The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

 
THE GAUNTLET

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letters, opinions, editorials

[regarding SAD 7; see page 1, this Signpost.]

re: who allowed the construction?

It never ceases to amaze me what people can achieve when they unite together in a common cause and push for change. Congratulations go to those residents who exercised their constitutional rights and submitted protests or spoke up in defense of their stand.

What amazes me is the inability of this City Council, or at least some of its members, to come to the realization that the city of Rio Rancho has culpability in this matter. It seems certain council members want to place all responsibility for funding the correction of the problems in SAD 7 on the property owners. Based on public comments by some of these leaders, it appears they are more interested in covering their backsides, by attacking their critics, than they are trying to find common economic ground with the property owners in SAD 7.

The question city councilors should be asking city administration is:

(About Article 7, Storm Drainage Regulations, of Rio Rancho)

1. Did the city employees who approved these building permits (that created the current situation) just blatantly disregard the ordinances, hence they were guilty of misfeasance in the discharge of their duties, or did they just repeatedly make stupid mistakes?

2. Were these individuals under undue pressure from their superiors, city leadership or the developers themselves to approve these building permits, in the name of personal profit and an increased taxation base for the city?

3. Is there any recourse still open to the city to take action against active duty city employees who disregarded the ordinances or against the developers or political forces that might have unduly influenced the permit approval process?

4. Are there now sufficient checks and balances in place to make certain that these drainage issues never become a problem for future property owners in the city?

—HARRY GORDON, Rio Rancho


re: Bernalillo growth

Our little town of Bernalillo is being destroyed by land developers and opportunists. The zoning department of Bernalillo thinks it works for the large land holders—not for the taxpayers and voters. The average person wants Residential R-1, while the second floor of City Hall wants to maximize the growth by putting as many people as possible per square foot. Bernalillo does not need more apartments. We are full. Traffic is bad. Congestion is bad.

The Flying Star property is in violation of our own rules about parking. Take a look. If you do not like what you see there, do something about it. Call your mayor at 771-7129 or call our town manager at 867-3311. Call our town councilors. If you don’t call, you will get what you deserve—traffic, crime, and apartments everywhere.

—JOHN LOLL, Bernalillo


Stereogram by Gary Priester

A Valentine’s stereogram, by Gary Priester
Relax your eyes and look “through” the image, not focusing on the foreground. Let your brain work to see the hidden image above.


re: survey: Placitas BLM/Energy Corridor future?

What is your wish for the BLM land? Energy corridor, development, mining, open space for wildlife and wild horses, etc. Your voice counts!

Within the past month and a half, every resident of Placitas should have received a WHOA (Wild Horse Observer’s Association) newsletter/survey. The results of the survey will be tabulated and accepted as data by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as input for the upcoming BLM Resource Management Plan Update. WHOA is setting up informational meetings in and around Placitas with the BLM. Please let us know if you or your organization is interested in attending such a meeting.

The BLM is now in the process of reviewing its more than twenty-year-old plan. It is important that we understand that although the five thousand-acre area managed by the BLM is presently a great outdoor recreation area, there is no guarantee that it will remain as such. There are many competing interests for use of this land. Some are compatible with existing wildlife, including the wild horse herd. Many are not. (See possible options in the WHOA newsletter/survey).

A community survey such as the WHOA survey serves two important purposes:

1) Not everyone has the time to attend public meetings, yet everyone’s input is needed, and,

2) If we know what the majority of Placitans want, we can be sure the BLM will be given a clear message which is representative of the entire community and includes each individual’s comments.

For those of you who received two surveys (the Las Placitas Association sent a survey to its members only), it is important that you fill out both surveys. We hope this clears up any possible confusion.

Though the response to the WHOA survey has been great, the more Placitan representation, the better. If you have lost or misplaced your survey, you can pick up another at La Puerta Realty, Placitas Realty, or the Placitas Mini Mart. You can also give me a call at 771-9039, and I will put a survey in the mail for you.

Together, we can make a difference!

—DIANE RANSOM, PLACITAS RESIDENT/WHOA REPRESENTATIVE


re: “A ride on the dark side”

Unfortunately, I didn’t read your first article for which “A ride on the dark side” [Signpost, December 2007] was meant to provide balance. Yet, I did see some misleading information that I think is important to clarify.

You begin the article by describing the conflict between ‘treehuggers’ and ‘motorheads’ as an ugly battle without compromise. The truth is that the large majority of participants agree that it is about time to manage motorized travel on the Santa Fe National Forest. Everyone from the Blue Ribbon Coalition to the Sierra Club agree emphatically on this. Though disagreement does exist, it seems to be mostly in the form of posturing for media attention.

In the second column of the article you state, “We didn’t tear up the land or disturb any hikers...” I think this portrays the idea that the use of motorcycles or other off-road vehicles on National Forest Lands really have no or little impact. Your statement doesn’t consider the potential impacts of motor vehicle traffic to wildlife habitat (especially during the breeding season) or consider the potential impact of noise to hikers and recreationists that you don’t see. Lastly, though you did not ‘tear up the land’ on your ride, the facts are that motorized traffic on roads and trails do result in increased soil instability and erosion, especially from cumulative use of trails that are rarely maintained and designed without professional guidance.

Also a little further in the article you state, “As dirt-bikers are restricted from parts of the forest, trails that they made and maintain will probably disappear, denying access to hikers and mountain bikers.” I do think those trails rarely used by mountain bikers and hikers will slowly disappear, but I think the more popular trails will not. First of all, the Forest Service has been working with increased vigor over the past several years to improve, clear, and reopen several old hiking trails that have fallen into disrepair, such as the Bland-Frijoles Trail, the East Fork Trail, the Peralta Canyon Trail, and the Capulin Trail. Secondly, bikers and hikers are perfectly capable of working by themselves or with the Forest Service to clear trails that were previously cleared by dirt bikers. A good example is the case of cross country skiers who have banded together and regularly work independently and with the Forest Service to mark, clear, and maintain trails for cross-country skiing.

The next sentence, “Overuse of limited areas once they are designated for motorized use could lead to even more environmental degradation,” also includes several false assumptions. The primary assumption here is that motorized use causes little environmental impact because of its dispersed nature. This is in fact not true. Most environmental damage comes from roads and trails that were incorrectly designed and receive little or no maintenance. The result is trails in unsustainable and sensitive locations that cause impacts to wildlife and recreation conflicts, and/or dump sediment into nearby waterways. In fact, since most dirt bike trails were built by dirt bike users without knowledge in trail engineering and maintenance primarily involves removing trees that have fallen across the trail, most environmental degradation comes from these unauthorized trails. Implementation of the travel management rule will result in an overall decrease in environmental degradation by removing trails that occur in inappropriate and sensitive areas and focusing maintenance efforts on those trails that are being regularly used by motorized vehicles. Sure, there will be more use on designated trails, but these trails will also receive more maintenance.

The following statement, “The draft of the Travel Management Plan also calls for drastic restrictions on dispersed camping,” is also false. Travel management doesn’t restrict dispersed camping. People will still be able to camp wherever they like, just as before. The only difference would be in how they access these areas. The Travel Management Plan will result in some popular dispersed camping areas being accessible by foot travel instead of car camping.

Your next few statements that the new regulations would decrease recreation demands and thus deteriorate government support of public lands seem in conflict with the facts. Other National Forests and public lands that have moved toward a managed travel system have shown increases in use by the public instead of decreases. Though it is not clear whether the increased recreation demand is driven by population increases or management changes, the facts clearly do not show a decrease in recreational demand due to more active management of motorized vehicles. This is probably because designation of a travel system results in fewer recreational conflicts, safer roads and trails, and a more ecologically sustainable system. Furthermore, there is also no evidence that implementing a travel management plan will result in decreased funding or government support. In fact, the implementation of this rule has resulted in increased attention to the matter of Off-Highway Vehicle management resulting in additional monies available for public lands management through state grant programs, Congressional appropriations, and industry-supported grant programs.

I hope some of this information is useful. I don’t want to discourage you from writing articles about the ongoing Travel Management planning effort, as I think it is very important to get information on this subject out to the public. I do, however, think it is essential that published articles on this subject include accurate information, as most conflict arises as a result of misinformation.

Lastly, I’d like to offer my services as an information resource to you should you need any additional information about the Travel Management planning effort or about motorized vehicle use on the Jemez.

—MIKE DECHTER, SANTA FE NATIONAL FOREST, CUBA/JEMEZ RANGER DISTRICT, NEPA COORDINATOR, (575) 829-3535


re: Wanted: a new generation of leaders for the Placitas Recycle Association

The Placitas Recycle Association (PRA) is looking for a few willing and motivated people to join its Board of Directors. We need to expand the board to twenty-five members if we are to continue providing this important service to our community and our county.

The PRA provides an award-winning service by reducing stress on the landfill and preserving natural resources. We are very proud of the Association’s accomplishments over the past several years. We have:

• more than doubled the number of days open to the public.
• enlarged and upgraded the recycle yard.
• purchased new equipment.
• increased the number of volunteer workers.
• significantly increased traffic to the yard and volume of materials collected.

But at the same time, the Board of Directors has dwindled in size (and increased in average age). If this situation persists, recycle operations will be significantly reduced.

Placitas needs an influx of new people willing to help lead this important community service—or risk losing it altogether.

Board responsibilities include attending four meetings per year, usually held at 7:00 p.m. at the Placitas Fire Station. Several times per year, each board member takes a turn at directing the efforts of the volunteers who operate the recycle yard. There are other opportunities to serve if so desired, such as long-range planning, delivering the recycle loads to the vendor, and serving as an association officer.

To operate efficiently and reduce the strain on board members, we need more Directors. At present, we only have thirteen, several of whom have been at it for a very long time. Please consider sharing your skills and enthusiasm with the community by joining the Placitas Recycle Association Board.

If you would like more information or a chance to take a closer look at the program, please contact John Richardson, President, PRA, at 771-3383. He or any of the other board members would be pleased to answer your questions.

—FRAN STEPHENS, PLACITAS RECYCLE ASSOCIATION


Editorial: State of Bernalillo

—MAX SMELLING

Greetings from West Bernalillo!

It’s pretty quiet over here in my part of town. 2008 came in bringing both relief that 2007 is history and a disquieting dread as we face a possible recession. And what about that weird weather… looks like it’s getting worse. Oh well, I suppose the smart course is to just do the best we can and keep one eye open.

In the past twelve months, more Bernalilloans have gathered together more times than we can remember in the hopes of changing what seems inevitable.

The 550 group raised quite a ruckus there for a while and then in June the Town Administrator promised a resolution was being readied for the 4th or thereabouts. Not that it would be legally binding (as usual), but the Town needed to stand up and say no road would be built through Bernalillo to relieve 550 congestion.

Several months later, our illustrious Mayor informed 550 group leaders that there would be no resolution period. Hey, way to go, town government. Way to put your foot down, avoiding who-knows-what sticky political reprisals.

Then our friends on the east side got all het-up about developers messing with their lives. They attended en masse four or so meetings to oppose inappropriate development over there. I’m sure there were various reasons to oppose development in those neighborhoods, but I observed a common theme. As with the vast majority of Bernalilloans, they feel disenfranchised and ignored by Town Hall. But these good citizens are making it known in no uncertain terms that they are tired of the status quo. They will be heard!

Have you ever tried to talk to the Planning and Zoning Officer, the Town Administrator, or the Community Development Director? Good luck! If they’re even there, they’ll say “Make an appointment.” And when you show up, they may stand you up while they deal with more important matters … like their own agenda. And, yes, we don’t have a need to know.

Remember not too long ago when you could drop by City Hall and chat with the Mayor? Well I do, anyway. Try it now and you have to call the Mayor’s assistant and leave a message. Big whoop. Sure, you can make an appointment for a rousing ten-minute chat every two weeks on Saturday morning, but not many would call that being truly responsive to the people.

We now have a paid fire department for the first time ever. Up to now, we have been loyally and valiantly served by our volunteer fire department. But when it came time to fill the paid positions, the very same well-qualified local volunteers were passed over in favor of other applicants.

Well, the good news for 2008 may be that the status quo stands a good chance of being disrupted big time. Yes, folks, the balance of power in the Town Council is up for grabs. We have a chance to elect a bright, dedicated new trustee who can lend a new perspective to the Council. We need one more trustee who will not be intimidated by staff and outside interests. Someone who has the intelligence and vision to help guide our Town through the inevitable changes brought on by external development pressures. Someone who’ll give you an honest answer and back it up instead of flip-flopping or dropping it.

We need someone who knows and understands Bernalillo and has the guts to fight for what is best for our Town, facing the challenge of rapid development. I believe the character of Bernalillo can be enhanced with proper growth control. Overcrowding will change our Town into something we won’t recognize, nor want.

The kind of change we need is not hyper-development. It is about getting folks into Town Hall who will work for us. We need people who will talk to us when we need help, whether it’s with building plans, infrastructure, or a deteriorating neighborhood. We want people who are appointed to city jobs with a positive employment history, and not before qualified locals. There is a right and proper solution for almost every problem we face. But when elected officials bend to politics or the manipulations of an overzealous staff, the whole town government becomes tainted.

Change is indeed in the air and, hopefully, with the March 4 election, a fresh breeze will usher in a new era of open government, working for the people, toward a better future for Bernalillo.

Early voting starts in February at Town Hall. It is the duty of everyone who cares about our town to get out there and vote.

Tell Max ‘what for’ at maxsmelling@q.com.


Attorney General moves to protect New Mexicans from check scammers

—LYNN SOUTHARD, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

Attorney General Gary King’s office has established an online database of reported counterfeit checks used in scam attempts. Alert consumers and businesses have contacted the Attorney General’s office and provided copies of the bogus checks and we have made them available for inspection at http://nmag.gov/checkscams/default.aspx. The database is updated whenever we receive new reports of counterfeit check scams from the public or financial institutions.

New Mexicans are encouraged to look at the counterfeit check database if they receive a check in any amount from an unknown source. A copy of the check could be in the database.

If any counterfeit check is cashed, the consumer may be responsible to his or her financial institution for any fees and monies lost.

Counterfeit checks can be included in various fraud attempts, including sweepstakes and lottery winnings scams.

For more information on this and other scams, visit our website at http://nmag.gov.


re: Placitas to Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site, is about two-and-one-half hours’ drive due west of Placitas, just west of the Continental Divide and off Highway 550. Part of the mystique in driving there is the last ten miles or so. It is a washboard road. Along both sides, you will discover herds of sheep, cattle, and goats grazing on the open range’s meager grasses. Navajo hogans, with their entrances facing east, are in easy view.

Entering the park, your first stop should be the Visitors’ Center. If you choose to explore the Canyon, you will need to register with the park rangers and by all means get a map of the area. From there, you can pick your destinations from architectural sites, rock art panels, hiking trails, and infinite vistas.

You will need to bring a few necessities such as water, food, and comfortable clothing, depending on the time of year. The least crowded times are from the late fall through the winter months. During the spring, you will enjoy the blooming desert flora and experience the beginning of bird nesting season.

In 2008, to celebrate the summer solstice, Zuni dancers and musicians will celebrate the longest day of the year with an early morning spiritual blessing and musical treat at Casa Riconada’s main kiva and traditional dances at Pueblo Bonito.

Living in Placitas allows you the opportunity to experience the Canyon in a day. If your schedule allows, Bloomfield, a few miles away, has plenty of lodging. Or you can set up your tent in the visitor campground located just inside the Canyon. Amenities are sparse, but the connection to this ancient place is magical.

—RON SULLIVAN, Placitas


Environmental Alliance of New Mexico announces its legislative agenda for 2008

Representatives of over a dozen environmental organizations convened a news conference on January 11 to announce a 2008 legislative package aimed at addressing the state of New Mexico’s environment, energy, water, and outdoor education policy. The Environmental Alliance of New Mexico, an informal coalition of environmental organizations facilitated by Conservation Voters New Mexico, announced four priority legislative measures. Though this year’s legislative session will be a short, thirty-day session focusing on state budget matters, each of the Alliance’s priority bills will be on the legislative agenda because they are germane to state budgeting or because they are anticipated to be on the “Governor’s call.”

The bills include:

• the “Leave No Child Inside Act,” a bill seeking to generate revenue for an outdoor educational programming fund through a one-percent excise tax (a “sin” tax) on the purchase of new televisions and video games.

• the “Ratepayer Protection Act,” a bill requiring regulated electric utilities to meet ten percent of their energy demand with energy efficiency by 2020 instead of building new power plants (which are more expensive than efficiency). The bill will also encourage the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to allow energy efficiency programs to be as profitable to New Mexico utilities as power plants are.

• a “Smart Investments in Public Buildings” policy to ensure a fifty-percent energy saving throughout the life of new and retrofitted public buildings through a one to two percent initial investment in the “sustainable” or “green” design of each public building.

• a one-time funding request of $10 million for Statewide Ecosystem Restoration that will facilitate efforts to restore New Mexico’s fragile and iconic river ecosystems, including funding for water flows, technical studies, and community outreach. “This alliance represents over thirty thousand New Mexican voters who care about protecting our air, land, water, wildlife, and communities,” said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico and the Conservation Voters of New Mexico Education Fund. The four priority bills of the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico are the result of an annual “common agenda” process in which environmental organizations come together to develop a cohesive environmental policy agenda for consideration by the annual state legislative session.

In addition to the measures mentioned above, Conservation Voters New Mexico will be monitoring any potential “environmental rollbacks” of policy gains made in previous years and will work to defend against such regressive measures. Organizations involved in the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico include: 1000 Friends of New Mexico, Animal Protection Voters, Amigos Bravos, Audubon New Mexico, Conservation Voters New Mexico, Defenders of Wildlife, Dooda Desert Rock, Environment New Mexico, New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund.

For more information, contact Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, at 270-5743.


Pete Letheby

Pete Letheby

Writer’s on the Range

Like it or not, corn is in every meal

—PETE LETHEBY

For the first time in history, the youngest generation alive today is at risk of a shorter lifespan than their parents. As we begin the 21st century, we have managed to take a great leap backward: We’re living shorter lives.

We know why. It’s because of our poor diets, our alarming proclivity for fast food, and the increasing epidemic of obesity and diabetes in our country. Most of all, it’s because of our addiction to corn. That’s the stomach-turning message of “King Corn,” a polished documentary making the rounds of theaters nationwide and raising the eyebrows of many Americans.

The movie traces the journey of Yale college buddies Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who head to the nation’s heartland to find out where their food comes from. The two purchase one acre of farmland near Greene, Iowa, plant it to corn, harvest it, and then begin a journey of discovery that blows them away. Cheney and Ellis follow their corn to a mega-feedlot in Colorado, where it fattens cattle quickly. But that is just the tip of the silo.

The corn winds up not only in our beef, the two find out, but also in the majority of other foods we consume in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. The syrup is a sweetener found in darn near everything we consume, including applesauce, salad dressing, cookies, chocolate milk, ketchup, granola bars, steak sauce, stewed tomatoes and chewing gum. You name it, it’s probably got corn.

Corn-fed cattle—and remember, cows were not made to eat corn, but evolved as grazers of grasses—and high-fructose corn syrup are the biggest culprits in America’s slide into obesity. In 1971, 47.7 percent of Americans were categorized as overweight or obese. By 2004, that percentage had ballooned to 66 percent.

“Hamburger meat is rather fat disguised as meat,” says Loren Cordain, University of Colorado agricultural economist, in “King Corn.”

The corn lobby makes the claim that our obesity is the result of choices made by consumers, and it says that corn is the best thing since automobiles and television. The movie, Rob Robertson of the Nebraska Farm Bureau told me, “exaggerates corn and the problems it causes and overlooks all the benefits corn has for our country and our society.”

But it has become increasingly difficult to shrug off the disturbing parallels between our growing portliness and deteriorating health, and the foods that have permeated our diets. “Even our French fries -- half the calories in the French fries come from the fat they’re cooked in, which is liable to be corn oil or soy oil,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

“King Corn” finds two other flaws in America’s making of food: The industrialization of agriculture, which has fueled intensive use of farm chemicals and caused pollution to our streams and rivers, and our system of deeply ingrained subsidies. The subsidies granted by Congress reward the over-production of commodity grains and ignore the value of nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruits and lean meats, such as grass-fed beef. In 2005, nearly $10 billion in federal subsidies encouraged farmers to grow a surplus of corn. But only a small fraction of that money went for subsidizing nutritious foods. The recent high prices for corn have also transferred subsidies from corn growers to corn-ethanol producers. Because we grow corn in ever-increasing amounts in America, the corn lobby -- with the exuberant help of university researchers, Monsanto and the like -- has spent big money over the decades to find alternative uses for the grain. Presto! That spurred the development of high-fructose corn syrup, and, as the two student farmers come to realize, cheap food made more palatable with corn syrup is not necessarily healthy food.

It’s refreshing to see “King Corn” stimulating a needed debate about our nation’s farm policy, and it’s perhaps predictable that the corn lobby deems any criticism of its crop and its role in our food system to be anti-farmer and anti-American.

On the contrary, investigation and debate are what make America a truly democratic country. We love to talk, we love to eat, and a lot of us have become really curious about what’s in that corn dog.

Pete Letheby is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He writes and reports in Grand Island, Nebraska.

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