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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
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
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
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
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
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
—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
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
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
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
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
—I. JACKSON, Placitas
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 email@example.com.