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letters, opinions, editorials
The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
There is a sign at the south end of Rio Rancho on Highway 528 that says "Rio Rancho–City of Vision." The longer I live in this rapidly growing city, the more I realize the paradox of that sign. How can Rio Rancho be a "City of Vision" when its mayor supported locating a Wal-Mart at River’s Edge instead of at the commercial zone at Enchanted Hills? Unless you're brain-dead, you know that Wal-Mart wanted the River’s Edge location so they could put Target out of business. Congratulations to REONA for their guts to take on Wal-Mart! In my opinion, REONA has vision!
How can Rio Rancho be a "City of Vision" when its mayor supports extending Paseo del Volcan to Highway 550 and then through the city of Bernalillo? In case the reader hasn't driven through Bernalillo on 550 lately, there are four light signals between 528 and I-25, with an additional signal planned for Hill Street. That's a total of five signals. The traffic is fairly heavy right now. Somebody with “vision” should be able to see that driving through Bernalillo in the future on 550 will become a nightmare after Paseo Del Volcan is fully developed. If 550 has pedestrian crossings at some of those signals, it will really be nasty when students north of 550 use the signal to go downtown south of 550. We'll have one nasty traffic jam.
In order for the mayor of Rio Rancho to obtain some "vision," I highly recommend that he commute in Los Angeles traffic during the afternoon rush hour for about three years. He will then get a strong vision regarding Paseo del Volcan being routed through Bernalillo. I was told that the road is supposed to divert I-40 eastbound traffic from the Big I. In essence, Paseo del Volcan is nothing more than a bypass, especially for truckers with a northbound destination, i.e., Denver, etc. After the truckers spend some time dealing with all the traffic signals in Bernalillo, I'm sure they'll use the Big I on their next trip.
On February 12 City Council District 6 candidate Todd Hathorne explained to Enchanted Hills home owners that there were a couple of other alternative routes considered; however, the mayor with "vision" chose Paseo del Volcan. The route that makes a lot of sense to me is the Northwest Corridor, which would be west of Paseo del Volcan and Unser. This route would bypass Bernalillo with a new bridge crossing the Rio Grande in Santa Ana Pueblo. which would be beneficial to the tribe because their resort could probably use the extra traffic. It would also help the casino, especially if a truck stop were to be built at the intersection of 550 and the proposed highway. Whether Bernalillo realizes it or not, they will be happier without a miserable traffic jam on a daily basis (remember, smog is not good for your health).
Finally, since this Northwest Corridor has not been filled with residential houses, the City of Rio Rancho could easily zone both sides of the highway for commercial use.
Every time I take my morning walk down Juniper Road in Ranchos, I am appalled to see ever-increasing piles of horse manure in the arroyo behind the riding ring—around two hundred cubic yards, according to one neighbor.
What can this irresponsible individual who is blocking this water course with these piles of waste be thinking? That a big rain will come and wash all this horse excrement down the arroyo and into the Rio Grande?
Since the arroyo is pretty well blocked, what if there is only enough rain to cause a pond behind the manure dam? Would the manure then find its way into the aquifers and our drinking water? Would the pond breed mosquitoes? And what if the rain washes some of the manure down the arroyo? Then it befouls the arroyo from Ranchos into La Mesa and developments downstream.
And what are the environmental agencies doing about this problem? From folks in the neighborhood I hear nothing. It is not their problem. If some of these environmental folks lived downstream would it then be their problem?
In the meantime, the piles increase by the day in direct proportion to the growing anger of the people who live in the neighborhood and along the arroyo. How long will it take before the situation gets as ugly as the piles of horse manure?
Dear Ms. Dunlap:
I’d like to commend you on your recent decision to issue marriage licenses to people of the same gender.
I am a gay male, twenty-eight, residing in Denver, and your actions inspire me to one day marry the man of my choice. I hope one day it will be legal and relatively accepted for me to do so. I just ask for the same wealth of benefits that is afforded now only to heterosexual couples. I am not looking for approval from all people or religious institutions.
I encourage you to stand firm against the criticism you’ve taken. I feel it’s important that governmental officials see that this is not only a large, liberal, city issue but one that also encompasses small-town America.
In the last issue of the Signpost, someone wrote what I thought was a sensitive, well-reasoned letter about this highly emotional, hot-button item. “Does it (same-sex marriage) nullify my own heterosexual marriage of thirty years? Does it nullify my ability to file a joint tax return? Just how does this threaten the marriage of any intelligent man and woman?”
I was delighted to believe that the writer was approaching the issue of same-sex marriage with maturity and rational thinking. So, imagine my disappointment when I got to the bottom of the letter and saw, “Name Withheld,” as if the author was ashamed of his position.
I believe that marriage is the joining of two people who love each other, regardless of sex. Whether the citizens of our country will approve of and allow same-sex marriage is another question, one of legality and formality.
I am not ashamed of my position on this issue, nor will I apologize for it. Indeed, I feel fortunate that in our country people can hold very differing opinions without fearing ostracism or being stoned to death.
You can certainly print my name!
—Sue L. Wunderlin
Placitas (taken here as the entire 30-square-mile expanse bounded by I-25 to the east and the remainder of Sandoval county to the west and north) has a way to go before it can really be called a community. Among other things, it lacks one of the basic elements of a true community: institutions. An institution, in this sense, is a patterned way of living together that is distinctive to a discrete group of people. For example, the ingrained practice in the United States that the losers in political contests step aside peacefully for the winners is an institutionalized practice.
In Placitas, we have a growing number of organizations, including two churches , a volunteer fire department, a senior center and several subdivision homeowners’ associations and water boards —even a new and struggling Chamber of Commerce—but as to true institutions we have very few of our own. That is, we have very few ways of doing things, or connective bonds, that are distinctively our own and that are channeled in predictable ways. (Perhaps the closest to a true institutional attitude is the instinctive resistance of the people of Placitas to further land development.)
Even our one school is not really our own. It is subject to our influence, perhaps, but that influence is limited by the willingness of the larger School District to listen to our concerns. Secondary school students (in increasing numbers apparently) are sent into the Bernalillo system, to various private schools, or to middle schools and high schools in the larger metropolitan area. This is important, because high schools, with their athletic teams, debate teams, school colors and all the other trappings that define a singular institution, are an important component of community.
Greater Placitas is a loosely connected group of subdivisions strung out for seven or eight miles along Route 165, with another fifteen or twenty additional housing clusters (Rainbow Valley is one; another is Dome Valley) spread mostly around the back roads. The three oldest of the platted subdivisions, Ranchos de Placitas, Placitas West (which was auctioned off in 2.5-acre lots by the Bureau of Land Management in 1963, but took 20 years or so to fill in), and Placitas Heights, are all about 40 years old.
Placitas Village, while it is not an incorporated area, has a long history, since it is the seat of an Eighteenth Century Spanish land grant, and very powerful community norms, as newcomers have discovered, sometimes to their discomfort. The Village is a community, an assemblage of people with similar histories and with sometimes-intricate family interrelationships, built around a post office that serves the entire zip code, an ancient water system, and the San Antonio de las Huertas land grant. But Placitas as a larger entity has a very brief history and perhaps for that reason alone seems to lack most of the elements of true community. In other words, Greater Placitas is not a small town held together by informal networks of family and relationships, where everyone knows (or would like to know) everyone else’s business. It is not even a suburb, but more like what used to be called an exurb—separated from the nearest metropolitan area, but still a distinctive place whose residents travel elsewhere to work and shop.
Most of the other subdivisions were designed by land developers. Only two are as much as twenty to thirty years old—Placitas Trails, Placitas Homesteads and Tierra Madre. Some are just getting started: La Mesa, Sundance Mesa, Vista de la Montana, Puesta del Sol, Desert Mountain, Sky Mountain, Vista de Oro and the newest, Anazasi Trails, are no more than ten or fifteen years old and are still evolving. It would be hard, however, to call any of these subdivisions true neighborhoods. Not yet, anyway. They are collections of adobe houses with a homeowners association, which functions in most cases as a kind of zoning board, enforcing the subdivision covenants and restrictions, plus a communal water system and networks of asphalt or improved but unpaved roads.
The kernel of any future community may lie in our shopping center with its small super market which also includes a bank, a beauty salon, two restaurants, a computer service store, a dry cleaner and a video store. Any place where people get together, or run into each other, has the potential for a communal “feel.” There is also the large, commercially-zoned area adjacent to the shopping center which could conceivably be developed in ways conducive to community (a community center, let’s say.) Add the Sandoval Signpost, and our own home-grown real estate companies and you have some inchoate but promising harbingers of community. But we’re not there yet.
Most important as an impetus to community may be problems that can only be solved through collective action. One of the older subdivisions, Ranchos de Placitas, for example, has developed a strong sense of shared history, growing, perhaps, out of the subdivision’s success some years ago in rehabilitating a crumbling water system. There’s nothing like a nice crisis to bring people together. And there will be more of them as the subdivisions age.
Some people, of course, may not want community. That isn’t what they came here for. They like the large lots, separated by arroyos, the relative isolation, the lack of social pressure. It’s hard to build a community of would-be hermits. Placitas may have more than its share of such anti-communitarians. They came here to get away from all that. Who can quarrel with their right to be left alone and not to participate? Another negative factor is that children-per-household is below, and median age in Placitas is significantly above, the state average. Children bring strangers together. We don’t have very many in Placitas.
Nonetheless, as time goes by, movement toward community should continue, as people settle in and more and more communal problem-solving is required to maintain our quality of life. When people get together to solve problems or to plan improvements, or even to sell products (such as works of art), institutions are being built. The local recycling operation, for which dozens of people volunteer a couple of times a year, is a good example of institution-building that has broader ramifactions. So is the holiday arts and crafts fair, which has been occurring here for over a decade. And there is the distinguished Placitas Artists Series, another well-established program. People have worked together very successfully in dealing with problems such as badly-maintained pipelines, or protecting open space. A plan for a local public library is already in the works; a few local people have gotten together, acquired a land gift, and hope to build a tennis court near the Village. There is even talk about applying for one of the low-power community FM stations that congress recently authorized. This would really have an integrating effect.
It seems unlikely that we will ever have our own government, although some among us would like to see us split off and become a county, a proposal with too many unknowns to catch on. We do have distinctive problems, and it would be good if the citizens of Placitas could have a larger say in determining our collective future. Some kind of sub-county organization for designated areas would work very nicely, but there is nothing in current state law that would make that possible.
So the movement toward more community activity, as more problems (and opportunities) emerge, would seem to be inexorable. Sooner or later, we’re going to be a real community, whether we like it or not.
Richard Hopkins is coeditor of RoughRoadReview.com, from which this article was reprinted with permission.