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 NM Centennial Stamp

New Mexico’s new Centennial Stamp celebrates one hundred years of statehood.

Do something radical for New Mexico’s centennial: write a letter

—Dr. Frances Levine, Director, New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors

Last month, the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors hosted a First-Day-of-Issue event on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service and its New Mexico Centennial stamp. That we kicked off a year of centennial activities at the History Museum with a stamp-related event delighted my historian sensibilities and inspired me to invite New Mexico’s citizens to take part in a letter-writing project.

To tell the stories of our past, historians gather information from many sources. They use photographs, documents, and artifacts—like the forty-seven-star flag now on display downstairs in the New Mexico History Museum. But what they treasure more than anything are journals and letters—written accounts of what was happening just as it was happening and told by participants in the events.

As we prepared to mark the Centennial in our exhibitions with an installation called 47 Stars, we discovered that the historians who preceded us had left out some of the accounts we would have loved to use. That got us wondering about what we’re leaving for the people who will one day mark New Mexico’s two-hundredth year as a state.

Some historians say that all this electronic communication will provide a bounty of material for future historians. Others say something will be sorely missing, that holding a letter written by a person who participated in the historic events as they happened and reading the thoughts that they considered important enough to put on paper is truly what makes people connect across generations and throughout history.

Lew Wallace finished writing the novel Ben Hur while he was a Territorial governor in New Mexico, and he left this account of what it was like to work on the book inside the Palace of the Governor’s thick adobe walls:

My custom when night came was to lock the doors and bolt the windows of the office proper, and with a student’s lamp, bury myself in the four soundless walls of the forbidding annex. Once there, at my rough pine table, the Count of Monte Cristo in his dungeon of stone was not more lost to the world. The ghosts, if they were ever about, did not disturb me; yet in the hush of that gloomy harborage, I beheld the Crucifixion, and strove to write what I beheld.

I can feel the surface of his rough pine table. I can imagine the chill of a supposed ghost when a viga creaked or loose page fell to the floor. Those are special details to historians and help us bring the past to life.

Each of us has a gift to leave for tomorrow’s historians: a written account of our lives today. So all of us at the New Mexico History Museum have a radical proposal: write us a letter. Tell us a bit about what your life in the year 2012 is like.

Describe your house, your neighborhood, the businesses you like to visit and why. What games do you play? Where do you go to enjoy the outdoors and what does it look like today? What kind of job do you have and what’s the status of that industry? What do you worry about? What gives you hope? What is it about New Mexico that makes it your home place and heart place?

Fold it up, put it in an envelope, address it, and then mail it—maybe using one of those beautiful Centennial stamps. We’ll collect them and share them throughout the year, but, most importantly, we’ll put them into a safe place to spend a few decades gaining perspective. When 2112 rolls around, New Mexico’s historians will delight in the treasure trove you helped create.

Send your letters to: Centennial Letter Writing Project, New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Ave., Santa Fe, NM, 87501.


Town of Bernalillo celebrates New Mexico Centennial

—Town of Bernalillo

On January 6, the Town of Bernalillo began a year-long celebration of New Mexico’s statehood by lighting up the New Mexico Timber Company water tower in Rotary Park. This event inaugurated a calendar of programs and projects to celebrate and document the past one-hundred years of Bernalillo’s history as well as to commemorate New Mexico becoming the forty-seventh state in the United States on January 6, 1912.

“The event this Friday is intended to create a public awareness of the rich history of Bernalillo,” said Mayor Jack Torres. “We want to get our community thinking of how they can participate in preserving our history through activities that will be scheduled throughout the year.”

A series of programs, lectures, and events will be developed in collaboration with Sandoval County Historical Society, Coronado Monument, the public schools, and civic organizations. One of the projects to be initiated in February will be the installation of a recording booth at the Martha Liebert Public Library to collect oral histories of Bernalillo.

The Town invites churches, individuals, and any interested organization to contact María Rinaldi, Director of Community Development—at 505-771-7133 or 505-379-5098—with ideas or events that relate to this year-long celebration.


Sandoval Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert


Bernalillo news update

Signpost staff

The regular meeting of the Governing Body of the Town of Bernalillo was held on January 23 in the Council Chambers at Bernalillo Town Hall.

The main focus of the meeting was action taken on Phase Two of the Streetscape Plan which will continue improvements on Camino del Pueblo between Calle Barrio Nuevo north to US 550. These improvements include disability-compliant sidewalks, as well as new crosswalks and lighting. Another project is also scheduled for Calle Don Tomas. Phase One was completed about a year ago.

The council agreed to nullify the bid awarded to G. Sandoval Construction, Inc. in the amount of $854,365.00 on December 12, 2011. G. Sandoval Construction had withdrawn its bid. The council awarded the contract to RMCI, Inc., accepting the next lowest bid of $996,182.00.

Roadwork is scheduled to start in February. Interim Town Administrator Maria Rinaldi said that she did not expect any major traffic backups.

The council voted against approval of a Wine Growers’ Liquor License for Corazon del Bosque Winery, LLC, DBA Corazon del Bosque Winery, located at 437 Avenida C ‘de Baca. John Rhoads, owner of the winery, wanted to sell his wine over the internet. Although zoning approval had already been granted by the town, some counselors expressed concern about security and increased traffic.

Mayor Jack Torres said that he had asked the Municipal League whether the upcoming March 2 municipal election was legally required. The election would be an expensive formality because Counselors Marian Jaramillo and Ronny Cisneros are running unopposed for reelection, as is Municipal Judge Sharon Torres. Voting machine rental will cost the town as much as $9,000.


Town of Bernalillo gives notice of arsenic level violation

—Signpost staff

Town of Bernalillo Water System had a level of arsenic above drinking water standards at Municipal Well 4 at one point in the Third Quarter of 2011. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic in public water systems is 0.010 mg/L (10 ppb). A sample collected by the New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau on July 11, 2011, was 19 ppb. However, a sample collected on November 18, 2011, placed the system back into compliance with the regulation. The level of a subsequent sample taken upon notification of the violation on December 13, 2011, was 5 ppb.

The Drinking Water Bureau failed to provide timely notification of the violation to the Town of Bernalillo. For this reason, residents did not receive notification until January, 2012—six months after the violation.

The Town attributes the July 11, 2011 violation of the arsenic standard to operator error. It appears that the temporary arsenic treatment system was not activated at the time the Drinking Water Bureau sampled the system. Current Town system operators continuously monitor the temporary system to ensure proper function.

This is not an immediate risk. Nevertheless, some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of the MCL over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory systems and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

Residents were advised that they did not need to use an alternative water supply, such as bottled water. Those with specific health concerns, or those with a compromised immune system are advised to consider consulting a doctor.

The arsenic in Bernalillo’s ground water is from erosion of natural deposits. The Environmental Protection Agency reduced acceptable levels from 50 ppb to 10 ppb in 1999. This mandate was controversial and placed great expense on municipalities nationwide.

During the previous administration, the Town spent millions of dollars on an aluminum floculation system that apparently did not work. The problem became an issue during the last election.

In May, 2010, under the new administration of Mayor Jack Torres, the Town began to test the use of ferric chloride with a temporary feed system. Currently, ferric chloride is the sole water treatment process used in the water treatment system. The construction project for the installation of a permanent treatment system is currently twenty-five percent complete with an estimated final date of April 1, 2012.

Quarterly sampling by the Drinking Water Bureau will continue for at least two consecutive quarters, and if results are reliably and consistently below the MCL, sampling will be reduced to triennial monitoring. The Town monitors arsenic on a monthly basis.

The town encourages people to share this information with anyone who drinks its water, especially those who may have not received notice directly. Questions may be addressed to Maria Rinaldi, Interim Administrator, Director of Community Development and Capital Programs at (505) 867-3311 or mrinaldi@townofbernalillo.org

Public notice has been posted on www.townofbernalillo.org, in Town Hall, and has been mailed to all municipal water users.


Assessor’s new website puts property information at taxpayers’ fingertips

—Sidney Hill, Sandoval County Public Information Officer

Finding information about property in Sandoval County just got a lot easier thanks to the County Assessor’s redesigned website. Tom Garcia, who was elected Sandoval County Assessor in November 2010, said that the new site fulfills his campaign promise to make all information in the assessor’s office more accessible to the taxpaying public.

During the campaign, Garcia specifically pledged to put tax disclosure statements and all of office’s forms on the Web. The new site accomplishes that and more, he said.

Members of the public can access the site by going to the county’s main website, www.sandovalcounty.com. They would then place their cursor on “Depts. & Divisions” tab at the top of the page. That activates a drop-down menu, from which the user would click on “Assessor.”

When the Assessor’s new homepage appears, the user can choose to search property records, learn about how tax rates are set, or calculate the estimated taxes on a specific piece of property, among other things.

“While offering these options fulfills my main campaign promise, our website is a living entity, and we will always be looking to make it better,” Garcia said. “For instance, our next goal is to make improvements to the maps that appear on the site.”

Garcia also welcomes public input on the site: “Taxpayers are encouraged to contact the assessor’s office with ideas for improving the website, and to let us know what they think of the current improvements .… Our only source for knowing how we are doing is to hear from our constituents who use these services.”


Asphalt Processing Equipment

Asphalt processing equipment in place at gravel mine

Asphalt processing equipment moved to Placitas

— Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association

Within the last few weeks, asphalt processing equipment has been added to the Fisher Sand and Gravel Company site on the east frontage road of the I-25 freeway, just south of the Highways 550 and 165 turnoff to Bernalillo/Placitas. This property—currently zoned “RRA” (Rural/Residental/Agricultural)—is right across the freeway from Bernalillo, and close to residences in Bernalillo and Placitas.

In May 2010, Fisher applied to the County Planning and Zoning Commission for re-zoning to conduct asphalt batching operations on that property. But citizens pointed out that there were serious irregularities with the application, and the permit was never approved. The County has only authorized this property for terrain management grading operation, a permitted use on RRA zoned properties. But the gravel mining operation that has since been conducted there has always appeared to go far beyond grading. And now that asphalt processing equipment has moved in, it is clear that this was always intended as a mining operation, which is not permitted on RRA zoned properties.

At the January 12, 2012, meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Bob Gorrell, representing ES-CA (Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association), brought this to the attention of the Commission, whose members expressed concern that this was done without getting a county permit. As a result of this citizen complaint, the Development Department staff promised to visit the site and take appropriate action if a violation was discovered.

If no action is taken, the Asphalt Plant could potentially be up and running in a matter of weeks. New Mexico Environmental Department Air Quality Bureau has given approval for an asphalt plant and a rock crusher to operate on this site. However this use also requires re-zoning, which only the County can grant.

Among the major concerns regarding asphalt operations are air pollution (volatile chemicals and transport dust), traffic problems (an estimated 140 round trip truck hauls per day crossing Highway 165), potential ground water contamination, and noise. The effect of this Plant on our community could extend well beyond the near vicinity of the Plant. Planned emissions are sufficient that the smell of asphalt could permeate much of Bernalillo and Placitas, affecting lifestyle, health, and property values.

Citizens of Bernalillo and Placitas also intend to bring this to the attention of the County Commission at their next meeting on Thursday, February 2 at 6:00 p.m. at the County Administrative Building on Idalia Road. All concerned citizens are urged to attend this meeting. A public meeting on this issue will also be held by ES-CA on Sunday, February 12, at 2:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library. All citizens of Bernalillo and Placitas are invited to attend.

For more about the Asphalt Plant issue, visit the ES-CA Forum at www.es-ca.org/blog/2012/01/18/ an-asphalt-plant-in-placitas-really/

You can also get to this Forum page by going to www.es-ca.org (where you can also join ES-CA by pressing the “Join Us!” button on the left), pressing the “Fisher Sand and Gravel” button on the right, then clicking on “Forum.”


Petroglyph Trails applies for zoning change

 —Orin Safier

The February 23, 2012, Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) meeting will consider an application for Master Plan zoning of the Petroglyph Trails subdivision, approximately 210 acres. This is located on the I-25 Frontage Road, north of Hwy. 165. It borders on the Placitas Trails and Anasazi Meadows subdivisions.

This Master Plan is for mixed use of commercial, light industrial, single family residential and higher density residential. According to the Staff Report, most of the property falls within the “I-25 Frontage/Bernalillo Interface Overlay District.” In the Placitas Area Plan, this district is designated to include these mixed usages, with a transition to ordinary single-family house zoning on the border with present residential subdivisions.

For more information visit www.es-ca.org/blog/2011/12/24/petroglyph-trails-master-plan-application.


Bistro seeks change in Sunday liquor laws

—Ty Belknap

I was out recreating with a friend last fall before stopping into Homesteads Village to have a beer at Blades’ Bistro, or Placitas Café. They were both closed, so we bought a twenty-two-ounce bomber of Arrogant Bastard Ale at the Merc and joined Gene McClain and another guy who explained that we were forced to enjoy the view in Gene’s art chairs, because of the Sunday liquor laws. It was a great place to drink beer there under the portal, but it seemed a little strange.  Apparently, it’s legal to drink in front of the Rockin R Gallery if the owners don’t object. It is also okay to drink under the Gazebo, since the parking lot has no liquor license. It is illegal to drink in front of the Bistro or the Café, because they are licensed.

Anja Bladergroen has collected over four-hundred signatures on a petition to force an election to change this law. It could be a special election in May or be included in general election in November. It depends on Sandoval County’s response to the petition. Bladergroen said that the county had so far not been very responsive to her queries about how to get it done. She said that she is seeking the change because her customers have requested a Sunday brunch that includes Mimosas and Bloody Marys. Sunday liquor sales would make it profitable for Blades’ to open seven days a week.

Homestead Village owner, Orville McCallister, is an attorney who has been helping Blades’ with legal advice, though he admits that the issue is not altogether clear. He described the law as an artifact of Prohibition. After Prohibition ended in the thirties, the state allowed each community to make its own decision about liquor sales. It was said that the main advocates of Prohibition were preachers and bootleggers, but a majority of the community that included Placitas voted to ban Sunday sales.

McCallister said that municipalities and villages were called “local option districts.” The entire unincorporated area of Sandoval County was included in one big, sparsely populated local option district. The vote to prohibit Sunday liquor sales was changed in the nineties to allow package sales after noon, but still prohibited alcohol in restaurants and bars.

The law, which McCallister describes as poorly written, says that the number of petitions needed for an election to change the law is ten percent of the number of people who voted in the last election. McCallister said that the county’s lack of enthusiasm for such an election might be based on difficulty calculating the number of petitions needed. It would also involve some expense and effort on their part.

This is probably the first time this issue has come up. After all, most bars and restaurants are located in incorporated areas. More signatures are needed. The petition can be signed at Blades’ Bistro or the Merc.


Appointment of Senator Curtis irks GOP

Signpost staff

Although Republicans and Democrats are still battling over redistricting, part of Sandoval County, including Placitas, is represented by newly appointed State Senator Lisa Curtis. To the outrage of the GOP, Republican Governor Susanna Martinez was forced to appoint the Democrat trial lawyer from Albuquerque to replace Republican businessman Kent Cravens, who left his Albuquerque-area District 21 Senate seat before his term was up in 2012 to become an oil-and-gas lobbyist. Curtis was the only candidate recommended by the Democrat-dominated county commissions in both Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.

The state Republican party said the commissions had “thumbed their noses at voters” by replacing a Republican with a Democrat in a traditionally Republican district, and they called Curtis a “liberal extremist.”

The appointment of Curtis gives Democrats the two-thirds they need to override the governor’s veto, but since the House lacks the Democratic strength to override, the appointment of Curtis will probably will not be crucial in determining the big issues.

The thirty-day session supposedly can only address budget items, except for issues called for by the governor. Many Democrats are opposing several economic measures that Martinez is pushing that include tax breaks that reduce New Mexico revenues and threaten funding for public programs. There may also be some controversial issues regarding health-care reform introduced by the governor.

Both Republican Senator Sue Wilson Beffort and Republican Representative Jim Smith share Martinez’s priorities for the legislative session. Both represent parts of the East Mountains and parts of Sandoval County including Placitas. Both support initiatives by the governor, including restriction of drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants, banning of social promotion for third-graders not reading at grade level, and economic development incentives.

Curtis opposes Voter Photo ID and eliminating driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. She has said that she wants the 2003 law strengthened to include digital fingerprinting to help keep track of undocumented immigrants. She also opposes the governor’s plan to require third-graders to be held back if they can’t read proficiently, saying that schools, teachers, and parents should make that decision.

Martinez argues that giving licenses to undocumented immigrants is a magnet for fraud—that giving out official identification to individuals without papers is a serious threat to public safety.

Licenses for the undocumented were approved back in 2003 in New Mexico as a way to address the problem of those driving without a license or car insurance as well as a way to build ties between law enforcement and the immigrant community.

Republicans advocate requiring photo identification at the polls in order to prevent voter fraud. Most democrats oppose this requirement contending it is unnecessary, expensive, and will make voting more difficult for minorities and poor people who tend to vote democratic.

You can voice your opinion by calling you state representatives at the legislative switchboard at (505) 986-4300 during the legislative session.


Contact your legislators

The New Mexico State Legislature 30-Day Session began January 17. If you  wish to participate by making your voice heard, visit the New Mexico State Legislature website at: http://www.nmlegis.gov. The following legislators serve the 87004, 87001, and 87043 zip codes:

  • Representative James Roger Madalena (D)—District: 65; County: Bernalillo, McKinley, Rio Arriba and Sandoval; Capitol phone: (505) 986-4417; E-mail: jrmadalena@fsipinc.org
  • Representative Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert (R)—District 44; County: Sandoval; Capitol phone: (505) 986-4467; E-mail:jpandp@comcast.net
  • Senator Linda M. Lovejoy (D)—District 2;, County: Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Rio Arriba and Sandoval; Capitol phone: (505) 986-4310; E-mail: lynda.lovejoy@nmlegis.gov 
  • Senator John M. Sapien (D); District 9; County: Sandoval; Capitol phone: (505) 986-4371; E-mail: john.sapien@nmlegis.gov
  • Senator Lisa Curtis (D); District 21; County: Bernalillo and Sandoval; E-mail: lisa.curtis@nmlegis.gov
 
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