Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Messaging The Mayor: Newly Assertive Council Puts Keller on Notice; Listen up or Else; Soccer Stadium Delay Gets His Attention; City Election Watched For Possible Impact On 11th Floor 

Mayor Keller
A newly assertive ABQ City Council sent a stern warning to Mayor Tim Keller this week--listen to us or face the consequences. They did so by surprising the city with a month long delay in approving the NM United soccer team lease to build a new stadium at Balloon Fiesta Park, a project near and dear to Keller as well as much of the community. 

At first the council voted 5 to 4 for a 90 day delay, pushing a decision to next year and the next Council. But after that vote the administration worked to soothe hard feelings and now the delay will be until the November 20 Council meeting.

Judging by the councilors more conciliatory tone in their late night statements as they reconsidered the delay, it appears ABQ will be getting that new soccer stadium. It didn't hurt that CAO Lawrence Rael was also more agreeable to questioning by the lawmakers who earlier complained that they were being restrained for legal reasons in their queries about the lease. 


Mayor Keller has pushed the envelope with the Council. Usually mild rebukes are the order of the day not open rebellion. He faces even tougher sledding if he doesn't smooth over the very ruffled feathers. 

One councilor speaking off the record told me the root of the problem:

There's been a theme here with the Mayor flying solo on the big things like the first attempt to get the soccer stadium and now this second effort. The same with his Housing Froward Plan. The Council feels left out of the mix and that's why you see this mini-revolt. There is a lot of peacemaking to do.

Councilor Peña
Keller's loss of key swing vote and fellow Democrat Klarissa Peña on the soccer lease was a potentially devastating blow. She joined with four conservative councilors to spank Keller--Sanchez, Lewis, Bassan and Grout.

Going forward he must have Peña even as he looks at the possibility of a sixth councilor lining up against him. That would be Republican Dan Champine  running in the November election in heavy Republican heavy District 8 and expected to triumph over Dem Idalia Lechuga-Tena. He would replace fellow GOP Councilor Trudy Jones who has often been supportive of Keller's big initiatives. Monday night she voted with Dems Davis, Benton and Feiblekorn in a losing bid to not delay the lease vote. 

The question is whether Champine would be so generous with the mayor. If he isn't and Keller can't get his ducks in the row, his threats of a veto could be vaporized. Keller has been able to fend off a sometimes 5 to 4 conservative council majority with his veto. It takes six votes to override a mayoral veto and if Champine joined with Bassan, Grout, Lewis, Sanchez and Pena they would have the six. 

The Mayor began his first term in 2017 with robust support but that has eroded with the more conservative council and the crime crisis that has taken up most of the oxygen in the room. 

Whatever diplomatic skills he is leaving off the table will now have to be brought to bear to repair Keller's breach with councilors. First up is listening. Lots of listening.


Sen. Martin Heinrich still has no major Republican opponent for his '24 re-elect and his pile of cash may be one of the reasons. For the third quarter Heinrich reported collecting $925,000. His cash on hand grew from $2.862 million to $3.216 million as of September 30.

Among the rich and famous on Heinrich's donor FEC list is Christie Hefner, daughter of Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner and the former CEO of that company. 

She's listed as a self-employed strategic consultant. Since leaving a successful run at Playboy Hefner has headed up other companies and is also active in environmental causes hence the Heinrich connection. 

Hefner, 70, didn't break the bank with her donation. In fact it wasn't even cash but an in-kind donation of $280 for catering. 

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