the New Mexico legislature approves an education budget of $3.2 Billion out of a $7 billion budget, increasing the education budget by 16% over last year’s budget.

**The 2019 New Mexico legislature approved $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department

** APS approve a 2018-2018 budget of $1.38 Billion.

When it is all said and done, and the money spent and long gone, there is no guarantee that New Mexico rankings will get any better when it comes to children living in poverty.
Notwithstanding, Albuquerque and New Mexico, and all of its leaders, have a moral obligation to do something to address poverty, children living in poverty and to protect our most venerable population, its children.

Our children’s lives, their future and our future depend upon it.

Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
— Matthew 19:13-14

Ninth APD Federal Monitor’s Report Filed; Negotiate Dismissal of CASA

On May 1, 2019, Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed his ninth “Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department and the City of Albuquerque With Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement” (CASA) report with the Federal Court. The report is 286 pages long and follows the same format as all the previous 8 reports: a detailed audit of every paragraph of the consent decree.

(Case 1:14-cv-01025-JB-SMV, Document 444 Filed 05/01/19 Page 1 to 286, Monitor’s Ninth Report, Compliance Levels of the Albuquerque Police Department and the City of Albuquerque with Requirements of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement No. CIV 14-1025-JB-SMV).

http://documents.cabq.gov/police/reports/department-of-justice/ninth-albuquerque-police-department-progress-report-march-2019.pdf

This article highlights major points of the report. It is not intended to be exhaustive. This report covers the compliance efforts of APD during the audit period of August, 2018 through January, 2019.

INTRODUCTION SUMMARY

According to the monitor, a new strategy has been developed by APD, one which the monitoring team believes will significantly aid efforts to implement the spirit of the CASA and specific requirements. According to the report APD Chief Michael Geier and his command staff “have identified and replicated several state-of-the art policing strategies that are designed to transition APD to an agency that has true partnerships with the citizens it serves.”

The Federal monitors reports executive summary proclaims:

“For the second reporting period in a row, the compliance efforts … observed during this reporting period differ substantively from those … observed earlier in the monitoring process. … [T] he current APD executive staff continue to be fully committed to CASA compliance processes. Most of the new command and oversight [personnel] also appear to be fully committed to moving APD forward in its compliance efforts. [The monitor’s team] found extremely attentive audiences for … compliance process advice, and in most cases, APD has moved forward adroitly as it implements responses to that advice.”

The ninth report “is the second full monitor’s report that reflects the progress made at APD since the advent of a new management” and command staff at APD. The monitor noted the new management of APD “continues to exhibit a strong grasp of the key issues confronting them as they work toward compliance with the CASA.”

“… [T] he current leadership continues to demonstrate a grasp of the key issues involved in the compliance process and they are building effective problem-solving mechanisms designed to effectuate meaningful change at APD.”

During the 9th reporting period, “APD has adopted the long-term approach to reform [that the monitoring team has] recommended from the early stages of this process. … [T]his is a critical change in approach. The new executive and management [team] at APD have been highly responsive to monitoring team feedback.”

APD’s management “have made palpable progress. More importantly, they have constructed critical foundations for the change that still remains to be accomplished.”

APD IMPLEMENTS STATE-OF-THE ART COMMUNITY POLICING

APD has implemented 4 new initiatives proven effective in other police departments as being highly successful.
The 4 initiatives are:

1.EPIC –ETHICAL POLICING IS COURAGEOUS: A peer-based program designed to empower individual officers [with] the strategies and tools to step in and intervene in improper police behaviors in order to prevent problems before they occur. EPIC train[s] officers in how to defuse situations before they become critical issues in how officers interact with and treat the public.

2. LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTED DIVERSION (LEAD) programs are designed to end the revolving door of arrest-try-incarcerate-repeat generated by most law enforcement programs designed to deal with drug abuse or prostitution. The program allows law enforcement officers to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drug or prostitution activity to community-based services, thus preventing negative outcomes of being processed by official criminal justice system components for first offenses.

3. CIT-ECHO—An Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes: A collaborative model of medical education and care management that empowers clinicians to provide better care to more people. ECHO dramatically increases access to specialty training and knowledge by front-line law enforcement personnel with the knowledge and support they need to manage difficult interactions.

4. PROBLEM RESPONSE TEAMS—Dedicated community-policing trained officers assigned to community outreach and problem-solving modalities that involve working directly with local residents and business owners to identify problems, issues, needs and solutions related to articulated community problems.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND STEPS TAKEN TO MOVE PROCESS FORWARD

According to the 9th Federal Monitors Report, “APD continues moving toward becoming a data driven organization that uses data and facts to assess issues, identify potential solutions, and effect meaningful change.”

APD has now taken the following direct actions to move their compliance processes with the CASA forward:

“• Building a more rigorous development and assessment practice at the Training Academy related to curriculum development, delivery and assessment;

• Fielding an effective unit designed to reduce the long-standing backlog of use of force incidents;

• Researching and adapting implementation strategies informed by the experiences in other police agencies working through similar reform processes;

• Developing competencies within the Compliance Bureau in a manner that should drastically improve compliance-related performance, including a new “Performance Metrics Unit” that serves as APD’s internal audit unit, performing work similar to the monitoring process;

• Continuing work for restructuring the documentation of training processes, including improved training plans and revised internal responsibilities and processes;

• Continuing staffing and development of a well-organized and staffed self-audit function (the Performance Metrics Unit);

• Continuing movement toward community-based, problem-oriented policing practices designed to address community concerns and priorities;

• Provision of training designed to change the culture and climate at APD; and

• Reorganizing and staffing the Internal Affairs processes in a manner designed to improve the quality of internal investigations.”

PERSISTANT PROBLEM AREAS IDENTIFIED

The 9th Monitors Report identified 3 persistent problem areas carried over from the previous administration, all of which present clear obstacles to effective compliance.

The obstacles include:

“1. Resolving issues relating to identification, assessment and action on events constituting alleged policy or rule violations by sworn personnel within the 90-day limit established by union contract;

2. The use of “Additional Concerns Memos” to dispose of policy violation issues, as opposed to actual findings and corrective action; and

3. A continuation of what … [is] … labeled the “Counter-CASA Effect” at APD.”

OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE LEVELS

For the purposes of the APD monitoring process, “compliance” consists of three parts: primary, secondary, and operational.

The 3 compliance levels are described as follows:

1. PRIMARY COMPLIANCE: Primary compliance is the “policy” part of compliance. To attain primary compliance, APD must have in place operational policies and procedures designed to guide officers, supervisors and managers in the performance of the tasks outlined in the CASA. As a matter of course, the policies must be reflective of the requirements of the CASA; must comply with national standards for effective policing policy; and must demonstrate trainable and evaluable policy components.

2. SECONDARY COMPLIANCE: Secondary compliance is attained by implementing supervisory, managerial and executive practices designed to (and effective in) implementing the policy as written, e.g., sergeants routinely enforce the policies among field personnel and are held accountable by managerial and executive levels of the department for doing so. By definition, there should be operational artifacts (reports, disciplinary records, remands to retraining, follow-up, and even revisions to policies if necessary, indicating that the policies developed in the first stage of compliance are known to, followed by, and important to supervisory and managerial levels of the department.

3. OPERATIONAL COMPLIANCE: Operational compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency e.g., line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.

During the audit period of August 1, 2018 to January 14, 2019 the report found APD was 99.6% in primary compliance, 79% in secondary compliance and 63% in operational compliance. This is up slightly from the previous report when the department was in 75.4% secondary compliance and 59.2% in operational compliance. Primary compliance remained the same between the two periods.

OBSTACLES TO COMPLIANCE

“While on-site during the reporting period, a meeting was held with members of the monitoring team, APD command staff, the City, the US Attorney and DOJ to discuss two specific issues we see as key illustrations of obstacles to compliance:

1) Additional Concern Memos (ACMs) being improperly used to address policy and misconduct that should be elevated to Internal Affairs, and

2) Incorrect interpretations of when a timeline begins for the completion of an investigation. Failing to properly remediate performance deficiencies and tepid responses to policy violations will impede seriously reform efforts.”

According to the monitors report “policy violations that should be reported to Internal Affairs are instead often being handled in area commands or within Additional Concern Memos (ACM). ACMs have been found to contain information that clearly required Internal Affairs referrals, but as important, is the fact that ACMs are a poor mechanism to track aggregated data that can be used for performance plans and as data for the EIRS. To its credit, APD has acknowledged this practice is creating issues for the agency and committed to ending the use of ACMs entirely.”

ROLE OF POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD

According to the monitors report “There have been indications that the Police Oversight Board’s (POB) role in the oversight process and the reform process of the CASA is not being taken seriously enough by the City.”

“The POB consists of 9 members, all of whom are needed to keep current with its challenging workload and tasks of the Board and its sub-committees. Three POB vacancies occurred in 2018, (March 2018; June 2018; and September 2018). None of these vacancies had been filled by the end of this IMR period (January 31, 2019).”

“The monitoring team has learned that … three candidates have been selected to fill these vacancies and were to be presented to City Council for approval at its February 2019 meeting. Without reflecting on the qualifications of the candidates or their desire and commitment to serve, we have learned that the selection process was seriously wanting.”

“No formal interview of the candidates took place before selection. There was no input from the POB or CPOA as to the background and qualifications of the three candidates, or for any applicants for that matter. It appears that they were selected solely from the information provided on their November 2017 website applications, pending an appropriate background check.”

“Another related issue was the reappointment of the Executive Director [Ed Harness] to a second term. His first term expired in October 2018. In anticipation of the end of his contract … the POB voted to renew the Executive Director’s contract in May of 2018. Notwithstanding that the CASA gives the authority to select the Executive Director to the POB (“the agency”), City Council twice delayed voting on approval of the reappointment. The Executive Director was finally approved in early December 2018; however, at the expiration of this IMR period he was still working without a contract.”

CONCLUSION SUMMARY

According to the monitors 9th report “[At the close of] the reporting period, APD is in a strong position to move forward successfully; however [there are] potential obstacles to finishing compliance efforts in a timely manner.”

The Monitors report identified APD’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the remaining tasks facing APD as it moves forward in implementing the CASA.

STRENGTHS IDENTIFIED

The federal monitor identified two major strengths:

1.“APD executive staff, i.e., the chief of police and deputy chiefs of police and most in the command levels of APD are committed, knowledgeable, change-oriented individuals, and are beginning to look “outside” the agency for models, processes, product and solutions to the issues confronting the agency as it moves forward with compliance efforts.”

2.“The current city administration has committed to the requisite funding levels that were obvious from the outset of the project in 2015. Acquisition of additional officers, and funding for needed information and management systems are being met at a level that is necessary for moving forward with many CASA-related processes.”

WEAKNESSES IDENTIFIED

Despite the strengths noted, the report found that APD is still confronted with several weaknesses that have and will continue to retard the reform progress.

The weaknesses include:

“▪ A lack of vision among some of the command ranks;
▪ A lack of full commitment to reform at command through sergeant levels;
▪ A paucity of technical skills in command ranks;
▪ A lack of integration of compliance efforts;
▪ Overt resistance from some in command, mid-management, and supervisory levels;
▪ A paucity of technical skills among key elements of the reform effort, including:

— A lack of experience and core knowledge regarding organizational development and planned change;

— A lack of familiarity with the application of automated information systems to the specific problem sets confronted by the agency; and

–A lack of a sophisticated understanding of and experience with quantitative and qualitative program evaluation.”

According to the report, the weaknesses listed are the same weaknesses noted since the inception of the monitoring project, and are reflective of the lack of an outside focus by APD during the past administration.”

OPPORTUNITIES IDENTIFIED

The Federal Monitor reported several opportunities for APD to move forward effectively and they include:

“▪ Enhanced funding levels from new administration;
▪ Enhanced support from new administration;
▪ Newly earned trust from community;
▪ The continued Court mandate for “change;”
▪ Acceptance of “outside hires” at management and technical levels; and
▪ Existence of “experienced” organizations that have preceded APD in the reform effort (Los Angeles, Seattle, New Orleans, Cleveland etc.).”

THREATS IDENTIFIED

The Federal Monitor identified formidable threats to APD’s success as follows:

“▪ The Counter-CASA effects … discussed in detail over the past five reports;
▪ Technological, managerial, and supervisory skill deficits; and
▪ The shelf-life of existing opportunities (discretionary funding for reform efforts) may soon dry up, as the City is required to focus on other, equally important issues.”

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

In November, 2014, the CASA was entered into between the City of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), the DOJ and approved by a federal judge.

The CASA provides for termination of the agreement as follows:

“The City will endeavor to reach full and effective compliance with this Agreement within four years of its Effective Date. The Parties agree to jointly ask the Court to terminate this Agreement after this date, provided that the City has been in full and effective compliance with this Agreement for two years. “Full and Effective Compliance” shall be defined to require sustained compliance with all material requirements of this Agreement or sustained and continuing improvement in constitutional policing, as demonstrated pursuant to the Agreement’s outcome measures.” (Page 103 of CASA)

https://www.cabq.gov/mental-health-response-advisory-committee/documents/court-approved-settlement-agreement-final.pdf

After review of the DOJ investigation report, the CASA mandates, and the reforms implemented, a conclusion that can be reached is the spirit and intent of the CASA has been attained and it should be terminated sooner rather than later. However in the 9th report, the Federal Monitor failed to indicate in any manner how much more time and how much money will be needed to complete the reform process under the CASA.

In November, 2019, it will be a full 5 years has expired since the city entered into the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the Department of Justice (DOJ). For nearly 3 years, the previous Republican City Administration and the former Republican APD command staff did whatever it could to undermine and undercut the implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms. During the last 18 months, there has been a dramatic turnaround with the implementation and progress with the reforms.

From all appearances, and from review of all the Federal Monitor’s last 9 reports, the City and APD have completed the following mandated reforms under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement:

1. After a full year of negotiations, the new “use of force” and “use of deadly force” policies have been written, implemented. All APD sworn have received training on the policies.

2. All sworn have received at least 40 hours crisis management intervention training.

3. APD has created a “Use of Force Review Board” that oversees all internal affairs investigations of use of force and deadly force.

4. The Internal Affairs Unit has been divided into two sections, one dealing with general complaints and the other dealing with use of force incidents.

5. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning chokeholds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implementation in new use of force and deadly force policies have been completed.

6. “Constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill have now been implemented at the APD Police Academy with all sworn also having received the training.

7. APD has adopted a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented detailing how use of force cases are investigated.

8. APD has revised and updated its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all sworn police officers.

9. The Repeat Offenders Project, known as ROP, has been abolished.

10. Police Oversight Board has been created, funded, fully staffed and a director has hired been hired and his contract renewed.

11. The Community Policing Counsels have been created in all area command and the counsels meet monthly.

12. The Mental Health Advisory Committee has been implemented.

13. The CASA identified that APD was severely understaffed. The city intends to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 322 sworn officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers. APD is projecting that it will have 980 officers by July, 2019 by growing the ranks with both new cadets, lateral hires from other departments, and returning to work APD retirees.

14. The November of 2018 monitors report found APD achieved 99.6% compliance rate with primary tasks, 75.4% secondary compliance and 59.5% operational compliance with APD making significant progress in compliance. In May, 2019, APD achieved a 100% compliance with primary tasks, 79% secondary compliance and 61% operational compliance.

INTENT AND PURPOSE OF CASA HAS BEEN ACHIEVED

The CASA was negotiated to be fully implemented over a four-year period which is still achievable given the amount of progress APD has made. Under the CASA, once APD achieves a 95% compliance rate in all 3 compliance areas, the case can be dismissed. According to the Use of Force Report for the years 2017 and 2018, APD’s “use of force” and “deadly force” is down, which was the primary objective of the CASA reforms. Based on the statics for the 3 compliance areas reported, it would appear that within a year APD and the city should achieve a 95% compliance in the three compliance areas that will allow for a dismissal.

The biggest complaint of all the DOJ consent decrees in the country is that implementation and enforcement “go on and on” for years costing millions in taxpayer dollars and resources to a city that could be better used for essential services. The consent decree in Los Angeles has been going on now for about 16 years.

The delay in full implementation of all the reforms within the 4 years is inexcusable and the result of the previous incompetence of the prior APD command staff and administration. Further, the Federal Court and the Department of Justice contributed to the delay in implementing the reforms by refusing to be aggressive and take action against APD management that engaged in “delay, do little and deflect” tactics as decried by the monitor. The Federal Monitor also did little to assist APD with implementation of the reform’s other that “audit and monitor progress” conveniently proclaiming it was not his job to help APD, that his job was to collect data and information, audit and to report to the court on compliance and to collect his $4.5 million in fees.

All other federal consent decrees of city police departments involve in one form or another the finding of “racial profiling” and the use of excessive force or deadly force against targeted groups or minorities. Consent decrees involving “racial profiling” and racism are far more difficult and complicated to enforce because you cannot “teach” racial equality, eliminate racism in people and it is difficult to identify that a person is a racist when you recruit someone to be a police officer.

The 2013-2014 DOJ investigation of APD “use of force cases” and a finding of a “culture of aggression” within APD dealt with police officers’ interactions and responses to suspects that were mentally ill and that were having psychotic episodes. APD Police Officers were found to have escalated encounters with the mentally ill, even calling SWAT out to deal with the conflicts, such as the 2014 killing of mentally ill and homeless camper James Boyd in the Sandia Foot hills.

The 2014 DOJ investigation found that APD policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved. Crisis intervention and dealing with the mentally ill is “teachable” and “trainable.” APD has now trained its police officers to deal with the mentally ill and constitutional policing practices continue to be emphasized at the APD Academy.

APD is making significant progress in becoming fully staffed and returning to “community policing.” The City has also created the Police Oversight Board to deal with citizens’ complaints, the Community Policing Counsels and the Mental Health Advisory Committee.

With the continued implementation of the DOJ reforms, especially those reforms involving the mentally ill, the spirit and intent of the CASA has been realized. A 95% to 100% compliance with all the CASA primary, secondary and operational compliance goals should be achievable no more than 12 months, if not sooner, from now.

The roll of the Federal Monitor should now be reduced as well as the continued costs of the monitoring team reduced. APD and the City should commence negotiations immediately with the Department of Justice for a stipulated “Order of Compliance” from the Federal Court with a dismissal of any and all causes of action the DOJ may have against the city and APD within a year.

Otherwise, taxpayers and the city of Albuquerque will be sucked into “year after year” of expenses and costs associated with a consent decree whose primary objective has been achieved, with the Federal Monitor demanding another $4 million to audit progress on goals that have been essentially achieved