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letters, opinions, editorials
New signage in Placitas blends history
with modern reality.
Welcome to Placitas signs further down the road officially bestow
the coveted name upon new development that starts at I-25 and Highway
re: welcome back to Placitas
I suppose that by now many of you have noticed that folks are once
again welcomed to Placitas when they enter our community. Although
I suspect that my previous letter to the Signpost had little to
do with it, I nevertheless want to express my appreciation (and
that of my neighbors in the greater Placitas community) for this
act of good governance. In case you haven't noticed, as of January
29, 2007, when folks take Exit 242 and head uphill, they are quickly
greeted by a green and white highway sign that says; "Welcome
To Placitas." Also, a short distance beyond that is a brown
and white sign that says; Historic Village of Placitas 6 (as in
miles). On the other side of NM165, just opposite the welcome sign,
is another sign which says: Leaving Placitas.
I have been told (but have not visually verified) that additional
brown-and-white, historic-type signs have been installed at and
near the Village which recognize the Las Huertas Grant and the historic
Village of Placitas.
It is heartening to know that Mr. Tony Abbo and other leaders
in the New Mexico Department of Transportation and elsewhere in
government, recognize the value of having a united community, rather
than one which is divided against itself for no good reason. It
is especially pleasing that official recognition has been given
to the Las Huertas Land Grant and the historic Village of Placitas.
—FLOYD COTTON, (Happy to be back in Placitas)
re: Signpost Web site easy to use
Just wanted to let you know that your Sandoval Signpost on-line
Web site is really well designed and easy to use. It is actually
better than some of the large dailies.
—VINCENT HUMANN, Rio Rancho
re: good coverage
Thank you for the delightful and informative features "Traveling
back along El Camino Real" and "The story behind the carreta,"
by Gary Williams, in last month's Signpost. It is refreshing
to have these wonderful historic sites shared with the public. I
am deeply grateful for the coverage.
—YOLANDA NAVA, NEW MEXICO STATE MONUMENTS, DEPARTMENT OF
CULTURAL AFFAIRS, Santa Fe
re: Flying Star lands in Bernalillo
When we moved to Placitas, years before Rio Rancho wrapped around
Bernalillo and butted up against Santa Ana, one of the first things
which influenced our decision was the abiding sense of place. Sandoval
County seemed an honest place, where the labor of generations was
clear to see. A place where the resulting blend of time-honored
traditions still meant something to the residents. The residents
were proud people, especially in the county seat, the City of Coronado.
They had many reasons to feel proud of all they had achieved, but
to my mind, more for what they had retained.
In those days, the nearest grocery shopping—any shopping,
to be honest—was in Bernalillo. We would weigh the small cost
savings to be realized if we traveled up Tramway to Smith’s,
or down Fourth to Hacienda (if we needed hardware), against the
well-worn familiarity of Camino del Pueblo. Most times, Bernalillo
won, hands down. We gradually became comfortable with being recognized
as newcomers, and found that if you couldn’t get it at TaGrMo,
to paraphrase the writer John Nichols, you probably didn’t
need it. It began to feel like home at last.
In the past issue of this paper [January 2007 Signpost],
the continuing and, evidently, the deciding trend for commercial
development in Bernalillo alongside the Historic District made the
first page. I was shocked to see the artist’s rendering of
the new Flying Star development. I realize that I may be old-fashioned
in my views—I actually enjoyed watching horses and mule-eared
cactus raised upon the land where the development will now grow,
so it was with some sadness that I recognized the inevitable, growth,
was coming to Camino del Pueblo. But what I can’t understand
is what happened to the pride of the old families in their community
and traditions? It is certainly not evident in the decision made
by the council to approve the application’s architecture as
it was presented.
Now I’m pretty familiar with the loss of local architectural
style. Placitas is full of the encroachment of the California and
Texas-driven development featuring "Med-Mex" or "Tuscan"
design. It seems to matter less here that we are neither in northern
Italy or south of Monterrey. Since our area has little history of
architecture beyond the few surviving examples in Placitas Village,
it seems that it’s "every builder for himself" when
it comes to design. I’m also familiar with how urban-inspired
architectural sprawl has decimated the northeastern United States—its
native Yankee architecture mostly something seen in history books,
its variety and color replaced by strip-mall similarity. It just
makes me sad that it could happen here.
The artist’s architectural rendering exhibits the same hard-edged,
post-industrial design which has gradually made most cities appear
identical throughout the country. There is very little evidence
of the more than four centuries of colonial Spanish influence, even
less of the older, traditional Pueblo influence in the choice of
architectural design. The design is more reminiscent of loft development
in parts of lower Manhattan and on the Brooklyn waterfront than
it is of the pride in the home of generations of New Mexicans.
I do understand that improved services are part of the result
of the opportunity that comes with a bigger population and increased
traffic. I admit that I appreciate being able to choose from a larger
number of restaurants and retail stores. However, the increasingly
congested traffic which was sold to Bernalillo by the developers
of the 550 corridor as added opportunity, has resulted in actually
less business for Camino del Pueblo businesses. While the corridor
exhibits the chain-store architecture seen everywhere you travel
these days, I was sure that the Bernalillo community would at the
very least protect its historic downtown from losing its sense of
place. I guess traffic and sprawl won.
Traffic congestion is bad enough, but the loss of the sense of
place will be hastened by constructing this decidedly urban, contemporary
architecture on Camino del Pueblo. It is almost as if the town council
is anxious to hasten the day when Bernalillo will be just another
suburb of glittering, fast-paced Rio Rancho, its traditions and
pride exchanged for sparkling glass storefronts. Instead of having
the foresight to protect the architectural style of the place they
represent, their decision to rush to allow whatever architecture
is suggested will make the concept of preservation a travesty. Surely
the Historic Route 66 signs along Camino del Pueblo mean more than
just a proliferation of dealers in antiques. Where is the neighborhood,
residential and business alike, that has defined the feeling of
this community for hundreds of years?
It was clear that the plan’s Albuquerque architect chose
to draw the conclusion from the architecture of Taos Pueblo, the
Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, and the old barn in El Zócalo,
that solely by establishing variation of height of various structures
would his design be in keeping with the nature of Camino del Pueblo
architecture. I disagree strongly. It is true that the rooflines
of New Mexican village architecture, whether residential, commercial,
or public, vary widely. But in each of the above examples, the primary
feeling exuded by traditional construction is that these buildings
were built by hand—the hands of the people who were to use
them. They were designed based on the need—form to follow
the function to which they were erected, not to present some imposed
view of urban style. Their use of traditional materials, based upon
the collective wisdom of folks who actually lived here, as opposed
to a combination of superficial schools of style, created Bernalillo’s
appearance, even in the later arriving public buildings. It seems
odd, then, that little effort has been made in this design to mirror
the previously clear governmental commitment to local architectural
style, considering the amount of visual impact it will have on the
neighborhood into which it will be inserted.
Violating the natural, visible expression of community established
through generations of proud New Mexicans by inserting an example
of neo-urban sensibility is more than sad. It negates the hard work
of generations of proud Bernalillo hands. It destroys the physical
sense of place that is the expression of this pride, and in time,
will reduce that pride to a memory—maybe a plaque on some
neo-stuccoed, angular surface that someday will mention that once
the Historic City of Coronado stood here. Can you believe it? It
used to have its own traditions and values? What a quaint old notion!
I suggest that elected officials need to do a better job of considering
what might be gained in the short term against what will be lost
when they consider development. They should work hard to find creative
ways of achieving both, as a gift to the future generations. It
is possible. Santa Fe, for all its faults, had the vision to at
least protect its homegrown architecture. Bernalillo could do the
—RICHARD SUTTON, Placitas
re: Rio Rancho’s ill-advised growth
Kudos to Santa Ana Pueblo for speaking out (January 2007 Signpost)
against Rio Rancho’s “solution” to traffic congestion
on Highway 550. They grasp that Rio Rancho thinks everyone should
subsidize its ill-advised growth. However, we must also acknowledge
national policies fueling growth in a nation swept by a population
If one visits the Rio Rancho planning office, a plat reflecting
the City of Vision’s hope to sprawl nearly to Grants hangs
on the wall—not a planning tool, as it should be, but something
to which Rio Rancho leaders have become enslaved.
They ask us to subsidize that plan in poorly designed and poorly
built streets that wash out when it rains. They, and most state
leaders, ask us to subsidize growth via low wages in labor markets
flooded by workers brought by too much growth. We are supposed to
conserve water—not to solve the problem, but to free up water
for more growth.
They ask us to subsidize growth through rapidly diminishing air
quality in a state once famous for startling vistas. The metro area
gains its own version of Denver’s infamous “brown cloud,”
while traffic “solutions”—like that proposed for
550—are only stopgap, as leaders encourage more thousands
to move here to create new gridlock problems.
But growth must be viewed in national context. In my youth, the
United States was something like the thirty-fifth or thirty-seventh
most populated nation; it is now the third most populated, behind
only China and India, as we become one of only three nations with
over three hundred million! In 1906, India reached three hundred
million; in 2006 we reached three hundred million, and, like India,
if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the national media, and other business
leaders have their way, we will reach one billion later this century,
mostly through legal and illegal immigration meant to keep labor
cheap, plentiful, and tax-subsidized.
We must do more than demand that Rio Rancho rein in growth. We
must demand that local, state, and national leaders rein in out-of-control
immigration and the unfettered growth it fuels, directly and indirectly,
including a New Mexico growth rate of 2 to 3 percent a year, or
population doubling times as slowly as every twenty-three years.
—KATHLEENE PARKER, Rio Rancho
Ed. note: Kathleene Parker serves on the Board
of Advisors for Washington, D.C.-based Population-Environment
re: who killed Carla?
Dear Placitas Community,
My husband and I have tried very hard to maintain the signs we make
in regard to the murder of my best friend, Carla Salinas Simmons.
On January 13, we replaced four signs, as they were tattered by
the elements. On January 25, while driving home, I noticed our sign
at the cemetery near the old post office had been removed. I understand
the signs are not easy to view, due to the references to murder,
but Carla’s killer is still among us, and it’s necessary
to remind people of this.
If the sign was to your disliking, we would gladly place it elsewhere.
We have had a sign there since Carla’s murder, and there’s
been no problem until now. Emotionally speaking, I would like to
feel it was someone who disliked the sign at that location; instead
it grows deep in my heart that her killer took the sign as a trophy.
We have sought and received the help of our community, and we
appreciate the majority of the people here who understand that we
need to continue to do so. If you removed the sign due to dislike,
you can put it under the sign at the Placitas Mini Mart with no
Remember, the only way to catch a killer is to keep the public
informed. We try to maintain the signs and this is money out of
our pockets, but to me, My Best Friend Carla is well worth my time
and money. Please help me find who killed Carla.
—MARGARET JOHNSON, Placitas
re: give credit where credit is due
If the first storm was practice for the second, the road crews
got it right. In Placitas—Ranchos de Placitas in particular—road
clearing and sanding after the practice storm before Christmas was
tentative at best.
Practice paid off, though. After an unprecedented drop of close
to twenty inches of snow (global warming, you think?), the crews
did a very good job of clearing the roads in a timely manner.
We’re always quick to complain, but I think we should give
credit where due ... plus there will probably be more storms.
—BARRY MCCORMICK, Placitas
re: county doesn’t maintain developer’s dirt
Hubby and I moved from Oregon to New Mexico back in 1995. We were
warned to look out for shady real-estate deals, and we did get taken
in a variety of ways. However, that’s really not the point
of my writing.
I’d like to make a point about road maintenance in Sandoval
County. During this last snowstorm I learned that developers cannot
donate their dirt roads to the county and thus have them be maintained
by the county. When a prospective home buyer looks at a property
on a private dirt road, they consider that they will have to grade
it from time to time, but they really don’t think about what
will happen if the road is washed out or snowed in. I think we all
know that happened to quite a few roads this year.
We were snowed in last week for a whole week. I pleaded with the
county to come grade our half-mile of private road, but to no avail.
They actually did promise to do it, but they failed to show up.
(Gee, what a surprise!) They were obviously just telling me what
I wanted to hear, with no intention of doing it. The only way we
got out of our home at all was Hubby borrowed a neighbor’s
snowblower, and he drove it up and down the drive four times. Now
that’s a full two miles of blowing snow on a steep and rocky
road. Needless to say, he was exhausted. We would still be stuck
there if he had not done it.
It began to slowly dawn on me that the county road department
has a pretty sweet deal going here. Developers are putting in tons
of new houses on dirt roads. I can only presume that they are private
roads, as the county won’t take a dirt road. So, the tax base
just grows and grows, but the county washes its hands of the road
maintenance for all those new taxpayers.
What’s wrong with this picture? Sandoval County will become
awash in dirt roads, and the road department will just be getting
richer and richer.
In Oregon, a developer is required to install paved roads, curbs,
fire hydrants, and sewers, so new residents will have a civilized
(and public-maintained) environment. Maybe it’s time for Sandoval
County to start stemming the tide of developments that don’t
have the necessary infrastructure? That starts at the point of origin:
the issuing of building permits.
—SUSAN LUCAS, Placitas
re: Christmas Chia
Dear Friends Back East,
Thank you for your kind Christmas remembrances. Each of you has
again blessed me with a new supply of unique Chia Pets to water
and display. These little clay figurines, with seeds embedded in
their surface, waiting to produce herbal foliage when watered, always
amaze me. I hadn’t realized that these wonderful collectibles
now come in the form of historical figures as well as human body
parts. Wow! Thanks!
I am anxious to see my new Lady Godiva Chia Pet begin to bloom
lifelike and am enjoying watering her. My new John Wilkes Booth
Chia Pet also looks promising, as do Lizzie Borden and Aaron Burr.
Thanks for this wonderful selection.
In the human-anatomy Chia Pet assortment, I am particularly taken
with the nose-and-nostrils figurine and expect it will, when in
bloom, produce a striking display likely reminiscent of my grandfather.
While I’ll not display the lower-abdomen Chia Pets too publicly,
I expect they will dazzle some visitors. There is also a figurine
that is not labeled but resembles the wonderful campanile on the
University of Kansas campus. I shall treasure it.
I respectfully ask, however, that you refrain from sending me
anymore Chia Pets, as my Placitas neighbors have tracked the rapidly
lowering water table to my large collection and its attendant demands
for care. Inexpensive vodka is, of course, always welcome.
I hope you like the CDs I sent each of you. I know that recordings
of musical belching are somewhat unusual and not for everybody,
but give them a close listen. The Moscow Rhythmical Belching Society
Does Broadway CD contains a terrific version of “Old Man River,”
if you haven’t already discovered it. Same with “Oklahoma”
and “Some Enchanted Evening”.
You probably wonder why I sent you the Traffic Noises of Eastern
Cities CD. Obviously, you’d not play it often while at home
in your metropolitan areas, but when you take your trips to national
parks or drive into rural New England or upstate New York, this
CD will make you feel at home and ease boredom. I absolutely loved
the Hackensack traffic sounds. The large numbers of small cars with
their tenor-sax-like horns harmonize beautifully with police sirens
and the deep rumbling sounds of huge trucks. Baltimore’s sounds
are also entertaining, with frequent small-arms fire in the background.
Each of your cities is featured. Enjoy! And your Valentine gifts
are in the mail!
—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas
re: proposed ban on cockfighting
“You start doing away with cockfighting, then they’re
going to start doing away with rodeos … and then they’re
going to start doing away with hunting and fishing.”
— NEW MEXICO STATE SEN. PHIL GRIEGO, D, SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION
TO A PROPOSAL TO BAN COCKFIGHTING
Let Representative McCoy hear from Placitas
As the legislative session gets geared up this winter, there have
been some capital outlay requests made to Placitas’s Representative
Kathy McCoy. Several area residents have been working on a multi-generational
recreation and community center that can provide children’s
programs, distance education, and public-meeting space, as well
as a variety of active senior services. It is important that Placitans
communicate with McCoy if they support this project. McCoy can be
reached at the legislature, at (505) 986-4214, or by e-mail, at
Groundwork for this project was started in 2005, when Sandoval
County Commissioner Bill Sapien sponsored a comprehensive survey
of property owners in the Placitas area with a variety of questions
relating to services Sandoval County does not typically provide.
Commissioner Sapien had been hearing from many constituents and
took action to document the community’s wishes. The Placitas
Property Survey results are available at www.sandovalcounty.com.
(On the main page, scroll down to the bottom.)
Additional requests for the Placitas area include a complement
to the Placitas Elementary School fire-suppression system by installing
a water tank to supply adequate pressure for the system being installed.
CME, Inc., of Albuquerque, has estimated the design and installation
of a fire-protection water tank and fire pump to be $250,000.
Another capital request is to facilitate an organic-food program
supported by the USDA, and locally by Hub RC&D, to bring fresh
organic food to children. The request will provide for a space to
house the program with a food-preparation area, training chef’s
office, a procurement officer, and a life-skills cooking classroom.
These spaces will allow the organic-food program to integrate into
the daily lives of all children in the district. The supported organic
program request is for $200,000.
There has also been a capital request for upgrading the playground,
especially the playing field, incorporating water harvesting and
erosion control measures around the entire school site. Yet another
request is for assistance to the Village Academy Charter School
to purchase portable buildings; since the school is currently located
in a rented facility, the portables would allow the school to operate
in its own space.
Group arrested at Lee’s Ferry
—RIVER RUNNERS FOR WILDERNESS
Five members of a non-commercial river trip were arrested at Lee’s
Ferry, Arizona, on Saturday, January 27, 2007, for possession of
controlled substances. The five were part of a group of 14 preparing
to launch a 30-day trip rafting through Grand Canyon.
The group was breaking down their camp and awaiting final trip
orientation when they were approached by a National Park Ranger
at the arrival of Coconino County Sheriff and Arizona Department
of Public Safety officers.
The law enforcement personnel subsequently arrested the five following
a search of the group’s tents and watercraft with a drug-sniffing
dog based on a citizen’s tip of drug use. The dog detected
a small amount of drugs. According to one of the trip participants,
3 ounces of marijuana were seized.
The five people were then taken into custody and appeared before
a Page, Arizona, judge in separate hearings. It was determined that
misdemeanor charges would be brought in all cases and they were
released on their own recognizance pending a future court date.
Since National Park Service policy allows any individual who has
registered to call in and claim any available trip opening, a remaining
member of the group, Mike Grijalva, immediately requested to claim
the aborted trip launch. Mr. Grijalva registered to be considered
for the lotteries held in the fall of 2006. He was advised by the
National Park Ranger on duty that there were no available cancellation
dates. The group then re-packed all their gear onto trailers, and
returned to Flagstaff in an attempt to salvage the trip.
As of Monday, January 29, 2007, employees at the River Permits
office at Grand Canyon National Park confirmed that there were indeed
unclaimed river trips on Feb 1, 2 and 4, but Mr. Grijalva was informed
by Park officials that none of the trip participants could claim
any of the available dates, because of their association with the
five individuals who were arrested and later released.
“It appears the Park overreacted,” notes Jo Johnson
of River Runners for Wilderness “and is penalizing people
who were not involved in any wrongdoing. Those folks have the same
right to a permit as any one else, the launch is available, and
they are ready to go. It is hard to see the Park’s justification
for denying them a coveted opportunity to launch based on their
association with individuals who may never be convicted of any crime.”