Metro Beat: Mayor Keller wins latest veto battle

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller vetoes two-to-two in 2023 after successfully fending off a city council action over future staff cuts.

The Democrat mayor has now vetoed 10 votes — won eight of them — since the current, conservative-leaning council took office in January 2022.

The latest disagreement arose over budgets and comes as the Council has increasingly questioned the Keller government about specific spending.

The council approved in February to transfer $12 million from the city’s coffers — including departmental salaries and operational savings, accrued from July through December, the first half of the fiscal year — to a reserve. Councilor Brook Bassan urged the money shift, saying it would help the city prepare for potential financial challenges in the coming fiscal year. She said the council could still distribute the funds to departments if requested.

But Keller’s government resisted.

Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael argued that it would demoralize city departments to withdraw funds they expected to have in their budgets mid-fiscal. The mayor’s team presented an alternative: Leave the $12 million already accumulated alone and instead focus on collecting the staff savings the city will make from April through June, the final quarter of the fiscal year.

It turned out that the council liked the idea too. It eventually approved the mayor’s plan in addition to the $12 million reserve.

In Keller’s eyes, it was all too much.

While the mayor didn’t continue to fight for the $12 million, he vetoed the fourth-quarter austerity proposal proposed by his administration.

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“The two competing changes together would severely limit our ability to close the year and effectively deliver the anticipated services and programs,” Keller wrote in his veto message.

The council took six votes to overrule it during last week’s session but only got four together: Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Louie Sanchez.

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

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

The book’s release surprised city councillors, with two – Lewis and Sanchez – each calling for an investigation into the project. A report from the city’s inspector general is expected this spring.

Councilor Sanchez raised the issue at last week’s meeting, specifically asking where the proceeds from sales go.

Arts and Culture Director Shelle Sanchez responded that the book — which a department spokeswoman said cost the city $73,239 — was not intended to be self-sustaining and that the proceeds would go to the One Albuquerque Fund, a foundation dedicated to the City support, flows. That’s $2.35 per copy sold, Director Sanchez said.

how much is it so far

“I think at that point between 80 and 100 books were sold through Amazon and other booksellers, so that would be about $200 that went to the One Albuquerque Fund,” she told the council.

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Jessica Dyer: [email protected]


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