The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


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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.


re: dog-napping dogcatcher—an open letter to Debbie Hays, Sandoval County Manager

Dear Ms. Hays,
I live in the village of Placitas. I just came home from an appointment in Bernalillo to find a dogcatcher capturing and caging my neighbors' dog. My neighbors never let their dogs run loose; in fact, on our street, Camino del Campo Santo, they work constantly (but ineffectively) to try to ensure that vehicles keep the speed limit (posted 10 mph) to protect any children, dogs or wildlife that may wander to the road. I've lived here for three years and have never once seen my neighbor’s dogs outside their fenced yard. I suspect last night's high winds have something to do with it.

I tried to tell the dogcatcher this. I know he has a job to do. We both were very civil. But I'm outraged that he didn't use his discretionary power to let me take the dog—either I would have kept him until my neighbors returned or I would have put him in an enclosure on their property.

He told me the dog, “Reno,” an aging blue heeler, would be at the Albuquerque animal shelter by the end of the day.

The dogcatcher finally consented (to my neighbor, by cell phone) to take the dog to Watermelon Ranch instead of Albuquerque. My neighbors ended up paying $25, instead of the $300 the dogcatcher told them. (Power trip.)

I find the whole incident to be a senseless waste of taxpayer's money. The dog was not a threat to anyone. A neighbor who knows the dog (me) was more than willing to keep him for his owners, thus protecting the dog from danger. Of all the people in my area of the village, my neighbors are the most conscientious and loving in the care of their animals (and any others they hear about who may be lost or in danger, e.g., they tried for days to catch a small, scared lost dog in the village recently; e.g., a couple of summers ago, in response to an article in the Signpost, they spent three days rescuing goldfish from a fast-drying creek after Corrales Water Lily Society only took the "specimen" fish.

I can't convey how upset I am that the dogcatcher was adamant about taking pets from virtually their owners' front yards on the smallest street in this "animal friendly" village.

Surely there is a better way to spend County money and maintain good relations between county workers and Placitas residents.

This was so unnecessary—a bad experience for the dogs and their owners (and me, the neighbor.) We look out for each other and each others' pets on this road. What was the dogcatcher doing here? Surely it was the "animal" version of a speed trap, and it was an absolute fluke that the usually-confined dog found itself on the wrong side of its fence at the time Mr. Griego drove by. The owners don't need punishing—they'd have been flabbergasted to find their dog loose.

I found this incident very frightening. I have two dogs too, always with me. Neighbors passing in cars slow down/stop; on foot, they greet them. I'd never let them out of my sight, but now I'm afraid they'll be "dog-napped" right before my eyes!


re: spread-out development

New Mexico is the third-driest state in the nation, following Nevada and Arizona. Why are we rewarding people to do the wrong thing: develop land in the name of stewardship and "natural capitalism”?

Pueblo people knew how to build here the best, before you-know-who decided this to be fertile ground to sell to you-know-who. Pueblos built in clusters, not spread out. It worked.

But today? Think about it, developers. Very sad, Sandoval County Commissioners. Where are you when the water runs out?
Bless you, Pueblos, for teaching us and waiting for your just due: back to a fine earth molested and ruined—still Mother and redeeming her place.

—CHRIS HUBER, Placitas

re: community heroes

Thank you, Mr. Jackson, for your thoughtful response in last month's Signpost to Susan Blumenthal's letter.

This letter made me stop and think a great deal about our community and the people who give of themselves day to day to improve, strengthen and serve others in our community. I would personally like to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer committee and board member serving and working to improve our choices and who make a significant difference for all of us who live here.

I want to begin by thanking Sue Strasia, Ann Frost and the other members of the Placitas community library board, who have worked tirelessly with no motive other than a desire to contribute to our community. Their work has just begun and they have a long way to go and will need our full support and encouragement.

I would also like to thank the parent teacher organization, the charter school board, the Optimists’ Club, the Placitas Chamber of Commerce, the Placitas Recycling Center, Dr. Alan Firestone and El Pueblo Health service, the Placitas Fire Brigade, all of the Homeowners Associations and water co-op boards, the Placitas Artists Series, the Placitas Animal Rescue, Watermelon Mountain Ranch, Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, the San Antonio Mission Church, W.R.A.P. (Water Resources Association of Placitas), and each and every individual who sees beyond his or her own personal needs and who put themselves out and are working for the greater good of all of us living in this community.

Without these individuals, our community would be a vastly different place. We need to encourage them to press on and continue to face the challenges and needs that we will face as a community on into the future. Perhaps we should look at how we can each do something that will bring about positive change or participation in our community. There are thousands of ways to get involved, from serving on a board to picking up trash in our neighborhoods and along highway 165. The future is in our hands. Nobody is doing it for us. We are an unincorporated area within Sandoval county and although the county can be helpful and co-operative, our outcome will be determined by individuals and groups striving to do better. I believe that the library/community center and the federal and county funds (tax dollars) which have been committed to this project will prove to be very wisely spent . The library, which will be located approximately one mile from the village center, will be an amazing melting pot which will over time become the centerpiece of our community. This facility and learning center will be utilized for all kinds of programs, groups and individuals and something that our community will be proud of for many years to come. Just look at what has been accomplished in the past year or two by the library board in the makeshift environment provided by Pepi Strahl. It is truly amazing, and just the tip of the iceburg. This new facility promises to transcend any perceived economic and social barriers that may exist and will seek to bring us together in a way that we can only now imagine. Placitas absolutely deserves a beautiful and functional library and meeting space and we together will make this integral to the future of Placitas.

Please e-mail me names of unsung heros and outstanding people in the community or your neighborhood who we don't hear about, and what they are doing.The Chamber of Commerce will make an effort to recognize these people and give them the thanks that they deserve.


[Editors’ note: We’d like to thank B. Orbin and Susan Blumenthal for their honest letters questioning the need for a library and a charter school in Placitas in the last couple of issues of the Signpost. Maybe they are heroes, too. Some people like Placitas just the way it is—and some the way it was. Others have a grander vision of the future. In any case, it’s good to keep talking about it. We would also like to thank I. Jackson for her thoughtful defense of the library and charter school.]

re: USFS land trade to Sandia Pueblo

When I first read about the proposed land trade in the January Signpost, I was upset, because I do a considerable amount of hiking in that area. At least I think I hike in that area, since the description of the Forest Service land in question was very nebulous at best.

Now the article in the February Signpost says that there is concern among recreationists that the trade might include the 10-K Loop. Then we are told that the 10-K Loop is not included in the swap. The article confirmed my suspicion that I am not the only one who couldn’t figure out exactly what land is about to be traded.

Here is a novel idea: why not print a map of the area so that everyone will actually be able to know exactly which forest-service land we will be losing. I use the phrase "we will be losing," because it has been my experience that once the forest service decides on a land deal, no amount of public input, not even a lawsuit, seems to sway them from their intended course.


[Editor’s Note: The proposed USFS land trade to Sandia Pueblo does not include the 10-K Loop. To see a complete map of the proposal (too large for printing legibly in the Signpost), please contact Jackie C. Andrew, Sandia District ranger, at 281-3304.]

re: correction

In the last Signpost, we stated that the Placitas Investment Club was new. Actually, it started in 1996. Prospective members can get more information by e-mailing

It’s true: guns don’t kill people

When I was in sixth grade, my entire class was marched into the school gym for Hunter Safety class. There, for several class periods, the public school system helped us understand the difference between the deer we could shoot and the ones we shouldn't, the ethics of "shooting your wife's deer" (which always made me think someone's wife was keeping a deer as a pet, but instead meant using her permit), and then—in a thrilling culmination—we were taken out to the local gun range to shoot a regulation ten bullets from a .22 rifle.

A few weeks later we got our perforated shooting targets back, along with our hunter safety certificates, and emerged newly minted soon-to-be hunters. I went home and told my mom I wanted a .22 for Christmas.

I never got it. My mother's values and my determination to blow the heads off of prairie dogs were in direct conflict, but despite her best intentions, my relationship with guns didn't end with hunter safety.

When I was 15 and abruptly transplanted to a new city school system from my tiny rural one in western Colorado, I met a kid named Scott. His favorite band was Great White; he wore a desert cap (the kind with the flaps that hang down over your neck to protect from sunburn) with a British flag on the top. At a time when I was feeling swamped by a 1,500-student school, he took me under his wing and made sure I was integrated with his friends and his pastimes (bowling, drinking strawberry wine coolers, t.p.-ing neighbor houses, etc.). And by November he was dead in a gun accident that involved some of our friends and an "unloaded" gun.

He took a bullet in the head and died instantly. I wasn't there. I missed the moment when the bullet made a small entry above his eye, and massive exit from the back of his head. My friends all insisted that they had checked the rifle's chamber multiple times, that it was unloaded and they didn't know how it happened. They were just looking over Joe's new rifle and somehow it went off. They were familiar with guns. Had used them many times. None of these gun-savvy kids planned on spattering the basement walls with their friend's blood. But they did.

And now our vice president has had a similar accident. While hunting for quail, he shot a friend and fellow hunter with a 28-gauge shotgun. According to witnesses, Cheney flushed a quail, tracked it, and fired. And in the process, he nailed his 78-year-old friend. The fact that the man didn't die (he's often described as being peppered or sprayed with bird shot, and having welts like "chicken pox" on his face and chest), makes it easier for the people involved to minimize it, to call it an accident with a lucky ending. Here's the thing, though. I don't believe that you can have a gun accident—or luck, either—around guns. You can have gun carelessness. Or gun inattention. Or gun disrespect. Or gun recklessness. Or gun stupidity. But you can't have an accident with a gun.

There are only two things I learned in hunter safety, and they come back to me every time something like this happens: Know where your gun is pointing at all times. Know what you're shooting.

That's it. The first protects against almost every tragedy related to unintentional discharge. The second protects against the consequences of an intentional discharge. The National Rifle Association's "fundamental rules for safe gun handling" say this at Anyone who understands how dangerous guns are, understands these rules. And yet there are still yahoos who own and use guns but don't respect their extraordinary power.

Once again, there is a myth about guns, and now it's being perpetuated by our highest leadership—the myth that accidents happen. There are none. There are only gun consequences. It would be nice if our leaders could at least show enough responsibility to admit that. But that's wishful thinking. More and more, it looks like we're just a bunch of children, playing with toys that we don't understand, and don't deserve to own.

Paolo Bacigalupi is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News, in Paonia, Colorado. He is the editor of the paper’s Web site,



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