Q&A mayoral candidate Tim Keller - Albuquerque Journal

Q&A mayoral candidate Tim Keller

Tim Keller

Name: Tim Keller

Political party: Democratic

Age: 43

Education: MBA with honors, Harvard Business School; BBA, finance and art history, University of Notre Dame; St. Pius High School

Occupation: Mayor of Albuquerque, 2017-present

Family: Married to Liz Kistin Keller, two young children.

Relevant experience: New Mexico state auditor, 2015-2017; state senator — representing Albuquerque’s East Central Gateway and the International District for six years, including two years as majority whip, elected 2008-2014.

Campaign website: keepkeller.com

What is the biggest issue facing the city today, and how would you address it?

Crime is the top priority. We’ve made enormous investments over the last three years, including $80 million to hire 100 officers each year, adding overdue crime fighting technology, and launching the Albuquerque Community Safety (ACS) Department, an alternative 911 first responder system for mental and behavioral health calls.

What is your strategy for reducing violent crime?

We must hold violent criminals accountable — end the revolving door and keep dangerous offenders behind bars. We need increased penalties when crimes involve guns, and 24/7 pretrial monitoring. I have convened Albuquerque metro area law enforcement agencies and leaders to coordinate our approach to crime and fixing gaps in the criminal justice system.

What is your strategy for reducing property crime?

We’ve brought property crime down. Auto thefts have been cut by one-third because we’ve added auto theft detectives, built up our bait car program, and focused on habitual offenders. Next, we must staff up 1,200 officers and opt-in commercial and residential camera links to APD’s Real-Time Crime Center.

APD continues operating under a U.S. Department of Justice settlement agreement that outlines reforms, policy changes, and mandatory training that police need to complete over several years. Should the city continue with that agreement or try to modify it? If so, how should the city try to modify it?

Only a judge can end or modify DOJ oversight. The only real path forward means we must simultaneously fight crime and implement reforms. We have restructured internal investigations, established the ground breaking superintendent of reform position, and finished a use of force policy that the community and officers approved.

About 31% of all the city’s general fund spending currently goes to the police department. Is that the right amount? If not, should it be higher or lower and why?

I came into a department starved of funding, officers and technology. Units for homicide, domestic violence, training and community outreach were understaffed. We have restored officer pay, hired 300 officers, tripled the homicide unit, and created violence intervention, mobile crisis and diversion programs. All of that requires continued funding.

With more police officers nationwide leaving the profession, what would you do to retain Albuquerque Police Department officers?

Recruiting officers is a challenge everywhere — and an aging police force means more retirements. To retain officers, we must pay competitively, offer lateral bonuses while being clear about DOJ oversight, reduce officer caseload by changing our mental and behavioral health approach, and partner with Central New Mexico Community College/Albuquerque Public Schools to recruit homegrown talent.

Under what circumstances, if any, would you support raising taxes?

I see no budget issues on the horizon because of our team’s thoughtful fiscal stewardship. I prefer going to the voters first for tax increases, but if there is an emergency, all options should be on the table. I’ll continue working with the Council to better prioritize city spending.

What specific industries should the city target with economic development incentives?

Incentives should be targeted toward local small businesses and new industries that provide good wages. In the last three years, we have landed new companies that will create more jobs than we did the last decade by supporting industries such as aerospace, IT services, renewable energy, biohealth, cannabis and film.

What are your economic development strategies for boosting small, local businesses?

We started the city’s first small business support office, created our own local jobs training program, and re-established the minority and woman owned business center with the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. Now is the time to redouble those efforts through partnerships among nonprofits, micro-lenders, CNM and UNM.

Do you support issuing $50 million in gross receipts tax bonds to fund a new multipurpose soccer stadium for New Mexico United’s use? If so, why is that the best use of $50 million? If not, why?

The stadium will not raise taxes and will be a multi-use venue owned by the city. Crime, homelessness, housing and other priorities will continue while we invest for the long-term, to make a more vibrant city with affordable entertainment for all families to enjoy.

If the bond passes, what role should the community have in selecting a stadium location?

I support working with area neighborhoods on a “Community Benefits Agreement” to ensure equity and address the specific needs of the surrounding area residents. CBAs can include policies like affordable housing, locally-sourced jobs, youth programs, and other agreements to leave no one behind.

The city is establishing a new Gateway Center at the old Lovelace hospital in Southeast Albuquerque and some neighbors are concerned that it will be too big of an operation. What is the maximum number of overnight shelter beds the facility should have?

The Gateway Center is our city’s largest capital investment addressing homelessness. It’s central to our commitment to create an integrated system that Central New Mexico so badly needs. In Phase I, it’s slated to serve 25 families and 100 individuals as they transition from the streets to a stable life.

What is the city’s responsibility to neighborhoods around the Gibson Gateway and any future city-owned shelters?

We are committed to transparency, honesty, and open lines of communication with an authentic public input process. Going forward, and similar to the “Good Neighbor Agreement” we did with Wells Park and Stronghust, we will outline how we solve problems to minimize the impact to the surrounding areas.

What should the city do for people living on the streets who do not want to stay in a shelter?

As homelessness grows across the country, we’re working to better address it in Albuquerque. Courts have repeatedly stated we cannot remove people from the streets when we do not have places for them to go. We are creating those options with the Gateway Center, housing vouchers and more supportive housing.

Do you support sanctioned encampments (sometimes called “safe outdoor spaces”) in the city? Why or why not?

Cities must consider drug use, sanitation and safeguarding against trafficking, sexual assault and other crimes. Sanctioned encampments are, at best, a short-term, emergency solution. We can and should do better; that is why we are investing in an “all the above” approach to best match individuals’ needs with services.

A 2020 analysis showed the city needs 15,500 more affordable housing units to meet demand for those with extremely low incomes. What is your plan to address that gap?

We are working with community leaders, developers, nonprofits and HUD to identify affordable housing needs. A multipronged approach is needed because new housing is very expensive and takes time to build. We plan to build more affordable housing units, renovate existing housing stock and invest more in housing vouchers.

Fewer than half of Albuquerque residents agree the city is responsive to community needs, according to the city’s own survey. What would you do to improve responsiveness?

The 2020 survey demonstrated progress over previous years, including responsiveness, and people rating quality of life as “excellent” or “good.” We have improved our use of technology, surveys and telephone town halls to increase communication and established the first Civic Engagement office to coordinate volunteering city-wide — but more can be done.

What large infrastructure projects would you push for in the city’s next capital implementation program?

During COVID, we pushed out $300 million in “New Deal” style construction projects. This kept thousands of families working while improving infrastructure like new community centers in West and East Central. Next, we partner for investments to reduce West Side traffic, on the Railyards, indoor aquatic and sports facilities and pedestrian safety.

Under what circumstances, if any, would you support mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for first responders and other city employees who have direct contact with the public?

At the city, we make getting tested and vaccinated for COVID-19 easy and accessible. With a primarily frontline workforce, we focus on keeping our employees and the public safe. We will consider hospital capacity, CDC, and federal guidance for what is scientifically appropriate as we consider requiring COVID vaccinations.

What plans do you have to raise the quality of life for Albuquerque residents?

To raise our quality of life means investing in our families, our future and championing our cultural diversity and heritage. It means adding more amenities — childcare, sports facilities, parks, museums, special events etc. — for families to enjoy with a commitment to equity to ensure access, resources and opportunity for all residents.

What specific metrics would you use to gauge your success as mayor?

Our challenges are significant and there are no easy answers. COVID tested us — and we went to work, saved lives and livelihoods, and when compared to peer cities, we’ve fared better. Going forward, crime and homelessness should decrease; jobs, DOJ reform and faith in our city’s future should increase.

What differentiates you from your opponents?

Integrity and executive leadership experience are key differences. My team and I are “battle tested” because of the pandemic, and having led our city though some of our darkest days. As mayor, I run a large, multi-faceted government with over 5,500 employees and a $1.2 billion budget.

Name one issue not mentioned in the questions above that you would plan to tackle as mayor.

As we work on Albuquerque’s biggest challenges, it’s clear that we must come together to keep kids safe and engaged across our city. With our One ABQ Youth Connect initiative, we’re providing more opportunities for tens of thousands of kids and interrupting inter-generational cycles of violence that persist in Albuquerque.

Personal background

1. Have you or your business, if you are a business owner, ever been the subject of any state or federal tax liens?

No.

2. Have you ever been involved in a personal or business bankruptcy proceeding?

No.

3. Have you ever been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of drunken driving, any misdemeanor or any felony in New Mexico or any other state?

When I was in high school, I was charged with a petty misdemeanor for being at a party with underage drinking. The charge was promptly dropped.


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