Sandoval Signpost
An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
  Up Front

Fireworks: The good, the bad, and the cost of it all

It is no secret that Sandoval County is experiencing extreme drought conditions. Rain? What rain? With that said, county commissioners have approved strict firework restrictions.

Fireworks cannot be used in grassy or wildland areas in unincorporated parts of Sandoval County. Violators face a $300 fine or 90 days in jail.

Fireworks cannot shoot more than 10 feet in the air or go further than six feet horizontally. They must be used on concrete or paved areas.

If you see individuals using illegal fireworks, call the Sandoval County nonemergency line at (505) 891-7226.


Census records record numbers for Sandoval County

Redistricting process underway

—Margaret M. Nava

Even though the total number of people living in the United States reached more than 308 million (a 27.3% increase since the 2000 census) new data released by U.S. Census Bureau indicates an overall slowdown in the percentage of population growth (9.7% in 2010 as compared to 13.2% in 2000). The same however cannot be said about Sandoval County. In fact, the population of Sandoval County grew 42.0% during the period 1990 to 2000 and 46.3% from 2000 to 2010, translating to 131,561 people reported living in Sandoval County as of April 1, 2010. And while Sandoval County has seen its population increase more than any other county in New Mexico in the past ten years, the primary areas of growth were in Rio Rancho which saw a 69% increase, Placitas which grew 44.2%, and Bernalillo which experienced a 25.9% gain.

Public Law 94-171, enacted in 1975, directs the Census Bureau to make special preparations to provide redistricting data needed by the 50 states. It specifies that within a year following Census Day, the Census Bureau must send the governor and legislative leadership in each state the data they need to redraw or redistrict districts for the United States Congress and state legislature. The number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives has been set at 435 members since 1912. Each state is entitled to at least one representative and the remaining members are apportioned among the states in accordance to their relative populations. The population used for this process is the total population which is determined by a census taken every ten years. Redrawing the boundaries of state House and Senate districts affects who gets elected and how decisions are made on issues such as taxes, public safety, education, employment opportunities and the environment. The goal of any potential alteration in the current layout would be for the legislative boundaries to be drawn to better represent the communities involved.

Although redistricting is often driven by partisan concerns, the overall result in the U.S. Congress does not necessarily favor one party because the process is quite decentralized – each of the fifty states is responsible for drawing its own electoral district boundaries. The federal government allocates congressional seats to the states (reapportionment) on the basis of total population, but has only a limited role to play in the redistricting process after this point. For example, the U.S. Congress can pass laws to regulate the process to an extent and has done so on rare occasion – the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one notable example. On the other hand, the federal courts (as well as the state courts), play a major role in the redistricting process in the United States. They have been called upon to develop redistricting standards, to arbitrate redistricting conflicts, and even to draft redistricting plans.

According to the New Mexico Legislature Redistricting website, (www.nmlegis.gov/lcs/redcensus) reapportionment is defined as “the process of dividing or re-dividing a given number of seats in a legislative body among established governmental units … according to a plan or [mathematical] formula.” While redistricting, often used synonymously with reapportionment, is defined as  “redrawing the boundaries of existing voting districts … Redistricting will not change the number of districts but it will change the boundaries of those districts. Unlike reapportionment, which is a mathematical process, redistricting is a political process.”

The New Mexico Legislature Redistricting Committee has set up a series of meetings aimed at educating the public about the legal principles of redistricting which include compactness, continuity, minority voting rights and equal population. The first meeting, held on June 20th in Santa Fe, addressed the ABC’s of redistricting, the changing population and demographics of New Mexico and Congressional concepts of redistricting.

Some of the redistricting concepts under consideration include:

A.  Moving Isleta Pueblo and Bernalillo County’s Paradise Hills neighborhood into the 1st Congressional District; most of Torrance County would become part of the 2nd Congressional District;

B.  Moving Algodones, Corrales and Paradise Hills into the 1st Congressional District; To’Hajiilee would be shifted into the 3rd Congressional District; all of Torrance County would become part of the 2nd Congressional District;

C.  Shifting Bernalillo and Placitas into the 3rd Congressional District; Edgewood, Isleta Pueblo and Paradise Hills would be moved into the 1st Congressional District;

D.  Combining Albuquerque and Rio Rancho to create a more urban 1st Congressional District; all of Valencia County and Bernalillo County’s South Valley would be in the 2nd Congressional District; the East Mountains area of Bernalillo County would become part of the 3rd Congressional District;

E.  Making Cibola County part of the 3rd Congressional District; Roosevelt County would be moved into the 2nd Congressional District; Isleta Pueblo would be shifted into the 1st Congressional District.

F.  Moving portions of Valencia County from the 1st to the 3rd Congressional District. Roosevelt County would be split between the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts.

G.  Moving all east-side counties into the 2nd Congressional District; Bernalillo, Placitas and Cibola County would become part of the 3rd Congressional District; Los Lunas would join Albuquerque in the 1st Congressional District.

Quoting from a joint statement released by committee co-chairs Representative Mary Helen Garcia and Senator Linda M. Lopez on June 8, 2011, “Redrawing congressional, legislative and other political districts after each census in important to ensure that every person is equally represented in Santa Fe and Washington, D.C. The public’s involvement in this process is invaluable to the committee and the Legislature.”

The public is encouraged to take part in future Redistricting meetings that will be held on July 18 in Clovis, July 19 in Roswell, July 20 in Las Cruces, August 4 in Gallup, August 5 in Farmington, August 15 in Albuquerque, August 16 in Rio Rancho and August 30 and 31 in Santa. Anyone wishing to speak at one of these meetings should contact Leslie Porter at leslie.porter@nmlegis.gov or call 505-986-4600. 


Town of Bernalillo successful in meeting the drinking water standard for arsenic

—Town of Bernalillo

On June 8, 2011, the New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau notified the Town of compliance with the running annual average (RRA) for levels of arsenic in the drinking water. The Town has now met the standard for four consecutive quarters of sampling, with consistent results of less than the minimum standard of 10 ppb (0.010 mg/L). “Although anticipated, this news is most welcome,” said Mayor Jack Torres. “The Town has concentrated much effort in the last year on correcting a problem that has plagued our community for far too long,” he added. The most recent water sample collected by the drinking water bureau on May 24, 2010 puts the RRA at 0.008275 mg/L. All reported samples were collected from the primary drinking water well (#4), which serves the entire community.

As a result, the Town is no longer required to make public notification of an exceedance of the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic. Quarterly sampling by the drinking water bureau will continue for at least two consecutive quarters, and if the results of this sampling remain below the MCL, sampling will be reduced to triennial monitoring.

The Town had been noncompliant with the standard since the first quarter of 2009. On March 29, 2010, the Town submitted a corrective action plan to the drinking water bureau to augment and/or replace the electro-flocculation system (aluminum coagulant ) with a ferric chloride treatment method. The corrective action plan was approved and implemented on April 15, 2010. By April 17, 2010, tested arsenic concentrations were reduced from 12.4 ppb to 4.2 in the treated flow. On April 30, 2010, the electro-flocculation system was completely turned off. Sampling on May 24, 2010, using only ferric chloride for treatment, measured a consistent concentration of 1.3 and 2.1 ppb for arsenic, with an average of 1.7 ppb.

Ferric chloride treatment and testing through October, 2010 yielded consistent, successful results, and in November, 2010, the Town submitted and received approval of an application to the drinking water bureau for a permanent modification to the drinking water system for the use of ferric chloride. The Town is currently in the engineering design phase for a permanent ferric chloride treatment system. The project is expected to bid for construction in July of this year. The Town will continue to use the temporary ferric chloride treatment system through final construction.


The end of weekend service for New Mexico Rail Runner Express

Reduction in revenues requires adjustment of expenditures for train service

As part of discussions and deliberations concerning balancing the Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12) budget, which is 1.2 million dollars less than the previous fiscal year’s budget, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board voted to eliminate weekend service on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express. The board had been considering two weekday schedule options to address the budget reduction, but in a six-to-five vote earlier today, board members instead took action to eliminate weekend service to balance the budget.

“This was originally envisioned as a commuter service, and that’s the piece we want to maintain without affecting anybody,” said Steve Shaw, chairman of the Rio Metro board. “While we recognize the weekend service from a tourism and convenience point of view, we think it’s more important to support the initial mission of the train without affecting the people who use it to get to and from work.”

When service began to Santa Fe in 2008, a portion of that service was paid for with Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds, which can only be used for a three-year period to support operations based on federal regulations. That three-year clock runs out in FY12 and has resulted in a 1.2 million dollar budget reduction. To date, there has been no alternative funding source identified to make up the difference.

“We’re having ongoing conversations with the state, looking at all options,” said Dewey Cave, executive director for the Mid-Region Council of Governments. “We’re partners in this endeavor, and we’re looking at every option available to minimize the impact of service cuts.”

Weekend service on the New Mexico Rail Runner Express will continue through mid-to-late August.
   

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