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The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
United States Department of Peace—it is time
"So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." —Martin Luther King, Jr.”
The United States government currently spends more than $1 billion a day on war and its preparation. During the course of the twentieth century, more than 100 million people perished in wars, and killing continues into this century.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a woman is battered every 15 seconds, and as many as seventy percent of children who witness domestic violence are themselves victims of abuse. The U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Status reports that there are thousands of reported cases of rape or sexual battery, robberies, and attacks or fighting among students with a weapon, as well as hundreds of thousands of counts of theft and larceny, and physical attacks or fighting without a weapon.
We are all aware of the pervasiveness of violence on this planet. It touches all of our lives in countless ways. We desperately want to see an end to this madness, yet we often feel helpless to make a change.
Now there is something we can all do to help usher in a new world of peace and social justice.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has introduced his brilliant bill into Congress, calling for the establishment of a U.S. cabinet-level Department of Peace, which seeks to make nonviolence an organizing principle in our society. Under the direction of the Secretary of Peace, the Department will focus on matters of alternatives to violence at home and abroad.
Internationally, the department will focus on nonmilitary peaceful conflict resolution, the prevention of violence, and the promotion of justice and expansion of human rights. The department will develop a peace education curriculum in cooperation with the Secretary of Education to be made available to local school districts. A Peace Academy, which will be modeled after military service academies, will provide a course of instruction in peace education followed by five years of public service in programs dedicated to domestic or International nonviolent conflict resolution, as well as provide grants for peace studies departments in colleges and universities.
There is much more contained in this bill, detailing policies that will address violence on all levels of society.
Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite supports the creation of a Deportment of Peace. In his syndicated column he writes: "There is an urgency in its adoption. In this dangerous world, where the strength of the United States is needed to keep the peace, we need a visible manifestation of our intention to play that role, without the arrogance that costs us friends and allies among nations and peoples of the world ... It is an idea that deserves our attention. We can hope that Kucinich and those who are pioneers in supporting his bill stay the course and redouble their efforts."
Please help us to bring about awareness of the Department of Peace. Visit the Web site at www.departmentofpeace.us for more information about the bill and to learn how you can help.
Contact your Congress members and ask them to support the Department of Peace legislation, H.R. 1673 (soon to be renamed).
And please, keep peace and hope alive in your hearts. As Dennis Kucinich says in the introduction of his bill: "The time has come to revive age-old challenges with new thinking wherein we can conceive of peace as not simply being the absence of violence, but the active presence of the capacity for a higher evolution of the human awareness, of respect, trust, and integrity; wherein we all may tap the infinite capabilities of humanity to transform consciousness and conditions which compel violence ... toward developing a new understanding of, and a commitment to, compassion and love."
Mary Steigerwald lives and works with her family in the mountains above Truchas, where they operate the Edge Habitat Wilderness Retreat, as well as a solar- and horse-powered logging operation and an organic farm.
re: thank you for the gifts for our children
On behalf of the staff and clients from Bound for Success, operating Nearly New–A Repeat Boutique and the Gold Mentors Program, we want to thank all the generous ladies who donated over 100 toys to our agencies to be distributed amongst our families who otherwise wouldn't have been able to celebrate Christmas!
The generosity and compassion of five women—Tamarra S., Susan U, Diane E, Linda H, Renee E—and their combined circle of friends has evolved into the second annual giving of gifts that benefit those less fortunate in Sandoval County. Every child on our lists received an age-appropriate gift! Even Santa doesn't have that kind of skill!
It is truly amazing what a handful of women, a handful of caring people, can do to make the world a better place. We believe that people can change the world one unseen, unsung, unrecognized kindness at a time. Thank you for proving us right.
re: recall county commissioners
Looks like we need to recall all but one county commissioner! The ones that voted to spend all that money on a train need to be doing something else besides spending our money on that train or being commissioners!
I work in Albuquerque at TVI Montoya. If I commute by my tax-paid train to Albuquerque, how the heck do I get to Montgomery and Pennsylvania from the station within a reasonable time? The commissioners should look at things like this before they commit to Bill's newest pie in the sky. Look what happened to his pie on November 2nd ...
re: divert trucks from new highway in Enchanted Hills; an open letter to Governor Bill Richardson
Dear Honorable Governor Richardson,
Thank you for the recent attention you have given to the City of Rio Rancho. Our ability to help New Mexico and our city to move forward has been enhanced due to your recent visits.
We live in a dynamic and rapidly changing city. Our transportation needs are great. The residents of Enchanted Hills have been severely mistreated in the process of dealing with these transportation issues. Paseo Del Volcan has been the ever-present thorn in the side of the city. Our associations' efforts have been focused on finding a mutually agreeable solution to the problem of dividing our neighborhood. We purchased our homes under the deception that no new highways would be built in our area. The developer failed to disclose to homeowners that an 8 lane freeway would be built 60 feet from bedroom walls. The Transportation Department of New Mexico held a meeting in which 198 out of 200 people requested a better alignment. No deal. The Rio Rancho Public School Board passed a resolution opposing the present alignment. The Public Involvement committee from the Mid Region Council of Government's Metropolitan Transportation Board passed an amendment to the Strategic Transportation Improvement Program that asked the Federal Delegation to help mediate a settlement between the city and our organization.
I am writing because our organization believes that we have an answer that could avoid ugly litigation. Please consider a request that Councilor Mike Williams has sent the Federal Highway Administration to allow trucks to be diverted away from our neighborhood down Idalia to New Mexico 528. This will not require a new alignment. It would allow the roadway to be built in Enchanted Hills with appropriate sound and noise pollution protections. This will allow the federal dollars to be spent without litigation. This would allow Mr. Williams to work a compromise that would not have been possible without his assistance.
Numerous times we have rejected calls for lawsuits because we want to work within the system. You can grant us the access that 2 mayors and 2 different councils have denied us.
Please contact me so that we can discuss how to get the infrastructure we need without penalty to anyone.
—Todd R. Hathorne
and unanimous endorsement of the Board, President,
Enchanted Hills Homeowners' Association
re: distribution of Placitas/LaMadera's $8.25 million portion of the $55 million Intel IR bond
(as of 12/4/2004)
Project Location Expenditure Percent
Sports Arena Rio Rancho 1.2 Million 15%
Heavy Rail Project Bernalillo 1.5 Million 18%
Mass Transit Rio Rancho 0.9 Million 12%
Pipeline Road Cabezon 0.16 Million 2%
County Debt Service -- 0.75 Million 9%
Infrastructure Fund -- 1.8 Million 20%
County Broadband -- 0.3 Million 4%
County Fair Cuba 0.3 Million 4%
County Buildings Bernalillo 0.3 Million 4%
Placitas Library Land Placitas 0.14 Million 2%
Total Expenditure: 7.4 Million (90%)
—Prepared by Charles Mellon
This table shows how the $8.25 million of the Intel Bond that should be dedicated to Placitas is being spent. So far, only $140,000 for library land is actually being spent in Placitas. Eighty-eight percent of allocated money for Placitas is being spent on projects outside of Placitas.
re: an open letter to County Commissioners regarding funding for a new charter school in Placitas
December 16, 2004
Re: Village Academy Charter School
This letter is to request agenda time to present a funding request for the Village Academy Charter School. Having been unanimously approved by the Bernalillo Public School Board on November 22, 2004 the Village Academy will open August of 2005 to serve families and children of Sandoval County. We anticipate serving the residents of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, all area Pueblos and the families of Placitas, where we will be located.
Our school will relieve some of the overcrowding in Rio Rancho as well as Bernalillo schools and provide choices for our area residents. Eventually, our school will serve 270 students each year. As a publicly funded facility, we can operate during summers to provide programing and enrichment opportunities that help our working families and eager children. The school is important to us in Placitas and to a much wider Sandoval County area.
Several area developers and members of our advisory council have suggestions and will guide us through the process of securing land in Placitas. We are, however, in need of construction funds. Unlike school districts, charter schools do not receive state funds that cover the cost of new construction, only operation monies.
We have developed a budget for our school's construction of $5 million dollars. We request $2 million of that from the Intel Industrial Revenue Bond money, which is less than four percent of the total Bond.
I very much appreciate your thoughtful consideration of our request and participation in our new public school.
Interim Governance Council
Village Academy Charter School
cc: Kathy McCoy, State Representative, via e-mail
Albuquerque Journal, Rio Rancho Edition
Sandoval Signpost, via e-mail
Sandoval Sentinel, via e-mail
It’s the West’s turn to call the shots
I was recently invited to a seminar at a university whose thesis might be considered insulting.
The American West, said the invitation, "lacks an intellectual, cultural or social presence within either the country or the continent. Eastern publishers, Eastern intellectual centers and agencies, public and private, based in Washington, D.C., still provide the authoritative voices on Western matters."
In other words, if the American West were slightly more advanced, it might qualify as a backwater.
If this is true of the part of the West that includes Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, imagine how true it is of the interior West of Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
These big-box states are, in many ways, worse off than other out-of-it places like Oklahoma, Arkansas and West Virginia: Half of the Western states are federal land administered by agencies based in the East.
It is usually said that the interior West is a colony of the federal government. Unfortunately, our former colonial master has lost interest in the West, and is now chasing new colonies in Iraq, the "Stans" and the Ukraine. That we are a cast-off colony -- a first-wives’ region -- means the feds no longer subsidize our dams or the logging of our matchstick-sized trees, or the building of nuclear weapons here.
Therefore, we should be in an economic depression. Instead, even in a five-year drought, this once-rural region is booming. I think that’s because we have glorious national parks such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Glacier. Visitors get a taste for these landscapes and then find that they can own their own little national park, or at least a national monument. So it is our fate that millions of Americans are moving here, bringing equity and pensions to this aspiring backwater.
As a result, the pretty West is making do. But will this transfer of wealth halt when the last "unspoiled" valley is spoiled?
Of course, lots of places don’t even have this much of a future. But sometimes, no-account regions rise up. According to Joseph Ellis’s "His Excellency," a biography of George Washington, the American revolution really started when Washington realized he was keeping himself in poverty by aping the British nobility’s pricey way of life.
Washington urged his countrymen to produce their own goods to free themselves from English imports. In the end, of course, the scorned, culture-less colonies triumphed and came to dominate the English-speaking world. They succeeded because the colonists had, in addition to several million square-miles of land at their backs, aggression, pride and a genius for politics.
Might the land-rich and culture-poor interior West also be the seed of change that ripens within the current American empire?
There are signs. This spring, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson organized an international meeting on energy for western Canada, western Mexico and the western United States. Richardson wants to weld the western portion of North America using our common stores of energy — both the fossil kind and the renewable kind — to bring us together.
I don’t know if the governor was asked by John Kerry to be his running mate. But if Richardson was asked and turned Kerry down, it might be because he thinks putting together the western chunks of three nations is more important than becoming vice president of a declining imperial government.
This is not about revolution, of course. It is about the filling of a vacuum created by the federal government’s decision to ignore a large chunk of the nation in order to go off on foreign adventures. Patriotism will carry those adventures for awhile. Yet in the end, the United States is a very practical, bottom-line nation.
The correction to this adventuring should have come from the Blue States, but despite the presence in their midst of Harvard, The New York Times and herds of intellectuals, they have proven more tone-deaf to America than the present administration.
So it is up to the West, whether led by Richardson, California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid, to figure out what’s more important to America — nation-building far from home or building energy independence.
Ed Marston is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org) where he lives and writes.
Reevaluating our choices
—Think New Mexico
Public school budgets are zero-sum games. Every dollar spent outside of the classroom is a dollar less for instruction. Every dollar saved is another dollar that can be invested in prekindergarten, an education reform with proven, positive results.
Every day in every part of the educational system in New Mexico, adult administrators make budget choices that directly impact the hundreds of thousands of children that they are entrusted to care for and to educate. In this report we have sought to make those choices explicit.
Abundant evidence demonstrates that high quality prekindergarten classes would improve our children's school readiness, enhance their language, math, and social skills, and better prepare them to succeed for the rest of their lives. Yet we are choosing to spend our dollars on lower priorities.
Consider, for example, the disparities in administrative spending across districts. Santa Fe spends more than four times what Gadsden does on communications (i.e. telephone, fax, internet) despite having a nearly identical student enrollment. Central Consolidated Schools in Shiprock spends more than twice what Clovis does on travel, despite enrolling fewer students. Six districts have budgeted a total of $228,000 for lobbyists this year, according to contracts we obtained through Inspection of Public Records Act requests. These expenditures, if redirected, could make prekindergarten available to another 200 students. The net effect of these budget choices, along with the others in this report, has been New Mexico's last place ranking for the percentage of each dollar spent on education that reaches the classroom. These choices are also reflected in our student test scores, which rank at the bottom nationally.
Too much of New Mexico's school system is organized around the convenience of adults rather than the needs of children. If New Mexico is going to lift itself up in these national rankings, this is where the change needs to begin.
By fully harnessing the enormous buying power represented by New Mexico's more than 300,000 public school students, by restructuring districts that have consistently failed their students and failed to properly account for taxpayer dollars, by modernizing our energy practices, and by streamlining state and district administration, we can immediately improve our public schools. At the same time we can begin to make prekindergarten available to every child in New Mexico.
Some will argue that New Mexico cannot afford prekindergarten's $90 million price tag. However, our report has identified nearly $96 million of savings from administration and support services that could be gradually reallocated to phase in prekindergarten over the next decade. It should be noted that the savings we have identified in this report are only a starting point.
Beyond providing prekindergarten, additional savings should be invested in the rest of the K-12 system on a restricted grant basis to be used solely for investments that have been shown to increase student achievement-such as well-stocked and staffed libraries, adequate classroom supplies and summer remediation classes.
The reforms outlined in this report would result in net job creation. As administrators would be lost through attrition, more than 2,000 new teaching positions would be created across New Mexico.
It may be argued that these reforms are too politically challenging to implement. However, executive officers and legislators have been able to achieve reforms like these in other states. Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, South Carolina, and Virginia all have ongoing campaigns to drive dollars down to the classrooms and are realizing real savings every day. As early as 1993, the Texas State Auditor's Office found that $185 million could be saved annually by cutting travel expenses, buying cheaper supplies, soliciting bids for services, reducing excessive staff and salaries and eliminating overly generous benefits. If other states can move dollars from administration to the classroom, so can New Mexico.
New Mexico ranks first in the nation for child poverty and 46th for child health and well-being. Our state cannot afford to squander our education dollars. New Mexico's children deserve—and our economic future demands-the best education we can provide, including high quality, voluntary prekindergarten classes. The time has come to redesign public education in New Mexico and put the needs of our children first.
For the full 2004 report, Re-Allocating Resources: How to Pay for Voluntary Prekindergarten for Four-Year-Olds Without Raising Taxes, visit www.ThinkNewMexico.org or call 505-992-1314.
Reprinted with permission from Think New Mexico, Fall 2004.