ABQ officials: ‘Black lives matter. Again, black lives matter.’

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and other city officials took to the podium Friday afternoon to discuss the May 25 death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis and a Black Lives Matter protest that occurred in response to Floyd’s death Thursday night in Albuquerque. 

On Friday, fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd, who was killed while handcuffed and unarmed by Chauvin in an altercation that allegedly began over an alleged fake $20 bill. Chauvin knelt with his knee on Floyd’s neck for about eight minutes, even after Floyd stopped responding.  Three other officers involved were also fired from the Minneapolis Police Department earlier this week. 

Keller said the City of Albuquerque “believes that black lives matter.”

“[George Floyd’s] death has left us, in many ways, with rightful anger and grief. It has highlighted a lot of things wrong with America. It’s also a situation where we know it’s not the first time. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the video of Ahmaud Arbery — the same thing, different context, happening time and time again,” Keller said.

City of Albuquerque prepares for expanded reopening

The City of Albuquerque is on track to allow businesses and city services to reopen in tandem with the state’s announced easing of restrictions. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in a press conference on Wednesday that much of the state would move to “phase one” of reopening, which would allow retailers, places of worship and other facilities to open to in-person services at limited capacity. 

“The city is prepared for this, we know how to go about this,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in his own press conference on Thursday. One preparation that the city was already working on was that the Fire Marshal’s office made placards with temporary occupancy limits. Most retailers will be allowed to open with 25 percent capacity, according to the state’s public health emergency order that will go into place on Saturday. Larger retailers, like big box stores, will remain at 20 percent capacity during the current phase of COVID-19 recovery. He said Albuquerque was ready to follow the guidelines, but warned that if numbers in the city turn worse, his administration could impose more stringent rules than the state’s, noting that Denver had more strict rules in place than the state of Colorado as a whole.

Albuquerque looking at the COVID-19 response through an equity lens

Immigrants, including those who lack U.S. citizenship documentation, can get tested for COVID-19 and seek medical care at a public hospital free of charge. A visit to the hospital will not result in a charge against an undocumented immigrant, according to Michelle Melendez, director of Albuquerque’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. She also said social security numbers will not be gathered. That message was one part of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Facebook live press conference Monday to address equity, one of Keller’s signature concerns as mayor. When Keller took office in 2017, he created the Office of Equity and Inclusion to address systemic racism in the city and selected Melendez to lead it.

ABQ begins preparing for easing restrictions: ‘Be prepared for a new normal’

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller outlined how the city is handling preparations for reopening businesses in the future in a press conference on Thursday. 

“I’m proud of Bernalillo County and of Albuquerque that we actually have been doing a very good job of flattening the curve, staying home and following orders,” he said. 

Keller’s press conference came a day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would extend the public health order until May 15, but that the state was now in the “preparation” phase of looking into easing restrictions and reopening businesses. Keller pointed to a graph charting new cases in Bernalillo County that shows the curve has flattened some, though Keller warned it was still increasing. 

“It’s going to be a different kind of summer this year,” Keller said. “As badly as we want to pick a date to open up, it’s clear the virus picks the date, not us.”

Keller said he wants to see a downward trend in new cases in the county before the city begins reopening businesses. 

“We don’t even have that yet,” he said. “We do hope it’s weeks, not months. But we’re just going to have to continue to use data to inform those decisions.”  

Keller also warned that opening up the city before it’s safe to do so will likely lead to longer and harsher economic repercussions if the city is forced to shut down again, and may endanger more lives if there is a second large spike in cases. 

“The price of opening up too soon is lives lost.

ABQ mayor hopes to use federal money to make up for lost tax revenue

The City of Albuquerque received $150 million in federal aid this week, but the question still remains whether it can be used to keep the city operational. 

During a press briefing on Monday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced some good news— that the city received a support check from the U.S. Treasury Department. Keller later told NM Political Report the city is awaiting further guidance on whether the city can use that money to make up for lost tax revenue that is needed to pay city employees and avoid layoffs and furloughs. Much of the city’s operations are funded through gross receipts taxes, Keller said. But, with many of the city’s businesses shut down and consumers largely staying at home, the state is facing a revenue gap of about $70 million between this and next fiscal years, Keller said. 

“The good news is the numbers line up almost exactly,” Keller said. “Tax revenue, we’re looking at being down $20 million this fiscal year and then $50 million the next fiscal year.”

Keller said the rest of the money would go to the daily costs of fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, with about $50 million left as a contingency reserve. 

“As long as this doesn’t go past May, the $150 million should cover us just right and if it goes longer than May, we’re not going to have enough,” Keller said. 

The money is part of the federal CARES Act, which was designed by Congress to distribute money to states and cities in need.

ABQ mayor asks city to work together to slow spread of COVID-19

Tuesday morning, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller asked city residents to work together, both in spirit and financially, to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

Keller said since Albuquerque is the “urban core” of New Mexico, emergency orders and restrictions may diverge from what the state puts in place. 

“We might have to do things longer than the rest of the state or we might have to do things more intensely,” Keller said. “But right now we are in step with the state.”

Following the state’s public health emergency orders and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s most recent “stay at home” instruction means much of Albuquerque is shut down, Keller said. 

Keller encouraged residents who can, to consider donating money to the city’s effort to house those who experience homelessness through hotel vouchers and to help purchase basic necessities for vulnerable residents. Keller also stressed the importance of people staying home when possible due to Albuquerque being the metropolitan center of the state. 

“We’re where all the hospitals are, we’re where the highest density is,” Keller said. “That makes us by far and away, the highest risk for anywhere in New Mexico.”

Keller said all golf courses in the city will be closed, along with many community centers — with the exception of those that are providing childcare or meals. City buildings are closed to the public and administrative hearings will be cancelled or held through video conferencing. 

By this weekend, Keller said, regular weekday city bus service hours will be drastically reduced to what would normally be a Saturday schedule.

ABQ asking for PPE donations and other updates from Mayor Keller

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and other officials gave an update on the city’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a disease caused by a type of coronavirus. Keller emphasized that the city’s services are up and running. “We very much want government to operate as best as it can. Government is there for us, and it needs to be there for us, especially in this challenging time,” Keller said.

ABQ declares public health emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller declared a public health emergency Wednesday for the city amid growing numbers of COVID-19, a disease from the coronavirus. 

“We are continuing to take action to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help the most vulnerable folks in our community,” Keller said in a statement. “Like many mayors across the nation, declaring this public health emergency declaration gives us the tools to allocate resources to immediate needs and tap into additional funds for recovery and response.”

While the city’s ordinance already allowed mayors to declare a state of emergency, it was only Monday that the city council approved a public health emergency provision. 

Under that new provision, the mayor of Albuquerque can use the emergency declaration to get financial assistance from the state or federal governments, mandate purchasing limits on certain products, close streets and ban certain gatherings. But a press release from Keller’s office said he would only be using the declaration for emergency funds and not for other public restrictions. 

Keller’s office emphasized that there will be no mandated curfews, street closures or bans on selling firearms or alcohol. 

But the mayor’s office did encourage voluntary “social distancing” or limiting in-person interactions, including working from home if possible. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, along with the state’s Department of Health and Keller’s office, continue to encourage those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, aches and trouble breathing — to call the Department of Health at 855-600-3453. 

Updates on what city services are available can be found here. 

Guv issues directive aimed at limiting face-to-face contact by state agencies

State museums, state parks and other facilities will be closed beginning Monday as part of the governor’s Sunday directive to agencies to minimize face-to-face contact. The governor announced the directive in a release Sunday afternoon, which excludes those deemed essential to public health and safety. The governor’s directive says that state museums, state historic sites, state parks and cultural institutions will be closed to the public effective Monday morning. The Rail Runner, which runs between Belen and Santa Fe, will be closed during the state public health emergency, which Lujan Grisham declared last Wednesday. “We continue to adapt as the situation changes, choosing needed, measured responses to stay a step ahead of the virus,” Lujan Grisham said.

ABQ Mayor: Don’t hoard supplies and other COVID-19 updates

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller gave an update Saturday morning on the city’s response and preparedness for the possible spread of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus. The press conference can be watched on Facebook here. Keller emphasized the importance of social distancing to “keep our public as safe as possible and to try to flatten that curve.” He said the city is prioritizing services for the community’s most vulnerable, including children, low-income families and the elderly. He said residents can help support the city’s efforts by “doing things like not trying to go to the grocery store unless we actually need some food and supplies; and when we go to the grocery store, only getting the things we need and not hoarding and buying lots and lots of things we don’t need.”

Keller said law enforcement officers will be present at big box stores where food is sold, “just to make everyone feel safe.”

“If you see firefighters out there, or police, thank them for being there,” Keller said. Other updates

-The state Department of Health is setting up an information center at the Sunport that arriving passengers can use “as soon as they land” to receive information about their destinations within the state, and help them determine the best course of action to take.