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When Tim Keller ran for Albuquerque’s mayor in the 2017 election, he ran mainly on a platform of reducing crime, police reform, economic and energy sustainability and equity and inclusion. According to reports in the Albuquerque Journal, Keller was viewed at the time as the rising star in the state’s political arena. He was young, driven and progressive. Have Keller and his promises stood the test of time?
Crime and Police Reform
The crime and police atmosphere at the time of the election was a mixed bag. Street crime rates were high, the Department of Justice was breathing down the police department’s back to get mandated reforms in place. At the time the Journal reported there were about 839 sworn police officers. Keller promised to hire 400 more, bringing the number of sworn officers up to 1,200. At this point in his term, Keller’s administration said after the next cadet class graduates, the department will have more than 1,000 officers. Shortly after he took office in 2017, Keller did follow through with bringing on board a new police chief, Michael Geier, but the honeymoon was over when in Nov. 2020 Geier was asked to step down after the federal monitor said the department was nearing a catastrophic failure.
Equity and Inclusion
As far as equity and inclusion go, Keller restructured the former Human Rights Office to include an entire office devoted to the issue—the Office of Equity and Inclusion. It wasn’t long before a class-action lawsuit was filed in 2018 by female city employees alleging the city was violating the Fair Pay for Women Act. To date, about 600 females have joined the lawsuit. The lawsuit says they are being paid less than their male colleagues. Some claim up to a $7 an hour difference. The irony is that when Keller was the state auditor he produced a report on gender pay inequity, criticizing then Gov. Susana Martinez. According to the city, they are now implementing pay equity measures. There is also a Gender Pay Equity Initiative collaboration with Bernalillo County and the Water Authority where all businesses submitting bids or proposals must file a pay equity reporting form showing the organization’s pay gap.
Sustainability and Economy
Keller campaigned on bringing the city emission-free energy such as solar energy. In 2018 Keller announced a $25 million phased-in investment to put solar panels on as many city facilities as possible. In 2019 Keller partnered with the Public Service Company of New Mexico and the Jicarilla Apache Nation to build a 50mW solar power generating station on 500 acres of Jicarilla land. He said over 50 percent of city government power would come from the plant, marking a big step toward the city reaching its 100 percent renewable goal over the next decade.
The mayor’s COVID-19 pandemic response has a bright spot. Luckily for the mayor, he wasn’t responsible for businesses needing to close due to public health orders. Instead, he handed out grant money to struggling businesses and set up 25 wifi hot spots around the city for online schooling and in low-income neighborhoods. The administration also opened up community centers for children of essential employees. All of these initiatives have helped to keep the city’s economy functioning.