Patricia Dawkins of Placitas visits with Governor Bill Richardson after a
town-hall meeting in Bernalillo. The governor spent about an hour discussing
his programs, taking questions, and talking informally with area residents.
Governor Richardson holds town hall in Bernalillo
As the town hall meeting continued, the workload grew for Governor Bill Richardson’s staff.
With each issue raised by a Sandoval County resident—land for Coronado State Park, trails in the bosque, European-style DWI penalties, and lack of high-speed Internet communication—Richardson directed a staff member to follow up. Even First Lady Barbara Richardson, who did not attend the June 9 meeting in Bernalillo, will be hearing about funding for domestic-violence programs, one of her pet issues.
“A lot of citizens have good ideas,” Richardson said while discussing water projects. “We’re interested in getting ideas from citizens.”
And there was no shortage of suggestions from the nearly one hundred residents, including many elected officials, who packed the Sandoval County Commission chambers. The public session lasted forty-five minutes, with Richardson taking another fifteen minutes to meet briefly with individuals.
In his opening remarks, Richardson listed state money flowing to area projects and touted plans to begin commuter rail service as a boon to Bernalillo and the county in general. Two sites are under consideration for the Bernalillo station, he said, one at the park-and-ride lot on South Hill Road near U.S. 550 and another closer to downtown.
“This is going to revive this community,” county commission chairman Daymon Ely said.
Tony Lucero, chairman of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation, thanked Richardson and the Legislature for the $195,000 spent on bosque restoration to reduce fire danger and water waste. More money is needed, however, to continue removing nonnative trees and plants, he said.
“You brought Indian, city, and county expertise together,” the governor responded. “That’s what makes a good project.”
He also urged local officials to get funding requests in early for consideration when the Legislature convenes in January.
The governor responded coolly to the suggestion the state adopt DWI penalties said to be used by some European countries. Those range from a lifetime loss of driving privileges for a first offense in one country to execution for a second offense in another.
“That’s a pretty extreme measure,” Richardson said. “We’re making progress, but it’s slow.”
The governor also heard:
A request to support adding University of New Mexico land to Coronado State Monument instead of letting UNM sell the property.
A plea for funding to upgrade Bernalillo’s aging wastewater plan.
Commentary on the need for widely available high-speed digital communication as a tool for education and economic development.
Thanks for supporting the MainStreet and senior citizen programs in Bernalillo and the Casa San Ysidro museum in Corrales and for signing legislation toughening regulation of pipelines.
(l. to r.) Bernalillo Police Department officers Josh Anderson, Sergeant Chris Stoyell, and Officers Anthony Ortega, Diane Dosal, and Darrell Sanchez during recommissioning ceremony.
Police officers take oath
Nine officers from the Bernalillo Police Department repeated the oath of office administered by magistrate judge Mary Humphries in June. The annual ceremony recommissioned Sergeant Pete Ulibarri, Officer Josh Anderson, Sergeant Chris Stoyell, and Officers Anthony Ortega, Diane Dosal, Darrell Sanchez, Danny Sandoval, Mark Aragon, and Eric Gonzales. The department currently is three officers short of its authorized fifteen and is advertising to fill those positions.
Tribe and county reach deal on bonds, EMS
Two loosely related deals signal a new spirit of cooperation between Santa Ana Pueblo and Sandoval County, according to tribal and county leaders.
One agreement allows the pueblo to refinance debt from building its casino and resort by issuing up to $75 million in bonds through the county. The other creates a formal relationship between the county and pueblo for emergency and other public services.
“This is a new era in Sandoval County,” county commission chairman Daymon Ely said. “We now have a partnership with Santa Ana.”
Under the services agreement, the pueblo will pay the county $150,000 a year and lease it land for a fire station. Santa Ana contributed about $76,000 to the county for emergency medical services this year, with the increased amount largely reflecting what the pueblo would pay if it were subject to the new county EMS tax.
Ely, however, says a $500 payment is equally important since it will make Santa Ana a member of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. MRCOG is the lead agency on the new commuter-rail project and will determine where the trains stop, he said.
“It’s important that Santa Ana be at the table if trains are to stop at their property,” Ely said. He added Santa Ana also agreed to at least discuss a new highway through tribal land from I-25 across the Rio Grande to US 550 and the planned Northwest Loop to I-40 west of Rio Rancho.
The Santa Ana Tribal Council approved the agreement before it was presented to the county.
“At the time we first started, I said this was a win-win for both parties,” Santa Ana Governor Milton Armijo said. “This is going to be a service to both parties.”
The bond deal, in the works since last year, comes at a critical time for Santa Ana, county bond attorney Tommy Hughes told commissioners at their June 17 meeting.
“Santa Ana is under a serious time limit of June 30 to pay off the underlying debt,” Hughes said. “We anticipate closing on the bonds on June 29.”
Commissioners approved the bond sale, however, without knowing what the total amount will be. The pueblo initially requested $75 million, but Hughes said the final figure will be closer to $65 million and possibly as low as $50 million if a federal loan comes through.
Commissioner David Bency included an earlier ordinance stating the pueblo and not the county is responsible for repaying the bonds—before the commission authorized Ely to sign the sale documents when the final amount is determined.
The county will receive one-eighth of one percent of the final sale amount as an administrative fee. The service and bond agreements are connected in that the pueblo won’t be liable for its annual $150,000 payment if the bond deal falls through.
Bernalillo Town Council tackles local issues
The town of Bernalillo won free advertising but failed in its efforts to remove a billboard along I-25.
At its June 14 meeting, the Bernalillo Town Council agreed to settle a lawsuit threatened by Clear Channel Outdoor over the billboard west of I-25 between the north and south Bernalillo exits. The company replaced a wooden sign with a steel-supported structure about three years ago and threatened to sue when the town refused a permit for it.
A town ordinance bans new billboards, but this one “crept in,” according to Mayor Charles Aguilar. Town administrator Lester Swindle added the town’s legal position was undercut by a lack of records on the original billboard and a purported variance granted for the replacement.
Under the settlement, Clear Channel dropped the height of the billboard to forty feet as required by ordinance, reduced its size to three hundred square feet and removed the lighting. Clear Channel also gave one side of it to the town to advertise itself and local events and agreed to change that sign once a year.
Additionally, Clear Channel will provide one month of advertising on three billboards in Albuquerque for the town. The town failed to get Clear Channel to agree to remove the Bernalillo billboard at some point in the future.
“It’s the best we could do under the circumstances, and ultimately it’s a good agreement,” Aguilar said. He estimated the value of advertising the town at $15,000.
At the same meeting, councilors disbursed more than $25,000 in lodgers-tax money for promoting arts events, fiestas, the sheriff’s posse rodeo, and other advertising.
In other business, councilors also are tackling the town’s wastewater problem with a plan to borrow $500,000 from New Mexico Finance to begin mandated upgrades to the wastewater plant. The loan would be used to gain matching funds from the Army Corps of Engineers, which would then manage a $1.6 million overhaul of the aerator at the plant.
At the same time, town officials are preparing to ask the federal Environmental Protection Agency to extend the deadline to improve the effluent being discharged into the Rio Grande. Under a federal permit received earlier this year, the town has three years to remove arsenic, chlorine, and other chemicals from the effluent.
“Even if we had engineered plans in place and were ready to pull the trigger, we couldn’t meet the required time,” Swindle said. “And we don’t have $8 million in the bank.”
“That’s money we don’t have to pay back,” he said of the federal match. The town will repay the state loan from water and sewer charges, which were recently increased in anticipation of the coming projects.
Results of county primary elections
At least two new faces will appear on the Sandoval County Commission with the defeat of incumbent commissioner Elizabeth Johnson in the June 1 primary election.
Johnson, a Cuba resident finishing a four-year term in District 5, lost a three-way race in the Democrat primary to Joshua Madalena of Jemez Pueblo by thirty-six votes. Watson Castillo of Cuba finished a distant third.
Madalena faces no Republican opposition in the November 2 general election.
Incumbent District 4 commissioner Jack Thomas of Rio Rancho ran unopposed in the Democrat primary and will be challenged in November by Chris Espinosa, also of Rio Rancho, who defeated Victoria Dunlap, the current county clerk, in the Republican primary.
In District 2, commission chairman Daymon Ely, a Democrat, chose not to seek reelection. Competing to replace him are Democrat Donald Leonard and Corrales mayor Gary Kanin, a Republican, who ran unopposed in their primaries.
Other matchups for the November 2 election include:
- County Clerk: Democrat Sally Padilla, a former county clerk, vs. Republican Dianne Torrance.
- District Attorney: Incumbent Democrat Lemuel Martinez vs. Republican Pete Ross.
- District Judge: Democrat incumbent Violet Otero defeated two opponents and has no Republican opposition.
- State Senate: District 9, incumbent Senator Steve Komadina (R) unopposed; District 10, John Hooker (D) vs. John Christopher Ryan (R); District 19, incumbent Senator Kent Cravens (R) unopposed; District 22, incumbent Senator Leonard Tsosie (D) vs. Ernest Geros (R); District 23, Incumbent Senator Joseph Carrero (R) unopposed; District 39, incumbent Senator Phil Griego (D) vs. Al Lopez (R).
- State House: District 22, Kathy McCoy (R) unopposed; District 23, incumbent Representative Eric Youngberg (R) vs. Janet Blair (D); District 41, incumbent Representative Debbie Rodella (D) unopposed; District 43, incumbent Representative Jeannette Wallace (R) unopposed; District 44, incumbent Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R) unopposed; District 60, incumbent Representative Thomas Swisstack (D) vs. Glen Walters (R); District 65, incumbent Representative James Rodger Madalena (D) unopposed.
Kathy McCoy, State Representative in House District 22
Kathy McCoy to represent sprawling District 22
While other candidates stump hard for office, Kathy McCoy is settling into her new title: representative-elect.
In the June 1 primary election, the Sandia Park Republican gathered 52 percent of the vote in a three-way race, besting Mario Burgos of Cedar Crest and Charles Mellon of Placitas. With no Democrat filing in the primary, and barring an improbable write-in challenge, McCoy will take office in January representing House District 22.
The diverse district extends from Edgewood on I-40 in Santa Fe County through the East Mountains of Bernalillo County and into Sandoval County, taking in the area from La Madera and San Pedro Creek Estates through Placitas and stopping just short of Bernalillo. And throw in for good measure two precincts in Albuquerque’s Sandia Heights.
“Obviously my solid base was in East Mountains,” McCoy told the Signpost. “I’ve spent the last thirteen years working in the community here.
“I am determined to cover the entire district in the same way I’ve been working up here.”
To that end, McCoy is inviting residents to join an e-mail list by contacting her at email@example.com. She plans to broadcast information and requests for opinions as issues arise but also hopes people will contact her whenever they have something on their minds.
“Placitas logistically just happens to be the most difficult in district to stay in touch with,” McCoy said. “I don’t know many people there.”
Much of her previous contact involved the recent failed attempt to convert an idle crude-oil pipeline through Placitas and the East Mountains to carry gasoline. In conjunction with current District 22 Rep. Ron Godbey, she worked with Placitas-based Citizens for Safe Pipelines on new legislation to toughen pipeline regulation.
McCoy puts herself somewhere in the middle of the Republican spectrum.
“I certainly am not a liberal, but I have more moderate views about certain things,” she said. “I just don’t like government being in all these kind of moral issues.”
While opposed to same-sex marriages, McCoy said she supports civil unions to provide legal protections to committed couples. While she has heard nothing specific, she expects the issue to appear when the Legislature convenes in January.
McCoy also expects water and the archaic laws governing it to be a continuing issue and one upon which she wants to focus. Agriculture uses 86 percent of the state’s water, with some lost to evaporation, which raises questions of efficiency and a balance with residential and business uses, she said.
“We’ve just been in denial for so long it’s really hard to change the mind-set,” she said. “Depending on which county you’re in, you only have to prove a forty-to-seventy year supply, and you can do whatever you want.
“That’s unrealistic. Forty to seventy years doesn’t even cover my grandkids.”
McCoy also said New Mexico could be a leader in alternative energies, not only as a source but as an educator for the rest of the county. She also cites issues from teen pregnancy to the shortage of high-tech jobs as awaiting her attention.
“I’m tired of New Mexico being on top of the bad lists and the bottom of the good ones,” she said. “I really do think sometimes it takes someone who’s rabid to bring things to the surface, and I can get rabid.”
Victoria Dunlap is interviewed by KUNM at the Albuquerque Press Women’s luncheon.
Restraining order still in place for same-sex marriage licenses
About the only action on same-sex marriages Sandoval County clerk Victoria Dunlap expects this year is politicians running for cover.
“These people live to win their elections,” she told a meeting of the Albuquerque Press Women. “No one wants to say anything. It’s an election year.”
Dunlap singled out Governor Bill Richardson, who she said could have found a way to look into the issue, and Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who rapidly sought a court order when Dunlap threatened to issue more same-sex licenses in March.
This after Dunlap drew national attention and a critical comment from President George W. Bush for issuing licenses to sixty-six same-sex couples on February 20. Later that day she agreed to stop until the law could be clarified.
Dunlap, a Republican censured by her own party, chose not to seek reelection as county clerk and lost her primary-election bid to run for the Sandoval County Commission. Rio Rancho insurance agent Chris Espinosa defeated Dunlap 199-76 and will face incumbent Democrat Commissioner Jack Thomas, who was unopposed in the primary.
Richardson and Madrid are both Democrats nearing the midpoint of four-year terms. Two calls to Richardson's office seeking a comment on Dunlap's remarks and the same-sex marriage issue did not produce a response.
According to Dunlap, she acted only after being asked about the licenses and making numerous calls seeking legal clarification. After finding no explicit prohibition, she began issuing what she prefers to call gender-neutral licenses.
Paul Livingston, Dunlap’s attorney, told the press women’s meeting he is amazed by the legal process in which the temporary restraining order issued in March remains in place. Usually such an order is made permanent or dismissed within ten days, he added.
“There’s been a total perversion of the process,” he said. However, Dunlap will abide by the restraining order, he added.
“Were stuck with it,” Livingston said, “and violation would be contempt of court, and Vicki does not want to go to jail.”
Gay-rights groups have been generally silent, in part because they fear Dunlap is part of some bizarre Republican plot to agitate the issue and create a negative backlash, the attorney said.
“The agenda is there is no agenda,” Dunlap added. “The issue in my office is we do our work, which apparently is very unusual.”
In June Livingston asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to intervene, but the justices kicked the issue back to district court for hearing. Livingston has since requested the justices explain whether the hearing would be on the restraining order or the marriage licenses.
Madrid and county commissioners working together have argued in court filings that a single county clerk should not be allowed to establish policy for the whole state. The license application form specifies male and female applicants, and other laws refer to a husband and a wife generally defined as a male and female, respectively, Madrid said in an advisory letter to a state senator.
Livingston considers the 1961 application form obsolete since it includes results of physical examinations no longer required for a license and has no space for Social Security numbers, which are required. He also cites the state Equal Rights Amendment adopted by voters in 1972 which says, in part, “Equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person.”
Late in June, the supreme court requested written arguments from Madrid on her position by July 6.
Debbie Hays, Sandoval County Manager
County budget included 17% raise for manager Hays
Sandoval County Commission chairman Daymon Ely is blaming himself for the controversy over the county manager’s 17-percent pay raise.
“It was absolutely my job to tell you commissioners what happened,” Ely said during the June 17 meeting. “I did not do that.”
Ely also noted, however, that commissioners had their own obligation to scrutinize the 2004-05 budget before voting on it. The controversy arose after the budget was approved, when some commissioners said they thought three contract employees—county manager Debbie Hays, attorney David Mathews and spokesman Gayland Bryant—were receiving the same 7-percent raise awarded to most county staff.
A review of all county salaries resulted in one worker receiving a 30-percent boost with several others around 18 percent, Commissioner Jack Thomas said. Commissioner Elizabeth Johnson said commissioners did not sign the budget in their sleep and that Hays earns her $93,000 a year.
Hays said she would voluntarily accept the lower raise to preserve the integrity of the budget process. A move by commissioner David Bency to reopen the budget debate was tabled, but the commission approved his proposal to conduct annual job reviews of Hays’s performance.