Mayor Tim Keller was ready to admit the privilege his own family had when the novel coronavirus hit his hometown, Albuquerque. In his own words, “We have luxuries that not everyone has; like Liz can work from home and we have lots of support for our kids. This has driven us to build a stronger safety net for vulnerable people in our community.”
Under his leadership, the city took the lead on providing meals to older residents who were now limited in their interactions. The city provided more than 200,000 meals. The city’s response has been astounding. One hundred thousand hours of childcare for its essential workers; 80 vehicles stationed around the city to provide wi-fi to its youngest residents now learning virtually; and using the site of its popular Balloon Blue Festival as a testing site.
“We are a resilient community, we will get through this and be better on the other side,” said Mayor Keller.
Read Mayor Keller’s Q&A below:
What personal barriers have you faced in responding to COVID-19 in your community and how have you overcome them?
Like many families here in ABQ, Liz and I work, have school-aged kids and have senior parents so we know how many things folks had to change and worry about when coronavirus struck. We also have luxuries that not everyone has like Liz can work from home and we have lots of support for our kids. This has driven us to build a stronger safety net for vulnerable people in our community. We ramped up this work – meals for seniors, childcare for working families, rental assistance – to be bigger and faster than before. Across the country, we’ve seen a lot of cities or counties just shut down, but we have been able to find safe, innovative ways to continue serving our community through this pandemic.
What role has technology played in keeping your city up and running – give an example, if possible?
Internet access is essential for downloading and uploading assignments and other activities involved in remote learning. Too many kids in our public school system do not have access to the internet at home, a problem we were in a unique position to solve. The City was able to create the Wi-fi on Wheels (WoW) program that put 80 City vehicles including shuttles from our Transit Department that served as hotspots, providing drive-up WiFi access to folks at schools and community centers across the city.
How are you, as a mayor, rethinking public-private partnerships to change policy around serving the needs of your residents? (i.e. Gov. Cuomo on 3.30.2020 gathered public and private hospital systems and arrived at the policy to serve the full state’s health needs which had not ever been achieved.)
Agility has been really important. We moved quickly to coordinate with hospitals, nursing homes, and non-profits in the community in the weeks before COVID came to NM. We knew there was going to be a major impact on workers and businesses, so we convened key groups like postal workers, grocers, etc. We stood up extensive resources to help save jobs and keep businesses afloat through the crisis, including small business grants, fast-tracking public construction projects, and more. In many places, the coronavirus has revealed cracks in the system, but here in Albuquerque it has also revealed our strengths and created stronger partnerships.
About the Author: Melissa Williams is a communications and marketing manager at NLC. She supports NLC’s membership and partnership teams.
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