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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.
Placitas is such a beautiful place. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to move here four years ago.
Placitas has grown a lot in the four years.
Unfortunately, we only have one road to get here, Highway 165. It's not I-65. It seems a lot of people here are in a hurry and don't like the speed limits.
I am speaking for more people than myself. We are tired of the aggressive drivers. The only day I can drive to the Merc without being tailgated, passed in no-passing zones, pulled out in front of, and flipped off because I'm following the speed limit is on Sunday morning.
I'm sure most of you love Placitas, since you moved here. Maybe you could start allowing yourself more time and enjoy the drive down the mountain. If nothing else, you should respect the law and your neighbors.
Two weeks ago, I, along with about ten or twelve other cars, trucks, and SUVs had to drive at thirty-five mph all the way from the Merc to Los Ranchos because of a van going so slowly (oncoming traffic prevented passing). Behind the van were two sheriff’s SUVs that did nothing about this, despite NMSA 66-7 305A, which states “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic ...”. It was a clear sunny day, and there was no construction or other unsafe conditions, other than the van driver. The speed limit is fifty mph!
Wait a minute—this might also apply to those slow, slow gravel trucks down at the I-25 interchange! How about it, Sheriff?
I appreciate your getting a dialog going on the gravel trucks [March 2005 Signpost]. They are a danger.
We have three drivers in the family, and not a car without a broken windshield. I'm amazed that the insurance industry has not done anything about this problem. With the general disregard for safety, blocking of lanes, and daily unsafe driving practices displayed by the gravel truck drivers, I'm amazed we haven't had a fatality at the gravel pit’s NM165 exit.
Lately, the New Mexico Public Safety Police have been ticketing the gravel truck operators for their unsafe operations. Please call Captain Denny Martinez in Santa Fe at 841-9212 and thank him for his officers' enforcement activities.
The folks from T&T Supermarket (Joe and Jack Torres) have written you a letter [March 2005 Signpost] that does not comport with the facts. And, even after a public hearing discussing the reasons for the construction, there appears to be an unwillingness to face the reality of a situation involving the safety of the citizens of Bernalillo and the safety and convenience of those who choose to visit our town and add to our economic vitality.
The facts and the reality are these:
- There is no “turning lane” in the center of Camino del Pueblo. This isn’t something the leaders of the Town decided, it is the owner of the roadway, the State of New Mexico Highway Department (DOT), that has made that decision. If the DOT chooses to put a concrete pedestrian island in the center section of their road, it is done for good reason after careful study. It is not done without knowing all the facts surrounding a situation or location.
- There have been several pedestrian-related situations every week for years that are serious enough to warrant a pedestrian crosswalk/safe haven in this area. Not only do the photographs from past issues of this newspaper and others show near-miss car-pedestrian incidents, a call to our town hall to inquire about folks asking for safe crossing would illustrate the facts.
- The design of the crosswalk the Highway Department built was chosen to accomplish two things: provide for pedestrian safety and slow down traffic. Most reasonable people know the town needed both, especially in this dynamic business section: our downtown.
- The protests heard at the public hearing were that the crosswalk, terminating against the curb adjacent to the large private parking lot on the east side of the Camino, would cause people who aren’t shopping at the T&T to park in that private lot. T&T spends a lot of money to keep people from parking in that lot who aren’t shopping at their store. Interestingly, people go across the Camino in both directions. Folks come from the west side to the east side to shop—not just from east to west to go to Silva’s or The Range or to Bernalillo Veterinary.
- 5. Rather than negatively affecting the business on the east side of the Camino, slowing down the traffic has been shown in study after study to improve business.
- Finally, Taxpayer money should always be spent on the public safety first. That is the responsibility of government and should be the focus of those who form the community, as well. In fact, this pedestrian crossing was paid for by DOT, not directly by the people of Bernalillo. Other areas along the Camino will also be considered for this type crossing for the same reasons: pedestrian safety and traffic calming.
It’s about time to end unwarranted disagreements and get behind the positive changes that the mayor and members of council are asking be instituted to help every sector of our town.
—Lester H. Swindle
Town Manager Bernalillo
We made the trip to the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Sunday, March 13, in support of the omnibus election reform bill. We have watched the bill change over the last two weeks into a fine compromise for all concerned. Election reform should not be a partisan issue. All of our friends, Republicans or not, want to see how the machines have recorded their vote. Many are also concerned about voter ID and think the provisions in the bill will be a good step forward.
We watched in astonishment as Representative McCoy walked out along with the other Republicans before the consideration of the election reform bill began. We heard Minority Leader Ted Hobbs state that he didn't think any of the Republicans would be back. Nonetheless, we waited and we were pleased when Republican Representative Janice Arnold-Jones returned to the room and resumed working. We waited forty minutes for Representative McCoy or any other Republican members of the committee to return. We thank Representative Janice Arnold-Jones for her dedication to serving the interests of her constituents. We only wish our Representative McCoy had been there also.
It is clear that election reform, even including reasonable voter ID improvements, is not a priority for Representative McCoy or her party. This was especially clear when, after the Democratic representative who had been in another committee returned, Ted Hobbs, who briefly returned to the room, immediately left so a quorum could not be formed. This was partisan politics at its worst, no matter how it is spun.
Election reform, especially considering the over-vote and under-vote problems that occurred on the voting machines in New Mexico, should be one of the highest priorities for members of both parties.
—Jerry and Janice Saxton
There was no Republican walkout. What this individual saw was a normal occurrence when legislators have simultaneous committee assignments, as I and others did.
Interesting that the writer didn't mention the Democrat members who were absent.
It should also be noted that the omnibus election bill was passed in the House by the Democrat majority even though the voter-ID component had holes you could drive a truck through. True election reform has yet to be realized.
An open letter to the Sandoval County Commission, March 21, 2005
You have chosen for the second time in three years to hold budget meetings away from the constituent base. These are bad practices. I understand that it is cumbersome to deal with the public on such a bulky and weighty issue. Too bad. You have been consistent in avoiding the voice of those who have put you into office.
I have personally been to meetings in regard to the bond money from the Intel bond. I watched others make requests. What I saw was that those monies were already spent before there was a single word spoken by a member of the public. These are the practices that diminish credibility in the budget process, not to mention county government. The excuse of interruptions and distractions are just that: excuses.
The people of Sandoval County have not forgotten the days of state officials issuing cease-and-desist orders to treasurers. We have not forgotten audit notes that go unanswered or meetings attended by only those who have the checkbook. Come back to the sunshine that public hearings inside the county provide. Come back to credibility. Come back to respect for those who voted for you.
—Todd R. Hathorne
Republican Party Central Committee Member
It's a standard practice in both public and private sectors to use out-of-town retreats to get policy makers away from their offices so they can discuss ideas, formulate strategies, and devise plans. These meetings are open to the public, and there will be public hearings in Bernalillo to discuss budgetary issues before the budget goes before the county commission.
Sandoval County Spokesman
re: unfair representation
Why does the Placitas area need to have local representation in the form of Placitas County? Here is another good reason.
The Capital Outlay Projects Chart by County from the Legislative Council Service for the 2005 Session is now available. A total of 161 capital outlay projects were approved for Sandoval County for a total of $15,942,026. Of that total, four of the 161 approved projects (2.5 percent) were for the Placitas County area. Of the total spending, $430,000 of the $15,942,026 (2.7 percent) was spent in the Placitas County area.
Is it possible for a community with fair and effective representation to receive 2.7 percent of the county capital outlay when it has 6 percent of the county population and pays 15 percent of the county property taxes? I do not think so.
Our Senators Kent Cravens and Sue Wilson Beffort and our Representative Kathy McCoy would not allow us a vote on whether to create our own county, but at the same time they are not providing us with fair and effective representation. Why are we so poorly represented? The answer is simple. None of the three live in the Placitas area and the Placitas area is only 5 percent of Senator Beffort's district, 10 percent of Senator Cravens' district and 20 percent of Representative McCoy's district. Just like the five Sandoval County Commissioners, they have no political reason to care for Placitas, and their actions show that they do not care.
Roundhouse a three-ring circus
The New Mexico Legislature has only two houses but like all good circuses, it has three rings. If you don't understand this, it's almost impossible to make sense of the seeming chaos of the 60-day session's final days as some 2,500 bills suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear, mutate, die, are reborn and then die again before abruptly prestidigitating on the governor's desk in a form never before seen.
In the first ring are the big public issues, the ones almost everybody knows and cares about. These issues actually get reported by daily newspapers and even take a brief bow on the evening TV news summaries. These are the issues that bring out such huge crowds that hearings have to be moved from committee rooms to the floor of the House and Senate.
Such issues this year include abolishing capital punishment and cock fights, permitting medical use of marijuana, outlawing gay marriage and approving "civil unions."
This ring is more crowded this year than usual, bringing unprecedented crowds to the rotunda and rooms of the Roundhouse. A number of committee hearings have been so jammed that crowds stand outside in the hall hoping, usually futilely, for seats. Trying to walk the corridors of the Roundhouse has come to resemble jostling one's way down New York's Fifth Avenue at rush hour. Elbows become a handy accoutrement of lawmaking.
The second ring is the one that we love to ridicule, and with some justice. In the midst of the busiest legislative session in New Mexico history, committees have taken time to methodically debate resolutions about making chile, beans or chile and beans the state vegetables.
What started off as a simple-sounding resolution turned, in the hands of the avid committee epicures, into a snarl that Solomon himself would have had difficulty unraveling. For starters, there was a problem in defining the two plants.
Are beans a vegetable or a legume? Is chile a vegetable or a fruit or a berry? Or are they really just a dish? And what should be done with present law that defines chile and beans as the state vegetables? Does that law mean the two types of food are to be considered separately or as one. The luckless sponsor was reduced to saying that chile and beans aren't separate vegetables: they're a dish that always joins the twain as—he unfortunately added—anyone who has eaten chile and beans knows.
No, only Texans know that. In New Mexico we love to take our bowl of green chile straight.
Believe it or not, the resolution did finally make its way to the floor, where it passed the House and is pending in the Senate. The tentative decision was to dub the bean "the state legume" and chile "the state fruit," while leaving the books current law that defines chile and beans as "the state vegetables."
The Legislature was equally busy on another front, designating the hot air balloon as "the state aircraft." This is a proposal pushed by the unlikely couple of Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who for some reason thinks it will promote economic development, and Sen. Steve Komadina, a Republican who at one time represented part of the Tricounty area and who is an avid balloonist. The state aircraft, fruit and legume will join a long list of official totems that already include a state ballad, a state bilingual song, a state fish, a state grass, a state gem, a state fossil, a state insect, a state cookie, and, of course, a state question. So far we don't have an official state nut, but how long can it be before some legislator from southern New Mexico will propose this designation for the pecan?
Then we can all brag, to steal a line from the play "Auntie Mame," that we are from New Mexico, where the nuts come from.
But while New Mexicans are laughing all the way to the poor house, we must not forget the third ring in the circus, which is where real lawmaking transpires. This is where the big hard issues are debated and resolved. The daily newspapers and the TV stations don't pay a lot of attention to this ring because the issues are achingly complex and don't lend themselves readily to pretty pictures.
But it is here the state decides on spending for government programs, salaries (one in four New Mexicans works for government) and capital projects, where it resolves the dilemmas of health care and education, where the needs and desires of 1.8 million New Mexicans are balanced against the limited resources of, by some measures, America's poorest state. You won't hear a lot about the details of what happens in this ring, but over the next year almost everything that happens in New Mexico will devolve from it. When a teacher quits because she can't live on her pay, when a poor boy dies because Medicaid won't pay for his surgery, when a city builds a sewer or a county expands its jail, it will be more than likely because of the actions in this ring.
The public are not the only ones left on the outside looking in at this ring. At this level only a handful of people—the governor, the leaders of the two houses and a half dozen committee chairs—make the key decisions. When the final big compromises emerge from the back rooms in the Legislature's final few days, 90 percent of the "lawmakers" will not have read the final laws they will be passing and will know precious little about what the bills contain. But don't despair. The circus will return next year.
Reprinted from The Independent (March 16, 2005, Vol. 7, No. 11), the local newspaper serving the East Mountains and Estancia Valley, New Mexico, .