The Sandoval Signpost

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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.

    re: USPS security bumps Marine care package

Editor’s note:

Irene Wooding from Corrales was inspired by Jake Lovato’s article in the November 2004 Signpost that encouraged people to mail holiday care packages to Marine and Navy personnel. Unfortunately, when she tried to mail a package to “Any Marine” at an FPO address with no name specified, she was told by a U. S. Postal Service (USPS) agent that he could not accept such a package for security reasons. She subsequently mailed the package from the UPS store, but was told that it would ultimately be handled by the USPS and might be returned.

Even though the Marine battery first sergeant in charge of the “Any Marine” FPO addresses printed in the Signpost requested that care packages be addressed in this manner, it is advisable to check with your post office before attempting to mail a package to an unspecified serviceman.

Please also note that according to the Army News Service Web site, “soldiers serving in the Central Command area of operation (including Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa) cannot receive: pork and pork by-products; alcoholic beverages; any matter depicting nude or semi-nude persons; obscene articles; pornographic materials; or unauthorized items ... “


    re: Placitas water study appreciated

November 8, 2004

An open letter to:

Debbie Hays, Sandoval County Manager

Bill Sapien, Sandoval County Commissioner

Sandoval County Commissioners

[As representatives of WRAP (Water Resources Association of Placitas)] we are writing to express our appreciation to each of you for facilitating the hydrological data collection study that will be performed by the U.S. Geological Survey over the next several years.

This initiates a critical component in actually determining the future water supplies of the Placitas area. We appreciate your support, commitment and insight with regard to one of the most important aspects affecting the future of our beautiful area.

—Thomas Ashe, Orville McCallister, Dave Burlingame


    re: an open letter to the Sandoval County Commission

Dear Sandoval County Commission:

Along with other Placitas residents, I recently received a survey from the Sandoval County Commission. While I would like to participate in a survey concerning Placitas, I cannot participate in this survey due to a number of problems with its design and implementation. The following are problems that I have identified with the survey, along with my concerns.

  1. The survey is hopelessly unscientific. It is impossible to derive any valid conclusions from such a survey. It is not clear that the policy makers are aware of this fact and it is not explicitly stated in the survey. In fact, it is implied that the data is good enough to apply for grants, create “needs” lists and be part of a larger study. This flaw is fatal and invalidates this survey. Traditional polling techniques are much better and would provide reliable data. Polling is not much more expensive than the cost of distributing this survey.
  2. The premise is inaccurate. The land donated by Peggy Cavett Walden was not donated to Sandoval County. It was donated to a private nonprofit entity. This fact is not clear in your letter. The failure to clearly state the land is private is misleading and confuses the issues.
  3. The range of questions fails to reflect the real issues of concern to the people of Placitas. There are no questions about education, which is an issue of great concern. There are no questions about development, environment or water, which are also of great concern. Finally, this would have been a perfect time to ask questions about the future of government in Placitas. For example, such questions as, “Are you happy with the level of representation in Placitas?” “Do you want a Placitas City?” “Do you want a Placitas County?” would have been appropriate.
  4. Two questions are unnecessary and potentially prejudicial. Question Number One concerns length of residency. This appears to be a wasted and intrusive question unless the county actually thinks that the opinion of a resident deserves more or less consideration based upon how long they have lived in the area—an absurd proposition. Question Number Six concerning race is a prima facie example of a prejudicial and divisive question.
  5. Finally, it appears obvious that this survey is the initial step in the imposition of a Public Improvement District on the residents of Placitas. This underlying motivation should have been explicitly stated in the cover letter. Furthermore, it is not generally known, but only property owners have a vote on Public Improvement Districts, which makes me concerned about whether this survey was sent to all Placitas residents, to all registered voters, or only to property owners. It is not clear to whom the survey was sent, but a valid survey should provide this information if the goal is to fully inform the public.

Charles Mellon

cc: Rio Rancho Journal


    re: Placitas County developments

The following are the latest developments in the Placitas County issue.

The recent passage of a $55 million bond by the Sandoval County Commission highlights the need for greater interest in uniting the Placitas-LaMadera community. Although numerous proposals were suggested on how to spend the money, not one penny was suggested for our community. What is shocking about this is that by any measure of fairness, $8.25 million of this bond should be dedicated to the Placitas-LaMadera area since we comprise 15 percent of the county’s property-tax valuation.

This follows the revelation that the previous Intel IRB primarily benefited Bernalillo County while Placitas-LaMadera not only did not benefit, we actually lost revenue in the process.

To add insult to injury, the Sandoval County Commission recently mailed a survey to Placitas residents asking what basic community facilities we want and how much of a tax increase we are willing to pay to receive them!

Finally, Dianne Torrance became the latest highly qualified Placitas resident, in a long line of other candidates, to lose an election in Sandoval County, although if she had run for the same office in Placitas County she would almost certainly have been elected.  

All of these issues, combined with the refusal of the Sandoval County Commission to allow us a vote on creating a Placitas County, have resulted in a bill that will, hopefully, be placed before the New Mexico Legislature, and if passed, would allow the people of the Placitas-LaMadera area to vote on whether to create a Placitas County.

—Charles Mellon


Les AuCoin

Les AuCoin

Terrible choices now confront the people of Oregon

Les AuCoin

On November 2, when Oregonians closed the book on the most forward-looking planning law in the nation, they did not just amend a statute, they changed the ethos of a state that had for thirty years celebrated open spaces, greenways, and livable communities over development.

And they likely started a copycat war throughout the West against zoning and planning.

The passage of Ballot Measure 37 introduces a novel concept: state and local governments should pay citizens to obey established land-use laws. If cash-strapped governments can’t do so—and few can—those laws must be waived.

So, if a person owns acreage outside the urban-growth boundary of a town and wants to build a strip mall, nothing can stop him from making his contribution to malignant sprawl unless he can shake down the city treasury. A landowner who decides to plop a go-cart track, a car wash, or a movie theater on a vacant neighborhood lot can do it—unless the city greases his palm.

Ironically, the ballot measure provides no compensation for a home- or property-owner whose land may lose value because of unregulated development in the neighborhood.

Measure 37 creates a lesser-of-two-evils choice for local and state governments: Either cannibalize services for kids, seniors, and police, or stand aside as unbridled development gallops forward. The practical result will be a sprawl-induced increase in automobile mileage and emissions, decaying downtown businesses, and disappearing open space and farmland. But the good times will roll for fast-buck artists who can invest in a second home somewhere far away where they won’t have to look at the mess they created.

When Oregonians passed Measure 37 by a lopsided margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, they signaled that they had become a different people.

Thirty years ago, we Oregonians used laws to promote things we enjoyed in common—open spaces, livable neighborhoods, economically viable downtowns, and merchants. We said, "Our home will be different than other states. We will protect our farmland, our open spaces, our neighborhoods and our livability." That was in 1973. It became known as the "Oregon Story."

I was majority leader of the Oregon House at the time. On the morning of January 8, a feeling of history in the making filled the House chamber as the legendary Tom McCall, perhaps the most popular governor in Oregon history, stepped to the microphone to address the opening session of the Legislature—and proposed the most sweeping change in land-use laws in the nation.

McCall declared: "Sagebrush subdivisions, coastal ‘condomania’ and the ravenous rampage of suburbia in the Willamette Valley all threaten to mock Oregon’s status as the environmental model for the nation. Oregon … must be protected from grasping wastrels of the land. We must respect another truism: that unlimited and unregulated growth lead inexorably to a lowered quality of life."

It was a time when the environmental movement had emerged as a potent force, Richard Nixon had created the Environmental Protection Agency, and the environment was Topic A in the media.

McCall was a magnetic leader, a lovable progressive Republican who had just inherited a Democrat-controlled Legislature. The combination of a visionary governor and a new, reform-minded legislative majority created a rare alignment of the sun, stars, and moon, and the bill, introduced by a Republican state senator, a farmer named Hector McPherson, passed with relative ease.

For the next thirty-one years, the "grasping wastrels of the land" have largely been held in check. But not any longer, unless next year’s Legislature somehow summons the will to change the law, which may be difficult, given Ballot Measure 37’s overwhelming success with voters.

Some commentators have rightly pointed out that McCall’s land-use planning law became inflexible and cumbersome as it was amended through the years. They are also correct that from time to time, it seemed to be enforced with indifference to property owners.

I agree with them when they say that governors and legislators could have addressed the law’s problems but failed to do so. Those officials share the blame for the loss of the law that, more than any other, made Oregon, Oregon.

But the real culprits are the economic interests that backed Measure 37, who stand to make out like bandits from unbridled development—the grasping wastrels who will leave future generations of Oregonians spiritually poorer than their immediate ancestors. Open spaces in Oregon —and throughout the West—may never be the same.

Les AuCoin is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He is a retired professor of political science, an Ashland, Oregon writer, a former U.S. Congressman from Oregon, and a former majority leader of the Oregon House of Representatives.





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