February and March elections get voters thinking
Tuesday February 3 elections:
Voters in the Bernalillo school district will be asked to approve $11 million in bonds on February 3 for construction and renovation projects.
Currently at the top of the district’s priority list are plans to add classrooms to Placitas Elementary School, expand Santo Domingo Elementary with a wing for the fourth and fifth grades, build a performing arts center, and renovate the track at Bernalillo High School. The bond question also allows purchase of computer hardware and software for schools.
The new debt will not affect property-tax rates as it is issued as existing debt is retired, according to the district.
Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Placitas and Algodones elementary schools, the OLOS gym near Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Bernalillo, the Cochiti Lake library, and in community centers at Peña Blanca and San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Sandia pueblos. Late in January the school board added a polling place at the La Madera fire station.
Early voting at the Sandoval County Courthouse ends January 30.
In the midst of a lively political year, voters will have one less ballot to worry about with the cancellation of the February 3 Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District election.
State law allowed the district to cancel the balloting when no one challenged the reelection of incumbent chairman Nick Mora and member Reuben Montoya to four-year terms on the board of directors. No other candidates officially declared in December, and the board called off the election when no write-in candidates surfaced by the January 13 deadline.
Coronado covers southeastern Sandoval County and is one of forty-seven districts in New Mexico promoting soil and water conservation and funding improved farming and development practices.
Tuesday March 2 elections
One current town trustee and eight of his neighbors have filed for two positions in the March 2 Bernalillo Town Council election.
Incumbent councilor Helen Sandoval said she decided not to seek reelection because she would not be able to devote sufficient time to the position. “My time on the council was great; I enjoyed every aspect of it,” Sandoval told the Signpost. “I tried to be judicious in analyzing situations and tried not to personalize it.”
Sandoval spent a dozen years on the Bernalillo Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected to the council in 2000.
Her colleague Ronnie Sisneros is running for a second term on the council as are former trustee Dale Prairie, former candidate James Steve Baca, and current planning-board member Leroy Joseph Lovato.
Also running are Robert W. Satriana, Joe V. Arellano, John “Ernie” Aragon, Fred Sanchez, and Marian Jaramillo.
Incumbent municipal judge Alonzo Lucero was the only candidate to announce for that position. Polls will be open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Bernalillo Town Hall, 729 Camino del Pueblo.
On March 2 voters in unincorporated areas of Sandoval County will decide on sales taxes for local fire departments and emergency medical services.
Both taxes would be 0.25 percent on most purchases of goods and services. One ballot question would continue the existing fire-fund tax that volunteer fire departments use for equipment and training but not personnel.
The second question would impose a new tax for emergency medical services which would include staff for EMS units. Absentee and in-person early voting begins February 3 at the Bureau of Elections in the Sandoval County courthouse.
The election had been scheduled for February 2 but was put off a month in part because the Bureau of Elections already planned to be open 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for other local elections, according to county attorney David Mathews. Plans to save money by conducting an all-mail election also were scrapped after the cost of hiring additional translators to work with Native American voters became known, he said.
Two incumbents and one challenger have filed for seats on the Corrales Village Council in the March 2 election.
Hoping to retain their positions are Walter Lucero, elected in 2000, and Laurie Rivera, elected in 2002 to fill a vacancy. Corrales Planning and Zoning Commission member Bob Bell is the third candidate for the two positions.
Polling places will be located in the Corrales recreation center, senior center, and fire station and in the Old San Ysidro church, with early voting at the clerk’s office in the Village Municipal Offices, 4324 Corrales Road.
Paisano reappointed as Sandia governor
Sandia Pueblo tribal leaders have appointed Stuwart Paisano as governor for the fifth consecutive year. Lawrence R. Gutierrez is the new lieutenant governor, Vincent Avila remains war captain for a fifth term with the pueblo, and Edward Paisano is the new lieutenant war captain. An installation ceremony for the appointed officials and their officers was held on January 6 at the pueblo’s Saint Anthony de Padua Catholic Church.
Search for new police chief continues
For the third time in a year, Bernalillo is actively searching for a police chief.
Advertising for the position was scheduled to begin on January 25, according to town administrator Lester Swindle. Advertising, screening applicants, and getting the new chief on board could extend into April, he said.
Turmoil at the top of the Bernalillo Police Department began early in 2003 when town councilors terminated then chief William Relyea. The councilors’ first pick to replace him accepted the job but never showed up.
Chief Ramon Montijo took over in April, was suspended briefly in June during a dispute with Mayor Charles Aguilar, suspended again by Swindle in August, and ultimately fired in November.
Montijo contended he was hounded from office after discovering irregularities in the department’s handling of weapons and evidence.
Clayton, Hathorne, and Salzman prepare to discuss concerns facing Rio Rancho
Rio Rancho City Council candidates line up
Three candidates for the Rio Rancho City Council are no strangers to the issues on the minds of their neighbors in northern Rio Rancho District 6 as the March 2 election approaches.
Lonnie Clayton, retired from a career in business warehousing and distribution, lives in River’s Edge Two and has served on the city council since being appointed to fill a vacancy in January 2003.
Marilyn Salzman, owner of an office-services business, is president of the River’s Edge Homeowners Association in far northeast Rio Rancho abutting the town of Bernalillo.
And Todd Hathorne, owner of a mortgage brokerage, serves as president of the Enchanted Hills Neighborhood Association whose northern boundary touches US 550.
For all, the hot-button issues, from the proposed Paseo del Volcan to competition with Albuquerque, surfaced during a recent forum sponsored by the River’s Edge One Neighborhood Association. But it was the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for NM 528 and Corrales Road that one REONA officer called the “big kahuna” and provoked the most questions from an audience of about forty.
Both Clayton, who declines to give his age, and Hathorne, thirty-nine, said they welcome Wal-Mart to Rio Rancho but think the proposed site is inappropriate for a two-hundred-thousand-square-foot structure. Both also said they had been in contact with Wal-Mart about alternate sites, with Clayton adding that he has Wal-Mart at least thinking about its options.
Hathorne criticized the local developer, who is engaged in a lawsuit over neighborhood covenants that prohibit big-box stores. “An agreement between a developer and a home-owners’ association ought to be honored,” he said. “Be a man of your word.”
Salzman, sixty, said she could not predict the outcome of the lawsuit and would welcome an alternate site if one were available. She said she had previously opposed additional gas stations and fast-food drive-ups on 528 and saw no conflict of interest in her business subcontracting production of an informational flier used by Wal-Mart.
“I’m a professional typist,” she said. “I was offered a fair and honest job.”
Questioned about the ease with which developers apparently rezone single-family residential land, Hathorne noted 60 percent of city revenue comes from development. But he also said the city development department is in disarray, which contributes to “money rolling down the hill to Albuquerque.”
The focus on attracting big business while ignoring established local ones misses a chance to expand the existing tax base, he added.
Clayton called for responsible growth with accountability but added the development department is “dysfunctional” from turnover of directors and the city administrator. “I was the only councilor who said hire the administrator first, then hire a planning and zoning director,” he said.
After the council-hired director left, councilors adopted his initial plan of naming an acting director until the new administrator could do the hiring, he said.
District 6 is the largest in the city with the most demand for growth and planning, Salzman said. Future growth must contain amenities like fully developed parks, which some developers have promised in the past but never delivered, she added.
“Undoing the wrong will probably take as long to right as it took to wrong it,” Salzman said.
All three agreed tough issues are raised by the planned extension of Paseo del Volcan, which would extend from US 550 through Enchanted Hills to I-40 west of Albuquerque. Clayton said the Mid-Region Council of Governments is working to acquire additional right-of-way but doubts any road would open in less than fifteen years.
Hathorne said the real issue is the Rio Grande bridge in Bernalillo. Widening the bridge and adding lanes to US 550 would wipe out businesses on one side of the highway taking with them 40 percent of Bernalillo’s tax base, he said.
Clayton said the council of governments is working on mass-transit plans, but Rio Rancho has only two votes on the regional board. Questions about how to pay for mass transit and then get people to ride it still remain to be answered, he said.
“I don’t deal with wishful thinking,” Clayton said. “I work on realities.”
NM Democrats vote presidential choices February 3
New Mexico’s registered Democrats will have a chance on Tuesday, February 3, to express their preference among eight candidates running for the party’s nomination for U.S. President.
The New Mexico Democratic Party is running what it’s calling a caucus, although it more closely resembles a party-run primary election than an Iowa-style caucus. Democrats who haven’t already sent in ballots by mail (that deadline has already expired) will be able to go to one of a number of voting sites to cast a ballot for one of the eight presidential candidates.
On the New Mexico ballot are General Wesley Clark, retired, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Congressman Richard Gephardt of MIssouri, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, and Fred Penna, a New York business consultant. The Reverend Al Sharpton did not file to be on the New Mexico ballot.
If you are a registered Democrat, the place you normally vote in a general or primary election will likely not be where you will vote on February 3. The list below details where Sandoval County Democrats will be able to vote. Polls will be open from noon to 7:00 p.m. that day.
This is not a winner-take-all event. The vote on February 3 will be apportioned out among twenty-six committed New Mexico delegates who will attend the Democratic national convention in Boston in July. Those delegates must cast their first-ballot votes in proportion to the state’s popular vote on February 3. Some of the delegates will represent votes cast in each of the state’s three congressional districts; some will reflect votes cast statewide. A candidate has to win at least 15 percent of the vote to qualify for a delegate. The threshold will be lowered to 10 percent if no candidate receives 15 percent.
There are another eleven “super delegates” to the convention who may vote any way they like in Boston. Among those super delegates are the state’s governor, Bill Richardson, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Tom Udall, and other state Democratic leaders.
The biggest impact of this vote may be its reporting in the national media as each candidate scrambles for the attention of the press during the ongoing primary season.
Recent polls in New Mexico reflect national polls that show Howard Dean and Wesley Clark slightly ahead of a tightly bunched field of contenders, with many Democrats still undecided.
- Sandoval Precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 19, 28A, 28B, 29, 38, 55, 56 and 64 will vote at the Sandoval County Courthouse, 711 Camino del Pueblo.
- Sandoval Precincts 11, 12, 13, 53 and 54 will vote at the Corrales Recreation Center, 500 Jones Road, Corrales.
- Sandoval Precincts 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26 will vote at the Cuba Senior Center, 16A Cordova Street, Cuba.
- Sandoval Precincts 30-37, 39-50, 58-63, and 67 will vote at Meadowlark Senior Center, 4330 Meadowlark Land, Rio Rancho.
- Sandoval Precincts 7, 8, 9, 10 and 20 will vote at the Peña Blanca Community Center, 778 Highway 22, Peña Blanca.
- Sandoval Precincts 14, 15, 16, 17, 18A, 18B, 18C and 27 will vote at the Jemez Pueblo Civic Center, Jemez Pueblo.
All of the state’s Democratic voting sites can be found at www.nmdemocrats.org or by calling 830-3650 or (800) 624-2457.
Bernalillo plans for growth
After forty years, the town of Bernalillo may get a new plan for growth and development.
The new Comprehensive Land Use Plan setting out guidelines for future development is scheduled for a public hearing and possible action when the Bernalillo Town Council meets at 7:00 p.m. on February 9. The current plan, which is required by state law, was approved in 1964.
The plan is general in nature leaving specific requirements like zoning to be spelled out in ordinances approved separately.
Also during the February 9 meeting, councilors will hold a hearing and consider the MainStreet Overlay Ordinance and Design Guidelines. The ordinance contains requirements for buildings on Camino del Pueblo governing size, materials and architectural features, lighting, signs, fences, and parking lots.
Even without the ordinance in place, several recent developments have adopted all or part of the style guidelines designed to promote visual interest and historic character
County PILT revenues from Uncle Sam may see cuts
Chairman, Sandoval County Commission
There is a parable illustrating an issue of importance to all of us. It also reflects an emerging budget crisis that counties across the West must confront when faced with federal cuts.
Consider a financially secure and innovative woman named Sandy who decides to buy a beautiful, spacious house. Meanwhile, her relative, Uncle Sam, also likes the house and insists that he help pay the mortgage and utilities. In return, all Uncle Sam wants is the right to visit at any time with his friends. Sandy can exclude him from the bedroom, but otherwise both of them have rights to the rest of the house.
Sandy and Uncle Sam sign no contracts reflecting their agreement. After all, this is a deal among relatives.
The arrangement works well—at least for a while. Uncle Sam uses the property and pays about the same amount year after year. The money helps Sandy pay the mortgage, the utilities, and the ever-increasing expenses of cleaning up after Uncle Sam's parties.
As time progresses, Sandy becomes worried. Uncle Sam has exhausted his wealth and is now living entirely on credit. Sandy, too, has limited means and is concerned about how she will make ends meet without Uncle Sam's help. Just yesterday he drove up in a new Cadillac and told Sandy he didn't really know how he would pay for it. Sandy considers his behavior as reckless.
"Sandy" (Sandoval County) is in a position shared by many counties. The federal government owns or controls large tracts of land in the West. In Sandoval County, the feds (BLM, Forest Service, National Park Service, Department of Defense, and the Valles Caldera Trust) control 45 percent of the county's 3,714 square miles. County taxpayers are expected to assist with law enforcement, fire protection, and other government services. "Uncle Sam" pays no taxes but does make Payments in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT.
Huge sums of money flow from the federal government to counties under the PILT program. Last year, Sandoval County received almost $1.3 million in federal PILT funds—or about $1 of every $8 the county spends on services. As might be expected, Sandoval and many other counties have grown dependent on Uncle Sam's PILT, despite the fact that there is no contract, agreement, or legislation requiring the federal government to continue making the payments. The deal can be broken at any time.
For years the program has worked well. Given the federal budget surplus of just a few years ago, the arrangement looked secure. Now, however, the federal deficit has risen astronomically—and not just because of the war in Iraq.
Federal discretionary spending is up 27 percent in the last two years. Congress just passed a $400 billion expansion in Medicare, the largest increase in entitlement spending in thirty years, and no one knows how the federal government will pay for this increase. Arizona Senator John McCain correctly complains of "drunken sailor" spending.
On the revenue side, congressional leaders are still talking about tax cuts. So, federal revenues may go down, not up. Not surprisingly, but certainly alarmingly, the deficit is expected to reach $5 trillion in this decade.
Eventually, cuts in spending will have to be made. And where will the first cuts occur? The answer: most likely on the backs of state and local governments, and PILT is an obvious target.
Is Sandy worried? You bet. Uncle Sam will continue to have parties in the house and rack up expenses and Sandy will be stuck with the bills.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Ely can be mailed to him at P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo 87004.
Memories of Corrales
On February 17, the Corrales Historical Society will host “Memories of Corrales” with a panel of longtime Corrales residents. The presentation begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales. As part of the society’s 2003-2004 Speakers Series, the program is free and open to the public. The church is fully accessible to those with disabilities. Refreshments will be served after the program. For further information, call 899-6212.
News from the county commission
The village of Corrales has scaled back its annexation plans in hopes Bernalillo County voters will approve a tiny expansion of Sandoval County.
Corrales mayor Gary Kanin said village leaders decided not to try annexing all the way to Alameda Boulevard-NM 528 to avoid a fight over the lucrative commercial tax base there. Instead, he told Sandoval County commissioners, the focus will be the several hundred residents of southern Corrales who live in Bernalillo County.
“If we are successful, Baja Corrales becomes part of Sandoval County on January 1, 2005,” Kanin said. The annexation area would be about 10 percent of the village, he said.
To accomplish that, a petition signed by at least three hundred of the 443 registered voters in the annexation area will be presented early this month to the Bernalillo County Commission. With valid signatures from 51 percent of the voters, and assuming no successful challenges, a countywide election in Bernalillo County decides whether to transfer the area to Sandoval County, Kanin said.
There already is some support for the move within the Bernalillo government and the appointed board working on city-county unification, Kanin said. Bernalillo voters should support the move, since it won’t affect their taxes or operations of the county, he added.
In other commission business during January, the Sandoval County commissioners:
- Elected vice-chairman Damon Ely to chair the commission chairman and named commissioner William Sapien vice-chairman. “By the way, I had a great time,” outgoing chairman Jack Thomas said. “You people are wonderful. Thanks for all your help.” Later in the month Ely announced he would not run for reelection to the commission as his term expires this year.
- Approved the language of a bond ordinance authorizing $75 million in bonds to allow Santa Ana Pueblo to refinance debt incurred in building its resort and casino. As “pass-through” bonds, the pueblo and not the county is responsible for repayment. Commissioners and Santa Ana governor Milton Armijo agreed such close partnerships between the pueblo and the county are overdue since the pueblo generates hundreds of jobs while relying on the county for emergency and other services.
- Amended the animal-control ordinance to require rabies shots every three years instead of annually, to reflect improvements in rabies vaccines.
- Upgraded sheriff deputies’ state retirement program in hopes of attracting and retaining officers. The upgrade will cost $40,000 this year, sheriff John Paul Trujillo said, roughly the cost of training a replacement officer. “We’ve never had an officer stay long enough to retire,” Trujillo said.
- Approved rezoning of a lot on NM 22 in Peña Blanca to allow opening of an auto-repair shop.
- Tabled bid awards to erect traffic signals on NM 528 at Idalia-Willow Creek and Riverside-Iris in Rio Rancho so the projects can be rebid. Even with the delay, the first lights should be operating close to the early May schedule, public-works director Lisa Vornholt told commissioners.
- Renewed the contract of county attorney David Mathews, while amending it to make him an at-will employee of the county eligible for employee benefits. Commissioners also approved hiring a legal assistant on the county payroll. Previously Mathews paid for the assistant out of his $72,000 annual contract.
Many issues cram 30-day legislative session
Placitas village water system may receive state funding
Representative Ron Godbey told the Signpost at the start of the current Legislative session, “We’re trying to cram a ninety-day session into a thirty-day session that is traditionally focussed on fiscal matters. There is little doubt that a special session will be needed to finish up on all the legislation that’s being introduced. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Godbey said that the big issues are providing stiffer penalties for DWI and some drug offenses, as well as seeking curfews for teenagers. There is legislation to increase the authority of the state engineer over drilling permits and fees. Godbey said that legislative action to deal with the financial crisis in Medicaid needs to take place to keep the system working. These are contentious issues that will require time for debate.
Godbey said that he is opposed to Governor Richardson’s request for control over the distribution of half the state capital-outlay money. “I know my district better and am in a better position to know where funding is needed, he affirmed. For example, he expects to secure $125,000 for the ailing water system in the Village of Placitas.
Park team plans to listen to community
“We are planning ‘listening’ parties around the community from January first to June 30,” says Snow Moore Watson, as she outlines the Placitas park’s immediate future. “We want to hear everyone’s ideas and concerns.”
Watson is one of the directors of the Placitas Education Fund, the nonprofit managing the six-acre gift to Placitas from Peggy Cavette Walden.
“I’m trying to contact at least one person from each of Placitas’s many community groups,” Watson says. Instead of waiting for her call, she says, it would really help if interested people called her.
“We would like the groups to host small get-togethers where people can voice their needs and thoughts about the park,” Watson explained. By receiving input from the whole community, Watson believes the park committee will be better able to meet more people’s needs.
Watson says she plans to get as much information as possible before July 1 when PEF begins fund-raisers and designing the park. The lack of funds for development is only a temporary stumbling block, says the optimistic Watson.
While we are waiting for the terrific new park, Watson promises the land will remain open space and available for people to continue using. She says, “We’ll leave it ‘as is’ until the community guides us with their wants and needs.”
The land was given to the Placitas Education Fund in November with the intention that it be used as a park for the people of Placitas. Peggy Cavette Walden has asked that the park be named Walden Park in honor of her husband. She says Jerry Walden purchased the land to build a park and village center for the community he dearly loved.
The park site is located west of the Placitas Community/Senior Center on Las Huertas and west of the Placitas Elementary School soccer fields. A deep arroyo bisects the two parts.
Those helping Watson on the project include Janet Shaw and John Wills, host of the thank-you tea for Cavette Walden on December 7; Cynthia Schoen, who narrated the event; Jane Montplaisir and her group of eleven-year-old girls who served at the tea; the team’s great telephone committee; and Suzann Owings, another PEF director.
People already have suggested the park as the site for the community library; others want tennis and badminton courts; still others a nature walk, zoology park, and skate park. All these ideas must be considered before we design and build, says Watson.
Placitas groups that Watson wants to reach include the Placitas Garden Club, the Presbyterian and Catholic churches, the Women’s Salon, the badminton and tennis groups, Las Placitas, the subdivision groups and water co-ops, the acequias, the water board, the Optimists, PES, Boy and Girl Scout troops in the area, the Placitas Artists Series, Friends of Placitas, Del Aqua Institute, the wine toters at the Merc, the Chamber, all merchants, the library association, Mother’s Day Out, and land-grant groups.
Please, Watson says, let her know of other groups who would like to participate in this important planning process. For further information, please contact Snow Moore Watson, 876-2047, or Suzann Owings, 867-0567.