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Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is trying again to redo something the City Council voted to have undone.
Last week, the council passed legislation repealing a 2021 ordinance requiring union involvement – via project labor agreements – on major city construction projects. On Tuesday, Keller vetoed it.
In his veto message, Keller wrote that the ordinance was intended to “make certain that the City is being prudent with taxpayer money” by creating good-paying jobs and “career pipelines,” and by ensuring accountability and workplace safety standards on public works projects that cost at least $10 million.
His office noted that the legislation – enacted in December – had yet to take root, as no projects have been completed under the rule, though two have gone out for bid with the PLA requirement.
“Simply put, it is premature and imprudent to repeal this ordinance before the impact of its provisions can be assessed,” Keller wrote in his veto message.
In a separate written statement, he called the repeal “way off-base, especially when the Council has far more pressing issues to address.”
His office on Tuesday distributed photos of Keller vetoing the bill next to union leaders.
Councilor Trudy Jones, who co-sponsored the repeal bill, called Keller’s action “childish” and “pandering to the unions.”
Unions contributed heavily to the political action committee backing Keller’s successful 2021 reelection bid.
While the original PLA legislation does not preclude non-union contractors from bidding on major city projects – and the city said non-union contractors have submitted bids for the two new projects requiring PLAs – Jones said she feels it gives union shops an unfair edge.
“I am certainly not opposed to unions or union labor,” she said in a written statement. “However, I am opposed to giving preferential treatment to any group when it comes to bidding and working on City projects.”
This is the third time in about a month that the council voted to strike down an existing policy, and Keller used his veto authority to try keeping it in place.
He has had mixed results thus far, winning one of those battles and losing the other.
Keller succeeded in preserving mayoral power during a public health emergency. The council had voted 5-4 to revoke it, but lacked the sixth vote necessary to override an executive veto.
Keller failed in his attempt to salvage Albuquerque’s plastic bag ban, which six councilors voted to kill.
The council has a chance to override the mayor’s PLA legislation veto at its next meeting, though Keller appears to have good odds since the council passed the repeal on a 5-4 vote.
Councilor Louie Sanchez joined the bill’s four sponsors – Councilors Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Jones – in the repeal.
Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted in the minority.
Tuesday’s veto is actually Keller’s fourth in a month. The other involved the city’s authority to require municipal workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. While the council had passed Lewis’ bill barring the city from instituting such a mandate, Keller successfully vetoed it.