The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

THE GAUNTLET

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The Gauntlet - Illustration İRudi Klimpert

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: remember El Zócalo

Your article on the stalled El Zócalo Project in Bernalillo noting that it had been my pursuit for nearly thirty years, while stellar in style and intent in tackling this Gordian conundrum of Sandoval County history, I fear only touches briefly on some points and quoted me, too offhandedly, in my quip, "Just Google Patrick Geddes."

I found Patrick Geddes while rummaging through books on public land theory in 1974 at Zimmerman Library. He seemed to be the best one that could write about geographic optimality. His basic ideal, later more defined by Lewis Mumford and then again by Ian McHarg, is the very epitome of Think Global, Act Local, the title of one of many books on Patrick Geddes once in the Zócalo library.

I would disagree from the start with the use of the word "planning"—a word with such Roman implications—in labeling Geddes. Ironically, this man, Patrick Geddes, is, I think, cursed by the epitaph Father of City Planning. For Geddes, the word “information” not the word “planning” defines the operative concept for civic improvement. You see I believe that, P. G. (I use the initials), was not just a civic reconstructionist and visionary ecologist (and peace warrior), but the actual early-twentieth-century precursor of Geographic Information Systems technology.

He was the first to see that this marvelous technology impending then, so real now, would need a humanistic interpretation. The world of GIS, GPS—this field is at the very center of the Information Age—this future into which we are tossing our children depends now on a giant, newly emerged, geo-spatial imaging industry with fantastic new location technologies. This industry consists of vital businesses like Trimble Navigation, ESRI, Intergraph, Manatron, Navtrec and the upstart TomTom, among others.

It is this information segment that defines what is central in what we should pursue in both public policy and private endeavor. It is accurate and reliable geographic information that can optimally inform us (or as it is right now, just a select few of us) about what the hell we are building and what the hell we are doing. Do you think the courthouse and local bar association are doing this job?

The history of Sandoval County is filled with vast land-marketing schemes employing technologies overawing our own public-planning officials. A public geographic survey point would be particularly appropriate for Bernalillo, seat of Sandoval, state of New Mexico.

The policy goal must be to improve the mechanisms of land evaluation, to refine the measurements of our growth. El Zócalo was the "Outlook Tower" of Patrick Geddes and was conceived to be a local civic GIS community information version of his civic idealism.

And add here Jack Dangermond in your Googles, for he is a twenty-first-century version of a geographic-information hero for civic betterment.

And, yes, there are murals of Patrick Geddes in the front entrance of the Salazar Building, at the Zócalo, portraying the classic pivot points of our lives—idealism and realism. But the idealism is a practical Patrick Geddes sort, without the absurd utopianisms that make up so much of our past and present advocacy methods. It is focused and centered on the real problem-solving objectives of our lives that we in turn must make central to the aspirations of our youth.

A defined idealism on civic architecture is the subject, and I, together with Edward Gonzales and Rick Catanach and others constructed a rather pippy entryway for a "job-training center" at the Zócalo before it was transferred to the county. But we conceived a training center from a larger idealism, centered really on the building arts and GIS training (of all things!) —activities that are escaping our present civic discourse.

But I hope as well that the program for training hotel maids, which headlines much of the new Zócalo prospectus, will succeed and that it will perhaps still yet appear in the center of Bernalillo—our own particularly unique geographic crossroad, devised by the people that lead it.

I think our new business and public environments will have to be information-centered and that most of our present civic institutions are information-impaired. Institutional redescriptions will happen. I urge a revamp honoring the central classics as outlined by Patrick Geddes's Civic Evolution (1910).

So, good luck to Sandoval County government, and I apologize for all the communication mishaps I myself may have inadvertently fomented. And thanks to the Signpost for revealing critical local-development history—coverage at which, by contrast, the Albuquerque newspapers have been so resolutely useless.

—TERRY LAMM, Albuquerque


re: injured dog met with kindness

I would like to extend my heartfelt "thanks" to the three kind ladies that came to the aid of our injured dog on the morning of January 28 on Highway 165 in front of the old Windmill Mercantile in Placitas. To the gentleman that stopped and tenderly lifted our injured dog into the van, again a heartfelt thanks. To the person who struck our dog with her car, I'm sorry that you didn't stop. It wouldn't have made the dog's injuries any more or less, but certainly would have indicated some compassion. In any event, after several hours at the hospital and some IV fluids and medication, our dog is home with several bumps and bruises, but no major injuries. Our world is a better place for having the compassion of these four people that took the time out of their day to stop and help.

—HELEN FERREL, Placitas


re: many thanks to volunteer firefighters

To all the volunteer firefighters who responded to the structure fire on Camino de San Francisco on December 19 (including the crews from Placitas, Corrales, Algodones, and Bernalillo!), thank you so much for your speedy and compassionate response to our 911 call that night.

Not only did you save our house, but it was touching and very much appreciated that you also managed to meet our emotional needs at the same time.

Thank you for explaining what was going on, for making a special effort to rescue our important stuff (our rings! the cello!), and for taking such care with the property in general even as it blazed.

We were amazed and impressed at the degree of coordination between four different crews.

And last but not least, I just am so blown away that you chose to leave your soft, cozy homes and come spend four cold, dirty, scary hours trying to save ours. Thank you sincerely for a wonderful Christmas gift.

—LAUREN BLANCHARD AND FRANCES CLARK, Placitas


re: space, not outer space

You had to be an early bird on Sunday morning to catch Kate Nelson's good In Focus program on PBS, KNME, that aired January 22 at 6:30 a.m.—and if you did, you'd have seen Governor Richardson being interviewed. I made a little scribbled note to myself: "This guy isn't listening to his constituents!"

Sometime ago, maybe in 1991, as a constituent I was able to call Richardson to discuss animal-dumping issues here in Sandoval County. He was accessible! And we had a really nice conversation about it. While nothing has been done about that, we really did have a mano a mano discussion, and it felt good, if nothing else. Still, that problem continues.

Listening to today's broadcast of In Focus, I made an additional note to myself: “Governor Richardson is not only not hearing his constituents, he's lost touch with us because he doesn't live in Placitas and commutes. He seemed like such a nice guy in 1991. What happened? Now a Spaceport?”

Let's get really down to Earth here, Governor. Moving forward means getting closer to community, intersection by intersection, as developers expand on the West Side without control, and developers in Placitas expand to the east and west without control, and the gravel pits expand to the north and south without control. Let's just think about it, especially during those abusive early morning and late afternoon commutes through Exit 242. While Tony Abbo, at the New Mexico Department of Transportation, continues his studies to decide if there is a problem, let's go for the higher stakes. Governor Richardson, you need only look closer to home, a few miles south of Santa Fe, to see that what we need is something on this planet, this spot—here and now. Instead of mano a mano, try out “auto a auto.” With gravel trucks and rude drivers, we need space, not outer space, to bring back our human respect for each other.
If it takes bucks, funnel them into the increasingly narrow, angry commute channel called Exit 242 and I-25 instead of dispersing foolish dollars into space. We need help in Placitas now.

—CHRIS HUBER, Placitas


re: insular community?

In last month’s Gauntlet, B.Orban asked “does Placitas need a library?” and posed some other thoughtful questions about the use of federal dollars for such a project, including the fact that it seems to be as much a front for commercial development as a library. Placitas needs a library just like it needs a charter school. The need is to create an insular community.

There is already a public library in the area. The problem for most new Placitas residents is that it’s in Bernalillo, just like the middle and high schools they don’t want their children to attend.

So what’s wrong with high-sounding rationale for federal funding to provide a student learning/research center with Internet connections, recreational reading areas, and meeting rooms for seminars and community meetings? The problem with the library is that it is unnecessary beyond the modest one already in place.

The vast majority of Placitas residents already live in houses with ample Internet connections. In fact these new Tuscan-turreted homes popping up everywhere are likely equipped not only with broadband Internet but just about every other electronic entertainment amenity necessary, making a trip to the library as quaint as a country hayride.

As for seminars and community meetings, those happen all the time at the Placitas Community Center, near the actual village of Placitas.

Potential Placitas residents agog over the spectacular beauty quickly discover that the schools don't match their upper-class standards. This turns out to be a very big problem for developers seeking to broaden their demographics beyond middle-aged trophy-home hunters to those with school-age children, which is likely why builders generously contribute to the charter school.
You see, after Placitas Elementary School—a great little school with the dedicated teachers you’d expect to find in any upper class community—then what?

When my son was in the fifth grade at Placitas Elementary, the carpool planning began. Would I be joining the carpool to private schools in Albuquerque or public school in Rio Rancho? When I replied that I planned on sending my son to Bernalillo Middle School, I was met with gasps of horror. One woman said,”Your kid is blond, he won’t last a minute there.”

Emphasizing the gravity of such a choice, another mom added, “It’s all Indians there—and Mexicans.”

My son went to Bernalillo Middle School anyway, and he went on to graduate from Bernalillo High School. At both the middle and high school level the teachers were highly skilled dedicated professionals of a caliber worthy of the most expensive private school.

As far as dumping over $300,000 of public monies into a library for a patron base whose greatest hardship is having diaI-up instead of broadband, the greater Bernalillo and Placitas community would benefit much more by putting the funds into the Dr. Gary Dwyer Fund (part of the Bernalillo Public Schools Foundation, 224 N. Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM 87004), and not building a library for privileged children so they don’t have to mingle in New Mexico’s widely touted cultural diversity.

—SUSAN BLUMENTHAL, Placitas


re: response to insular-community letter

Blumenthal’s provocative critique takes aim squarely at the new home for the community library. She implies that the community does not “need” a new library facility, nor does it need a charter school. She concludes the money would best be directed elsewhere. She explains that a “majority” of local families are high rollers, even dilettantes, who already have substantial information access, and to provide a new public-funded library way out here is probably overkill.

The fallacy inherent in that perspective is it leaves out the rest of us working middle-class folks, some of whom are not blonde, but who like the views and the natural beauty, as well as the next person. Problem is we are hanging on by our fingernails, breaking a sweat as we monitor the action at the gas pump. We want a better quality of life, but wish to heck we didn’t have to drive ourselves to death and our kids so far to get it.

Placitas is a diverse community. The families that have expressed interest in the library facility, as well as the charter school, come from a variety of backgrounds and income levels. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige referred to “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Well, a kid doesn’t have to come from a privileged background to benefit by being closer to a comfortable, convenient “student learning center” at a modern library facility or a community-based charter school.

Low- and middle-income kids can, indeed, benefit. Public funds can provide improvements that serve folks whether rich, poor, or in the middle. Such is the beauty of a democracy, where information is power and where charter schools can empower parents to select educational alternatives they believe may be best suited for their child. School choice is not solely the prerogative of the rich. Low-and middle-income families are also very interested in school choice.

In fact, it seems rather elitist to assume the rest of us don’t like access to comfortable, updated facilities or a different approach to public education. Or perhaps we just need to bear the burden more stoically, because it is unseemly to desire change.
We respect and appreciate those who are already serving our community in many excellent capacities. But a new library is not the same as a triple-X-rated lingerie shop. Libraries are a good thing. Another middle school, i.e., a charter school, can also be a good thing for children.

The charter school is a tuition-free public school whose enrollment is open to any child and not limited by geographic residence. Parents from any New Mexico community can choose to send their children to the public charter school for reasons other than only being blonde. The idea of sugar-daddy developers doting on the charter school to attract younger, rich families is surely colorful, but quite untrue in Placitas. It is a disservice to parents to suggest such. The local charter-school founding group has received a few modest donations from individuals interested in supporting educational reform.

—I. JACKSON, Placitas


Op-Ed
Pesticide regulation should emphasize public safety

—RICHARD "BUGMAN" FAGERLUND
I recently attended a Precautionary Principle Task Force meeting and I feel it is important I bring up several important issues. The mission of the task force is to make recommendations to the state to install an integrated pest-management program in state buildings and on state land. This is in order to reduce pesticide usage in these areas and serve as a model for other agencies, municipalities, etc., to follow. A couple of subjects came up that are outside the scope of the Precautionary Principle Task Force, but need to be brought to the attention of all New Mexicans.

One item was pesticide notification. The representative from the NMDA clearly stated that they had the authority to mandate a pesticide-notification regulation. This notification would require anyone who is using a “restricted use” pesticide to post a notice of intent to treat a building or area of land with the pesticide so that people can avoid the area if they choose. This is a safety feature that many states and other agencies automatically incorporate. It would be very important in schools, for instance, as children are more likely than adults to absorb pesticides into their body.

For reasons that still aren’t clear, the NMDA refuses to initiate such a notification plan. Not only won’t they require a pesticide-notification plan but they were instrumental in stopping the City of Albuquerque from passing a notification ordinance. This is beyond any common logic and needs to be addressed.

Even more egregious is a plan for the NMDA to regulate “general use” pesticide usage by business owners. The NMDA is mandated to regulate and control “restricted use” pesticides, which are pesticides considered too toxic or dangerous for the general public to handle. It is a requirement that only trained and licensed personnel use such products, and that is how it should be. The NMDA has expanded its authority by regulating the use of general-use as well as restricted-use pesticides by professional pest-control operators. General-use pesticides are deemed safe enough to be used by the general public without any special training.

These products would include the bug sprays (Raid, Black Flag) that you find on supermarket shelves. Now, the NMDA, according to a discussion in the meeting, is going to require anyone who owns a business and wants to use any pesticide, including a can of Raid, in their business to get tested and licensed by their agency.

When I asked if that would include products such as boric acid and diatomaceous earth, I was told that these would be regulated, as they can kill insects. You can kill insects with a 10 percent mixture of soap and water. Is a business owner going to have to be tested and licensed in order to kill some ants with soap and water? According to the discussion at the meeting, the answer is yes. Even if you give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they only mean products “sold” as insecticides, there will be many problems.

Boric acid has many uses and can be purchased at any pharmacy. How will an NMDA inspector know if a business owner is using boric acid sold as an insecticide or as some other formulation? Boric acid will kill insects in any formulation.

Another example is diatomaceous earth. There are two formulations of diatomaceous earth: natural grade, which is a natural insecticide and is perfectly safe, and swimming-pool grade, which is processed differently and can be hazardous to breathe. People who don’t want to get a license will be unable to use natural-grade diatomaceous earth so will use swimming-pool grade and endanger themselves.

Can you imagine a restaurant manager, a gas-station attendant, or anyone else in business having to display a license in order to kill a bug with a can of Raid or kill some ants with a peanut butter-jelly-boric acid bait? It is absurd.

What could be the motivation for initiating such a program? It certainly isn’t public safety. If the NMDA was interested in public safety they would have installed a pesticide-notification plan years ago and they wouldn’t permit people who are not licensed or tested in the pest-control industry to apply restricted-use pesticides, which they do now under a temporary-license program.

There are only two other reasons for this sort of regulation. One would be to increase revenue, as all of the businesses that are going to have to be tested and licensed to use a can of Raid will have to pay a fee (read tax). The other reason would be to increase the revenue of the pest-control industry, as many people aren’t going to be bothered testing and will just call an exterminator. The exterminator will undoubtedly use pesticides, where the business owner may have planned on using something less toxic, but couldn’t, because of the licensing regulations.

How is NMDA going to enforce these new regulations? They can barely keep track of the pest-control industry now. Who is going to pay for all the added personnel it will take? I would hope that Governor Richardson would put a stop to this initiative before it takes off. This is not something New Mexico businesses should have to endure.

It is clear the NMDA is expanding its authority far beyond what its original mandate was. I suggested to Secretary Curry (New Mexico Environment Department) a couple of years ago that the environment department take over control of all nonagricultural pesticide-usage regulations. He was interested at the time, but nothing has happened yet. During the PPTF meeting we were told that two different agencies could trade off responsibilities if both department heads agree. I would urge Governor Richardson to get the NMSU board of regents and Secretaries Curry and Gonzalez (NMDA) to sit down and talk about just that. I think the only way to restore commonsense pesticide regulations in our state is to put the Bureau of Pesticide Management in the New Mexico Environment Department. Maybe then we would have an agency that puts public safety first.

To discuss this issue further, Richard "Bugman" Fagerlund may be reached at richardfagerlund@yahoo.com.

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