I shuddered when Tim Keller spoke those words, and I feared that some power would instantly smite him into a heap of ashes before our eyes, or that he'd be turned into a shapeless and quivering blob gelatin-like flesh. For the words the young mayor had uttered were the height of blasphemy – absolute, terrible, sickening and unacceptable and unforgivable blasphemy - in this city's development and political circles.
Keller said his administration would seek input from neighborhoods and city residents at the beginning of any major building projects, and that while he's mayor there will be no more top-down decisions about these types of things from City Hall.
In other words, the people in the neighborhoods will have the first and final say in any decisions, not city bureaucrats, planners and developers. And if residents don't like something – like the mini, North Valley garbage dump that Keller killed on Thursday – it won't be built or done.
The enormity of what Keller said violently shocked my body when I realized what the consequences will be if he actually does what he said he'll do: There will be no more ART-like projects that are pushed and proposed solely by developers and planners, and built even though almost nobody but the developer and planners want them. Citizens will no longer be dismissed as despised nuisances and barriers to big-money projects the developers want. Citizens will be in charge, and it will be government of the people, by the people and for the people; not government of the bureaucrats, by the planners and for the developers.
I quickly looked for places to hide because I fully expected endless caravans of SUVs and Hummers loaded with NAIOP people - bureaucrats and planners and developers and contractors and architects - to drive by and do harm to the new mayor for his acute blasphemy. Maybe they'd bury him on the spot in a mountain of lawsuits hurled out their vehicle windows. Or make him physically ill with threats to plop down an asphalt batch plant in his neighborhood. Or drive him insane with taunts that the Earth has been warming and cooling itself for more than 4 billion years and that humans have no effect on climate change.
I felt bad for Keller because he's only 40 years old and there he was smiling and laughing with neighborhood folks, and shaking their hands and innocently and naively proclaiming that he was upending the policy that has run this city for decades: that the developers and city planners run this town and that citizens have zero say in things. That's zero say in things.
Did he not realize what he was saying and what the consequences would be? I mean, this guy just guaranteed that no matter how long he serves as mayor, his picture will never hang in the Albuquerque Hall of Fame, or whatever that wall of pictures in the convention center is. That's because its the NAIOP people who make the decisions as to who gets in, and Keller just ruined their decades-long game.
Keller will never have a building named after him, not even a storefront needle-exchange joint.
Because he's mayor, Keller will have to attend NAIOP events, and developers will politely shake his hand, but then they'll frantically scurry to the restrooms and furiously scrub their hands of all traces of his “Government of the people” crap.
Maybe Keller will realize just how badly he has blasphemed and publicly repent and bow down before the bureaucrats and developers. And maybe his announcement on Thursday was just a few crumbs – a show - for the people. After all, what political consequences are there to killing off a garbage transfer station that neighborhood residents didn't want? None.
We'll see what happens when other big-money projects that are opposed by citizens and neighborhoods come along. We'll see what happens if the ART project really does turn into a disaster for Central Avenue.
And we'll see what happens when some earth muffins propose plopping down a city composting facility in a neighborhood where residents don't want it. Or when the city traffic engineers propose limiting vehicle traffic on yet another city street.
But until then, celebrate the new mayor's blasphemy. And do your part by getting involved in this city's civic and political life.
And know this: at some point, the empire will strike back. So be prepared.