The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

 
THE GAUNTLET

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letters, opinions, editorials

Re: Improvements to Highway 550/I-25

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.

Best,
—DOROTHY BOWEN, Placitas

Dear Dorothy:

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.

Best,
—KATHY A. MCCOY, NEW MEXICO HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 22

Signpost cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpert

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.
Thank you,

—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, traffic, 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 scheduled

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 the idea...

—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 violated.

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

Signpost cartoon, c. Rudi Klimpaer
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.

—REBECCA SKARTWED

Two weeks in the West

—JONATHAN THOMPSON
• 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

—MIKE BEAGLE
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 of walking.

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. Deterrents work.

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

—BETSY MARSTON

COLORADO
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.

THE NORTHWEST
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.

THE NATION
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.”

UTAH
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.

COLORADO
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 “Dobie Clean-Up.”

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (betsym@hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.


More Heard around the West

—BETSY MARSTON

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 fish.

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 back off.

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 (betsym@hcn.org). Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.

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