On the heels of a spike in domestic violence over the Thanksgiving holiday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller introduced a new Albuquerque Domestic Abuse Response Team, or DART, program. Keller held a press conference earlier this month to introduce the program. He said that over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Albuquerque Police Department, “saw the highest call volume in recent memory for domestic violence.”
“We know this is terrible and tragic in many ways,” he said. Keller invited several members of the community and his staff to talk about domestic violence and the importance of seeking help if one is a victim of domestic violence or intimate partner violence during the press conference. Albuquerque Chief of Police Harold Medina talked about responding to domestic violence as an officer. He said that, as a younger officer working the graveyard shift, he often handled domestic violence calls and while driving victims to an undisclosed shelter, they frequently worried about “how to survive.”
Medina said the Albuquerque Police Department is creating a new unit with officers specially trained in domestic violence so that when a domestic violence call comes into the APD, “we’ll make sure we’re dispatching the right individual out there to get them [the victim] in contact with all the resources out there.”
Bev McMillan, Family Advocacy Center coordinator, said during the press conference that the day of the Super Bowl is typically the day with the highest amount of domestic violence calls for police.
The Albuquerque City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to create the city’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Commission Monday evening. The creation of the commission is the first of 39 recommendations the city’s Domestic Violence Task Force made earlier this fall. Other recommendations include building a clearinghouse website with information, providing training to businesses as well as financial support and structure for domestic violence training in Albuquerque Public Schools and the University of New Mexico. The task force also recommended the city support the Albuquerque Police Department and other agencies in collecting and tracking data and that the city provide financial support and structure within the Community Safety Department to train responders on cultural competence, language access, LGBTQ populations and education on domestic violence, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Another recommendation is for the city to hire a full-time domestic violence coordinator, a position that is already filled. The task force met for two years and brought together various stakeholders including representatives from community groups who work with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
Vice President Kamala Harris said during an event in New Mexico on Tuesday that the fight around reproductive rights in the United States will affect women all over the world. Harris stopped in Albuquerque to talk with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and University of New Mexico Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Planning Fellowship Director Dr. Eve Espey about protecting reproductive rights. The moderated discussion took place in front of a packed house of about 250 people at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall in the Center for the Arts and Arts Museum. Harris said people around the world watch what is happening politically in the U.S. She said former German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaned over during a conversation about Russia and China and asked Harris about what is happening with voting rights in the U.S.
“My fear on this issue is that dictators around the world will say to their people who are fighting for rights, ‘you want to hold out America as the example?’ Look at what they just did; be quiet,’” she said. “I highlight the significance of this moment and the impact, which not only directly impacts the people of our nation but very likely impacts people around the world.”
Harris highlighted her mother’s career, saying that her mother was one of the very few women of color researching breast cancer in her era.
A record number of voters cast ballots in Albuquerque, and chose to reelect Tim Keller as mayor for a second term. Keller won in a three-way race with over 55 percent of the vote with 71 or 72 vote centers reporting.
Keller easily outdistanced both of his opponents, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and conservative radio host Eddy Aragon.
If no candidate had reached 50 percent, there would have been a runoff election between the top two candidates. Keller said in his victory speech that the results showed voters cared about “leadership in tough times.”
“There is no doubt, these are some of the toughest times Albuquerque has been through,” Keller said. “Four years ago, you trusted me to move our city in the right direction, and now, I’m asking you to trust me to see that vision through. We may not always agree, but today we affirmed our mutual commitment that I will push us forward and lift up our city for future generations.”
Keller received 55.82 percent of the vote with 72 of 72 vote centers reporting, while Gonzales received 25.56 percent and Aragon received 18.38 percent.
Voters throughout the state will go to the polls on Tuesday in local elections. The two biggest elections, in terms of voters, are those in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Both elections will feature incumbent mayors seeking a second term. In Albuquerque, incumbent Mayor Tim Keller faces two opponents, Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales and conservative radio host Eddy Aragon. The two public polls in the race show Keller with large leads in the three way race.
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.