Eight years ago, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, cruised to re-election with almost 70% of the vote. Yet this year, with just three weeks left for a candidate to produce the 3,000 petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot, it seems likely there won’t be a registered Republican running for the job for the first time since 1974, when the city established its current system of government. But that doesn’t mean prominent Republicans don’t have a candidate to promote. Jay McCleskey—a formidable GOP strategist—is working for Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, a Democrat aiming to unseat Mayor Tim Keller.
McCleskey shepherded both campaigns of former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and served as her chief strategist. He won the Albuquerque mayoral seat for Berry, twice.
The Albuquerque City Council made zoning restrictions and allowances for recreational-use cannabis official Thursday night after a six hour meeting to approve the city’s updated Integrated Development Ordinance.
For weeks, both those in the medical cannabis industry and those hoping to be a part of the recreational-use cannabis industry have raised their concerns about zoning proposals related to cannabis, namely those that came from Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office. But the council rejected all but one proposal from Keller’s administration.
Most of the concern from the cannabis industry was that the city would effectively zone out new cannabis retailers, manufacturers and retailers.
Keller’s office originally proposed barring cannabis retail stores from areas that are considered to be a Main Street Corridor, or sections of the city designed to be walkable with local businesses. Examples of Main Street Corridors in Albuquerque are Nob Hill, downtown and the Barelas neighborhood, just south of downtown.
Keller’s proposal would have prohibited cannabis retail shops “abtutting” those areas, in addition to prohibiting them from being within 300 feet of areas zoned as residential. All but one councilor voted against the measure. Councilor Trudy Jones, who sponsored the proposal, said she ultimately decided to vote against the proposal after talking to local businesses along Central in the Nob Hill neighborhood.
“They would welcome having cannabis within our requirements, our laws and our regulations on Central, because they are dying,” Jones said.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force recommended that the city develop a permanent line-item in the city budget to address domestic violence, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. According to the report, which the Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force provided to Keller this week, domestic violence programs in the city are underfunded. In addition, Albuquerque and New Mexico both have “some of the highest percentages of domestic violence in the country.”
“The best way to address these issues is to allocate more resources both in the area of training and in the area of financial support for survivors and victims,” the report states. Christopher Ortiz, public information officer for the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, provided the report to NM Political Report and said via email that Keller’s budget proposal for this year “fully funds domestic violence shelters and services and sexual assault services.”
He also said it’s up the city council to pass the final budget. The task force also recommended the city hire a full-time employee to serve as a domestic violence coordinator to advocate for and be the point person for community organizations, city employees and the community.
The City of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit that alleges gender pay discrimination. About 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 to create a class action lawsuit to seek redress for alleged gender pay discrimination. The original four plaintiffs filed their suit in 2018. Related: ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexandra Freedman Smith, said the pay inequity is so significant, that in some cases, the plaintiffs are alleging there is as much as a $7 an hour difference between what men are paid and what women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women are owed around $100,000 because of the pay differential.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew like the one now in effect in El Paso could be on the horizon for Albuquerque if the city doesn’t get the coronavirus spread under control. Keller and Dr. Mark DiMenna, a deputy director for the city’s Environmental Health Department, spoke Wednesday during a live teleconference about the increasing rate of virus transmission and actions the city is taking to try to reduce the spread and help local businesses survive. “What we’re seeing in El Paso is what Albuquerque could look like in the next few weeks or months if we don’t get it under control,” Keller said. “Curfews could be on the horizon.”
DiMenna said Albuquerque is seeing new cases “increasing at a faster and faster rate.”
Last week the city had a 4.7 percent positivity rate. This week the city’s positivity rate went up to 8.7 percent, he said.
The West Side Emergency Housing Center reported 17 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The individuals who tested positive for the disease are in isolation and receiving medical care for their symptoms, according to the City of Albuquerque, which issued a news release late Thursday afternoon. The shelter houses about 400 individuals each night, according to the release, but it can house up to 450 people. Until 2019 the shelter only housed people during the winter months, but Mayor Tim Keller converted it into a year-round facility. Though it remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for families during the public health emergency, the shelter is not currently accepting new residents and transportation to the facility has been suspended, according to the release.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday. She was 87. The vacancy her seat creates will now give Republicans the opportunity to try to place another conservative justice to the bench. President Donald Trump, reacting to two Supreme Court decisions in June that he didn’t like, tweeted that he would have a new list of conservatives to appoint to the bench by September 1. Within just a few hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not wait to bring to a vote for a Trump appointee this election year, according to multiple media sources.
The City of Albuquerque is facing a class action lawsuit, filed by female employees who say they have been paid less than their male counterparts for years.
The suit was filed in 2018, but this month a state district judge ruled that the suit can include any classified female employee who worked at the city between 2013 and 2020 and was paid less than males doing the same job. The suit can also include those who no longer work for the city, but did during that time period.
Alexandra Freedman Smith, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said she and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys are now in the process of notifying other women who might be owed compensation.
The impetus of the suit is partly a New Mexico law enacted less than 10 years ago called the Fair Pay for Women Act.
“The Fair Pay for Women Act was enacted in 2013, so from then on, this has been an issue,” sha said.
Freedman Smith also said, unlike many other class action lawsuits that offer plaintiffs a cut of a settlement amount, women in this case are owed raises, back pay and possibly a recalculation of retirement pay.
“The class members are entitled to substantial amounts of money,” she said. “We’re not talking about small amounts, we’re talking about large amounts.”
As part of his decision to allow the suit to become a class action, the judge included evidence that seemed to show a number of men started off at a higher wage than women who had been doing the same job, for longer.
Freedman Smith said that data shows that the issue is not about job performance or seniority.
“What we’re talking about is the base pay that people are paid, and they’re just getting a higher base pay from the get go than the women, even women who have been there a lot longer,” Freedman Smith said.
Freedman Smith also said she has tried to work with the city to address the problem, with no success.
“We’ve certainly tried to negotiate with them and they just haven’t been willing to do anything about it,” Freedman Smith said. In a statement through a spokesman for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office, the city’s legal department pointed out Keller’s past work advocating for pay equity.
“While we can’t comment on ongoing litigation, Mayor Keller has been at the forefront of the pay equity fight in New Mexico for years, including leading the first statewide study of pay equity while at the State Auditor’s Office, and he will continue to advance fairness at the city,” the statement read.
As state auditor, and months before he was elected to be mayor, Keller said his office found pay disparity on a state level.
But less than a year after Keller became mayor the plaintiff’s filed their suit against the city. At the time, the plaintiffs were represented by Matt Garcia and Jonathan Guss.
The U.S. Attorney for New Mexico sent a letter to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller providing assurances that the 35 agents that the federal government said would be sent to New Mexico would not be for the type of activities that have taken place in Portland, Oregon. U.S. Attorney John Anderson sent the combative letter to Keller highlighting the city of Albuquerque’s high crime rate numerous times after the mayor, and other elected officials, expressed concern over the scope of the mission from the federal agents. “Under Operation Legend, federal agents will be engaged in the type of crime fighting investigative activities in which federal agents are well-trained and in which they already engage on a daily basis,” Anderson, an appointee of President Donald Trump, wrote. “As Attorney General [William] Barr took pains to make clear at the White House, the federal agents will be conducting ‘classic crime fighting’ activities that federal agents have carried out around the country for decades, including in Albuquerque.”
Anderson said Operation Legend, the program in which the agents will be sent to Albuquerque, was separate from the federal role in Portland. “Portland is not an Operation Legend City and Operation Legend was not conceived or announced in response to events in Portland,” Anderson wrote.
Instead, Anderson wrote, Operation Legend is for cities with high violent crime rates and said that the most recent FBI statistics showed Albuquerque had a violent crime rate nearly four times the national average.
The City of Albuquerque sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Anderson asking to know the scope of actions by federal law enforcement that President Donald Trump announced will be in Albuquerque as part of Operation Legend. The letter from Deputy City Attorney Samantha M. Hults said that the city welcomes aid from federal agencies in fighting violent crime and gun crime, but expressed concern over statements by Trump and actions by federal agents in Portland and asks for a written commitment that any federal law enforcement agents “conspicuously identify themselves as such, carry and display identifications, and wear uniforms that conspicuously identify the agency for which they work.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller echoed the concern in a statement on Friday afternoon. “We always welcome partnerships in constitutional crime fighting that are in step with our community, but we won’t sell out our city for a bait and switch excuse to send federal agents to attack protesters or round up immigrants,” Keller said. “Unfortunately, look at the President’s own words: he’s ready to incite violence in Democratic cities as a re-election strategy, so Albuquerque must be vigilant to ensure that Operation Legend is actually helpful crime fighting; and not just politics standing in the way of police work that makes us less safe.”
Trump has said that he hopes to target New Mexico in his reelection campaign this year. Hults’ letter said that the city would not welcome arrests or the use of force or arrests on “individuals engaged in First Amendment assemblies;” federal agents not wearing identification or identifying their agency; or the use of unmarked vehicles “to detain and remove individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Federal law enforcement has faced criticism from their handling of protests in Portland, including for the actions described by the city.