Metro Beat: Mayor Keller wins latest veto battle - Albuquerque Journal

Metro Beat: Mayor Keller wins latest veto battle

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is two for two on vetoes in 2023 after successfully fending off a City Council sweep of future personnel savings.

The Democratic mayor now has issued 10 vetoes — prevailing on eight of them — since the current, conservative-leaning council was seated in January 2022.

The latest disagreement arose over budgets and comes as the council has increasingly questioned the Keller administration over certain expenditures.

The council in February approved moving $12 million from the city’s coffers — including the salary and operational savings departments had accrued from July through December, the first half of the fiscal year — into a reserve. Councilor Brook Bassan pushed for the money shift, saying it would help the city brace for potential financial challenges in the coming fiscal year. She said the council could still dole out the funds to departments on a by-request basis.

But Keller’s administration resisted the move.

Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael argued that it would demoralize city departments to pull money they expected to have in their budgets in the middle of a fiscal year. The mayor’s team presented an alternative: leave the $12 million already accrued alone and focus instead on collecting personnel savings the city realizes from April through June, the final quarter of the fiscal year.

Turned out the council liked that idea, too. It ultimately approved the mayor’s plan on top of the $12 million reserve.

That was all too much in Keller’s eyes.

While the mayor did not continue fighting over the $12 million, he vetoed the fourth-quarter savings proposal his administration had proposed.

“The two competing amendments when combined would severely limit our ability to close out the year and effectively deliver expected services and programs,” Keller wrote in his veto message.

The council needed six votes to override him during last week’s meeting, but mustered only four: Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Louie Sanchez.

BOOK BATTLE: City councilors have for months grilled Keller administration officials about a handful of specific projects, including a book about the city’s pandemic response commissioned by the Arts and Culture Department.

Called “City at the Crossroads,” the book was written by former Journal columnist Joline Gutierrez Krueger without the newspaper leadership’s knowledge but also includes an introduction penned by Keller and a foreword written by his wife.

The book’s publication caught councilors unaware, with two — Lewis and Sanchez — each calling for investigations into the project. A report from the city’s inspector general is expected later this spring.

Councilor Sanchez raised the issue at last week’s meeting, specifically asking about where sales revenue goes.

Arts and Culture Director Shelle Sanchez replied that the book — which a department spokeswoman said cost the city $73,239 — was not intended to pay for itself, and that proceeds go into the One Albuquerque Fund, a city-supporting foundation. That’s $2.35 per copy sold, Director Sanchez said.

How much is it so far?

“I believe at this point, somewhere between 80 and 100 books have been sold through Amazon and other booksellers, so that would be about $200 that has gone into the One Albuquerque Fund,” she told the council.

Jessica Dyer:

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