Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

 
Up Front

Meet the candidates

Introduction of the 2010 Town of Bernalillo mayoral contenders

—Ty Belknap, Signpost

On March 2, Bernalillo voters will get a chance to decide who runs town hall for the next four years. Four candidates will challenge Mayor Patricia Chavez for the office of mayor and four candidates are running for two seats on the town council.

Mayor Chavez has presided over the past four tumultuous years that have included a construction boom that brought gridlock traffic crawling through town headed to Rio Rancho. Two Rail Runner stations introduced the concept of Transit Oriented Development which in turn signaled increased residential and commercial development, and Walmart also came to the area. The quiet little town of Bernalillo had become a major transportation hub as residents struggled with the new identity.

Town government has tried to find a way to grow into this new identity while at the same time preserving its unique cultural and small-town feel.

There has also been the inevitable controversy that sweeping changes bring. The Planning and Zoning Commission has been at odds with the Planning and Zoning staff and the Town Council. Former Town Administrator Stephen Jerge developed an aggressive, pro-growth agenda while lavishly spending town funds to entertain outside developers. When Jerge’s unrestricted spending was revealed by the media, he resigned and the Town Council and mayor took a lot of heat resulting from not only a lack of oversight, but also from the town paying even more money to a public relations firm in an attempt to avoid a negative public image.

Then the recession hit, the housing bubble burst, and the controversy over Transit Oriented Development has moved to the back burner. The town government has returned to the daily business of finding funds and good people to provide public safety, roads, drinking water, sewers, and planning for the future.

The candidates for mayor are Patricia Chavez, Marian Jaramillo, Brian Muniz, Edward Torres III, and Jack Torres. The candidates for Town Council are Steven James Baca, Mark Lopez, Santiago Montoya, and Dale Prairie.

The Signpost has compiled material submitted from each candidate running for office in order to better introduce them and their platform to the community. The length of each candidate’s submission is based on the length of the submission we received.

• Mayor Patricia Chavez — holds an MBA and BA. She has had a career in the energy industry for over thirty years.

Statement: In March 2006, I was elected Bernalillo’s first female mayor since incorporation in 1948. My focus on re-structuring the Town’s financial portfolio, increased gross receipts funds, and conservatively achieving a balanced budget resulted in an A+ bond rating from Standards and Poor—a first. Bernalillo is now able to finance its own debt at a lower percentage rate. We are moving forward with capital projects to avoid other federal and state monetary penalties and sanctions the Town faces because of past inaction.

By 2007, outstanding audits (2 years) along with the 2006-07 audit were completed and filed with the State Auditor. The 2006-07 audit showed a vast improvement over the 2005-06 audit, the results of new management practices. We invested in a financial management system and now have the capabilities to provide taxpayers with accountability on the Town’s financial health and to better address deficit findings.

Last year after allegations surfaced regarding credit card charges, I acted immediately to have them investigated by the State Auditor’s Office, the Town’s Independent Auditor, and a task force of citizens. The investigation and subsequent findings showed the expenses I made over my term were appropriate, well-documented business expenses. Newly established guidelines and policies corrected this concern.  

Public safety investment over the past three years is significant; and, in pace with growth impacts on infrastructure and traffic, it remains my priority. Planning/zoning, annexation, and flood protection have and will continue to require careful planning, investments, and coordination with other jurisdictions to benefit all citizens and businesses. All will be evaluated on the cost/benefit for all citizens and businesses.

Bernalillo is economically stable due to leadership and valued employees who handle internal issues and surrounding growth. My goal is to continue improvements at all levels for a better quality of life for all citizens.

• Marian Jaramillo — has served on the Town Council since 2004 and is currently Mayor Pro-Tem. Jaramillo is the owner and Director of Marian’s Day Care Center. She worked at City Hall for seven years as a bookkeeper and a zoning administrative assistant. She has served on the New Mexico Municipal League’s Policy Committee. Jaramillo is working on her Bachelor’s degree in Multi-Cultural Education.

Statement: My focus is to be available and deal with all situations head on, in the spirit of meeting the needs of our community. I am prepared to work closely with the governing body, to set long and short term goals to include hiring a strong Town Administrator and a Public Works Director.

I will maintain an open transparent government that operates on a conservative budget. I will immediately develop a credit card policy and work closely with the Treasurer on internal controls to eliminate unnecessary spending. 

Today‘s decisions impact Bernalillo for a lifetime, controlled growth is key. Developers must adhere to the Town’s ordinances for residential/commercial development which protect us from high density. The Council and Planning and Zoning Commissioners will revisit ordinances. 

I would use caution in annexing, until an impact study is done. Our neighbors, West of Bernalillo (The Bosque), have been waiting patiently for sewer service. 

We do not have adequate zoning enforcement and we lack maintenance in Bernalillo. We have many substandard/abandoned homes that breed crime in our neighborhoods. I will create a workforce to maintain and set the pace for a cleaner more attractive Bernalillo, addressing citizen concerns about public safety, infrastructure, FEMA remapping, and traffic. We need to actually scope underground to identify and prioritize our aging infrastructure. Then, we can aggressively seek funding sources. I will work closely with Department of Transportation to identify solutions. I do not support an additional road crossing through Bernalillo.

FEMA remapping of the floodplain has impacted many families. I have been in contact with our State Representatives who assure me they are looking into it. The levee’s must be rebuilt to a certifiable grade, therefore, I will aggressively seek a mutual cost sharing partnership with the MRGCD, Corp of Engineers, and the County to rebuild and certify the levees. 

• Brian Muniz — submitted the following announcement of candidacy for the office of mayor:

Statement: As a Bernalillo small business owner and longtime resident, I am passionate about improving our town by updating our infrastructure, public safety networks, and by placing a greater emphasis on promoting our town’s recourses and wonderful businesses. As a personal witness to the influx of new residents, I will work to protect and maintain our rich culture and heritage while warmly welcoming our new neighbors. If entrusted by the voters of Bernalillo, my very first action as Mayor will be to remove the special "Mayor Parking" only sign. A public servant, in my opinion, should not receive special benefits, but reserve special treatment for the citizens they represent and work for. Growing up on a farm from a very early age has instilled in me hardworking values that I hold myself to today. I enjoy providing for my family and I am looking forward to the chance to provide service to my larger family: the Community of Bernalillo. Thank you, I would greatly appreciate your vote and support!

• Edward (Eddie) Torres III — a two-term councilman submitted the following announcement of candidacy for the office of mayor:

Statement: Mr. Torres was first elected to office in 2002 on a platform of improving public services and preserving Bernalillo's unique character. Along with these ongoing goals, the focus of his mayoral candidacy will be fiscal responsibility. "I will treat public money with honesty and responsibility,” said Torres. "I will not use taxpayers money to serve my own needs."

Having served on the Town Council, Mr. Torres now believes that a mayor must set an agenda based on cooperation with the Council, other governmental agencies, and the public. "It is the mayor who leads a community forward", said Torres.

"I will be the kind of mayor who listens to the voice of the people, works with the council on tough issues, and builds relationships with Sandoval County, State and Federal agencies and the public schools.

As a career firefighter, Councilman Torres has a unique perspective on the importance of maintaining well-funded and trained public safety departments. As a volunteer coach and board member of Coronado Little League, he values and honors those who give their time to contribute to their community. As a father of three, Eddie is determined to increase public resources to ensure a bright future for the next generation.

"My greatest desire is to be an honest voice for the people of Bernalillo".

• Jack Torres — graduated from Bernalillo High School in 1975 and Harvard University in 1979. He owned and operated T&T Supermart in Bernalillo for twenty-six years. He has served on both the town and county Planning and Zoning Commissions. He is currently Chairman of the Bernalillo Board of Education and a board member of the Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority. Here is his statement:

Statement: Bernalillo needs an open, ethical, fiscally responsible Town government. You might ask if the people would have approved of expenditures such as: ex-Town Administrator Jerge’s $46,000 in credit card expenses, $32,000 paid to a public relations firm to explain and prepare the receipts, $50,000 contracted for more PR work, $50,000 redecorating Town Hall Chambers, $17,000 for redecorating the Mayor’s office and on and on? The Mayor and the Town Council approved these expenses. It is every elected official’s duty to assist with oversight, so that we avoid any misuse of funds. I will ensure that every tax dollar is spent wisely.

Bernalillo is a wonderful community that has been discovered by outside developers. Our limited revenues must be spent to make Bernalillo a better place to live. Special Use zoning has been used to allow developers to go around our laws. I will assure that the average citizen gets the same fair treatment as developers. I will see to it that everyone must comply with our Zoning and Subdivision Regulations. The continued annexation of major developments east of I-25 will drain business from downtown Bernalillo. A healthy downtown commercial core is vital to a vibrant community. 

Bernalillo needs to take the lead in developing a regional solution to resolve the increasing traffic problem on U.S. 550. Ignoring the problem is no longer a viable strategy. Also, it appears that the Town’s failure to respond to FEMA’s request to review flood issues resulted in a dramatic increase in flood insurance rates for many homeowners. I will aggressively work with all government agencies to resolve the levee issue. The flood classification set by FEMA must be returned to its former level.

The problems of the past must not reoccur. The problems we will face in the future must be addressed openly and ethically with the involvement of the citizens of Bernalillo.

If voters want to have a say in local government, they need to vote. Should any voter have concerns or questions regarding the future of Bernalillo government, the candidates may be contacted directly; their phone numbers are available at Bernalillo Town Hall or by calling 867-3311.

The candidate profiles and statements come from information provided to the Signpost by the candidates themselves. Information provided by or cited to does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Signpost, its staff or any of its advertisers.


ESCAFCA struggles to get started

—Ty Belknap and Orin Safier

The fledgling Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) held its regular monthly meeting on January 12. The board of directors of ESCAFCA has acknowledged that before they can get any traction on the rocky road ahead, they must first find a way to deal with the public relations disaster that brought the controversial agency into existence in the first place. The cost to taxpayers in the Bernalillo/Placitas/Algodones area was misrepresented prior to the November 2008 election when the ESCAFCA tax levy was narrowly approved by voters.

ESCAFCA publicized a tax levy of $67 per $100,000 appraised value, but the tax that appeared on 2009 property tax bills was $115 per $100,000. Some taxpayers were shocked when the tax bills were mailed in November 2009, not only because of the discrepancy, but also because there was no mention at all of costs on the question as it appeared on the ballot.

The ESCAFCA board of directors held an emergency meeting in December 2009 and formed a Task Force for Financial Alternatives to look into ways to mitigate the tax impact over the short term, hoping to improve the chances of ESCAFCA surviving another referendum in four years.

At the January 12 meeting, a representative of RBC Capital Markets, the organization that advised ESCAFCA on bond issues, gave a slide show presentation to explain how they arrived at property tax rates. He explained that originally ESCAFCA and engineers from Wilson & Company identified $40 million of “needs” to deal with flooding/drainage issues in the Bernalillo/Placitas/Algodones area. When it came time to figure how to pay for this with taxpayer supported bond issues, they realized that the community could not bear the cost of $40 million, so they brought down their capital requirements to $18 million. This would be raised by bonds through 2023, with the $6 million that was mentioned on the ballot issue raised in the first four years. RBC figured that financing this would require a bond levy of 2.5%. Eventually the state Department of Finance Administration lowered it to 2.448% (This does not include the one percent levy for Operational Expenses).

The way that the bond debt was structured was to even out the levies over all the years, so that it would neither go up nor down significantly in any given year. However, that means “front loading” a lot of the expense, with taxpayers paying more initially than is needed to service the debt in the early years. Albuquerque residents had a total levy for bond debt and operational expense for AMAFCA of only about 1.1%, while Rio Rancho’s (SSCAFCA), was around two percent. So the ESCAFCA taxpayers are paying considerably more than residents in nearby communities for similar projects.

When searching for bond placement in March of 2009, it was realized that only private placement would be possible. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, New Mexico Bank and Trust, and First Community Bank did not want to place these bonds, so ESCAFCA went to Zion Bank of Utah. The $3 million bond was written with them, at 4.45% interest. The bond rating for ESCAFCA is low so it had to pay a higher interest rate.

RBC talked about alternatives to continuing along the present path, so as to lower property taxes in the future. One alternative is not to sell the remaining $3 million bond two years from now. With present financing, there would still be a 2.448 bond levy for 2010 taxes, but it would drop to 0.65% in 2011. A second alternative is to sell the remaining $3 million bond, but defer the idea of selling future bonds, making the bond debt $6 million total rather than $18 million. For this alternative, the bond levy rate would not decline until 2013, when it would go down to 0.85%. One major assumption regarding what future levies would be is that the tax base will go up year after year, as has been the case in the past. However, there is talk of a constitutional amendment against the current, almost automatic three percent increase in property assessments each year. Were that to change, and/or if population growth were less than in more normal times, then levies might have to be adjusted up to pay off the bond debt.

If readers are not yet sufficiently confused, RBC Capital has promised to include their presentation on the ESCAFCA website.

After the RBC presentation, ESCAFCA board member Dan Dennison reported on the Task Force for Financial Alternatives. Its meeting on December 12, 2009 consisted of Dennison and Jack Torres from the Board and three citizens from Placitas. He said that there could be refinancing of the debt, restructuring of it, not selling the second $3 million, some combination of these, or other solutions. Also discussed at that meeting was the issue of whether ESCAFCA should exist at all. (This topic was not broached at the January 12 meeting.)

Elected officials such as District 22 Representative Kathy McCoy have offered to help and supply advice. But the feeling is that very little in the way of mitigation will come from either the county or the state. Dennison said that it is crucial to scale down the proposed projects to a realistic level that makes economic sense for the community.

Placitas resident Steve Barro then gave a presentation based on a paper he had submitted. He pointed out that the discussion that night had focused primarily on the costs involved, but in order to make decisions, there needs to be a full cost-benefits analysis, which means that the community needs to discuss what exactly the benefits are of having ESCAFCA and the projects it intends to perform. A case-by-case review of those projects, with full community involvement, might well show that needs are significantly less than ESCAFCA has determined.

Before many of the policies can be implemented, there will have to be inter-agency agreements in place with the County, the Town of Bernalillo, San Antonio Las Huertas Land Grant, Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, and any other official state and federal entities with which ESCAFCA must coordinate. Board president Sal Reyes said that they do not want to add an additional layer of bureaucracy. Applications to the county for new subdivisions are currently reviewed for drainage issues by CSWCD, but county planners are not required to follow their recommendations.

In other business, the board discussed an engineering plan for drainage policy that has been submitted by Wilson & Company. Reyes said that after the board has held a workshop to review the plan, it will be published on the ESCAFCA website, a public process will begin, and interagency agreements will be pursued.

Wilson & Co. took credit for getting the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redraw flood plain maps of Placitas. As a result, they said that 240 residences will no longer be required to pay flood insurance.

ESCAFCA is paying the executive engineering staff about $5,000 to apply for a grant to review pipeline safety in a three-mile reach of Las Huertas Creek where high-pressure pipelines are routinely exposed to storm runoff. The sought-after grant of up to $50,000 will help federal agencies pressure pipeline companies to live up to their responsibility to operate safely.

The board approved $10,000 for its first audit. They also extended the contract of Executive Engineer Larry Blair, who tells board members how to run a meeting and acts as intermediary with the accounting firms, the public relation firm, and Wilson & Company. Wilson identifies problems for ESCAFCA, plans projects, and will probably get contracts to do the work—if things go that far. Finally, the board extended the contract of public relations firm Griffin and Associates. They also all agreed that it was time to hire a lawyer.

One thing missing in the discussions that night was any way to correct the tax bite for this year’s taxes—an omission that might be disturbing to property owners who are hurting due to the collapse in the housing market and recession. The ESCAFCA tax, combined with the questionable three percent increases in appraised property value and a tax levy for two hospitals in Rio Rancho, resulted in an increase of a whopping fifty percent over 2008 property taxes. Officials from Sandoval County who lobbied for ESCAFCA and the Town of Bernalillo who supported it had no presence at the meeting.

If ESCAFCA can accomplish the difficult tasks discussed at the meeting, ease the stigma of false advertising prior to the 2008 election, and establish credibility, taxpayers might vote for another ESCAFCA tax levy in 2012.

The Board decided to have a special workshop on January 26 to discuss the position ESCAFCA will take on seeking a tax reduction. The next public meeting will be held in Placitas on February 9 at a time and place to be announced. For more information, visit escafca.org.


Upcoming Sandoval County elections

There will be an election in each of the municipalities in Sandoval County; Bernalillo, Corrales, Cuba, Jemez Springs, and San Ysidro on Tuesday, March 2, 2010. Municipal residents 18 years of age and older who wish to vote in this election and are not already registered to vote must submit their Voter Registration Application to the Sandoval County Clerk, 711 S Camino Del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM  87004-5931 by Tuesday, February 2 at 5 p.m. Voter Registration applications are available at the County Clerk's Office, all public libraries, and at the Department of Motor Vehicles Offices.

Applications for absentee ballots can be obtained from each respective municipal office of the city, town, or village clerk's office. These applications must be completed and returned by 5 p.m. on February 26, 2010. Completed absentee ballots can be returned to the clerk’s offices via mail, in person by the voter casting the absentee ballot, by a member of the voter’s immediate family, or by the caregiver to the voter up until 7 p.m. on March 2, 2010. Absentee ballots may be marked in person in the clerk’s offices during the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, from January 26 until February 26, 2010. Early voting will be conducted at city, town, or village halls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, from February 10 to February 26, 2010.

Following is a list of Sandoval County Municipal Offices:

Town of Bernalillo - 829 Camino del Pueblo, Bernalillo, NM 87004
(505-867-3311)

Village of Corrales - 4324 Corrales Road, Corrales, NM 87048 
(505-897-0502)

Village of Cuba - 6382 US 550, Cuba, NM  87013 
(575-289-3758)

Village of Jemez Springs - 80 Jemez Springs Plaza, Jemez Springs, NM 87025 
(575-829-3540)

City of Rio Rancho - 3200 Civic Center Circle NE, Rio Rancho, NM  87144
(505-891-5001)

Village of San Ysidro - 398 State Road 4, San Ysidro, NM  87053 
(575-834-7398)

For more information about registering to vote, the Sandoval County Clerk’s office can be reached at (505) 867-7572 or via the web site, http://www.sandovalcounty.com.


Four candidates vie for two Town Council seats

On March 2, Bernalillo voters will get a chance to decide who runs town hall for the next four years. Four candidates will challenge Mayor Patricia Chavez for the office of mayor and four candidates are running for two seats on the town council.

The candidates for the Bernalillo Town Council include incumbent Santiago Montoya, Steven James Baca, Mark Lopez, and Dale Prairie. The two canidates who recieve the majority of votes will fill two of the four seats on the council.

The Signpost has compiled material submitted from each candidate running for office in order to better introduce them and their platform to the community. The length of each candidate’s submission is based on the length of the submission we received.

• Steven James Baca — graduated from Bernalillo High in 1987. He has been employed with the Pueblo of Sandia for 15 years.

Statement: I just go by James Baca. I was born and raised in Bernalillo. My main issue and/or concern right now with the town would be financial accountability. Simple as that.

• Mark Lopez — worked at PNM for many years and is currently employed with the Sandoval County Assessor’s office.

Statement: This is the first time that I am running for a political office. As a lifelong resident of our town, I have seen many changes and much growth. I believe that in order for our town government to go forward, the citizens of the town need to have input into the plans. I truly have an interest in the town and the changes being made. As a town councilor, I would like to work with the citizens and other officials in Bernalillo as we make positive changes to benefit all of the residents in Bernalillo. Thank you for your time and support.

• Santiago Montoya — was elected to the Town Council in 2006. He is a graduate of Bernalillo High School and has attended New Mexico State University. He is currently employed as a Recreation Specialist for the Pueblo of Sandia.

Statement: I have dedicated a lifetime of commitment to the Town of Bernalillo through community, religion, and athletics. I am a member of the Restoration committee for the Santuario de San Lorenzo and currently sit on the Archdiocese Pastoral Council for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. I have spent the past fourteen years coaching and announcing for the Bernalillo High School basketball programs.

As a town councilman, I will continue to be committed to being the voice of the people. I will insure that all decisions made are in the best interest of the people in the Town of Bernalillo. I plan to continue to bring a fresh vision of growth and development while protecting our history and culture. Working together with the Mayor, the council, and town personnel, we can make these visions come true.

My accomplishments include: Approved Rotary Park Master Plan for improvements, which included the new restroom facilities. Approved the establishment and funding of a full-time fire department, and insured that both the Fire and Police departments were properly funded for necessary growth. Approved and funded the Westside Department of Public Safety Facility (DPS). Supported and approved the investment of increased gross receipt taxes from Walmart back into the community.

My future goals include: Focus on the continued development of programs and facilities to benefit the youth and seniors of our community. Focus on the preservation of historic properties for reuse as public facilities. Support of Transit Oriented Development and infill development to help provide affordable housing for the people of Bernalillo. Improve overall relationships between local and regional governmental entities for comprehensive land use and transportation planning, infrastructure improvements, and sharing of resources.

• Dale Prairie — As of press time, the Signpost had not received any information from candidate Dale Prairie.

Candidates can submit further statements to be published before the election in the March issue of the Signpost. Candidates may also be called for further information. Their phone numbers are available at Bernalillo Town Hall or by calling 867-3311.

The candidate profiles and statements come from information provided to the Signpost by the candidates themselves. Information provided by or cited to does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Signpost, its staff or any of its advertisers.

     

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