Mayor Tim Keller’s Record Of Broken Promises, Failures And High Murder Rates
– During the last 3 years under Mayor Tim Keller’s leadership, things have only gotten worse in the city.
--The sweeping and dynamic change that Keller was perceived to represent in 2017 never materialized.
-- APD continues to implode, violent crime is still out of control, and with the pandemic, the state and city is likely headed for another major recession.
– In normal times, Tim Keller would be a one term Mayor given his record of broken promises and failures.
On January 1, 2021 the Albuquerque municipal election season began. On November 2, 2021, the elections for Albuquerque Mayor and City Council will be held. It was on election night November 5, 2019 that Mayor Tim Keller made it known in an election coverage radio interview he is seeking a second 4-year term as Mayor.
MAYOR KELLER’S RECORD OF BROKEN PROMISES AND FAILURES
In 2017 when the New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller ran for Mayor, he ran on the platform of reducing the city’s high crime rates, implementing the Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree and all the mandated reforms, increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to “community based policing”, no tax increase without a public vote even for public safety, address the homeless crisis by building a centralized shelter, stopping waste fraud and abuse, and a commitment to transparency and economic development.
There are any number broken promises, failures and controversies that will likely emerge in an attempt to deprive Mayor Tim Keller of a second term. Keller’s record of broken promises and failures from the beginning to the present are easily identified:
1. BROKEN PROMISE NOT TO RAISE TAXES WITHOUT PUBLIC VOTE
Candidate for Mayor Tim Keller during a televised debate with his run off opponent promised in clear words not to raise taxes without a public vote, even if it was for law enforcement or for public safety. In May, 2018, 4 months after Keller was sworn in as Mayor, the Albuquerque City Council enacted a gross receipt tax increase that raises upwards of $50 million a year. The tax was enacted was in response to reports that the city was facing a $40 million deficit. Mayor Keller broke his promise to demand a public vote on the tax and signed off on the $50 million a year tax increase. He signed off on the tax increase without any fanfare and without proposing any alternative budgets dealing with the deficit. The $40 million projected deficit never materialized. The City Council never repealed the tax. Keller went on a spending binge.
2. KELLER EMRACES DISASTEROUS ART BUS PROJECT
Mayor Tim Keller a few months after being elected announced that the ART Bus project was “a bit of a lemon”. Instead of abandoning the project, Keller made the deliberate decision to finish the ART Bus Project. Keller spent over half of his term to complete the ART Bus project and the city is still trying to make it work.
Since starting service November 30, 2019, the ART buses have had accident after accident and upwards of 25 major accidents and upwards of 30 minor accidents. The accidents range from a minor “fender benders” to more serious crashes, including two that temporarily sidelined two buses. Multiple crashes have resulted in damage to other vehicles, including at least 3 that involved Albuquerque police officers. There have also been crashes involving pedestrians, one of which left an 18-year-old woman dead.
Notwithstanding all the accidents, and the proof of a poorly designed project, Keller refused to shut down the bus line and find alternative uses for the bus stop platforms. Berry’s Boondoggle became Keller’s Crisis Project that has now destroyed historic Route 66.
Keller with great bravado ordered the filing of a breach of contract lawsuit against the bus manufacture saying in part:
“We’re no longer going to be guinea pigs [for the bus manufacturer] anymore … Obviously, we very concerned about what we’ve been put through as a city … I think down the road, we’re interested in being fairly compensated for what we have been misled on these buses.”
A few weeks later, Keller settled the case with a mutual dismissal of claims. Absolutely no damages were paid to the city by the bus manufacturer, even for the loss revenue to the city for the delay.
The ART Bus line has been temporarily suspended as a result of the corona virus pandemic. During the temporary closure of the bus line, the Keller Administration began spending in January, 2021 over $200,000 more to construct “pin curbs” which are concrete edging to form barriers to boundaries for the dedicated bus lanes to prevent vehicles from traveling into the dedicated lanes.
3. KELLER’S FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT DOJ REFORMS AS PROMISED
In 2017, Tim Keller aggressively campaigned to be elected mayor by vowing to implement the Department of Justice (DOJ) mandated reforms agreed to after the DOJ found a “culture of aggression” within APD and repeated unconstitutional “excessive use of force” and “deadly force” cases. Upwards of $62 million in judgments had been paid over the previous 10 years in police misconduct cases.
Keller vowed to implement the DOJ mandated reforms even as he received the endorsement of the APD Union who opposed the reforms. Keller has spent 3 full years trying to implement the consent decree reforms, the exact same amount of time his predecessor used, for a total of 6 years combined. The difference is that Keller has also spent millions more on the reforms to no avail. Both Mayor Berry and Mayor Keller failed miserably to implement the DOJ reforms. The federal court action has not been dismissed even though the consent decree was to be fully implemented by November 16, 2020.
APD is still failing with “operational compliance” levels, which is the most critical of the 3 compliance areas required in the consent decree. It reflects failure to implement the reforms by all APD personnel, from the Mayor to Chief to the command staff to the rank and file sworn officers. The Federal Monitors $4 million contract has been extended with an additional $1.5 appropriation. Its likely it will have to be extended again.
On September 25, 2020, APD Chief Michael Geier was forced to retire by Mayor Tim Keller. At the time of Geier’s forced retirement Mayor Keller said in part:
“ … We know reform efforts have hit some snags, and we know there have been back office challenges and distractions. Chief Geier’s retirement comes at the right time for a new phase of leadership to address the old embedded challenges that continue to hamper the department. … .”
Keller saying that the “reform efforts have hit some snags” was Keller’s “spin” at its very best and a Keller lie at its worst. Keller was given advanced notice what was coming in the 12th federal monitor’s report to be released on November 2. On Friday, October 6, in a hearing on the 12th Federal Monitors Report, the Federal Monitor Ginger told the court:
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD. … [The department] has failed miserably in its ability to police itself. … If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned. But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street. So as a monitor with significant amount of experience – I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the Court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”
On November 2, 2020, the Federal Court Appointed Monitor James Ginger filed with the Federal Court his 12th Compliance Audit Report. The 12th Federal Monitors report provides the following scathing overall assessment of APD management, all upper command staff appointed by Tim Keller 3 years ago:
We have no doubt that many of the instances of non-compliance we see currently in the field are a matter of “will not,” instead of “cannot”! … issues we continue to see transcend innocent errors and instead speak to issues of cultural norms yet to be addressed and changed by APD leadership.”
“… The monitoring team has been critical of the Force Review Board (FRB), citing its past ineffectiveness and its failing to provide meaningful oversight for APD’s use of force system. The consequences are that APD’s FRB, and by extension APD itself, endorses questionable, and sometimes unlawful, conduct by its officers.
“During the reporting period … virtually all of these failures can be traced back to leadership failures at the top of the organization.
“[The federal monitor] identified strong under currents of [resistance to APD reforms] in some critical units on APD’s critical path related to CASA compliance. These include supervision at the field level; mid-level command in both operational and administrative functions, [including] patrol operations, internal affairs practices, disciplinary practices, training, and force review). Supervision, [the] sergeants and lieutenants, and mid-level command, [the commanders] remain one of the most critical weak links in APD’s compliance efforts.”
KELLER’S STUNNING ADMISSION OF IGNORANCE
Many excuses can be given for Keller’s failure to force APD to fully implement the DOJ reforms. In a recent interview with the Albuquerque Journal editors Mayor Keller said he wishes he’d known earlier about the serious problems the Albuquerque Police Department was having with its reform effort and said:
“I think what we have learned is how deeply challenged some of these areas are, including self-monitoring. For us at a senior level, we were led to believe that things were much improved, and it turns out they weren’t as much.”
Keller’s comment that he “was led to believe that things were much improved” is a stunning admission of Keller’s ignorance of what is going on in his police department after 3 years in office. Simply put, Keller’s does not know what he is doing and neither does his appointed Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair when it comes to APD. Keller does not understand how bad APD really became under the leadership he handpicked.
Truth is, Keller never showed any real curiosity about how bad thing were with APD when he ran for Mayor. Keller did not bother to attend a single court hearing when he was running for Mayor where the Federal Monitor gave the Court an update on his reports and the consent decree. Keller pretended at forums that he was “deeply concerned” and knew what was happening. What was misleading is that Keller said he knew what needed to be done and he was “uniquely qualified” to be Mayor. Voters bought into his false campaign propaganda.
4. KELLER’S FAILURE TO BRING VIOLENT CRIME RATES DOWN AS PROMISED
In August, 2017, New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller and candidate for Albuquerque Mayor had this to say about the city’s high crime rates:
“It’s unfortunate, but crime is absolutely out of control. It’s the mayor’s job to actually address crime in Albuquerque, and that’s what I want to do as the next mayor.”
The crime statistics released for 2018 and 2019 make it clear that despite all of Mayor Tim Keller’s promises to bring down skyrocketing violent crime, he has failed. In 2019, Keller implemented 4 new programs to address violent crime, increased APD personnel by 116, and spent millions. Violent crime is still “absolutely out of control”. Regrettably , Mayor Tim Keller has failed to do his “job to actually address crime in Albuquerque.”
Given Mayor Keller’s words as to whose job it is to address crime, a discussion of crime statics during Mayor Tim Keller’s tenure is in order.
VIOLENT CRIME UNDER KELLER
In 2018 during Mayor Keller’ first full year in office, there were 6,789 violent crimes, 3,885 Aggravated Assaults and 491 Non-Fatal Shootings.
In 2019, the category of “Violent Crimes” was replaced with the category of “Crimes Against Persons” and the category includes homicide, human trafficking, kidnapping and assault. In 2019 during Keller’s second full year in office, Crimes Against Persons increased from 14,845 to 14,971, or a 1% increase. The Crimes Against Person category had the biggest rises in Aggravated Assaults increasing from 5,179 to 5,397.
On Monday, September 21, 2020, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) released statistics that revealed that overall crime in the city was down by less than 1% cross all categories in the first six months of 2020 as compared with the first six months of 2019. Crimes against persons are all violent crimes combined and include murder, deadly weapons assault and injury and rape.
The decreases in “violent crime” from 2019 to 2020 was a decrease by only 21 crimes or a 0.28% decrease. Over a 2-year period, it decreased 4%. According to the FBI statistics released, there were 7,362 crimes against persons reported in the first six months of 2020 and there were 152 more in the second quarter than in the first.
HISTORICAL HIGH HOMICIDE NUMBERS WITH FAILED PROGRAMS UNDER KELLER
In 2018, during Mayor Keller’s first full year in office, there were 69 homicides. In 2019, during Mayor Keller’s second full year in office, there were 82 homicides. Albuquerque had more homicides in 2019 than in any other year in the city’s history. The previous high was in 2017 when 72 homicides were reported in Mayor Berry’s last year in office. The previous high mark was in 1996, when the city had 70 homicides. The year 2020 ended with 76 homicides, the second-highest count since 1996. The decline dropped the homicide rate from 14.64 per 100,000 people in 2019 to about 13.5 in 2020.
In 2019, Mayor Tim Keller reacting to the spiking violent crime rates, announced 4 programs in 9 months to deal with and bring down the city’s high violent crime rates . Those APD programs are: the Shield Unit, Declaring Violent Crime “public health” issue, the Metro 15 Operation, “Violence Intervention Plan” (VIP Program). Based on the city’s high violent crime and murder rates, it appears Keller’s programs have been a failure
HISTORICALLY LOW HOMICIDE CLEARANCE RATES UNDER KELLER
For the past two years during Mayor Keller’s tenure, the homicide clearance percentage rate has been in the 50%-60% range. According to the proposed 2018-2019 APD City Budget, in 2016 the APD homicide clearance rate was 80%. In 2017, under Mayor Berry the clearance rate was 70%. In 2018, the first year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 56%. In 2019, the second year of Keller’s term, the homicide clearance rate was 52.5%, the lowest clearance rate in the last decade. Of the 75 homicides thus far in 2020, half remain unsolved. There are only a dozen homicide detectives each with caseloads high above the national average.
AUTO THEFTS STILL HIGH UNDER KELLER
On June 26, 2019 the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released its annual list of cities with the most stolen vehicles reported. Despite a 28% reduction in auto thefts over a two-year period, Albuquerque ranked No. 1 in the nation for vehicle thefts per capita for the third year in a row. On July 30, 2020, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reports that Albuquerque is now ranked #2 in the nation for auto theft.
5. KELLER’S FALSE CLAIMS OF REDUCING CRIME
When Keller took office on December 1, 2017, every quarter when APD released the city’s crime statistics, Mayor Keller would do a press conference to proclaim and to some extent take credit for crime going down in all categories. He did so on July 1, 2019. Mayor Keller reported that crime was down substantially, with double-digit drops, in nearly every category.
On Sunday, December 1, 2019 the Albuquerque Journal reported that all the crime rate reductions Keller reported in his July 1, 2019 press conference were in fact seriously flawed by big percentages. Both the 2019 mid-year statistics and the statistics released at the end of 2018 were revised dramatically to include hundreds, and in some cases thousands, more incidents than were initially reported. The final numbers for all of 2018 showed violent crime actually increased.
At an October meeting of the City Council, APD provided the revised statistics but failed to disclose to the council that the numbers had changed drastically. Mayor Keller also did not hold any kind of a press conference to correct nor announce the corrected statistics. The Keller Administration blamed the false numbers on antiquated software programs, but only after the Keller Administration had essentially been caught by the Albuquerque Journal. Mayor Keller for his part has never issued his own personal apology for misleading the public and trying to take credit for bringing down crime rates by using false statistics.
The corrected crime statistics from those announced by Keller are:
Auto burglaries decreased 16%, not 38% as previously announced by Keller
Auto theft decreased 22%, not 39% as Keller reported
Commercial burglary decreased 3%, not the 27% Keller reported
Residential burglary decreased 16%, not 39% as Keller reported
Homicide decreased 2.5%, not 18%, but homicides have since increased substantially and the city has tied the all-time record of 71.
Rape decreased 3%, not the 29% Keller reported
Robbery decreased 30%, not 47% reported by Keller
Aggravated assault decreased 7.5%, not 33% reported by Keller
6. KELLER’S FAILURE TO GROW APD TO LEVEL HE PROMISED
Tim Keller campaigned to be elected mayor on the platform of increasing the size of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), returning to community-based policing and promising to bring down skyrocketing crime rates. To that end, the Keller Administration began implementing an $88 million-dollar APD police expansion program increasing the number of sworn police officers from 898 positions filled to 1,200, or by 302 sworn police officers, over a four-year period. The massive investment was ordered by Mayor Tim Keller to full fill his 2017 campaign promise to increase the size of APD and return to community-based policing as a means to reduce the city’s high crime rates. Keller promised to increase the number of sworn police in the department to 1,200 by the end of his first term. According to January city personnel payroll records and reports, APD has 956 officers as the current count. An APD spokesman said 51 cadets are expected to graduate in mid-March. The number of retirements will likely approach 30 to 40. APD will likely be short by at least 200 of the 1,200 was promised by candidate Tim Keller once retirements are factored in.
7. UNDER KELLER’S FECKLESS LEADERSHIP, APD CONTINUES TO IMPLODE
In 2017, when campaigning for Mayor, Keller promised sweeping changes at APD, especially within the upper command of the Chief’s office. During Mayor Tim Keller’s first 8 months in office, he did not make the dramatic management changes he promised as a candidate. Keller appointed APD retired past management who continued with archaic management practices. The appointed Chief and Deputy Chiefs were APD insiders and have been with APD for a number of years and many are eligible for retirement whenever they want.
Keller conducted a sham national search for a new chief outside of APD simply to turn around and appoint a retired APD “retread” as APD Chief. Confidential sources have confirmed Keller met with Geier and made Geier a 4-year commitment to be APD Chief months before he was elected Mayor. After elected, Keller appointed APD management that were “throwbacks” to past practices and failed management philosophy. Chief Geier and the “new” APD Deputy Chiefs came up through the ranks under former Chiefs Ray Schultz and Gordon Eden. Keller’s appointed management team was “old guard” that held onto the status quo and no change in management style nor philosophy.
KELLER FORCES GEIER TO RETIRE
On Thursday September 10, 2020 APD Chief Michael Geier and Mayor Keller held a joint news conference to announce that APD Chief Geier was “retiring” for a fourth time from law enforcement after a 47-year career. Geier was APD Chief for close to 3 full years. Within a few days, it was revealed that former Chief Michael Geier was forced to retire by Mayor Tim Keller and his Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair. According to sources Geier was given the choice between termination or retirement and Geier chose to retire.
It was revealed that it was First Deputy Chief Harold Medina who orchestrated Geier’s removal. According to Geier Mayor Keller and his CAO Sarita Nair micro managed APD’s priorities while then First Assistant Harold Medina undermined all of Geier’s efforts. Geier intended to take personnel action against Medina for insubordination. Immediately hearing of the pending action against him, Medina went to CAO Nair and working together, the convinced Mayor Keller to terminate Geier or force his retirement.
KELLER APPOINTS INEPT, PROBLEM COP AS INTERIM CHIEF
During the September 10, 2020 press conference, Mayor Tim Keller announced First Deputy Harold Medina as Interim APD Chief. Keller announced a national search would be conducted to find a new chief. Interim Chief Harold Medina has a very troubled past of police officer involved shootings with reactive decision-making and failed leadership resulting in the killing of two mentally ill people having psychotic episodes. Medina was never disciplined for his conduct relating to 2 high profile shootings proclaiming he did nothing wrong.
First, in 2004, then APD Field Officer Harold Medina killed a 14-year-old Cibola High School student in a church who was brandishing a BB Gun. The boy was reported as having a psychotic episode saying he was possessed by demons and went to church for help.
Second, on January 13, 2010, Kenneth Ellis, III, a 25-year-old veteran who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and threatening to kill himself holding a gun to his head. Elis was shot and killed by APD police officers and it was then Lieutenant Harold Medina that authorized the use of deadly force against Elis as a tactic to take him into custody. A $10.5 Million dollar judgment was awarded to the Elis family for the shooting.
Interim Chief Harold Medina spins the two tragedies as a positive credential to run the department saying because of the shootings he now understands the DOJ reforms, their need and can implement them. Good luck with that! Truth is, Medina is part of the problem with APD that brought the DOJ here in the first place. Medina has no business being interim Chief let alone being made permanent. Medina helped create, did not stop and he participated the “culture of aggression” and the use of deadly force that resulted in a DOJ investigation.
8. KELLER’S FAILURE TO DEAL WITH APD POLICE OVETIME ABUSE SCANDAL
On Monday July 13, New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colon said his office was ordering a special audit of APD’s overtime payment policies to APD Police Officers. Auditor Colon ordered a special audit of all APD overtime policies after he said his office found enough red flags related to overtime practices and internal controls at the department. State Auditor Colon has also asked Attorney General to assist in the investigation of APD.
The announced audit came after longtime APD spokesman Sgt. Simon Drobik abruptly retired from the department as he was under investigation by APD’s Internal Affairs for overtime pay abuse. In 2018, Drobik was paid $192,973 as a result of massive amounts of overtime claimed and he was continuing his pace of overtime pay in 2020. Drobik’s base salary was approximately $68,000 a year.
The City maintains a list of the 250 top city hall wages earners and what they are paid for the full calendar year of January 1, to December 31 of any given year. The City of Albuquerque list for the year 2019 reflects that 134 police officers were paid between $107,885.47 t0 $193,666.40 with many being paid 2 and 3 times their base pay.
The breakdown is as follows:
There were 32 APD Lieutenants in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $108,031 to $164,722. Hourly pay rate for APD Lieutenants is $40.00 an hour or $83,200 yearly.
There were 32 APD Sergeants in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $109,292 to $193,666. Hourly pay rate for APD Sergeants is $35 an hour, or $72,800 a year.
There were 70 APD patrol officers first class, master, senior in the list of 250 top paid employees in 2019 earning pay ranging from $108,167 to $188,844. Hourly pay rate for Patrol Officers is $29.00 an hour to $31.50 an hour depending upon years of experience.
Mayor Keller is now faced with the likelihood that more than a few police officers have engaged in criminal activity and that criminal charges will be filed against police officers who claimed overtime and paid overtime for hours never authorized or never worked. The problem for Keller is that he was fully aware of what was going on with APD’s overtime abuse and was made aware of two separate audits that were conducted. Two attempts were made to place overtime caps on APD, but the programs were never fully implemented.
If APD is hit with a series of indictments of police officers for overtime time fraud and “waste, fraud and abuse by government officials” it will damage Keller’s re-election chances along with the skyrocketing violent crime rates Keller promised to bring down when he ran in 2017. What is ironic is that State Auditor Tim Keller made a name for himself investigating government officials for “waste, fraud and abuse”.
9. KELLER’S FAILURE TO DELIVER 24-7 CENTRALIZED HOMELESS SHELTER; CITY PURCHASE OF FORMER LOVELACE HOSPITAL NOW IN JEOPARDY
Mayor Tim Keller made it known that building a new, centralized homeless shelter was one of his top priorities. The new homeless shelter would replace the existing West Side Emergency Housing Center, the former jail on the far West Side.
Mayor Keller deemed that a 24-hour, 7 day a week temporarily shelter for the homeless was critical toward reducing the number of homeless in the city. The city owned shelter was projected to assist an estimated 300 homeless residents and connect them to other services intended to help secure permanent housing. The new facility would have served all populations of men, women, and families. Further, the city wanted to provide a place anyone could go regardless of gender, religious affiliation, sobriety, addictions, psychotic condition or other factors. The city facility was to have on-site case managers that would guide residents toward counseling, addiction treatment, housing vouchers and other available resources.
On Wednesday, May 7, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller in a surprise announcement, said that the city was abandoning the development concept of a single, 300-bed homeless shelter. He announced the city will be proceeding with a “multi-site approach” to the city’s homelessness crisis. Mayor Tim Keller went so far as to state that the 300 bed Gateway Center was “off the table”.
Now that Keller has abandoned plans to build one centralized homeless shelter, Keller is saying the city is taking a “multi-site” approach that could mean a series of smaller facilities throughout the community. It can be viewed as Keller’s “spread the homeless” pain policy. Ostensibly, there would be no single resource hub in one large facility as was originally proposed with the 300 bed Gateway Center. Small shelters would be 100 to 150 beds of emergency shelter that could be defined as a smaller shelter.
In an attempt to buy a first location, the city made an offer to buy the former Lovelace Hospital on Gibson Boulevard in Southeast Albuquerque for $13 Million. A city report an analysis said the cost to purchase the Lovelace Hospital Complex would be $14 million in acquisition and renovation costs. A June 2020 appraisal valued the property, which covers nearly 21 acres and has buildings with a total floor space of about 570,000 square feet, at $18.5 million.
It has been reported that the city’s attempted purchase of the property is now in serious jeopardy. The facility and property are now embroiled in a highly contested lawsuit between the two former business partners who owned the property, Nick Kapnison and Jimmy Daskalos.
According to a news report, the city entered into a $13 million purchase agreement for the property with Nick Kapnison. Jimmy Daskalos is now suing both the City and Kapnison to stop the purchase. Daskalos and his wife are alleging breach of contract. They claim Kapnison is selling the Gibson Medical Center against their wishes, has violated the terms of his power of attorney and is offering the property at less than a “commercially reasonable” price in violation of his fiduciary responsibilities. Mr. Kapnison is denying the accusations through his private attorney Paul Kennedy but has yet to answer the complaint.
The city for its part has denied the Daskalos allegations, contending in its response and counterclaim that Kapnison had the legal authority to negotiate the sale in that he had a power of attorney. The city also disputes the claim that the purchase price is far below the property’s value.
It appears that the purchase of a 529,000-square-foot building to house upwards of 150 homeless is nothing more than a “bait and switch” transaction. Keller is now saying he wants to ultimately make the Lovelace complex his original 300 person “Gateway” centralized homeless shelter. Keller said he plans on asking the legislature for help to help pay for the old Lovelace Hospital on Gibson so the city can turn it into a homeless shelter.
10.KELLER’S FAILURE TO CREATE COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT
On Monday, June 15, 2020 Mayor Tim Keller announced plans to create a new Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS). It was proposed in part as a response to police shootings happening throughout the country, especially after the killing of African American George Floyd. Keller proclaimed it was the “first of its kind” department in the country. Keller received national news coverage on the concept, including the in the Washington Post. It turns out the only “first of its kind” aspect was a department. Using social workers to take call for service instead of cops has been going on for years in other cities.
The new department as originally announced was to have 192 positions with 32 people for each of the 6 area commands, staffed around the clock, to respond to tens of thousands of calls for service a year. The estimated annual cost of the new department was $10,201,170. The ACS as Keller originally presented was to have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts. They were to be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crisis calls for service to APD. The new department was to connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The intent is to free up the first responders, either police or firefighters, who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.
Two words that best to describe Keller’s Public Safety Department are “publicity stunt.” The new department as proposed by Keller was simply thrown together in a haphazard manner so he could call national news media outlets, which he did, and then hold a press conference for local news media outlets, which he also did.
On Thursday, September 3, Mayor Tim Keller released his proposed budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The new city department was pared down significantly to $7.5 million in personnel, equipment and contractual services. Not a single licensed mental health professional, social worker, councilor, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts were included.
Keller cut the new ACS Department from the originally suggested 192 positions to 100 employees with 60 positions taken from other city departments. The 100 employees included 40 transit security officers, 13 security staffers from the Municipal Development Department, 9 parking enforcement workers, 6 crossing guard supervisors and one from the city’s syringe cleanup program.
On October 15, the proposed Keller budget for the new department was slashed to the bone from $7.5 million to $2.5 million for fiscal year 2021. The City Council removed virtually all of the positions originally proposed by Keller. Cut from Keller’s proposed budget for the new department were 83 employees and a $7.5 million cost. The staffing cut include 53 security personnel, 9 parking enforcement employees and 6 people from the city’s crossing guard program.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
During the last 3 years under Mayor Tim Keller’s leadership, things have only gotten worse in the city. The sweeping and dynamic change that Keller was perceived to represent in 2017 never materialized. APD continues to implode, violent crime is still out of control, and with the pandemic, the state and city is likely headed for another major recession.
In normal times, Tim Keller would be a one term Mayor given his record of broken promises and failures. Normally, voters are a very fickle lot and unforgiving when politicians make promises they do not or cannot keep. Sooner rather than later people demand and want results. But not in the age of the Corona Virus. Campaign promises made in 2017 and promises not kept by 2021 really do not matter from a political standpoint.
The tragic truth is that no one really cares about a politician’s poor job performance when they are struggling to make a living, make ends meet and struggling to keep themselves and their family’s healthy and safe from the Corona Virus as bills add up. The ultimate factor that will determine if Tim Keller is a one term Mayor is if anyone will emerge as a viable candidate.
In the age of the Covid 19 pandemic, none of Keller’s failures nor broken promises will likely make much of a difference to the voting public given Keller’s high approval rating, the image he has carefully crafted with his relentless public relations and the lack of any viable candidates willing to oppose him. These are all topics of discussion in a related blog article.
A second blog article will be published giving a listing of potential candidates and Keller’s re-election efforts along with an analysis of his chances for a second term.
Please stay tuned for a second related article.