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Mayor Tim Keller shakes hands with student Antonio Villegas during "Coffee with the Candidates" at the UNM Student Union Building on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

‘Coffee with the Candidates’: Tim Keller pushes for progressive initiatives

On Tuesday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller spoke about progressive political policies that are tied to his mayoral reelection campaign at “Coffee with the Candidates,” an event organized by the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico where students got the chance to speak with the current mayoral candidates. Multiple students showed up to discuss Keller’s proposed policies and the work he has accomplished during his past term.

As a democratic candidate running for reelection — although the position is officially nonpartisan — Keller highlighted his prior political experience and his push for more progressive initiatives in the city in comparison to his more conservative mayoral opponents. Keller said his more progressive campaign most closely aligns with the values of the general UNM campus population.

“I think I would be the best candidate for the students because I think I'm very straightforward with respect to listening and learning and then taking action,” Keller said. “And, I think you need a mayor who will do all three … and I know I don't always make decisions that everyone likes, but I at least hear (UNM students) out.” 

Recently, Keller has received pushback from constituents on his support of the $50 million multi-purpose sports stadium bond, which has aroused concerns of gentrification in the Barelas and South Broadway communities — the proposed area for the stadium to be built. When asked about this at the event, Keller told students that ultimately the decision was not up to him but the voters, and that the city has been working with the community to form a community benefits agreement.

“If (voters) don't agree to (the bond), we would trust the community ... (and) we won't do it,” Keller said. “But also, if they agree with it, then we're trusting (Albuquerque voters) that it's what they need.”

Keller also said if the bond doesn’t pass, the city will have more money to potentially invest in areas like housing and public safety since the bond’s $50 million could be allocated instead toward housing and public safety, but the city council would ultimately decide that with the mayor’s later authorization.

Keller also spoke about affordable housing policies he supports when students brought up concerns about increased rent due to the stadium, including projects to build more housing as well as creating a rehabilitation program to repair and turn apartments into affordable rentals. By “adding to the supply” of housing, he said these policies would lower rent prices overall.

Keller also addressed reforms in the Albuquerque Police Department and his recent initiatives to move away from traditional policing by creating new violence intervention programs as well as the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which is a “public safety response system … that responds to 911 calls for mental health, substance use and homelessness issues,” according to the city’s website. Keller said he has been working on hiring more officers to staff these initiatives.

“These are very progressive programs, but they all take officers,” Keller said.

Another point of topic for many students who spoke to Keller was the proposed Gateway Center, which would be a shelter and resource center for the unhoused population; Keller is the only mayoral candidate of the three to outright support it, and he said that the shelter is only a part of the solution to helping those who are unhoused in the city.

“The Gateway Center is just one piece in the spectrum of housing (options for low-income and unhoused people) … There's supposed to be multiple (shelters) throughout the city — that's the idea,” Keller said.

The vote for mayor will take place on Nov. 2, where councilors for odd-numbered districts, Albuquerque Public Schools board members and general obligation bond questions will also be determined.

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Maddie Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at or on Twitter @madelinepukite

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