Keller launches veto pen again

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Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would end a new city requirement for project work agreements on major city construction projects. (Courtesy of the City of Albuquerque)

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller is trying again to redo something the city council decided to undo.

Last week, the council passed legislation repealing a 2021 ordinance requiring union involvement — through project work agreements — on major city construction projects. On Tuesday, Keller vetoed it.

In his veto message, Keller wrote that the ordinance was intended to “make sure the city is careful with taxpayers’ money” by creating well-paying jobs and “career tracks” and ensuring standards of liability and occupational safety on public works projects. which cost at least $10 million.

His office noted that the legislation – signed into law in December – had yet to take hold, as no projects had been completed under the rule, although two had been put out to tender with the PLA requirement.

“Put simply, it is premature and unwise to repeal this order before the impact of its provisions can be assessed,” Keller wrote in his veto message.

In a separate written statement, he called the repeal “way irrelevant, particularly when the Council has much more pressing issues to address.”

His office on Tuesday distributed photos of Keller vetoing the bill alongside union leaders.

Councilman Trudy Jones, who co-sponsored the repeal bill, called Keller’s action “puerile” and “union-friendly.”

Unions contributed heavily to the political action committee backing Keller’s successful bid for re-election in 2021.

While the original PLA legislation does not prevent non-union contractors from bidding on major city projects — and the city said non-union contractors submitted bids for the two new projects requiring PLAs — Jones said that she felt this gave unionized stores an unfair advantage.

“I am certainly not opposed to unions or union work,” she said in a written statement. “However, I object to giving preferential treatment to any group when it comes to bidding and working on City projects.”

It’s the third time in about a month that the board has voted to overturn an existing policy, and Keller has used his veto to try to keep it in place.

He’s had mixed results so far, winning one of those battles and losing the other.

Keller managed to preserve the power of the mayor during a public health emergency. The board had voted 5-4 to remove him, but lacked the sixth vote needed to override an executive veto.

Keller failed in his bid to save Albuquerque’s plastic bag ban, which six councilors voted to kill.

The council has a chance to override the mayor’s veto of the PLA legislation at its next meeting, though Keller appears to have a good chance since the council passed the repeal by a 5-4 vote.

Councilor Louie Sanchez joined the bill’s four sponsors – Councilors Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Jones – in the repeal.

Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted in the minority.

Tuesday’s veto is actually Keller’s fourth in a month. The other concerned the city’s authority to require city workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. While the council had passed Lewis’ bill prohibiting the city from instituting such a warrant, Keller successfully vetoed it.

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