The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

THE GAUNTLET

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The Gauntlet - Illustration İRudi Klimpert

letters, opinions, editorials

The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.

re: Sandoval County broadband project (excerpted from a letter to the county manager)

My partners and I own Higher Speed Internet, a small business located in Placitas. As you may know, we are a wireless Internet Service Provider serving Placitas, Bernalillo, and Northern Rio Rancho as well as the East Mountains. We have been very recently getting up to speed on the County’s Broadband Wireless Project. We are opposed to this effort on numerous levels, the most obvious one being that tax-payer dollars are being used to fund a private business that will be in direct competition with us—the ultimate slap in the face to a small business struggling to survive.

I’ve attached a PDF which lays out a very strong case against municipal (and municipal funded) wi-fi networks. It is lengthy, but I would encourage you and the commissioners to read it.
As you may be aware, 14 states have already passed bans or severe limitations on municipal wi-fi networks and more are sure to follow. Now that we know about this project, it is our intention to get involved and attempt to stop it or limit it. According to the press report I read, it appears that $250,000 has already been awarded. Some of the questions we intend to ask are:

1. What are the qualifications of the winning bidder (we can find no business history of Olla Grande or its parent corporation)?

2. Was there a competitive bid? If not, why not?

3. Did the winner post a performance bond and meet other County requirements for such a contract?

4. Is there/will there be a proper separation between the proposers of the project, the contractor, and the evaluators?

We believe the County did not adequately undertake a feasibility study for this project, weighing the risks and quantifying the expected return. We know Municipal Wi-Fi is ‘all the rage’ right now but the body count of failed muni wi-fi projects is already piling up.

If the County wants to build a wireless data network for first responders then great, do that. It would have to be an auto-forwarding ‘cellular based’ system, capable of maintaining the connection as the ambulance or the fire engine speeds through town. Wi-Fi does not do this. You may not know this, but wi-fi is like Citizen’s Band radio—the frequencies are used by everything from cordless phones, baby monitors, electric fences. Even microwave ovens can and will interfere with the signal. WI-FI is not appropriate for public safety and first responders. The FCC is making the 4.9Ghz spectrum available for this. Let me know if you would like more information on this.

If the County wants to bridge the ‘digital-divide’ then give the poor folks a voucher, and by the way, they’ll need you to give them a computer too—and a reason to use one.

I’m afraid the County has embarked on the next big boondoggle. The reasons to not do this are many and are backed up with hard to argue facts as the attached report clearly lays out. The reasons for doing it are likely well-intentioned but not properly researched and are of dubious value. I’m afraid you and the Commissioners have been sold a bill of goods.

We intend to invest considerable resources to fight this project, hold County officials accountable for every aspect of this project, and report what we find to the press, as well as enlisting other WISP’s, telco providers and State legislators.

—BOBBY BOUNDS, Placitas

re: county response to Bobby Bounds

County Manager Debbie Hays forwarded your recent email regarding Sandoval County WiFi to me.

The points you make are points which we have given serious consideration to in our preparation of a feasibility study. Yes, we did "adequately undertake a feasibility study for this project, weighing the risks and quantifying the expected return." Participating in the feasibility study were Intel, MIT, Sandia National Labs, Lido Group, Dandin Group, and Iziacom among others.

The pro's and cons of a broadband system were seriously considered.

All feasibility study participants realize that there are ill-advised applications of broadband being undertaken. But all participants in the feasibility study also realize that without significant stimulus the least populated areas of Sandoval County will be without meaningful broadband for many years to come.

Sandoval County has large education and healthcare needs which can be benefited by broadband access. Many of the most critical of these needs are in areas with sparse populations. These applications of broadband relate to profound realities within Sandoval County of needless deaths and extreme poverty, not merely faster internet service or the latest in entertainment.

County Commissioners have repeatedly stressed that the County is not becoming involved to compete with the private sector. However, Sandoval County is interested and becoming involved specifically because the private sector currently has little or no interest in the most sparsely populated areas of Sandoval County.

It is the objective of the Sandoval County broadband project to stimulate broadband into ALL areas of the County not just where there private sector interests are met. By doing so we plan to make it more feasible for the private sector to provide services to the entire County.

A main objective of the Sandoval County broadband Plan is for the County to completely extract itself from any involvement in broadband as soon as the private sector is serving all areas of the County.

We have worked hard to find a balance between accelerating access to critical broadband services for the most rural areas of the County and being of support to the private sector as this new industry seeks to gain a foot hold in Sandoval County. I do not claim infallibility in our plan, but the plan is thoughtful, brings many areas of expertise to the issues, and addresses many of the concerns you list.

—JONATHAN MANN, CEO, OLLA GRANDE

re: Blessings Day again a success

This year again the Optimist Club de Sandoval Blessings Day event was a huge success.

The spirit of giving generously is alive and well in Sandoval County due to these givers of time, money, and good will: Sandoval County Sheriffs Department, the Rotary Club of Bernalillo, Jardineros de Placitas, The Merc, Raley’s, Wal-Mart, Fano Breads, and our neighbors and friends who came to help on wrapping day.

This year the Optimists were able to provide thirty-one families, including seventy-six children, with toys, new clothing, gently used clothing, and food for the holidays.

We also want to thank Frank Hawks and Gary Miles for all the work that they did on the thirteen bicycles that were donated to the Town of Bernalillo in the name of "Bikes ‘Fur’ Kids." Thank you to all who participated, for without your generous donation of time and money this would not have happened.

—FRANCES STEPHENS, NANCY HAWKS, JULIE DIRKSEN, CHAIRWOMEN, OPTIMIST CLUB DE SANDOVAL

re: the “holiday” season

We sent holiday-greeting cards this year, following the example of President and Laura Bush, who sent out 1.4 million greeting cards wishing the recipients a happy holiday. It's not that I am anti-Christmas, and I am sure Mr. Bush is not either, as some might accuse us of being. It's just that, like the President, I am sympathetic to the fact that not all the people on our mailing lists celebrate Christmas.

The same people who until recently were outraged at the commercialization of Christmas by the large department-store chains are now doing a flip-flop and accusing the same stores of waging a war against Christmas, because like the President and me, they wish patrons happy holidays or season’s greetings.

Bill O’Reilly, of FOX News, who has a large and loyal group of followers, posts a list of companies on his Web site that don't say merry Christmas, but like myself and Mr. Bush, prefer to wish people happy holidays or season’s greetings. If you believe Bill—I don't, I know he is only funning us—you might actually be convinced that there is a plot against Christmas! Now I know that O'Reilly does not really believe that, because before it was brought to his attention by some rude Liberal bloggers, his employer, FOX News, was wishing all the visitors to their Web site happy holidays and selling Bill O'Reilly Holiday Tree Ornaments. See what I mean?

The winter solstice is for everybody to enjoy regardless of their religious beliefs (did you know that the tradition of bringing a green bough or small pine tree into the home on the winter solstice was a pagan tradition a long, long time B.C.?). This country was founded on the belief that you and I could practice our religion of choice without government interference. And although 70 percent of the country adheres to one form of Christianity or another, 30 percent, or three out of ten, do not. So let's all celebrate the season in whatever way brings us the most meaning. It is a season of joy, hope, and wonder, no matter how you choose to celebrate. Or at least it used to be.

—GARY W. PRIESTER, Placitas

re: breathing in Bernalillo

The week of [November] 21-29 turned out to be the worst vacation I've ever had. Two days after landing in Albuquerque I found myself with respiratory distress due to a "controlled burn" in the Bernalillo area. The fire may have been controlled but the fallout of smoke and air pollution was not.

While residents may or may not be accustomed to such acts and results, visitors like myself are not. Seven days of wearing a bandanna over my nose and mouth to breathe better was humiliating. My sister Ida Jaramillo, of Bernalillo, ended up caring for me instead of showing me the sights.

After my return to San Antonio I was placed on medication for a week, due to an acute sinus infection. Visitors to your area should be warned about the dust and "controlled burn" possibilities so that precautions may be taken. I would not have been insulted or put off by being offered a face mask at the airport (in case needed). To do less is to put the public at high risk, especially those who have invested their money and time in New Mexico.

—ALICE JACOBSON, San Antonio

re: does Placitas need a library?

As a Placitas resident and a taxpayer, I heard the news that the planned Placitas Library has received $350,000 in federal funding with great concern.

It seems that a very small minority decided for all of us that we need a library and not just any library either but a multi-million dollar massive library complex that would be the center of a new commercial development including a community center, café, etc.

I believe that one of the special things about Placitas is that we do not have or need any major commercial center such as planned with this library.

As a citizen of this community, I want the library organizers to stop spending public money immediately and put the question whether Placitans need/want a library on the next ballot. I want answers from the organizers to the following questions:

1. Why does Placitas need a library?
2. Who is the target audience for the library?
3. Who will pay for building the library?
4. What is the planned annual budget for operating the library?
5. Who will pay for operating the library?
6. What percentage of Placitas residents support the library?
7. What is the current level of participation in the existing library by Placitans?
8. How much land will be used for the library and who buys/provides it?
9. How much traffic will be generated by the library and other businesses around it?
10. Who will pay for the necessary road improvements?
11. What other development is planned along with the library in the near and long term?
12. Why can not the library continue to operate in the current, low-key, low -budget, low-traffic impact manner?
13. Why do we need any new large-scale commercial development in Placitas?
14. Why would you plan to locate a new commercial building anywhere else than the already existing Merc Village?
15. Why would you locate a library next to a fire station, where it will impede the rapid movement of emergency vehicles
16. Why can not you leave a beautiful place like Placitas alone, without your grandiose plans?

I would like to ask all Placitans to please start seriously thinking about what this library will mean to you. Please start asking your own questions and express your concerns and opinions before it is too late. Do not let the Placitas that we know and love disappear bit by bit forever by the actions of a few.

—B. ORBAN, Placitas

Editorial: An economy that defies rational analysis

—WALLY GORDON
The New Mexico economy seemingly defies logical analysis.
Here we are, either the poorest or almost the poorest state, and we have—hold your hats—a $1 billion surplus for the current and next fiscal years—the excess of income over present spending levels.

Friday morning, the most un-New Mexican of animals, a fat black pig, was contentedly munching grass on the edge of a small park near my house. Multiply this happy and sassy animal by 112 and you have a pretty good idea what the January session of the Legislature is going to look like.

Yet we are really as poor and undeveloped as we have always been. We didn’t do anything to earn that $1 billion. It just came rolling in of its own accord because of high oil and natural gas prices. New Mexico has a lot in common with those Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia that have huge amounts of money but no real economic development.

Such countries have money machines, not economies. They export irreplaceable natural resources, rake in lots of cash and spend it. When the cash goes away, as it inevitably will, they will be just as poor as they were two generations ago before the oil boom began.

What will New Mexico do when its oil and natural gas are depleted? True, we have two large investment funds, but the interest on those savings accounts is hardly likely to sustain the state even at the most miserly level of government services.

We do have one other thing going for us besides oil and natural gas: the federal government, that institution we love to hate even though it spends more money here, in relation to what we pay in taxes, than it does anywhere else.

The fruit of this federal largesse can be seen in the new U. S. Census figures released only last week. Los Alamos County, home to one of the state’s two national labs, has the highest per capita income in the nation—approximately twice the national average, three times the New Mexico average and four times that of New Mexico’s poorest county.

Yet the state ranks 46th in individual average income among the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

Los Alamos is one of only two New Mexico counties wealthier than the national average. The other is Sandoval, where most of the population has gathered in Rio Rancho, a city that has virtually no housing for the poor. Even then, Sandoval is only marginally above the national average.

The other wealthiest counties in New Mexico are tourist Santa Fe, urban Bernalillo, suburban Valencia and resource-rich San Juan (Farmington).

The remaining 27 of our 33 counties are below the state average. Torrance, No. 15, is about in the middle, with a per capita income of $29,701.

All these figures are for 2003, the most recent year available.
The stark contrast between Los Alamos with a per capita income of $93,000 and, at the bottom, Luna with $22,000 is typical of all the economic statistics for New Mexico.

We have a few very prosperous communities, where wealth is based on federal jobs and oil and gas, and we have lots of very poor—Hispanics and American Indians and Anglo ranchers and unskilled workers and illegal immigrants and single mothers and dropouts and service industry workers and on and on.

But what we don’t have much of is a real middle class, and the little that we do have does not do much for our economy, dependent as it is on either federal jobs or disappearing natural resources.

Over the past half century, since the nation geared up for the Cold War, federal military spending, particularly on nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union, has proven the bedrock of the state’s economy. No one seems to have asked what happens when it goes away, as some day, it must. How long, after all, can a deeply indebted federal government whose expenditures annually outstrip its income by hundreds of billions of dollars, afford the luxury of three national labs predominantly working on nuclear weapons that no longer have a target or even a rationale. They cannot be used, and there is no longer anyone to deter. Insanity can go on just so long.

So there you have the New Mexican economy, dependent on resources that are disappearing and jobs that will someday do so. Wal-Mart is its largest private employer. Although the state is still predominantly rural and agricultural, viable ranching and farming has almost disappeared. It does not have a single major corporate headquarters. The best of its youth goes elsewhere to find rewarding professions.

But we do have a $1 billion in loose change so let’s make hay while the sun shines. It won’t shine forever.

This article was originally printed in The Independent, December 7-13, 2005.

Raise New Mexico’s minimum wage to $7.50

—LYN WILSON-KING, New Mexicans For A Fair Wage
Editorial: New Mexico’s sagging wage floor needs to be fixed.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have already raised their state minimum wage to establish a wage floor above the federal minimum wage of $5.15. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe the federal minimum wage should be raised, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

We have an opportunity in the 2006 legislative session in New Mexico to take a very meaningful step towards expanding economic opportunity to all New Mexicans. Empowering Our Communities in New Mexico has joined a broad statewide coalition, New Mexicans For A Fair Wage, in calling for an increase in the state minimum wage to $7.50, indexed to inflation, so that it increases as the cost of living does, with no preemption of local wage ordinances, such as Santa Fe’s.

What better way to create a family- and business-friendly environment than to fix our poverty-wage floor?

Because our minimum wage is still so low, we need to take a significant step to make a difference to expand opportunity in our state. $7.50 is a significant step forward.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have increased their minimum wage. What’s happened? Have economies crumbled? Are low-income workers worse off? No.

Increasing the minimum wage has not slowed job growth in any state.

Let’s look at what happened in Santa Fe when the minimum wage was increased to $8.50. Job growth in Santa Fe’s hotel, restaurant, and “hospitality industry” has actually accelerated above job growth in other industries in Santa Fe. And the people receiving Santa Fe’s new minimum wage of $8.50 are mostly concentrated in the hospitality industry. So, not only is business not harmed by an increase in the minimum wage, it seems to be helped.

One hundred twenty-three thousand working New Mexicans and their children would directly benefit from a wage increase to $7.50 per hour. The extra money for medicine, food, school supplies, gasoline, home heating costs, and other essentials will mean the difference between deprivation and basic care for our families. The equation is simple: when the minimum wage goes up, poverty goes down.

The vast majority (about 80 percent) of the people who will benefit from an increase in New Mexico’s minimum wage are adults working full-time supporting a family. Nobody who works full-time should live in poverty.

Call your legislator today and tell him or her to vote yes to make work pay.

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