Sandoval Signpost

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  The Gauntlet

Signpost c. G. Leichner







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letters, opinions, editorials

re: soldiering on over water rights in Placitas

The March 2nd “unhearing” on the Lomos Altos water transfer protest was interesting, to say the least. I call it an unhearing, because nothing was said on the public record. Judge Eichwald opened the proceedings by stating that he believed that Lomos Altos has sued a colleague of his, my neighbor, and one of the other 13th District Court judges. This is true.

The result of this is that Judge Eichwald will very likely have to recuse himself, complicating matters and raising the legal costs of everyone involved. In observing the reaction of the Lomos Altos attorney, one was lent the impression that she had no idea that such a remarkable blunder had been made. However, alternate interpretations involving “false tells” in high-stakes poker, still force one to ask the question: Is Lomos Altos involved in some sort of Machiavellian judge-shopping exercise?

Lomos Altos’s attorney then went on to assert that Judge Eichwald need not recuse himself, if the other judge involved signs a “disclaimer” that Lomos Altos has started distributing to third-party defendants. When I got home from the unhearing, my attorney had sent me a copy of this disclaimer. It is an interesting document. It does not disclaim the arrogance of the people who have sued over one hundred of their neighbors. It does not disclaim the apparent void of geographic and topographic knowledge of the area evident in Lomos Altos’s paperwork.

What this document does is ask third-party defendants to sign away, without consideration, what could be valuable water rights—water rights that Lomos Altos claims we possess. The document claims to exclude from jeopardy permitted-use well water, but it does not in any way offer indemnity against the harm that may be caused by this suit having been filed in the first place. As the court, and not Lomos Altos, will be the arbiter of permitted-use well water, I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would acknowledge Lomos Altos as an authoritative party by signing this disclaimer. In my opinion, this action by Lomos Altos indicates that they realize that they have very significant legal exposure, and that they are now being forced into a position of awkwardly backpedaling away from their absurd claims.

In placing my ear to the ground and listening to gossip around town, I’ve formed a few opinions that are relevant to this situation. Chief amongst them is: The real reason that this issue is coming to a head seems likely to be that Lomos Altos would like to expand their wells to serve the nearby undeveloped land behind the fire station. The development of that land has spawned quite a battle in the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission’s hearings on the “Placitas Area Plan.”

 It seems likely that some development will be approved there. Water, however, is a huge problem in the area. I’ve seen the water analysis for the Fire Station’s well and it isn’t pretty. Besides being unpalatable, water that hard clogs pipes and would leave ugly lime stains on the sides of swimming pools. Lomos Altos has a solution to offer with their deep wells, but only if they can make this transfer protest go away.

Honestly, I can’t imagine what motivated Lomos Altos to move forward in the manner that they have. It sure looks like kamikaze behavior, but a kamikaze pilot knows what he’s getting himself into. Before my neighbors and I were sued by these people, I was exceedingly happy minding my own business. However, now that they’ve made their business my business, I’d like to suggest to you the following: If you don’t like the idea of more development in Placitas, involvement in this transfer protest is a highly-effective avenue for you to oppose it. If you think you have something to offer, why not file a brief with the court or sponsor an attorney for a third-party defendant? I have researched additional avenues for a motion to dismiss that I’d be happy to share with an attorney acting on the behalf of one of my close-by neighbors.

To Lomos Altos: Why don’t you drop this charade right now and pay the lawyers‘ fees of the people that you’ve wrongly brought into this before it gets dramatically more expensive for you? You’re just throwing good money after bad at this point, because your bluff will be called.

The next hearing on this matter is scheduled for May 12th. I expect that Judge Eichwald will be forced to recuse himself at that time, and that this matter will be referred to a court in Santa Fe.

I can be contacted via the following means:; No phone calls please.

—Jack Bates, Resident Landowner, El Cerro Negro de Placitas

re: Heard Museum’s Indian Fair and Market

Whether you collect or merely appreciate Native American art, it may be time for you to check out the Heard Museum’s Indian Fair and Market in Phoenix.

Our first trip to the Market was in March of this year. Six hundred artists from North America were there. New Mexico was represented by Jemez sculptor and Placitas residents Joe Cajero, Jr. and his jeweler wife Althea, as well as many others from the surrounding pueblos of New Mexico.

Our final destination was in the middle of Chandler, Arizona and some twenty miles from the Heard. The Gila River Indian Community’s serene and restful Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa was once home to the Pima and Maricopa tribes.

Getting to the resort is well worth the experience, especially if you choose to drive the 440 miles between Placitas and Chandler. Stopping for a spinach omelet at Earl’s Restaurant in Gallup is always a delight. During your dining experience, expect Navajo and Zuni artists unobtrusively to display their items at your table for viewing and possible purchase.

At Holbrooke, take the byway, which will eventually get you through Payson to Chandler. It’s the route that the Hashknife Pony Express takes. Each year since the 1950s, the Navajo County Posse celebrates the pony express route by delivering U.S. Postal Service mail between Holbrooke and Scottsdale, a distance of two hundred miles. Yes, once a year in Holbrooke, you can still use the real pony express to send a letter to Scottsdale.

Along the route, you enter the Tonto National Forest. You should be prepared for breath-taking panoramas of majestic mountains and vast saguaro forests. About midway is the town of Payson, Arizona. For entertainment, it advertises a topless cabaret. As you might expect, the cabaret only performs in the summer months.

Did we purchase anything at the Heard Market? Yes, we did! Kathleen Wall (Walatowa) from Jemez Pueblo had one of her clay clowns on her sales table, and it is now proudly displayed in our Placitas home. Her work is currently exhibited at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque.

—Ron Sullivan, Placitas

re: notes on the economy

In the past few years I have reconnected, via email, with K. I met K at college, where he pursued his love affair with economics. After a master’s degree, he entered the world of banking and finance.

Lately he and I have gone back and forth on the subject of the current debacle on Wall Street. I enjoy being the student. I enjoy finding a sharp mind willing to expound on his/her take on any given subject. By phone Sunday evening, we talked for ninety minutes.

I took notes. Below I present an edited version of those notes:

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the American people made two major changes in their approach to life. In the ‘80s the bumper sticker was, “You can have it all!” In the ‘90s, many of us began to live beyond our means, a feat made possible with credit cards. In the first decade of this new century we used our houses as if our houses were a hefty bank account.

In the mid-‘90s, the banking industry relaxed lending standards. Many members of our government encouraged this decision. There was a time when, in order to buy a house, you had to put down twenty percent in cash and prove that you had been continuously employed for the last three years.

In 1999, the government reversed portions of the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) and took down the barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. Investment banks incorporated and took on the powers of a commercial bank. The investment bank, a partnership whose owners have millions of dollars of their own money at stake, became like a gambler with a trust fund. As a commercial bank, they were now covered by the full backing of the U.S. government. The risk shifted from the individual investment bankers (now commercial bankers) to the U.S. taxpayers.

A few decades ago, it was the commercial bank that held a home loan for its duration, maybe thirty years. In recent years, Wall Street investment bankers invented and utilized a financial instrument that bundled home loans, balanced the bundle with various grades of loans, and sold the bundles to investors. The bankers made a profit and the bundled loans were off the bank’s books. A corrupt bond ratings industry gave many of these inadequately inspected bundles an AAA rating. A corrupt AIG insured the bundles against loss. The bundles included a number of sub-prime loans. Before the collapse, the expectation of the default rate of the bundled home loans was two to three percent.

The world of bundled mortgages was tangled. Many individuals and mutual funds and foundations and banks from other countries bought into this game and all thrived until the housing bubble burst. The complexity and opaqueness of the situation outran lazy and corrupt government regulators. A few economists predicted our impending downfall, but few of us listened. The best and the brightest chose to use their intellectual gifts to loot Wall Street and the U.S. Treasury, and they succeeded.

“Mission accomplished. There are many people in the banking and finance industry who have betrayed us?”

Yes. And from both sides of the aisle, certain members of our government have also betrayed us. But still, we must repair the banks. The banks, via lending, are the oil in the engine of our global economy that runs on credit and confidence. Drain that oil and the engine seizes up and comes to a grinding halt.

Lowered standards. Relaxed regulations. Capital in reserve no longer required. Risk shifts away from the bankers and into the lap of the government, aka, we, the people. Complex financial instruments. Corrupt politics. Human greed runs rampant. Voila. Once again, Wall Street diminishes itself to the status of a bankrupt casino.

—Greg Leichner, Placitas

re: dear large dog owner

Clean up after your dog! Every morning when out for my morning walk, I note with disgust the ever-increasing piles of excrement left by your dog that befoul the side of the road.

I know it is a bother to have to clean up after your dog, but being a responsible citizen goes with being a responsible pet owner.

Now that the weather is warmer, why not spend a few hours and clean up all this dog excrement. I thank you, and everybody who walks along the same road thanks you. And your dog thanks you.

—Gary W. Priester, Ranchos de Placitas

re: Ideal Acres zoning and subdivision ordinances

At the end of November, I received a public notice of a hearing at the Commission Chambers at the Sandoval County Courthouse. At that time, I called Brad Stebleton to see if there were going to be any issues brought up concerning Ideal Acres. I was told that the only issues that were going to be brought up were about abolishing unneeded utility corridors.

Upon reading February’s edition of the Signpost, I found that there was an additional January Commission meeting in which Mr. John Arango and Mr. Mike Lucero recommended reviewing the two- acre minimum per lot and ridge top building for Ideal Acres, due to public comment and burden.

The only reason to split up these lots is to accommodate and expedite greed! This would be the same kind of greed that has caused the current recession! I own four acres (two two-acre lots), which I purposely purchased due to the minimum lot size and the covenants at Ideal Acres. Mr. Arango and Mr. Lucero were not talking about me, nor was I ever consulted. I did appreciate Mr. Lucero’s points about conditions for the loop road and the BLM parcel impact. The specter of commercial development seems to be pervasive in the move to gerrymander into smaller [lots].

I purchased my lots in Ideal Acres so that my neighbors would not be on top of me. Please keep me informed of any and all upcoming meetings, since it may be the only way in which I can voice my viewpoint.

—Lori Battiste, Ideal Acres landowner

re: cottonwood cat

Dear Friends Back East:

Hopefully this note finds each of you well and content in your somewhat cheerless but overcrowded surroundings. Here in the Land of Enchantment, I’m finding life spiritually regenerating and recently attended a wonderful lecture on Buddhism.

I am favorably impressed, for example, by the Buddhist belief in the interconnectedness of all things, and now believe that Mighty Patrick—our splendid old Maine Coon Cat—enjoys a not-too-distant kinship with cottonwood trees.

Since his move from Rhode Island, Patrick’s springtime ability to shed prodigious amounts of his silky, tawny coat is uncommonly like that of a grand cottonwood discharging gazillions of airborne cottony-covered seeds in early summer, but with one exception: Patrick’s shedding is in far greater quantity than that of any cottonwood and displays greater diversity of design.

Some of Patrick’s wispy cast-offs are of an airy, spiral form, frolicking across tile flooring like ghostly little Chinese finger traps, frequently taking flight on a current of air. Bookshelves and picture frames are favorite lodging places for many of them. Others are round and emulate tumbleweeds in search of a barrier on which to become entangled, e.g. a carpet’s fringe or the edge of a chair leg. And some are in the form of simple furry wads possessed of tentacles which enjoy burrowing into carpet fibers, becoming resistant even to the authority of vacuum cleaners and well-functioning human finger tips.

A generous tonnage of Patrick’s hairy detritus is in the form of ultra-light, feathery filaments with an astounding cobweb-like ability to cling to walls, lampshades, ceilings, ceiling fans, and other such strongholds, resisting capture by humankind.

On many occasions, I’ve retrieved such furry leavings from my house interior, opened the door to discharge them to the outside environment only to find them hurling themselves back into the house.

My spouse maintains this is a result of outside air blowing them back. I think not. I believe these little divestments are possessed of an intrinsic need to return to the mother ship (in this case, “father ship”) for a second, or perhaps third or more, opportunity for a useful existence—a kind of reincarnation, if you will.

Patrick, who achieved enlightenment many lives ago, has little to offer other than occasionally studying one of these previous attachments tumbling past his line of vision. He might use a stumpy leg to bat at one, but otherwise demonstrates little paternal interest in his second hand fur. He’s completely accepting of its loss.

As for us, we are hopeful that the economic downturn doesn’t render our monthly purchase of several cases of vacuum cleaner bags a financial hardship.

But we don’t mean to complain. Our present moments are of a sterling quality and the future takes care of itself. May you also have ease of being.

—Your Friend, Herb, Placitas, New Mexico

Why I own fifty-seven pairs of black pants —and so should you

—Alisa Singer

Every mother loves her kids and every woman loves her black pants. It’s as simple as that. (The possible exception to this might be that always-rare (if not purely theoretical) and ever-decreasing percentage of our population, the women who are actually morbidly underweight. However, those women probably perceive themselves to be fat anyway, which means they can be included in the approximate 99.99% of the female population in the United States that adores, and requires an ample supply of, black pants. This is because only black pants are at once sophisticated, versatile, slenderizing and, well, basic. Also they hide most stains though, admittedly, are brutal when it comes to pet hair. So most self-respecting women fill their closet or, if they are so fortunate, closets, with numerous pairs of black pants which they have accumulated over the course of many years.

The concept of accumulation is worth thinking about. I have several pairs of black pants that are clearly older than my daughter in high school and, I’m pretty sure, a few that are at least as old as my son graduating law school. I’m guessing you can say the same about some of yours. Sometimes we hold onto a pair of pants that has rarely (if ever) adorned the lower part of our bodies because we paid way too much for them in the first place and are required to rely upon the generally accepted accounting principle that we can amortize the cost over several decades (thereby justifying the original expense) simply by keeping them hanging, unworn, in our closet.

More likely, though, if we haven’t worn certain pants since Y2K, it’s probably because we bought them at “low tide” (when we had just come off that disgusting but momentarily effective _______ diet) and, of course, a few weeks from now after we start that miraculous new ______ diet, they’re going to fit perfectly, if not be actually swimming on us, and we will congratulate ourselves for having had the foresight to hang on to them for all those years. Now there may be a few of you obsessive/compulsive types out there that actually subscribe to the laughable rule, “If you haven’t worn it in a year, give it away.” Give it away! Who makes these things up? Rules like that prove that some people have no sense at all. Giving up pants under those circumstances would be like losing all faith in the prospect of ever realizing our dreams. And without hope, the rest of our lives would loom before us cold and bleak. And so we keep our pants. Pretty much forever.

In my case, I have fifty-seven pairs of black pants that can be divided and subdivided into various categories. In thinking of these categories, I find it useful to employ the taxonomy applied in the classification of organisms populating the animal kingdom.

Thus, to begin with, we must think of “black pants” as a separate kingdom. We can then move immediately into three phyla (plural for phylum?): the ones from the off-season closet in the hall; the ones in the basement (that I had pretty much forgotten about); and the ones in my “current season” closet. The pants in all three phyla (i.e., closets) can be divided into three further classes: those that actually fit; those that may (almost for sure will) someday fit again; and those that never really did fit except for ten seconds five years ago on an empty stomach, and only then with the aid of control-top pantyhose. Of course, the pants in each of the three phyla/closets would also fall into one of the three classes, which is how I calculate that at this point I have established nine categories of black pants. But, as we all recall from high school biology, there’s more work to be done.

Next in our taxonomy is the sub-classification order, of which there are two: the pants that I really like, usually because they are either (i) comfortable, or (ii) flattering, but almost never both; and then those that I don’t really like so much. And so at this point I have sub-divided my inventory of black pants into eighteen categories. As we move on to the scientific sub-classification family we must take into account the four additional very obvious divisions, i.e., (w) dressy, (x) for work, (y) casual, and (z) workout only. Even my rudimentary math skills tell me that we have created seventy-two classes of black pants, which means that I own an average of .79166666 pairs of black pants per category and we haven’t even hit genus yet.

Moving right along, at the level of genus we begin to approach the mathematical concept of infinity, inasmuch as I view this category as encompassing the vast universe of length and style. To illustrate my point, I asked a friend to write down every kind of pant style she could think of and, in literally three minutes, she came up with the following list which I will provide here verbatim: “high-rise; mid-rise; low-rise; no waist; slim fit; relaxed fit; wide legged (remember Palazzo pants??); straight legged; bell-bottom; boot cut; pleated; capris; clam diggers; Bermudas; leggings; culottes!!!! (I loved those); carpenter; overalls; breeches/pantaloons; rompers/knickers??…”

Okay, we can debate whether some of these are actual official pant styles, but I have no doubt that with minimal further research I could come up with fifty more. And for some reason she left off “jeans” (even though I noted she was wearing a pair), of which there are sufficient numbers of styles and varieties to arguably command a separate kingdom. I think you can get a sense of the difficulty of classification at this level, not to mention the trouble of figuring out the plural for genus (genies?).

We arrive at the next and final category (since I have now exhausted my high school knowledge of taxonomy)—species. I don’t think any human being, even the relatively dense male kind, would quarrel with the fundamental proposition that, as Heidi Klum likes to say, “With fashion, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out.” So we must divide our little garment kingdom yet further, into two more categories: the pants that are more-or-less “in” and those that are clearly “out.” (Yes, I know, black pants should be classic—never in or out of style—but come on, when was the last time you saw someone in pedal-pushers?)

Think we’re through? Not likely, because, the reality of the situation is that not every pair of black pants will look well with any given top or jacket. For example, there are certain pants that are not “forgiving” enough to be worn with a short jacket or sweater, but rather require the visual protection of a long top (or large horse blanket). And some have pants legs that are too wide for a loose top and should only be worn with a more tailored piece. And let’s not even get into the issue of shoes—long pants that require high heels versus those that can only be worn with low heels and pants that will never look quite right unless worn with the only kind of shoes that you don’t happen to own. The permutations are virtually endless, as I’m sure you can see. The result is that by the time you select a particular top to be worn during a particular season on a particular day for a particular event, you’ll be lucky to have even one viable choice of black pants, let alone fifty-seven. Which is why I think I need to go shopping for some black pants.

Shrinking supply will intensify water wars

—Paul Larmer, Writers on the Range

I have a classic Western postcard tacked to the bulletin board above my computer. It shows two men in a field holding shovels over their heads, locked in mock battle. Behind them runs an irrigation ditch. The caption reads: “Discussing Western Water Rights, A Western Pastime.”

The postcard makes me laugh because I know firsthand how worked up people can get over water. At an annual ditch meeting two years ago, my western Colorado neighbors seemed on the verge of an insurrection when the volunteer board members sheepishly announced that a leak in the local reservoir had not been fixed. The reservoir, which supplies our late-season water, would not fill, and the ditches would run dry by the end of July. Our green patches of grass, alfalfa, and corn would quickly become as brown, bare, and cracked as the desert lands that surround them.

In years past, my neighbors might have shrugged off one shortened growing season; once the reservoir was fixed, after all, the ditches would flow copiously all summer long with snowmelt from the mountains behind town. But that was then. Nowadays, something weird is going on with the weather. The snow pack—the source of nearly all of our water—has become unpredictable, with most years on the lean side. No matter how much snow flies in the winter, it seems to melt off earlier every spring.

Climate-change scientists confirm what old-timers know by observation: The West’s water supply is shrinking. A difficult period of triage lies ahead. If our cities get their way, the rural areas and the Indian tribes will end up handing over their water. It’s already happening in places like Southern California and Las Vegas, where deals are being cut to pump groundwater and divert traditional agricultural waters to the urban areas.

Here in Colorado, water managers have long assumed that the state has enough Colorado River water to accommodate future growth on both the Front Range and the Western Slope. But now, forward-looking realists like Eric Kuhn, who runs the Colorado River Water Conservation District, are tossing those assumptions out the window. They now accept that the Colorado River’s flow, which has been overestimated ever since it was divvied up between seven states during a wet period in 1922, will shrink even more as the globe warms. Combine this physical reality with the legal reality that Colorado and the other Upper Basin states (Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico) must allow 7.5 million acre feet of water to flow downriver each year to the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona, and Nevada, and that large pool of undeveloped water disappears like a mirage in the desert.

Mr. Kuhn told High Country News reporter Matt Jenkins that he believes Colorado has legal access to just one-tenth of the water it thought it had. This puts the burgeoning Front Range metropolis of greater Denver, which anticipates nearly three million new residents in the next twenty-five years, in a tight spot. Denver will need to push its residents to conserve more, even as it looks to my side of the Continental Divide to buy up existing senior water rights, held mostly by farmers and ranchers. And there are other thirsty players. The nascent oil shale industry also needs large amounts of water if its hopes for a boom are to be realized.

The future looks grim for my neighbors and me; our lands may soon dry up in order to keep the faucets running in Denver and the wheels of the energy industry turning.

But necessity, as we know, is the mother of invention. It is heartening to see major players in the region acknowledge that the Colorado River will not deliver what we once thought it would. The seven states have already adopted a drought plan, though it probably doesn’t go far enough. We need to pay attention to managers like Eric Kuhn, who has proposed a plan for Colorado that includes strict conservation measures in the cities and creative water banking in the rural areas. To adhere to a stricter water diet, everybody will have to cut back on something.

The Western pastime of discussing water rights will continue unabated, but the postcards depicting it may have to change; instead of shovels, rivals will need to wield calculators and climate-sensitive computer models. And they better bring their lawyers, too.





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