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re: need new stop signs
Chris Huber submitted her opinion concerning the need for stop signs at the intersection of Trails Road East and Anasazi Trails Road [November 2003 Signpost]. I'm in total agreement but would like to see it made into an intersection with a three-way stop. Daily I view builders, contractors, laborers, and many heavy vehicles exceed the posted twenty-five mph speed limit by approximately fifteen-plus mph. While I am very much in support of the new development, let's not wait for some serious accident to occur before evoking a small change that would prevent a catastrophe from occurring in the Trails East subdivision.
re: Placitas County movement gaining momentum
The movement to create a Placitas County is on track and gaining momentum. We recently asked the Sandoval County Commission to approve a referendum on the 2004 general election ballot to measure the public will about creating a Placitas County. For reasons known only to the commission the referendum was denied without a vote. This was not a setback, nor was it even unexpected. We gave Sandoval County the chance to do the right thing, and now we will simply turn to our second option, which is professional scientific polling.
Sandoval County’s claim that the people of the proposed Placitas County pay $900,000 in taxes and receive $2,700,000 in services has not gone over well with most people we have talked to. This assertion is demonstrably false and an outright challenge to the intelligence of the people of Placitas County.
The good news is that Sandoval County made it clear that they will leave the issue of creating a new Placitas County to the people of Placitas County calling it a “citizen driven” initiative that they agreed not to interfere with. In other words, if the people of the proposed Placitas County want a Placitas County, it will happen.
Within a month, we will issue a detailed draft of a Placitas County budget with realistic numbers backed by solid documentation to show that Placitas County can be formed in a revenue-neutral manner without raising taxes.
Finally, the need for our community to have a county government is apparent almost everywhere you look. Do you want an open space ordinance? Only Placitas County can provide it. Do you want a library? A Placitas County government can work with local volunteers and it can be done. Do you want self governance? Only a Placitas County can give you that. Do you want local representation from neighbors you know and respect? Only Placitas County can make it happen. Do you want to live in a community with its own identity and sense of community pride? Then Placitas County is the answer.
—Charles Mellon, M.D.
re: Placitas County should hold a town meeting
Placitas County.... Well....
Something’s just not right with regard to the position that Placitas holds in Sandoval county government. Our community seems to be totally lacking in political clout yet it provides more than 15 percent of the county’s property tax revenue. Observation of this situation makes it easy to understand the position of those who advocate the idea of leaving Sandoval and forming a separate county—Placitas County.
Does anyone remember the recent Sandoval County vs. Placitas Animal Rescue facility shutdown fiasco? Events at that time, as I remember them, progressed sequentially through seven distinct steps:
- Initial Reaction. This is a joke! Right?
- Confusion. Seemingly arbitrary, unsolicited, and senseless activity but continuing nevertheless.
- Information of sorts. Ambiguous newspaper articles published on the topic.
- Concern. Very little information shared regarding need for action or alternatives considered.
- First official step. Aborted attempts at filing papers.
- Final official step. Papers filed.
- Ultimate action. A complex mess!
I think we can all agree that this seven-step path taken by the county against an important Placitas entity was not very well thought out. The final result was not a win-win situation and I’m sure there are grudges being held by people and politicians on both sides that will come back to haunt in the future.
Now, has it occurred to anyone else that the current push to form a separate Placitas County seems to be following the exact same seven sequential steps? Did anyone else read the December 5 2003 Journal article that reported on an aborted attempt to place the Placitas County referendum on next November’s ballot (see step five above)?
All of us in Placitas are affected in one way or the other by these large actions taken by a small few. It’s time to place a hold on the Placitas County plan and get some answers to a few questions before proceeding? For instance:
- What problems would be solved by forming a new county?
- Who’s pushing the proposal and what’s in it for them?
- What would it cost to make Placitas ‘better’ than it’s been under Sandoval County? Who would pay?
- Would we no longer enjoy the diffuse control that comes when a governed area is physically large while the governing body is per capita small?
- Would we have, as is so often the case in small communities, a tight, clique-like control group that pretty much dictates the behind-the-scenes activities that ultimately affect us all?
- What new problems would we face if Placitas County should become reality?
It’s time we had a one-time (or first annual) facilitated meeting of all concerned Placitas residents. The town meeting is common practice for communities in many areas of the country. This meeting would provide an opportunity for secessionists to promote their cause and answer questions, and would provide a forum for others who might choose to promote alternative approaches to developing Placitas community clout.
If we should choose to remain part of Sandoval County and set up annual or semiannual town meetings, community-interest objectives will have to be defined that affect us all, public votes will have to be taken to give weight and preference to these objectives, committees will need to be formed, and individuals will need to be elected to lobby for our interests in both county and state government. There are many very capable people here in Placitas who can fill those roles. We just need a way to find common ground and then go fight for what we believe in.
April is usually the month for town meetings. Let’s target April. Let’s think in terms of this meeting becoming the first annual Placitas town meeting. For that matter, it could very well turn out to be the first meeting of the soon to be Placitas County. We need to get our needs addressed, develop clout within the state, and gain some measure of respect. It’s time to decide exactly how we’re going to do this.
re: Placitas County
In reference to Placitas County, I decided to put my academic hat aside and put my business hat on to see if I would like to invest in Placitas County and own and operate it as a business. The figures are my own, but the totals are amazingly like those provided to us at the December 4 meeting in Bernalillo. To run and operate the county I would need the following:
- (Number of Staff—Offices and rooms)
- 3—Assessor, deputy, appraiser—1
- 2—Clerk—2 with 1 vault
- 8—Sheriff, deputy for dispatch, patrol and backup—3 with 1 vault
- 3—Jail, could double with dispatch
- Cook, as needed (contract)—3
- 2—Treasurer—2 with 1 vault
- ? Superintendent of Schools—1 conf. room
- 1—Planning and Zoning—1
- Courtroom—2 (1 small, 1 large)
- Jury room—1
- 2—Judge and clerk—2
- Supply rooms—2
- Building—1,000 sq. ft. (3 to 4 times as big as many homes in Placitas). 10,000 sq. ft. @ $275/sq. ft. = $2,750,000.
- (The above includes land acquisition, 2 to 3 acres)
- Paving and lighting = $35,000
Total cost = $2,785,000
B) Garage and Shop
- 6,000 sq. ft. @ $150/sq. ft. = $9,000
- 2—Mechanics, fencing and paving = $45,000
Total cost = $945,000
C) Animal Control
- 1—Animal caretakers, office, pens, etc., in garage figures
Total Courthouse, Garage, etc. = $3,730,000
Interest on debt service in Annual Budget
- Office equipment, furniture, shelves, voting machines, copiers, etc. (Probably conservative) = $250,000
- Sheriff—3 squad cars, 1 emergency squad vehicle, 1 for Sheriff = 5 units @ $25,000. W/equip. = $125,000
- Assessor’s office—1
- Animal Control—1
- Utility Transportation—1
- 5 units @ $22,000 = $132,000
- Road maintenance—1 grader, 2 dump trucks, 2 backhoes, 2 pickups for supervisors, 1 crawler w/1blade for landfill, etc.
- 8 operators
- 5 laborers
- 8 vehicles @ $45,000 = $360,000
- Tools for shop = $85,000
Total tools and equipment = $952,000
- Land acquisition and development = $48,000
- 2 workers
Total equipment, vehicles and landfill = $1,000,000
Total real estate, equipment, vehicles, etc. = $4,730,000
Debt service for Bonds to raise the above amount in annual budget.
- 43 people @ $20,000, average = $860,000
- Benefits @ 30% = $258,000
- Contract Services—attorney, auditor, surveyors, etc. (low) = $80,000
Total salaries and contract =$1,198,000
Utilities (educated guesses):
- Electricity =$40,000
- Telephone services =$50,000
- Gas—heating = $22,000
- Water and trash = $8,000
Total = $120,000
Other necessary expenses:
- Maintenance and janitorial = $40,000
- Insurance = $67,000
- Fuel for vehicles = $85,000
- Interest and debt retirement on bonds= $4.730,000. @ 6% (this is a pure guess. We have a new, poor county with inexperienced personnel, poorly paid staff, and would expect a low index rating with consequent high interest) = $283,800
Total of other necessary expenses = $475,800
- Salaries, benefits and contract services = $1,198,000
- Utilities = $120,000
- Other necessary expenses = $475,800
- Income—2003 collected for our area by Sandoval County = $899,532
- Loss first year = $-(894,268)
- Possible savings:
- Eliminate 12 jobs, salaries, and benefits = $312,000
- Purchase used vehicles and equipment = $250,000
- Total savings = $562,000
- New loss first year after cutbacks = $-(332,268)
Possible new income:
- Raise mill levy to max $180,000. If legal, increase appraised value [of property] to 65 or 70 percent of market value = $220,000
Total of increased taxes on existing prop. = $400,000
Possible ways to increase tax base:
Make a concerted effort to obtain business and industry, and accelerate residential growth! Hire rain dancers and cloud seeders.
I have not taken into account state and federal monies for fire, police, and other subsidized activities, but this money is more than offset by county obligations in those areas. I have also ignored our share of Sandoval County debt if we split. I have also ignored the new county’s obligation to education. This could be sizable and should be studied carefully. This factor alone could make all these figures moot. We should also allocate at least $75,000 per year for depreciation, replacement, and updating equipment and vehicles. We will lose services because of inexperience and poor performance. We also lose the $171,842 that Sandoval County spent on community services this year. These include community center, Las Acequias de Placitas, and my favorite, the Placitas Artist Series ($2,500).
A county is big business and the bills have to be paid. The county is a creature of the legislature because if a county fails (and they have) it is the state which is the guarantor of the county’s obligations.
Sorry, folks, with a balance sheet like that outlined above, you couldn’t give me Placitas County, and in my opinion, neither will the legislature want anything to do with it.
Uh-oh! I forgot to pay the commissioners or give them space, but then volunteerism is a virtue. There must be another way to get along and slow growth. How about seeing you at the next county zoning meeting? Call to talk or debate. I have more. 771-3908.
—Paul C. S. Carpenter
“These people with all this land, eh?” says my mechanic, Larry. We’re riding in his truck through the desert north of Albuquerque, along the shadow of Sandia Mountain. He drops me off at the Santa Ana Pueblo reservation and says bueno, he’ll have my car ready by noon.
For the past year, my work has been here—on Pueblo land, where Americans for Indian Opportunity rents an office from the Santa Ana tribe. Officially, I’m an Americorps VISTA volunteer and the public-information associate for AIO. More accurately, I’ve been a guest in a national Native community focused on bringing indigenous voices to local, national, and international affairs. I consider my job with AIO a privilege because I arrived as a cultural outsider and became a collaborator.
My experience in this five-person office might be compared to a non-Mennonite entering a Mennonite community. There are last names, food, inside humor, traditions, and gatherings that one must get to know.
So I’ve attended Pueblo feast days, where visitors are invited to eat in pueblo members’ homes, and the ceremonies honor a specific Catholic saint. On these visits, I’ve watched ceremonial dances, become familiar with traditional Pueblo regalia, and learned the finer points of red and green chile, beans, oven bread, bread pudding, enchiladas, and potato salad.
In the AIO office, I’ve read tribal and national Native newspapers, followed tribal elections, learned about casinos, federal government policies, economic development, tribal governance, and trust lands. I’ve also written press releases and edited the AIO newspaper.
When Iwas in grade school I dressed up as an Indian for Thanksgiving every other year. On the off years, I was a pilgrim. In third grade, our class had an “Indians Unit.” I remember going to Sand Prairie, west of Newton, Kansas, and examining the plants the Plains Indians survived on. We studied the “artifacts” of their culture and put up tepees; we didn’t learn about the impact of colonization on Native communities.
Now, I know about the year 1598, sixty years after the Spanish first arrived in the Southwest, when expedition leader Don Juan de Oñate declared all Pueblo people subjects of the Spanish monarch. At Acoma Pueblo, the warriors refused to submit to the declaration and killed thirteen Spanish soldiers. In response, the Spanish army killed hundreds of Acoma people and amputated one foot of each of the male prisoners who were over the age of twenty-five.
More importantly, I now understand how the histories of colonization connect to the present and how Native peoples were able to survive and move on. For example, when the Spanish didn’t leave the Southwest, Pueblo people learned to shroud native religion in Catholicism to appease the Spanish throne and used Catholic holy days to practice traditional ways.
This kind of creative response still lives today in Native communities across the nation, as members participate in both their traditional culture and contemporary society. I’ve met people who are active in federal institutions and traditional tribal governments, tribes and nonnative communities, urban law firms and rural-economic-development initiatives, language-preservation projects and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, traditional drumming and singing groups and Native reggae bands. They have learned to make many worlds work as one.
In May, as the United States was bombing the land and people of Iraq with promises of liberation, sovereignty over land and culture took on another layer of meaning. I attended a celebration at Sandia Pueblo for legislation recently signed into law to protect Sandia Mountain.
The mountain is sacred to the people of Sandia Pueblo. They have lived in a community at its base, thirteen miles north of Albuquerque, for the past seven hundred years and have maintained ownership of most of the mountain's western face.
The legislation is a result of collaboration and long negotiation with New Mexico congressional representatives, the federal government, and an area home-owners’ group. The new law allows Sandia Pueblo to regain control of Sandia Mountain land that was excluded from its control by a now invalid 1859 U.S. Interior Department survey.
Pueblo member J. R. Trujillo explained the importance of the new legislation: “We always face the mountain when we pray. . . .It is just like an altar to us. . .where we greet the sun coming out. We believe that the spirit is there that will grant us all our lives. After all, it’s the spirit that any nation, any people believe in, and it’s the spirit that gives life.”
In a time when the United States is engaged in the violence of empire building abroad, I am glad to have driven under the shadow of Sandia Mountain every day on my way to work, along the Rio Grande, where Native communities live today.
Katy June-Friesen, a 2002 English graduate, was an Americorps VISTA volunteer and public-information associate for Americans for Indian Opportunity from fall 2002 through summer 2003. Founded by LaDonna Harris (Comanche) in 1970, AIO is a national nonprofit organization based at the Santa Ana Pueblo Indian reservation. June-Friesen is now a graduate student in the literary and cultural studies program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.