The Sandoval Signpost

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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.

True stewardship requires true experience

Lynn Montgomery

I can call myself a writer mainly because of the wisdom of one of my creative-writing teachers. She concentrated on the basics, and left most of us with a lifelong concept of how to write and be effective. The golden rule was: write from within oneself, based on personal experience. Good writing must speak with authority, and the only thing that gives authority to writing is experience.

True and effective stewardship is the same way. Only by personally experiencing life is one able to really write about it, and only by experiencing the environment, can one truly steward it.

Once upon a time, or thirty years ago to be exact, I was walking to the village from my hippy squatter’s abode at Sun Farm for mail and groceries, which I did every other day. The village was accessible from the north only through the very deeply cut Arroyo del Oso, which flows in back of the school. Down in the bottom was a crew from the land grant, constructing brush weirs in the bottom made out of brush and cottonwood cuttings. They also had a couple bedsprings to help form up their construction. I asked if I could help too, and we all worked hard, joking and laughing the whole way through. Doing the job because it was simply the right thing to do. No thoughts of remuneration or recognition, just the joy of being part of an old traditional community. Not too many years before, these men were in the Civilian Conservation Corps, a huge New Deal program that put locals into camps, fed them, trained them, kept them out of trouble, and taught them English. The economic impact to the region was profound. Many families were successful, and some even sent their children to college. The CCC did conservation projects. Large berms on Indian Flats stopped the mesa from eroding away. Today, none of these berms are intact, having had to move over for new houses.

None of these simple but savvy men are around anymore. It seems their values and happy view of life are gone, too. Taking care of the land and water was instinctual, derived from lifetimes of experience and the knowledge and wisdom of many previous generations.

Today, the area these men left us is in a slow crisis. The reason that Arroyo del Oso was, and is, such an ugly deep cut in the earth, is that the highway ran through the broad terraces called placitas that made up the village, cutting them in half. Many people gave up on agriculture, as the acequias were severed, too. The area north of the highway was not kept up, and the grave erosion started. So, don’t blame the people, blame the highway department, which has never been known to be conservation minded.

But, there is still hope ....

Our acequias are still intact and provide a good example of stewardship, community, and leadership. Many of us have decades, if not lifetimes, working, planning, and engineering our acequias. Applying water to the land is a fine art, not recognized for its complexity. This is where the true authority to manage our resources lies. Acequias are community institutions and must keep the health and well-being of the community in mind. We hold the only surface rights in the area and must manage those rights in the interest of us all. Protecting the water resource from permanent damage is our charge. Acequias appropriate the water by a time-honored custom called repartimiento.

Over the centuries, we have learned that the only way to manage a water resource is a flexible, friendly, annual, institutional negotiation that depends on historic water-use patterns, local climate, and criteria such as priority, local tradition and custom, and the needs of the community as a whole. As community institutions, we cannot draw lines in the sand, create an instant but false “us and them,” and proceed to fight it out. We must practice repartimiento to resolve problems instead.

Those that would define us as merely “vested interests,” based only on surface impressions, with absolutely no experience of what is being defined, are only confused. No shovel and all keyboard does not get one any authority in this town. So, let’s try and get better acquainted with our wonderful acequias, their people, and the ethic of selfless stewardship that marks our tradition.


Concrete barrier in the middle of Camino del Pueblo when under construction

Concrete barrier in the middle of Camino del Pueblo when under construction


    re: dangerous crosswalk installed despite protests

The purpose of this letter is to clarify our position regarding the crosswalk recently installed from our parking lot to the café across the street.

When we first heard about this project, we strongly protested against it. It seems to us that it is a tremendous waste of taxpayer money, since we have heard of only one pedestrian accident in this area in the twenty-three years that we have been in business.

Secondly, it seems very dangerous to automotive traffic to place a concrete barrier in the turning lane on a very busy highway in the middle of town.

When we brought these issues before the Town of Bernalillo officials, they dismissed them and continued with the project despite any concerns we presented. We are very disappointed with the attitude of the town officials regarding our concerns and we hope that this project will not be the cause of accidents due to their poor decision.

A simple painted crosswalk would have been sufficient.

Joe and Jack Torres
T & T Supermart, Bernalillo



In the article on page seven of the February 2005 Signpost, the district described was District 1.



    re: supporting our artists

I've lived in Placitas for eight years, and have been doing visionary art painting and drawing for over twenty years, having started out as an illustrator. More recently I've explored various three-dimensional techniques with shamanic themes.

I think it's wonderful how the Signpost is supporting the arts community here. And the featured-artist articles have always been great fun to read, especially when I know the artists! I always learn something new, as the writing isn't superficial, nor is it pretentious. 

Dawn Wilson Enoch
SaltDance Studio, Placitas


    re: recreational appropriations for Placitas. An open letter to Representative Kathy McCoy; response from McCoy

Dear Representative McCoy,

I have been a resident of Placitas since 1989 and currently have two teenage children. The community is rapidly growing, but there are no recreational opportunities for our children or adults within the Placitas area.

I have been involved in trying to obtain funding for recreational facilities in Placitas from the Sandoval County Commission without success.

The only recreational allocation that I believe Placitas has received from the county was for a tennis court several years ago, which the county has not maintained as stipulated by agreement.

Again this year, I note that there is no allocation for Placitas recreation facilities, despite the Placitas community being a significant proportion of the Sandoval population. We currently have land available for facilities but no capital funding sources.

I believe that the lack of recreational opportunities has resulted in past deviant youth behavior in the community.

Would it be possible for an appropriation to be considered for the Placitas community in the future?

I would be grateful for any assistance in this matter.

J. Wills


Dear J. Wills:

Thanks so much for writing ...

I am talking to people about this very topic. The results of the recent survey done in Placitas indicate a desire for exactly what you've mentioned, so you're not alone. This is something that won't happen overnight, but it's on the radar now, so maybe we can work on this as a future project.

I really appreciate your input, and keep me posted with any other concerns you have.

Kathy McCoy


    re: that SUV deduction

In reading over the materials sent to us by our tax accountant, I observed this alert: "The first year deduction (Section 179) for large SUV (gross vehicle weight in excess of 6,000 pounds) has been reduced from $102,000 to $25,000, effective October 22, 2004. However, there is a significant advantage to purchase your large SUV before the end of 2004 since the 50% bonus depreciation ends on December 31, 2004. If you really want the full $102,000 deduction, the International Harvester SUV qualifies since it weighs more than 14,000 pounds."

This is outrageous! It clearly demonstrates just how unconcerned the current administration is about energy conservation! Get $102,000 back when you purchase a fourteen-thousand-pound dinosaur that must get six miles per gallon highway. I'm sorry, folks, but there is something terribly wrong with the system.

G. Wayne Priester
Ranchos de Placitas


    re: Anaya banned at Colorado school

I was very saddened to read of the decision of Norwood [Colorado] High School not only to ban but to allow to be burned one of Rudolfo Anaya's most renowned works, Bless Me, Ultima.

As a former school board member, I know there are many hard decisions that school board members are called upon to make. Often, there are multiple voices, some extremely strident, as well as a variety of competing interests that must be heard and considered. Therefore, a decision to ban a book and order it burned is one that I find most troubling indeed.

Where were the voices of tolerance and respect for cultural differences?

Fear of the written word is a terrible burden because it often does not stop with one book, or differing thoughts and ideas. Like the flames of the fire, it feeds on itself and soon all efforts to contain the flames are exhausted.

On the first Saturday in March, beginning at noon, I and other similarly minded people will be reading aloud Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima at the Placitas Library. We are proud of the author and consider it an honor to be reading his words. You are welcome to join us at the Placitas Library, on the corner of Terra Madre Road and Highway 165, on March 5.

We might do well to remember the immortal words of Edmund Burke, "All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

Thank you,

Margaret Palumbo


    re: Christmann night-sky articles inspire Signpost reader

Dear Charlie:

I am just an average person who loves the night sky, does not know much scientifically, but is highly concerned and now active nonetheless. Thanks to you and your insight! You have inspired me to take action.

I immediately called Sandoval County and was told that they did not have a clue as to what I was “referring about”! I was placed on hold, then informed that the courthouse had absolutely nothing to do with the matter, nor did they even know how to handle my question about light pollution.

I then phoned the City of Rio Rancho, was transferred three times before reaching “public infrastructure," who informed me, "We don't have anything to do with that; let me transfer you back to customer service." Ha!

I then phoned Casino Hollywood and spoke to Jim in marketing. Although concerned and contemplative on the matter, he told me that Casino Hollywood is not on I-40 but on I-25. And that although people complain and object to the obtrusive lighting, no one ever presents alternative solutions or ideas for that matter as to what else could be used in place of searchlights and other overly bright lights. He asked me for my thoughts and ideas, and I didn't know what else to suggest. Possibly reflectors? Low-light neon? I suggested that he look at the Web site and write to you for further information.

Now I would like to know where else to find pertinent literature on the subject. Are bumper stickers available? Who else do I need to contact to voice my objections?

I moved to New Mexico in the late nineties. I was awestruck by the vast number of stars in the sky and realized that the Illinois sky used to look like this back in the sixties to eighties. As more people moved from Chicago and elsewhere to Central Illinois, the stars gradually became fewer until now you can only see as many as you are able to count on your fingers, or none at all on most nights.

The very thing that made New Mexico so beautiful is now the same scenario: fewer stars and sometimes no stars.

What is life without the stars? What is living without the stars? I am passionate about this, as I am about protecting animals and the environment.

Thank you for caring, Charlie, and for educating me and the public.

Ketra Bock

Charlie Christmann’s night-sky article this month suggests that in addition to continuing to call the casinos, residents concerned about light pollution should contact their mayor and county commissioner.—Editor





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