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letters, opinions, editorials

re: open letter to Congressman Martin Heinrich

Dear Congressman Heinrich:

Following up on our conversation at the Bernalillo/550 Train Depot, I would like to tell you of a recent battle with high-density development advocates.

On July 9, 2009 the Bernalillo P&Z Commission met to review the pre-plat for one of the above mentioned high-density, SU zoned townhouse developments, Piedra Lisa. The apparent agenda of the Planning and Zoning Officer, one Kelly Moe, was evidenced by the exposure of an incorrect town ordinance supplied to District Court and to the Commission. In his role as P&Z Officer, he was asked by the Commission for his opinion on the pre-plat. To their shock and amazement, he told them “you have to pass the pre-plat.” They were given no choice.

One function of Mr. Moe and the Commission is to vet every subdivision and make sure the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations are enforced.

By placing a townhouse development in the SU zone and going around the law, an attempt is made to avoid Commission scrutiny. Moe’s theory is that when the master plan for a development is passed in the SU zone by the Town Council, that plan acquires priority, overriding the Commission’s responsibility to ensure the regulations are followed.

He must know that our laws require that the pre-plat for a subdivision be passed in order for the development to receive a final plat. A final plat is necessary, and must be filed with the Town and the County Clerk before construction can start.

All of these procedures cannot happen unless the Commission rolls over and does Moe’s bidding, or unless the Council overrules the Commission and takes on the Commission’s role as the final approving authority.

Our laws state that it is the responsibility of the people most informed on the subdivision requirements to be the judge of whether or not a pre-plat is adequate. That responsibility rests with the Commission.

The Commission claimed their right to vote as they saw fit, and denied the totally inadequate pre-plat for Piedra Lisa. The many concerned citizens in attendance showed their appreciation of the Commission’s dedication and perseverance with a nice round of applause after the vote.

Thank you for your continued interest in the many developing issues in Bernalillo.

—Margie and Steve Amiot, Take Back Bernalillo

re: so I knew I would dance

Vicki and I have been collecting Native American art for many years. Each time we purchase or are presented with a gift, we collect as much provenance as possible for that item. We take the artist’s photograph if he or she gives us permission. Last year, we published the first edition of The Sullivan Art Collection. We update the Collection as we make additional acquisitions. Then we follow up with the artists at one of the many markets, art fairs, gatherings, and pow wows to show them their work in our book and request their autograph. We’re never sure who is more excited about this exchange—us or the artist.

There are also some precious moments when we choose to simply be with our Native American friends and enjoy the event. The 2009 Taos Pow Wow was one of those moments. We have attended many gatherings to view the grand intertribal processions and are always inspired by the shimmering sounds of the jingle dancers and the elaborate regalia of the fancy dancers. The Taos Pow Wow is one of these great events.

At most Native American events, tribal elders and leadership acknowledge and pay tribute to military veterans. Midway through the 2009 Taos Pow Wow, the master of ceremonies announced the next dance. His invitation was for veterans of all wars, campaigns, and skirmishes to come out onto the grassy arena, dance, and be acknowledged.

While serving in the Army during the Viet Nam War, I must confess I never imagined that I would be invited to participate in such a time-honored tradition.

That night, dozens of veterans moved in the circle while stepping in time with the drummers’ beats and chanting. Their voices and drumming resonated throughout the arena. To my left was a World War II veteran dressed in all his feathers and beads. To my right were three women veterans from a conflict. It will always be a night that I will remember.

Thanks to my talented brother Mark’s photography, we have the provenance of that moment.

—Ron Sullivan, Placitas


re: clearing the air—rumors, confusions, fallacies, omissions, downright lies, and other gossip mill grist

Developers do things that are wrong and hurt the rest of us, so they do this smoke and mirrors dance to justify their aggressions. Not only do they buy out our governments to ensure they get approvals and free infrastructure for their plastering over of the landscape, they threaten and intimidate our public officials into doing their will. Witness the recent P&Z Board approval of the Cashwell development proposals even before the subdivision plans were complete, including water issues. It is up to us, the public, to be alert and vigilant and never take government and developers’ word for anything. Nobody is going to protect our water resources and future except us. The State Engineer Office, County, and the development industry only obsess on development, growth, and revenue-profits and cannot be counted upon to tell us the truth or to reveal the actual consequences of their decisions and actions.

The recently dismissed protest of Montgomery v. Lomos Altos is a case in point demonstrating how we are bamboozled into thinking all this growth is good for us or that we are powerless to control our lives, government, and future. There is a common construct of rationalizations, falsehoods, and omissions among the development industry and government that we hear over and over whenever they need to address water issues. We hear the same phrases, the same denials, the same frantic need to persuade at any cost. This is getting to sound like a broken record or some crude and ineffective public relations gambit. Opinions in the press defending Lomos Altos, in the past and lately, bear out that developers attempt to tightly constrict the issues, ignore the ethics of them, and falsely claim beneficence towards the public and the critical resources we depend upon for existence. Here are a few examples:

Whine #1: “The Santa Fe Aquifer is huge and will take over a thousand years to significantly drop water tables.” The Santa Fe Formation consists of ten million years of alluvial depositing from the erosion of the mountains formed by the Rio Grande Rift, from Cochiti to Belen. It is made up of many diverse aquifers with many different mediums, depths, and quality, all of which are connected. Rising from the Rio Grande, a staircase of tiers getting shallower up in the foothills creates many different groundwater conditions. All the water in the Middle Rio Grande Basin has been spoken for and the law demands that the old rights claiming this water must be honored. Impairing the ability to appropriate water under these rights is prohibited. So, simple availability doesn’t mean it’s OK to take water and being over the Santa Fe Formation does not guarantee water for any new development, or even a single residence. When a real estate agent tells you the site is over the Santa Fe Aquifer and there’s lots of water, turn your back and walk away. You are probably being deceived. The County and State Engineer will always approve the permit, but senior rights holders will one day knock on your door with a legal service.

Whine #2: “Since you beat us in court over our transfer and we can’t use our community system, we are forced to use domestic wells to build more.“ The domestic well statute was enacted in the early 1950s to facilitate growth in a sparsely populated state, and has been interpreted by the State Engineer Office to mean domestic well applications cannot be denied. A year ago District Judge J.C. Robinson of Silver City ruled that this statute denies senior water rights holders due process to protest domestic wells that impair them and thus is unconstitutional. Although the State Engineer has submitted bills to give him powers to deny domestic well permits in the past, he is appealing this ruling. Why he is doing this is obvious—the development industry must have this loophole to walk over everybody else in push-shoving their applications through. If the New Mexico Supreme Court foolishly overturns this, senior rights holders will file a civil rights lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court and will obtain justice in the end. Since the evidence developed in Montgomery v. Lomos Altos overwhelmingly shows permanent reduced flows of the sources of senior rights holders from groundwater pumping, all domestic wells in Placitas will be subject to priority of water rights and will be required to obtain local senior rights to continue use.

There is no evidence that domestic wells threaten water quality more than a large community well. All wells drilled to present regulations are equally safe as far as contamination is concerned. A community well will create a large cone of depression that sucks water from in and out of the aquifer. This can alter the basic hydrological flows in the area and make recharge more difficult or even impossible.

Whine #3: “We were forced to sue all these people because the New Mexico Supreme Court said we had to.” This one is more specific to Montgomery v. Lomos Altos. Actually, the Supreme Court offered several options in order for the State Engineer to determine impairment of my water rights. These were: have the rights adjudicated by the court; buy out the water rights; have the rights declared forfeited or abandoned by the court; or accept all senior rights claims prima facie, or as stated. This last one was fully ignored by the applicant and State Engineer. We had the prima facie option proposed in one of our motions, which was never heard because the applicant bailed out of the case. I feel the State Engineer should have been the party to file abandonment suits. The applicant had no business or experience in doing so, and made a big mess of it as a result. The State Engineer claimed he didn’t have the resources to fund such suits, and should have opted for prima facie as the only doable process. Of course, senior rights holders should never be allowed their rights or be able to defend them, so we witness this running away from the law and reason.

Regardless of the legalities and hydrological details, the sustainability of our precious water resource depends on us, the public, to defend it. This means we all need to be aware of the shenanigans and chicanery foisted upon us by those who don’t care about much beyond making money and gaining power. Real power is derived from knowledge and the willingness to confront the powers that be with the truth. Public officials will wilt and developers will flee and not bother by a healthy application of citizen participation. The truth will strip them of all the screens they hide behind and reveal how stark naked they really are.

—Lynn Montgomery, Mayordomo, Acequia la Rosa de Castilla, Las Huertas

re: lightening the load

Mail order catalogs are fun reading material. And we buy a lot of things both online and from catalogs. But for a while, our mailbox was full almost daily with catalogs of stuff we would never buy in a million years. And the yearly catalogs or seasonal catalogs have been replaced by monthly catalogs filled with mostly the same stuff. Many of these catalogs are thicker than a magazine. Getting off a mailing list was futile at best.

Then I discovered At one website, you can opt out of most catalogs, or request just special catalogs from certain companies. It takes a few months to kick in, but now the only catalogs we get are those we really want to see.

—Gary W. Priester, Placitas

Black Ferret

Re: endangered blackfooted ferret

Dear Signpost, 

A few days ago I saw, in my front garden, at the east end of Placitas Trails, an animal I've never seen before. With the help of Doyle and Diane Wise, as well as Google, I feel pretty sure it was a blackfooted ferret. An extraordinarily beautiful creature. Apparently it's endangered, and there's a big effort to reintroduce it in this part of the world.

—Jessica Gordon, Placitas

Behind the Mike: Tips from Martha Stewart

—Michael A. Aun

There I was suffering through another round of Martha Stewart on television. Serves me right for getting on a treadmill on the “chick” side of the gym.

Martha Stewart has her way of doing things. The women I work out with have their way and trust me, they’re real women. Most of them can out-lift me, but then that’s why I work out with them. If they can clean my clock, imagine what the guys could do.

Real women have their way of doing things. For instance, Martha suggests that you stuff a miniature marshmallow into the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice cream drips. Real women teach their kids to suck the ice cream out of the bottom of the cone. They’re probably lying on the couch with their feet up anyway.

Martha says, “To keep potatoes from budding just place an apple in the bag of potatoes.” Real women buy instant potatoes and keep them in the cupboard year round.

Martha recommends, “When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking tin, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won’t be any white mess on the outside of the cake.” Real women buy a Publix cake that’s already decorated.

Martha warns, “If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it’s still cooking, drop in a potato slice.” Real women say “I made it and you will eat it and I don’t care how bad it tastes.”

Martha says to cure your headache take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away. Real women take a lime, cut it in half and drop it in eight ounces of vodka and guzzle it down. You might still have the headache, but you won’t give a damn!

Martha says, “If you have a problem opening jars, try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a non-slip grip that makes opening jars easy.” Real women respond, “Why do I have a man?”

Martha’s tip about wine is to freeze leftover wine into ice cubes for future use in casseroles. Real women say, “Leftover wine? Helllloooo!“

I admire all that Martha Stewart has had to overcome to bounce back. It’s human nature to want to see the mighty fall. Martha never helped herself very much with the chip she had on her shoulder before being hauled off to Shawshank.

I was trying to imagine what her to-do list looked like while she was in the big house. Like imagining the many shades of gray for Martha Stewart paints or creating a new “rope-a-dope” promotion.

Do you think she went the way of that other famous diva, Leona Helmsley, berating the domestic staffers at Shawshank? Don’t think so. She had plenty of time; she could have made a nice handmade quilt for the judge using $100 bills.

Martha made a number of recommendations when she visited the big house, including uniforms with vertical rather than horizontal stripes and pink rather than orange jump suits.

It’s rumored she began a new book, Minimum Security with Maximum Flair. She also has plans for a new movie—The Shawshank Redecoration. And then there’s that new TV series for the food channel “Cool Ham Soup.” See how much you can accomplish in the slammer!

To be fair, Martha came up with a number of clever new ideas in prison. For instance, you can take a simple turkey baster to remove those beans lodged in your ear canal. And don’t discard toothpicks. Simply apply some glue on some belly button lint and you’ll never have to pay for Q-tips again.

By the way, a wreath of dirty underwear is great for repelling mosquitoes. And remember, in a pinch, frozen water can substitute for ice. And always buy two pairs of the same socks; that way, if you lose one sock, you have two replacements.

Finally, by associating with known rednecks in prison, Martha was able to pick up on some tips for her return to society. For instance, never take a beer to a job interview and try to avoid taking a cooler to church.

And remember, if you have to vacuum your bed, it’s probably time to change the sheets.






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