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letters, opinions, editorials
Re: Improvements to Highway
Dear Representative McCoy:
Thank you for your involvement with this issue. While we applaud
the Rail Runner expenditures and wish it every success, the Spaceport
seems a bit abstract—something to ponder as we sit in traffic.
Please do keep up your efforts—we
very much appreciate them. I am copying this [letter] to the Sandoval
Signpost, which has been covering this problem.
—DOROTHY BOWEN, Placitas
Knowing how bad this intersection is, I made the proposal during
the last legislative session to do the intersection before the road
widening. I spoke with Cabinet Secretary Rhonda Faught and also
brought it before committee, but I was told that the widening has
priority and the intersection—although being planned—won’t
occur in the near future. This is a part of the GRIP program for
highway projects and a lot of money has been spent on the Rail Runner
and the Spaceport, so the fund is pretty depleted. I’ll keep
putting pressure on, though, and perhaps if people who use the intersection
contact the Department of Transportation and the Governor’s
office, the message will get through.
—KATHY A. MCCOY, NEW MEXICO HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT
re: “tailgate party
Yesterday at noon, I drove from Bernalillo up Route 165. As I
passed Homestead Village, I checked my rearview mirror. I was being
tailgated by a white mid-sized sedan. At fifty mph, the sedan was
less than two car-lengths from my bumper. I have a problem with
tailgaters, especially on Route 165. I took my foot off the accelerator.
The sedan came to within less than a car-length, the sixtyish woman
at the wheel seemed to wake up, then she immediately pulled left
and passed me. I flipped her the bird and called her a bleeping
bleep. I stayed ten car-lengths behind her.
When a rich man in a sporty car tailgates me, I know he’s
expressing arrogance. When a teenager tailgates me, I know that
he is being impatient and stupid, acting his age. A while back,
I was being tailgated by a light green minivan. I took my foot off
the accelerator. She almost hit me, she pulled left and passed me,
and when we were window to window, she reached across her baby in
the passenger’s seat, called me a bleeping bleep-bleep, and
then sped up the S-curves at sixty mph. The baby was calm and looked
at me with curiosity.
Ten car-lengths ahead, the woman in the white sedan pulled to
within less than two car-lengths of the SUV in front of her and
they started up the S-curves. She had learned nothing from the bird
I had flipped her, and I forgot her; I let it go. The young mother
with the baby still fascinates me. I learned from her flip of the
bird in my direction. Once again, I was reminded that, to some degree
large or small, each human being thinks that he or she is the center
of the universe. I was taught that no one is the center of the universe.
Maybe the sixtyish woman in the white sedan was just caught up in
her thoughts, in a trance, and my pickup was not part of her dream.
She nearly rear-ended me and she didn’t bat an eye. And maybe
the young woman with the baby was having a bad day and for a few
hours she hated her life.
My plea is simple. Please cease all tailgating on Route 165.
—GREG LEICHNER, Placitas
re: Bernalillo backstreets not “shortcut”
to Rio Rancho
Just my two cents…..
I have been following the articles and letters received by area
residents regarding the ever-troublesome, infamous Highway 550.
I would like to present a different perspective to this issue, something
I haven’t quite run across yet.
I live in the town of Bernalillo at the junction of Interstate
San Lorenzo, Interstate Camino Don Tomas, and Highway Calle Don
Francisco. When I moved to Bernalillo, I moved into a neighborhood
that was quiet and with little traffic (almost zero after 9:00 p.m.).
The traffic that we did have in the area was obviously people who
lived in the neighborhood.
Recently, traffic volume in the area has shot up to levels I am
unable to accept. There is no specific time when it is worse. It
is always bad. From early in the morning until late at night—traffic,
So what’s my point? Stay on 550! My neighborhood is “sacred”
to me. Please do not travel through my once-quiet neighborhood to
get to your nice, quiet neighborhood. Please do not make residents
of the town of Bernalillo wait in your traffic jams because you
are looking for a shortcut.
Bernalillo is not “the back way,” “a shortcut,”
nor is it a scenic byway.
I do not support any kind of new passageway through Bernalillo.
Figure out something else. It seems people are worried about the
businesses on 550 and how many dollars they would lose if right-of-ways
were bought. Stop putting more businesses on 550 until this issue
is resolved. Start listening to the residents in the town of Bernalillo
and take care of those residents first.
—CHRISTINA GARCIA, Bernalillo
re: good news for forest lands/wildlife; public meetings
On behalf of Elise Vanarsdale and Mitch Johnson, coordinators
of the Perdiz Canyon Project, whose goal it is to protect and expand
the wildlife corridor located at the northeast end of the Sandias,
we would like to express our appreciation to Ty Belknap and the
Signpost for bringing much-needed attention to the issue of off-road
vehicles being allowed to utilize the forest lands north and west
of La Madera, a vital part of this corridor.
The Forest Service has issued its scoping letter and it seems
[that] the proposal is to close the La Madera area to off-road vehicle
use. We would also like to thank all those groups and individuals
who have helped to bring us to this point in the process.
The scoping letter is a proposed action and it is imperative that
those who wish to keep this area pristine attend the public meetings
scheduled for July 10 at the Albuquerque Convention Center in the
San Miguel room from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on July 11 at Roosevelt
Middle School cafeteria in Tijeras from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Again, we would like to thank everyone for their efforts to date.
Together, we can protect this area for our animals, our mountain,
and ultimately all of us as beneficiaries.
For further information, call me, Mitch, at 867-5100.
—MITCH JOHNSON, Placitas
Stereogram, by Gary Priester, of newly painted street lines near
his home. Can you see the hidden image? Relax your eyes and look
“through” the image, not focusing on the foreground.
Let your brain work the magic.
re: painting crumbling streets
For the county to paint new double yellow lines on our crumbling,
rapidly deteriorating Ranchos de Placitas streets is like putting
lipstick on a pig. I was kind of hoping the lines would have been
placed on new asphalt. Sigh!
—GARY W. PRIESTER, Placitas
re: sign, sign, everywhere a sign ...
We have those expensive new signs telling us it’s “Seven
Miles to the Village,” ... we’re “Entering the
Village,” ... we’re “Leaving the Village,”
and we’re “Entering the Land Grant.” We still
don’t have fifty mph signs in both directions on Highway 165,
but we have those new beauties! There’re signs that’ve
been down for at least six months, but we have those other beauties!
There should be “Speed Up or Pull Over and Let Others Pass”
signs, but instead we have those other beauties! There isn’t
a single fifty mph sign going east after the S-curves, but you get
—BOB MARTIN, Placitas
re: Pueblo’s inherent rights to protect sacred sites
The comments made by Eric Collins of Placitas, New Mexico, in
the May 2007 Sandoval Signpost are insulting because he attacks
Pueblo sacred beliefs.
Collins states that we are bad neighbors and will not accommodate
Indian land for this highway. He spouts his Anglo perspective with
the assurance of the dominating society. Collins, like the vast
majority of non-Indians, have a difficult time comprehending how
we as Indian people have a spiritual relationship with our sacred
sites, and we will never compromise this issue!
Desecration and destruction of our sacred sites are happening
all over Indian country. Our sacred sites are continually being
Here in the state of New Mexico, the shameless desecration of
the “Petroglyph National Monument” by the city of Albuquerque
in the creation of the Paseo del Norte expansion continues to have
an impact on the environment. Too often, city governments make disastrous
decisions that in the end benefit no one except the capitalist making
money off this highway who have a total disregard for the rights
of the Indigenous people.
We have an “inherent right” to protect our sacred
sites, including nondisclosure of their location to the public!
Since time immemorial, our culture, which makes up our “autonomous
sovereign laws” have endured without being written down, only
because they are protected orally. Our people refuse to abandon
our sacred lands!
In closing, let me remind the city councils that Indian Rights
are not a convenience to skirt-around to justify the magnitude of
this commuter highway through the “sovereign lands of the
Santa Ana Pueblo.”
I stand opposed to the US 550 expansion, in solidarity to protect
and preserve this sacred site for future generations. The Federal
Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 states, “No Indian Tribe in
exercising powers of self-government shall make or enforce any law
prohibiting the free exercise of religion or abridging the Freedom
of Speech or Press.
Today, I address this issue on US 550 and exercise my “First
Amendment Right” to free speech.
—MANUEL R. CRISTOBAL, SANTA ANA TRIBAL COUNCILMAN, SANTA
ANA PUEBLO, NEW MEXICO
re: Thank you, Rudi Klimpert
The Placitas Chamber of Commerce and I would like to acknowledge
the wonderful insight and talent of our local artist, Rudi Klimpert,
who has enriched our world with his keen sense of humor applied
so intelligently to his work.
Thank you, Rudi.
—TOM ASHE, PRESIDENT, PLACITAS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
[Rudi Klimpert is the Signpost staff cartoonist
and also has his vibrant oil paintings represented by Santa Fe
Contemporary Art Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.]
re: US 550 study, and “Gauntlet” letters by
Chris Huber and Dorothy Bowen (inter alia)
Articles filled with information on the local traffic situation
combined with the rising “hue and cry” of the public
over safety and congestion issues were resplendent in the June 2007
Signpost. Several articles and “Gauntlet” letters
offered ideas to reduce the impact that the gravel trucks have on
the overall situation. We are Placitas residents, and we use the
North I-25 frontage road at exit 242 to go to-and-from home. We
must pass La Farge at least twice a day to do this. We have had
to compete (that’s compete, not share) with the many, many
gravel trucks which use this road to-and-from La Farge.
I have personally witnessed near head-on collisions between speeding
gravel trucks—horns blaring—no one giving way until
the last minute in what resembles some sort of gravel truck “chicken.”
We were nearly a “sandwich” in one of those. We have
suffered windshield damage from flying gravel three times (so far).
One time the damage was very serious, necessitating a total windshield
replacement. We are tired of “competing” along what
is rapidly becoming New Mexico’s version of the “Bonneville
Salt Flats” and potential demolition derby.
What to do? I have a suggestion to reduce the issues of congestion,
safety, and “competition” which appears to me to be
elegantly simple, quick to implement, low in cost, and enforceable.
It is: make all truck traffic leaving and entering La Farge use
the Algodones exit. A less-preferred, yet still partially effective,
option would be to make all traffic exiting La Farge use the Algodones
exit (i.e., “No Left Turn” out of La Farge). The latter
option at least helps relieve the southbound frontage road congestion,
safety, and “competition” issues. Of these two suggestions,
the first option is preferred.
While I am no expert on the processes by which either of these
options would be implemented and enforced, I cannot help but think
that the costs involved are for a sign or two (new cost) and enforcement
by the Sandoval County Sheriff patrol officers which is money already
being spent (see Chris Huber’s letter, June 2007, Signpost).
The gain appears to me to far outweigh the cost. Comments?
—MICHAEL SARE, Placitas
re: Placitas to lose longtime teacher/counselor
We are very sad that the involuntary transfer of Ms. Hanna [known
before her marriage as Ms. Mouer] was announced after the school
year ended. Our school did not have the opportunity to say goodbye
and thank her for her twenty-plus years of service to our school
and community. We would like to have had an opportunity to honor
her many contributions as a special education teacher, a counselor,
an Art-in-the-School founder and supporter, and as a community volunteer.
Transferring Ms. Hanna to Bernalillo High School places the burden
of hiring a combination elementary special education teacher and
certified counselor onto our small, rural elementary school.
It seems unwarranted to tear a talented and devoted teacher from
a school where she is extremely effective and transfer her to a
place and position where she has no experience. We are concerned
that this transfer is motivated by something other than the “needs”
of the high school, as we have been told by the district office.
If Ms. Hanna has touched your child’s life, or your own
life, please contact the Bernalillo Public School central office
at 867-2317 and let them know.
We first met Ms. Hanna four years ago at our child’s first
Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting. Our child was in kindergarten
and we had to face a room full of teachers, specialists, the counselor
Ms. Hanna, and the principal. It was the most intimidating experience
of our lives. We sat and listened as a new language was spoken to
us while our minds were stuck on, “there’s something
wrong with our child,” and our hearts were breaking. Throughout
this meeting, Ms. Hanna would stop the conversation to explain to
us what was said in plain English.
We went to Ms. Hanna several times each year asking her to explain
what the diagnosis and the terminology meant. Each time she very
patiently explained our child’s disability and our child’s
educational rights. She would answer our questions both before and
after our annual IEPs with the greatest care and sensitivity. In
the role of a special education teacher, Ms. Hanna gave us strategies
on how to help our child at home with homework. She spent many hours
of her time to educate us. Ms. Hanna was able to take the trauma
out of the concept of special education.
While Ms. Hanna has been giving our child special education services,
I have observed her incredible love for children and her ability
to inspire them. She has coordinated with our child’s classroom
teacher about learning accommodations and the latest special education
research and teaching methods. Ms. Hanna has also set up a summer
reading program with awards that motivated our child to read—which
is no small task. Ms. Hanna has opened the door to the world of
reading for our child, and we will be forever grateful.
Elementary education has been Ms. Hanna’s passion, and her
gift for her entire thirty-five- year career. I have seen this passion
daily for the past four years through the eyes of our child. We
ask Bernalillo Public Schools to please reconsider her transfer
and let her serve where her talent and enthusiasm flourishes, at
Placitas Elementary School. Our children need her.
—PARENTS OF A LEARNING-DISABLED CHILD, Placitas
re: Bernalillo food bank
Have you seen the two-story church on Camino del Pueblo in Bernalillo?
Have you ever wondered why there are so many cars in the parking
lot on Tuesday mornings? First Baptist Bernalillo has reached out
to the community by offering a food and clothing bank. Not only
have they opened their doors to others in need, but also to those
in the community who desire to help others—some [of the volunteers
are] church members, some from other churches, and some from the
community who simply want to help.
Yesterday, I volunteered at the First Baptist Bernalillo Food
Bank and was amazed at how many people are truly in need of food.
I thought how difficult it must be for a mother, dad, or elderly
person to have to ask for food. I also heard one story of a lady
who walks with her little ones from Algodones every Tuesday!
I felt compelled to write this letter so others in the community
would know about the food bank and possibly help out. If you know
a senior citizen that is a shut-in and is in need of food, contact
the church. They do a Tuesday delivery to those who are in need.
Two weeks in the West
• Environmental activists who burned buildings at the Vail
ski resort, torched a horse slaughterhouse, knocked down power lines
and damaged other property—but didn’t injure anyone—between
1996 and 2001, were sentenced as “terrorists” in U.S.
District Court in Eugene, Oregon, in May. Judge Ann L. Aiken sentenced
three members of “the family” to nine to 13 years in
prison; their terms would have been about half that had they not
acted against the government.
• The U.S. Forest Service will spend $1.5 million this year
on its “Kids in the Woods” program, aimed at getting
children off the couch and into nature. An estimated 23,000 kids
will participate in programs in 15 states, mostly in the West.
• The West is the land of McMansions and mobile homes, says
a new survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Americans in general are
opting for bigger houses, but Utah leads the nation in homes with
more than four bedrooms. Meanwhile, New Mexico and South Carolina
each have more trailers than any other state in the U.S.
This article originally appeared in High Country News (www.hcn.org),
which covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues
from Paonia, Colorado.
When mud-boggers rip up the land, penalize them
Flashing red and blue lights sent me a strong message: I was busted.
I’d just passed a truck as I drove into a small, southwestern
Oregon town and neglected to slow down to 30 mph. I got a ticket.
Deterrents work, yet there are places where deterrents don’t
reach, and drivers of all-terrain vehicles know this all too well.
There’s not enough money to pay for effective policing on
our Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, and the
sad result is that you can’t find a desert or forest that
hasn’t been trashed by lawless drivers with destructive streaks.
Here’s a local example near my home in southwestern Oregon:
There’s a parcel of BLM land that we call the Green Tops.
It’s outstanding winter range for blacktail deer and Roosevelt
elk, and it has abundant quail and wild turkeys, along with poison
oak. As a boy, I planted pine trees on its slopes for science class,
hunted squirrels below those trees, and once packed out a 25-pound
rock as a gift for my mom (at that age I didn’t consider the
potential legal issues and so didn’t consult with a lawyer).
A 12-year-old can hike to the top in about fifty minutes.
But that’s too much work for some people. Recently, “mud-boggers”—drivers
of huge, tricked-out pickups with big tires—plundered Green
Tops. In 2006, the damage was so bad that BLM shut down the area
to all motorized use. It was not a day too soon. I took advantage
of the new peace and quiet, hiked up near the top last May and shot
a nice turkey. Along the way, I was troubled by what had become
of my childhood stomping grounds. All-terrain vehicle trails had
torn up the meadows and deeply rutted the slopes; piles of beer
cans and cartons, broken glass, washing machines, cut-up fences,
and other assorted garbage was strewn everywhere. We always hear
that “it’s a small minority of people that do this damage.”
That may be true, but a small number of careless or reckless people
can do a whole lot of damage, especially with nobody there to witness
it. In the West, it’s not unheard of for one game warden to
have the job of policing over 4,000 square miles of territory.
This spring in the Klamath Basin, Oregon State Police finally
caught a band of mud-boggers who’d ripped up one of the best
redband trout spawning streams. The stream had only recently been
rehabilitated from widespread damage done to it in the past.
We hear the excuses: “ATVs allow the old and physically
limited to hunt or explore our public lands.” I am all for
responsible access, but the 60,000-plus miles of Forest Service
roads in Oregon provide lots of choices for access. Besides, as
any game warden will tell you, nine out of 10 folks on ATVs or driving
those big pickups are healthy men in their thirties, fully capable
Sadly, every time people hunt illegally from their ATVs, trash
our public lands just for fun, or use high-tech doodads on their
rifles that violate fair chase, they give animal-rights activists
and the non-hunting public more reason to condemn hunting. Today's
craze for high-tech all-terrain vehicles has completely altered
the way I enjoy the outdoors. I rarely hunt on weekends anymore,
choosing instead to burn valuable vacation days during the week.
I cherish the time I hunt with my children, and want them to understand
how traditional and meaningful it is, but I don’t want to
subject them to weekend mayhem. Hunting’s not supposed to
be easy; it’s about deserving your kill.
Folks who abuse public land certainly understand the language
of heavy fines, arrest, lost hunting privileges, or confiscated
vehicles. If states required license plates for ATVs, that would
guarantee better accountability. And responsible sportsmen must
insist that our state and federal agencies fund more law enforcement
so our hard-working and over-extended game wardens can be more effective.
It’s also up to us to attend public meetings when travel management
plans come up, write letters and get involved. If we don’t,
my kids and yours will lose what is everyone’s birthright—our
magnificent public lands.
Meanwhile, I’ve been driving a little more carefully after
that county sheriff slapped me with my well-deserved speeding ticket.
Mike Beagle is a contributor to Writers on the
Range, a service of High Country News
(hcn.org). He is
a former U.S. Army officer and high school teacher and coach who
now works with sportsmen for Trout Unlimited’s Public Lands
Initiative. He lives near Eagle Point, Oregon.
Heard around the West
Decked in virginal veils and jaunty bowties, 178 canine couples
walked down the aisle recently in Littleton, Colo., though we’re
still wondering how a ring fits over a toe that sports a claw. The
mock nuptials weren’t just a dotty indulgence for dog lovers,
reports the Denver Post. “Bow Wow Vows” raised over
$3,000 for the Dumb Friends League.
It was late at night, and an Amtrak “special” filled
with sports fans was hurtling along south of Seattle, Wash., at
79 miles per hour. Suddenly, the train’s lights illuminated
a house sitting on the tracks, dead ahead. There were two men working
on the roof, trying to raise utility wires in order to cross the
tracks. Emergency brakes were applied, but a collision was inevitable,
and the house splintered, reports the Bulletin of the Association
of Oregon Railroad Transit Advocates. Amazingly, the two men on
the roof survived the crash, as did the passengers on the train,
which didn’t derail. Timbers erupting from the house, however,
burst through the railroad cab and seriously injured the engineer.
The nonprofit Bulletin took pains to describe the accident because
so many people make wrong assumptions when they see railroad tracks:
They figure that because they’re mostly free of train traffic,
the coast is clear. Yet 60 trains a day pass the spot where train-met-house
in the dark. Freight and commuter trains are not listed in the Amtrak
timetable, and the house movers failed to contact the railroad to
negotiate a safe period for crossing the tracks. Misconceptions
about train traffic are so prevalent, the Bulletin adds, that high
school track coaches in Salem, Ore., sent teenagers running along
a Union Pacific main line and over a narrow railroad trestle for
practice. A footbridge now directs people away from the trestle
and possible commingling with a train.
Staffers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service aren’t laughing
much these days. A member of PEER, Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility, says that Websense, the agency’s new filter
for incoming Internet messages, is so zealous in its mission to
block porn and online gambling that it also blocks the cartoon Doonesbury
and even the word “humor” itself. If staffers try to
search for humor in the workplace, adds PEEReview, you reach “a
warning page that humor is off-limits.”
It took 12 years, but last month, Proctor & Gamble finally won
its case and a judgment of $19 million against four Amway distributors
who spread the rumor that P&G, maker of laundry detergent and
other household products, was tight with the Devil himself. According
to the Salt Lake Tribune, the distributors used Amway’s voice-mail
system to tell their fellow workers that P&G’s “president
had appeared on a TV talk show and announced his company’s
affiliation with the Church of Satan.” This sounds so nutty
it is surprising that anyone would believe it, but P&G told
a district court judge that the company’s reputation had been
besmirched and that it lost millions of dollars over the years because
of the smear campaign.
A group of 30 volunteers, including children and staffers from the
Bureau of Land Management, spent Earth Day roaming the dusty back
hills of the North Fork Valley of western Colorado. Armed with sticks
or grabbers to corral beer cans, plastic bags and other junk, they
were busily picking up debris when they noticed a man doing just
the opposite — dumping his trash nearby. It made for an easy
bust for the BLM — the man caught in the act was cited and
later fined $100 — and a little extra excitement for the annual
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in
Paonia, Colorado (email@example.com).
Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared
in the column, Heard around the West.
More Heard around the West
CALIFORNIA—Sometimes you can be too vigilant.
Someone who spotted a black bag on the side of a road in eastern
California reported that it had a suspiciously “foul odor.”
A sheriff’s deputy investigated, says the Grass Valley-Nevada
City Union. Inside the bag, wrapped in a blue towel, was a dead
MONTANA AND ALASKA—A big bad wolf killed
more than 120 sheep in eastern Montana last year, but don’t
blame one of Yellowstone’s wild wolves, says the Billings
Gazette. The culprit was a domestic animal, the product of “human-manipulated
breeding” combining genes from wolves in the Great Lakes region,
Alaska and the Lower 48 states. “You just don’t see
that Heinz 57 hodgepodge in wild wolves,” said Carolyn Sime,
head of Montana’s wolf program. No one has a clue about where
the voracious sheep-eater came from, she added, since the domestic
wolf business is a “closeted industry.” Meanwhile, in
Juneau, Alaska, a lone black wolf dubbed “Romeo” by
locals loves to romp with dogs on frozen Mendenhall Lake; he’s
even allowed people to touch him. The Juneau Empire newspaper ran
pictures of Romeo loping off with a pet pug in his mouth, as if
the dog were a rabbit. The wolf finally dropped the pug —
apparently unharmed — on its back. Because animals that lose
their fear of humans often end up shot, state biologists may pepper
the friendly wolf with beanbags or rubber bullets to teach it to
NEVADA—As the Salt
Lake Tribune put it, “Not everything done in Vegas stays
in Vegas.” The Utah-based online genealogy service Ancestry.com
recently posted marriage and divorce records for Las Vegas from
1956 through 2005, so celebrity groupies can now look up the unions
and disunions of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Elvis Presley.
Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range,
a service of High Country News in
Paonia, Colorado (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared
in the column, Heard around the West.