In person, Keller is congenial but serious; he realizes Burque has its share of problems. But Keller doesn’t want to let those problems develop into a bigger crisis for this town’s identity and progress. A candidate with gravitas, an experienced politico and lifelong resident of the area, Keller has seen his share of problems grow and manifest themselves in our high desert burg; he is sure he has the solutions and can provide results that will restore the Burque we all know and love.
Weekly Alibi chatted with candidate Keller with just days to go before the publication of our Best of Burque issue. What follows is a brief transcript of the beginning of that encounter. Keller was comfortable and knowledgeable discussing the wide range of issues that face the Duke City, but the beginning part of our conversation centered on crime.
The entire interview and Keller’s discussion of other issues such as economic development, public transportation and public schools is available to view.
Weekly Alibi: Tim, could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them a little bit about yourself?
Tim Keller: Sure. I was born and raised here in Albuquerque and [am] also raising a one- and three-year-old here in town. For me, a couple things about our city: You know it’s a very strong and special place, that’s something that has called me back, even when I was gone for a few years. We have some major challenges as well, though.
I really feel compelled to run because a lot of the things that I’ve learned in my experience as a state senator for the International District—and as state auditor—continue to point to long-standing issues we’ve avoided in our city. And so, I think it’s really time to step up and approach [those issues] head-on, and get back to a city we believe in and that works for all of us.
What are some of those challenges and long-term issues that you will address as mayor?
If we think about a couple of things, obviously crime is front and center. Crime is the highest it’s been in about a decade. And we also have too few job opportunities in New Mexico, specifically in Albuquerque, the economic center of our state. We also have long-standing challenges in our public school system. Homelessness and mental health, issues like that, are also very important [to me]. Against that backdrop, we’ve seen a mayoral administration, more recently, [that] isn’t owning up to those challenges. They [the Berry Administration] will say “Well, Santa Fe has to fix a law or change a bill so we can, you know, get more [police] officers. Or it’s about waiting for this magical company that will move here and hire us all. That’s the Tesla thesis. Or saying that police shootings are a national trend. To me: no more waiting for someone else to deal with these ... to me it’s the job of the mayor and it’s the job of city hall to step up and take ownership of these challenges. What are we going to do to fix these [problems] today? That’s why I’m running.
Let’s go about this piece by piece. First of all, how are you going to address the crime issue?
Number one, we’ve gotta start by saying, “There has to be change at the top.” That’s not personal. I’ve worked with ... rape kits and other issues in the city, I know a lot of folks there [at APD]. But we need new leadership right away at APD. That, to me, is just a starting point.
The second thing is, we’ve got to get folks over there who believe in community policing. I used to see this, when I was a senator. We knew our officers’ names, cell phone numbers. We talked about the meth houses down the street. We discussed who and where drugs were being dealt, who was stealing cars. That was a community discussion; it was a core aspect of transforming the International District. We’ve really gotten away from that.
Now 400 units short of 1,200 officers, there isn’t really a developed police presence in this town. How do we change the system on both ends of the structure?
Community policing is an ethos that goes throughout policy and procedures. It’s a value set. Moving away from a lawyer mentality and into a guardian mentality
It [should be] woven through the academy training curriculum. A lot of our officers are familiar with this because we used to be very good at it. To your point, about the shortage: To me this is where the city must step up. This [officer shortage] should be the number one priority for a mayor, for a chief of police.