The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Free-roaming horses

Free-roaming horses

Mel Sloan, Bill Lumm, and Sil Biggs clear brush and repair a fence

Mel Sloan, Bill Lumm, and Sil Biggs clear brush and repair a fence
to keep free-roaming horses out of a Placitas subdivision.

A mustang grazes in Placitas

A mustang grazes in Placitas

Wild horses temporarily out of danger

Margo DeMello

Thanks to the work of dedicated horse lovers, it seems that the wild horses of Placitas may be out of danger, at least for now.

Since we last reported on the status and plight of the horses, in October, there have been a number of new developments.

Representatives of the Wild Horse Observers Association and neighbors from the La Mesa and Sundance subdivisions have had a number of meetings with representatives of the Bureau of Land Management. Tom Gow of the Albuquerque office of BLM has accepted WHOA's affidavits and other materials that WHOA claims prove that the horses are wild and should be protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. While BLM officials have not yet ruled on WHOA's materials, they have agreed to let WHOA take some action now to protect the horses—and the public—from danger.

Currently, the remaining horses wander through BLM Land and the Albuquerque Open Space, both of which are separated from the La Mesa and Sundance subdivisions, as well as the frontage road paralleling I-25, by old fencing. However, portions of the fence have fallen down due to years of wear and tear; additionally, one section was moved to keep cattle from overgrazing. Because of the open sections, the horses have been able to enter the subdivisions and, more alarmingly, the frontage road.

In fact, horses have been seen on the frontage road at least once in the past couple of weeks, and a group of concerned neighbors fixed one section of broken fence along the Santa Ana reservation border and chased the horses back to safety.

Because of the dangers of drivers hitting horses (or cattle) that might wander onto the road, the BLM agreed to let WHOA reconstitute one two-thousand-foot section of the fence that separates BLM and Open Space land from La Mesa. WHOA is paying about $2,000 for the materials, and La Mesa resident Mel Sloan not only did the legwork of researching the property boundaries but also generously donated $1,000 to pay for the labor. Tom Ashe and the Las Placitas Association threw their support behind the project. The rebuilt fencing is considered temporary and would not impact the La Mesa or Sundance subdivisions' plans to build permanent fencing closer to the subdivisions. The repair work began on December 17.

While WHOA would have preferred to wait until the subdivisions built their own fences, which would have given the horses more space, public-safety concerns demanded that something be done now.

But the horses are not out of the woods yet. BLM officials plan to start informal meetings with subdivision residents to gauge interest in creating a new resource-management plan for the entire five thousand acres, as well as for other lands in BLM’s jurisdiction. WHOA members and many residents hope this new plan will include a permanent wild-horse sanctuary.

So far the BLM's requests for funding the RMP have been turned down, and they continue to work on it as they can. In the meantime, WHOA has found a way that privately raised funds could be funneled to this effort. While a new RMP could be costly if funded by the residents of Sandoval County, a new RMP (regardless of whether a horse sanctuary is included) may be the only way to provide for permanent open space surrounding Placitas, and to keep gas, oil, gravel operations, and further housing developments out.

Placitas residents—regardless of their feelings about the horses—will want to stay tuned to hear more about the long-range plans for the space surrounding our community and what they can do to impact them.


Capulin Snow Play Area now open for the winter

The Capulin Snow Play Area, approximately eight miles up the Sandia Crest National Scenic Byway (Highway 536), is open for the season.

Through January 9, the area will be open Wednesdays through Sundays; from January 10 through March 13, it will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Inclement weather or lack of snow may result in temporary closure.

A Sandia parking permit is required. Daily parking permits cost $3 per vehicle ($10 per vehicle with capacity of fifteen or more). Self-issue parking-fee envelopes are available on site. The Sandia Annual Parking Pass will be honored and can be purchased for $30 at the Sandia Ranger Station in Tijeras, the Cibola National Forest supervisor’s office, REI, Charlie’s Sporting Goods, Two Wheel Drive, and all eight Wal-Mart sporting-goods departments. All of these stores are located in metropolitan Albuquerque. Annual passes are valid for twelve months from month of purchase. Income from fees and passes helps with snow removal and site maintenance.

Visitors need to bring their own inner tubes or soft sliding devices with no metal or wood components. Rental equipment is not available at the Capulin Snow Play Area. Remember that gates are locked at 4:00 p.m..

The following are prohibited at Capulin Snow Play Area:

  • Skis, sleds (with wood, metal, or other hard materials), snowboards
  • Careless or reckless sliding
  • Sliding out of the defined area
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Glass containers

Please note: Sliding, sledding, and tubing are prohibited at Tree Springs, 10K, and “Pit” areas.


Be aware that there are elements of risk in snow-play activities that common sense and awareness can reduce.

  • Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep out of closed areas.
  • Before starting downhill, look above, below, and to the side; yield to others.
  • People below you have the right-of-way; it is your responsibility to avoid them
  • Maintain control in order to avoid other people and objects (rocks, trees, etc.)
  • Do not stop where you obstruct a slope or are not visible from above.

For more information, contact the Sandia Ranger District at 281-3304.


State food tax repealed effective January 1

Think New Mexico

Information on the Food Tax and Its Repeal:

  • New Mexico’s food tax was enacted in 1933 as part of a “temporary” and “emergency” measure to compensate for a severe shortfall in government revenues from property taxes that resulted from the Great Depression. (In 1930, Mississippi became the first state to enact a food tax.)
  • Since 1933, New Mexico’s food tax has more than doubled from its original rate of 2.5 percent. Currently, it ranges from 5.125 percent in the unincorporated areas of Catron County to 7.25 percent in Red River and Taos Ski Valley.
  • In 1958, a quarter of a century after New Mexico’s food tax began, forty-one states taxed food.
  • Between 1958 and 2004, states have moved steadily in the direction of exempting food from tax. In the past decade alone, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia have acted to phase out, reduce, or repeal their taxes on food.
  • With the implementation of New Mexico’s food tax, only seven states still fully tax food (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, Hawaii, and Utah).
  • Food-tax revenue in New Mexico has grown at a rate of only 1.7 percent annually over the past decade, while state spending has grown at close to 5 percent annually, according to the state Taxation and Revenue Department. This has made the food tax an increasingly weak foundation on which to base essential public services.
  • New Mexicans will save about $6.50 on every $100 of groceries they buy. That represents an annual tax savings of nearly $250 for the average working family of four.

Think New Mexico, an independent, statewide, results-oriented think tank serving the citizens of New Mexico, has been working for the repeal of the food tax since the release of its 2001 policy report Why New Mexico Needs to End the Food Tax and How to Do It.


El Rinconcito español


Año nuevo, vida nueva.
(New year, new life.)

Quien a una bestia hace mal es mas bestia que el animal.
(He who treats a beast badly is more beast than the animal.)

Del poeta y del loco todos tenemos un poco.
(Of the poet and of the lunatic, we all have a bit.)

Submitted by SOS-panyol—Spanish instruction that focuses on oral communication skills.


AG encourages New Mexicans to order free credit report

Attorney General Patricia Madrid is encouraging New Mexicans to order a free copy of their credit report.

Following an amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, each of the nationwide credit bureaus must provide consumers with a free report every twelve months.

"Your credit report is your property," said Madrid. "It's vitally important that you know what it's saying to those who might be considering offering credit or a loan to you. You need to look at your credit report to see not only the information that it contains about your purchasing and payment history but also to uncover any errors that it might contain that could be damaging to your credit score."

The three nationwide credit bureaus—Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian—have established a single Web site,, where consumers can review and print their free report.

Madrid warned, "Do not be taken in by other Web sites that claim to offer free credit reports, because they are making a sales pitch to consumers for an expensive credit monitoring service."

Consumers should check their reports for indications of identity theft, such as incorrect addresses, credit inquiries from distant places, and indications of delinquent payments.

Furthermore, research shows that one in four credit reports contains an error. These errors, if not corrected, could lead to consumers’ being denied credit cards and home loans. In the past few years, credit card companies have been increasing customers’ rates at the slightest indication of a late payment elsewhere or simply our of concern that a customer has taken on too much debt.

For a reasonable fee, consumers can also see their FICO scores.

"The FICO score can determine the interest rate a consumer will pay for their loans, their mortgages, their insurance rates, and even whether or not he or she will get a job or be eligible for housing," commented Madrid.

Consumers may also order their free credit report by calling (877) 322-8228 or writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.


Forbes ranking no cause for celebration

Maggie Adams

Amidst the recent fanfare over Albuquerque’s 12th place ranking on the Forbes magazine survey of Best Places for Business and Careers, there was a distinct lack of critical thinking in the local media or by policy makers about the list’s negative implications. To many progressive thinkers, this silence fit in with a pattern we see all the time in Albuquerque: that when it comes to economic development, corporate recruitment is the name of the game, often at the expense of local workers.

The Forbes survey looked at indicators like business cost, living expenses, crime rate, educational attainment, and job growth – pretty basic stuff. But it’s how Albuquerque measured up that is so problematic. Three of the indicators had Albuquerque ranked as number one out of 150 cities. No, not in the food, weather, and culture categories. Albuquerque had the lowest labor costs, lowest taxes, and lowest office space costs in the country.

Breaking down Forbes’ definition of “labor costs” helps us understand the danger of our 12th place ranking. Albuquerque’s #1 labor cost ranking was made possible by the city’s low wages, low benefits, and companies’ large subsidy packages. The fact that our city pays wages 25 percent lower than the national average should be an embarrassment to our policy makers, not a point of pride. Equally troubling is another indicator in which Albuquerque ranked nearly last—in the income growth category, the city placed 115th out of 150. What do these rankings tell out-of-state companies? They tell them that when they’re looking to ditch their current home and flee to a place where more profit is possible, Albuquerque is the place to go. This list tells profit-driven companies that in Albuquerque living wages aren’t necessary, and that city leaders won’t demand good benefit packages or expect workers’ salaries to increase over time.

If our government won’t demand higher wages and better benefits for us, and most corporations clearly won’t offer it without being made to, the burden of shaping the future of economic development in Albuquerque is placed upon us. By staying on top of economic development policy in the city, by taking part in city initiatives like the recent economic development summit, by starting businesses and partnerships—or enabling others to do so—and by demanding change, we can help shape a better future.

So what would a more progressive economic development approach look like? First, it would stop considering economic development as out-of-state corporate recruitment alone. It would focus on building current local strengths and discovering valuable untapped resources. Rather than planning for future imported residents, a better economic development strategy would consider current New Mexicans first. Good economic development comes from the perspective of citizens—what dreams they have for the future, the type of work they would like to do, the kind of communities they want to build—and it would help make it a reality for them, not at their expense.

A holistic economic development strategy would look at more than the workplace; it would consider the quality of life for its residents. How affordable is their housing? How good are their kids’ schools? How up-to-date are their job skills? How long do they have to travel for work each day? How far does their hourly wage or salary go? All of these factors work together to create a vibrant economy.

The Forbes list is nothing new, it’s just more of the same. But times are changing in Albuquerque. More than ever, residents are seeing that when we recruit placeless companies, we risk our future. We understand better than ever that permanence, cultural importance, and community mindedness comes from within. This summer’s exodus of an MCI call center (and 800 jobs along with it) proves the fallacy of banking on corporations that can come and go at will.

As we see these heartbreaks in our community and in the lives of local workers, the need for a new direction is painfully obvious. Thanks in part to the longtime efforts of SouthWest Organizing Project, Albuquerque has finally begun to revise its IRB (industrial revenue bond) policy. And the city recently demanded and received a payback settlement from Phillips Corporation, who left town, much like MCI years ago. Both point to positive change and leave us hoping for more.

In the meantime, let’s try to get our city onto a different type of list, one that treasures local values and quality of life for its workers. And despite everyone else’s excitement about Albuquerque’s 12th place Forbes ranking, let’s hope that we won’t be known for low labor costs very much longer.

Maggie Adams is a graduate student at UNM: Community and Regional Planning Program.

Printed with permission from Voces Unidas, SouthWest Organizing Project, Summer 2004.






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