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Monday, December 18, 2017

Lumps Of Coal In Keller's Christmas Stocking: Budget Deficit Revealed, Council Gets Balky And Hiring More Cops Could Take Years, Plus: Sen. Padilla's Second Fall; Ousted As Whip After Withdrawing From Lt. Gov. Contest 

Mayor Keller 
An anemic economy failing to produce enough revenue to run the city, a balky city council and a years-long timetable to recruit even just 100 more APD officers. Those are the lumps of coal in Mayor Tim Keller's Christmas stocking.

The largest lump was the surfacing of the budget news. Former Mayor Berry had projected that the city's gross receipts tax revenue would grow at an optimistic 3 percent, but the city has not seen that level consistently for years.

Keller has now been told the current budget year may be over $6 million short because gross receipts revenue is growing at a weak 1.7 percent, basically a no-growth rate when you factor in inflation. And the budget for the year starting July 1 could have a $40 million hole. Boom!

That's the "strong city" Mayor Berry says he left Keller?

Program cuts? Tax hikes? Both? Whatever it is, it's dead ahead.

And Keller still needs millions to recruit and hire APD officers for a department that has shrunk into the 800's when at least 1,000 officers are recommended for this city which is grappling with an unprecedented crime wave.

Law enforcement experts we consulted say it will take the mayor at least three years to hire even 100 more officers and possibly longer. The new Mayor will be dealing with the APD staffing mess for the entirety of his four year term.

BALKY COUNCIL

Then there's the balky city council--or at least some of it. The nine member panel basically took an eight year nap under Republican Berry, but suddenly Keller has got their juices flowing--but in the wrong direction.

Frightened that the new mayor is a far left progressive and wanting to reenter the limelight, Council President Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, joined with Republican Councilor Dan Harris and moved to usurp Keller on the sick leave ordinance. They proposed a bill, released it to the press and did not even consult the Mayor. Here's the money quote from Keller's confines:

The sponsors failed to notify the Mayor’s Office before the proposed ordinance was released. We will review the legislation to give it the careful consideration it deserves.

Talk about a Frosty the Snowman line. The chill between Keller and those two councilors is worse than the one you'd get walking in your underwear among the Christmas Eve luminarias.

Democrats were rejoicing last month when the voters gave the council Dems a 6 to 3 majority but we warned that the Westside 3--Sanchez, Pena and Borrego--could be a problem for Keller. And here we are.

By the way, where was the city council when this deficit situation was developing? Why weren't they warning us? Still napping? Councilor Sanchez claims he has indeed been warning about  a possible deficit. Really? Where? When? To whom? Where are the news releases, the news conferences, the public speeches, the well-publicized meetings with then-Mayor Berry to discuss the problem?  Or was it just some muttering he made at a council meeting?

And Councilor Harris explains his AWOL by saying the projected deficits are never as bad as first predicted. Geez, Dr. Harris, thanks so much. You mean we only have to amputate one leg not two?

This holiday season Keller will still be basking in the glow of a 62 percent mayoral election victory but the Christmas bizcochitos are going to taste stale as he ruminates over the plate full of problems that have already been presented to his nascent administration.

STRANGE DAYS 

One of the stranger spectacles occurred when Keller outlined the city's budget woes before the Economic Forum, a group dominated by Republican businesses and contractors.

Like the city council, the group went mute for 8 years as ABQ became a crime and drug-riddled metropolis with people fleeing and out-of-state businesses avoiding us like they would the smell of a skunk.

When Keller told them he would not be finger-pointing or playing the blame game--in other words letting Berry and his backers off the hook--the Economic Forum exploded in applause. It was as if a jury had come back absolving them of guilt.

Whatever happened to "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it?" Looking at the wreckage of the past is not finger-pointing or blaming, it's dealing with reality and bursting a delusional bubble that has made ABQ a shabby imitator of its former self. But you already knew that. . .

TRUMPOSIS?

Reader Jeffrey Baker weighs in on what the downtowners will call the Sanchez-Harris backstab:

The fact that Ken Sanchez and Don Harris announced a proposed sick leave ordinance without first providing a courtesy notification to the Mayor suggests Sanchez and Harris are feeling their oats and flexing their muscles. Not sure why, though. With ART cost overruns, a projected budget deficit because of unrealistic revenue assumptions which these two embraced during the budget process, and their chronic silence while R. J. Berry and Gordon Eden destroyed a once fine police department, suggests these two elected officials may be suffering from a newly identified mental illness--Trumposis (symptoms include undeserved self-importance).

APD LIES

In our our first draft Thursday on former newsman Gilbert Gallegos becoming the director of PR for the troubled APD, we said that he adds a civilian face to the PR team after two officers were found lying to the media and were disciplined for it. True, except it was not two "officers" lying. One of them was a civilian, Celina Espinoza. She has since left the department.

Espinoza has a political connection. She is the wife of Diego Espinoza, who was the 2016 GOP opponent of Sandoval County area Dem State Senator John "Landslide" Sapien.

Sapien beat Espinoza by 198 votes. In 2012, according to Ballotpedia, Sapien won election by a margin of only 161 ballots and in 2008 he squeezed out a 121 vote win.

PADILLA BOUNCED

Sen. Padilla (Bralley)
In different times state ABQ Senator Michel Padilla might have survived as a legislative leader following his withdrawal from the lieutenant governor race because of decade-old sex harassment charges. But the times they are a changin'. So Saturday the Senate Democratic Caucus, meeting as national political and entertainment figures continued to bite the dust over sex harassment, ousted Padilla from his majority whip position, furthering his descent down the political leader.

The caucus did not name a replacement Saturday. Speculation about Padilla's successor centered on ABQ valley Senator Linda Lopez who Padilla once ran against in a Dem primary and who now heads the Senate Rules Committee. The optics of replacing Padilla with a non Hispanic may not bode well for Anglo senators interested in the post. ABQ Senators Candelaria and Stewart are also interested in the post which will be decided  next month.

The charges that took Padilla down were long ago and far away from the Legislature. But what about the scuttlebutt involving current legislators? Will there be more shoes to drop and casualties claimed? Some legislators must be nervous.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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