Two weeks into the session, Rep. Kathy McCoy is
surrounded by the flotsam of legislation during a hearing of the
House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
Bernalillo community-development director Maria Rinaldi comments
on legislation during a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee.
Legislative session results in $27.9 for county projects
Sandoval County and the Town of Bernalillo emerged from the recent
legislative session expressing general satisfaction with its outcome.
This despite the two governments falling short on big-ticket items
like a transit center and a makeover for Bernalillo's main street.
“We did very well,” county spokesman and lobbyist
Gayland Bryant said, pointing to funding for a fire station at the
I-25 Placitas exit, renovation of El Zócalo in Bernalillo,
and upgrades at the county landfill and fueling center. The county
will be looking at its options after losing its top priority, $2.9
million for starting up a bus system with a park-and-ride center
off NM 528 between Bernalillo and Rio Rancho, Bryant added.
The transit system was to connect the planned commuter railroad
stations in Bernalillo.
Overall, the legislature, particularly the fourteen members representing
portions of Sandoval County, appropriated $27.9 million for 194
capital projects in Sandoval County and its municipalities and pueblos.
No one is writing checks yet, however, since the governor contends
the newly passed budget is $200 million out of balance, and he has
until March 8 to sign or veto bills.
Even then, some projects won't see any money until after bond
sales in 2007.
On statewide issues, counties lost reimbursements for housing
state prisoners but won return of most of the state fire fund to
counties over the next ten years. Currently, local fire departments
only receive about half the fund revenue, with the rest diverted
to general state expenses.
Bernalillo's top priority again was its water and wastewater systems,
both under federal pressure to meet new standards.
“One-point-six million dollars, if we get it all, will be
a very good year for the Town of Bernalillo,” town administrator
Lester Swindle said. “Is it sufficient? No.”
The town is still about $8 million short on rebuilding the wastewater
plant and $1.5 million for removing naturally occurring arsenic
from its groundwater, Swindle added.
Another $2 million for the MainStreet makeover died with numerous
other projects when time ran out on the governor's $250 million
transportation program. Instead $2.8 million is going to the New
Mexico MainStreet Program for all projects statewide.
“I'll be trying to get some of that,” Bernalillo community-development
director Maria Rinaldi said. The town also failed to win funds for
formal studies needed to set up a magnetic-levitation transit line
to Rio Rancho, she added.
A complete list of the twenty-seven hundred projects totaling
$762 million can be found at www.legis.state.nm.us.
Among the local projects approved pending the governors signature
are the following:
• Placitas Community Library, $500,000, which, with other
funding, should be enough to begin construction on county land adjacent
to the Placitas Fire Brigade main station, on NM165.
• Jemez Corridor utility study. The first step is establishing
a regional water and wastewater utility.
• El Pueblo Health Services, $2 million for an X-ray facility.
• Peña Blanca Senior Center, $50,000 for parking lot
paving and drainage improvements.
• Numerous other projects, including work on the Placitas
Senior Center, are contained in a separate package funded by bonds
to be voted on in the November general election.
Sandoval County declares moratorium on summary plat
The Sandoval County Planning and Zoning department announced in
late January that they would ask for a six-month moratorium on summary
plat subdivisions when the county commission met on February 2.
During the three days prior to the meeting, P&Z received thirteen
applications to subdivide land in Placitas into forty-three separate
lots—more than the office processed during the entire year
Development service director Michael Springfield told the commission,
“It is fairly obvious that this is fairly lucrative by the
number of applications we have received in the last few days.”
“Fairly lucrative” is an understatement. It appeared
to some that Springfield was trying to kill the goose that laid
the golden eggs—and they were not happy.
County attorney David Mathews said that none of the last-minute
applications would be processed because “You don’t have
a vested right to develop property without county approval.”
He also said that the call for a moratorium at this time was prompted
by a recent incident in which a developer tore up a county road
to install a culvert, without county approval.
But this issue has been building for a long time.
The state requires that counties and municipalities have some
form of summary plat-subdivision process to make it easier and less
expensive for families to subdivide land. Current Sandoval County
regulations allow landowners to split parcels into five lots. The
county requires a survey showing lots of adequate size (usually
three-quarters of an acre), access roads that are forty feet wide,
and a simple well test to demonstrate that the water level recovers
after twenty-four hours of pumping. Applications are posted at the
courthouse for thirty days and approval is granted administratively
(without a public process).
Springfield told the commission that people were abusing the process
and that “You approve one of these and the next thing you
know, you have an entire subdivision that you never expected.”
Abuse of the process would occur if the original subdivision were
split again, resulting in twenty-five lots, and again into 125 lots,
and so on. This kind of development can be illegal if it is part
of what is called a “common promotional plan.”
The Signpost addressed this issue in March 1999 in an article titled
“Secret Subdivisions.” The article was prompted by a
successful protest of a summary plat subdivision and the impending
development of an area called Indian Flats, north of the village
If the relaxed provisions of summary plats allow developers to
circumvent the more comprehensive county subdivision regulations,
large housing developments—like the one that has come to Indian
Flats since “Secret Subdivisions”—can appear without
much county attention to water supply, drainage, traffic, environment,
Ten Placitas residents, including some of the last-minute applicants,
spoke against the moratorium, complaining that it singled out Placitas,
and that it was unfair, arbitrary, and too sudden. Several realtors
and builders testified that the moratorium was bad for business
and could negatively impact their ability to provide affordable
housing in Placitas.
Springfield said that the flood of last-minute applications demonstrated
that the six-month moratorium was necessary while the regulations
that protect the public from uncontrolled development are reviewed
in a public forum.
Commissioner Bency cautioned the other commissioners to avoid
possible litigation, saying, “Bad things happen to taxpayers’
pockets [when lawsuits label government action as] arbitrary and
capricious.” Commissioner Thomas pointed out that Sandoval
County is too big for one zoning ordinance to fit everywhere. Commissioner
Sapien said, concerning controlled development, “We have to
start somewhere.” He agreed with the one pro-moratorium comment
from the public that there was “more going on here than meets
The commission voted unanimously in favor of a resolution establishing
a moratorium for four months. Then they proceeded to pass a resolution
for a six-month moratorium on rural commercial development in Algodones.
There was no opposing public comment. The resolution was prompted
by a split of a large piece of commercial property in Algodones
that could have profound effects.
Springfield told the Signpost that the moratorium will not stop
building permits. Neither will it prevent subdivisions, if the landowner
is willing to go through the full process, which he said is not
really that expensive, considering the large profits that are being
realized. He added that it might be somewhat overstated to say that
the process had been abused and that he would not characterize development
that has taken advantage of the summary plat process as a common
During the moratorium, the county will hold two public hearings
in conjunction with P&Z meetings. At the first meeting, to be
held on February 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the county commission chambers,
several proposals will be introduced. A second meeting will be held
at the same time and place on March 28 to seek public input. Concerned
citizens with vested interests on all sides of the issue are urged
to share their views.
If any changes are recommended, there will be a thirty-day public
notice before the county commission votes on changing the ordinance.
Springfield said that his main focus will be to encourage a public
review of all new subdivisions and to require that well tests are
submitted to the office of the state engineer for analysis. Currently,
well-test reports are simply filed with the subdivision application,
due the lack of hydrological expertise at P&Z.
Patricia A. Chavez
M. Helen Sandoval
Cecilia “Kiki” Trujillo
Bernalillo mayoral hopefuls speak out at forum
Bernalillo voters can choose among four familiar faces when they
select a mayor in the March 7 municipal election.
Incumbent Charles Aguilar, seeking a third four-year term, is
challenged by former town councilor M. Helen Sandoval and past mayoral
candidates Patricia A. Chavez and Cecilia “Kiki” Trujillo.
Voters also will select two councilors and decide whether to impose
a one-eighth-percent sales tax dedicated to buying water rights
and open space.
Appearing at a forum sponsored by the Greater Bernalillo Chamber
of Commerce, Aguilar said the town during his tenure has made progress
on its water and wastewater problems and in planning for new growth.
The retired educator said he would like to see those projects through
to completion while working to preserve the town's character.
“We have made the best use we can of the money we have,”
he said. “Small communities do not have big pockets.”
He and the other candidates endorsed the proposed sales tax and
Trujillo questioned whether there weren't higher priorities for
spending the money.
The chamber also supports the tax but is not endorsing candidates.
Chavez, who barely lost to Aguilar in the 1994 election, said
she would appoint task forces to assure the community helps the
government set priorities. Growth and transportation are significant
challenges to the town and its economic base, she said.
“Our community is poised for drastic change, with development
in the community and the development surrounding us,” Chavez
Trujillo, who ran against Aguilar in the 2002 election, referred
frequently to congestion on US 550 and the increasing traffic on
residential streets as commuters look for shortcut. She also questioned
why the town approved a 780-lot development west of the Rio Grande
without first working toward a bypass to get traffic to and from
“It's not a problem, it's a disaster,” she said. “I'm
for development, but you can't develop if you can't get people in
Sandoval, former councilor and planning-and-zoning commissioner,
said she would be responsive to citizens offering ideas or seeking
information. Bernalillo can't return to its quiet old days but can
grow as a good place for families if people get involved, she said.
“We need to go out to the community and encourage them to
come in and have a voice,” she said.
Bernalillo C of C hosts Q&A forum for candidates
The Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce will host a question-and-answer
forum for the candidates for the position of trustee-councilor for
the Town of Bernalillo. The forum will be held on Wednesday, March
1, at the Bernalillo Community Center in Rotary Park, in Bernalillo.
Questions to the candidates from the moderator will be from 7:00
to 8:00 p.m., with questions from the audience from 8:00 to 9:00
p.m. The candidates are Steven James Baca, Robert L. Bryant, Serafin
Dominguez (incumbent), Vern H. Kilfoy, Santiago P. Montoya, and
Edward (Eddie) W. Torres, III (incumbent).
All residents of the Town of Bernalillo and other interested parties
are invited to attend this forum to get to know the candidates in
order to make an informed decision by March 7. The Greater Bernalillo
Chamber of Commerce urges you to exercise your right to vote as
an American citizen.
For further information about the forum, contact
the chamber, at 867-1185.
After testifying before the Senate Finance Committee, Journeys in
Film program director Ana Rutins (left) and executive director Joanne
Ashe (right) pose with bill sponsor Sen. Mary Jane Garcia. The bill,
which failed, proposed $400,000 to put the film program in all the
state's middle schools.
Many local bills die in short legislative session
The short session of the legislature proved plenty long for a Placitas
organization that uses international movies to interest young people
in the world around them.
As with the vast majority of the two thousand bills crowding the
thirty-day session, Journeys in Film saw its proposed middle-school
program wither in committees and then die at adjournment. Few other
bills, however, drew party-line no votes from House Republicans
and a critical news release equating the proposal to teachers renting
movies at the local video store.
“It was not about our program,” Journey in Films founder
and executive director Joanne Ashe said. “[One representative]
wouldn't even look at our curriculum guide to see it's not about
Another Republican took offense to the curriculum including a
movie made in Iran.
“He said they're our enemy,” Ashe said. “It's
a movie about two children and a pair of shoes.”
Ashe said her three-year-old nonprofit uses foreign films with
young protagonists, like Whale Rider, to stoke students' awareness
of other cultures. The curriculum package then carries class lessons
into math, geography, media literacy, and other fields, she added.
Ashe's board of advisors includes actors, directors, and academics,
with the actor Liam Neeson as national spokesman. Neeson recently
met in Santa Fe with Gov. Bill Richardson, who included Journeys
in Film in his major legislative package dubbed Year of the Child.
A recent grant will expand the program into health issues with
lessons built around Beat the Drum, a South African film about a
rural boy orphaned by AIDS trekking to the city in search of a relative.
The film has not been released in the United States, but Ashe said
she's working on that and on adding Latin American films to the
Follow-up surveys show the classes spark interest and curiosity
even if the students also express confusion and frustration, according
to Ana Rutins, Journey in Films program director.
“That's good,” she said. “The underlying message
is, 'I want to know more; I recognize there is more in the world
that needs to be understood.'”
Companion bills, sponsored by Representative Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque)
and Senator Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana), would have provided
$400,000 to put the Journeys in Film program in all the state's
A random selection of other efforts by Placitas-area legislators
Senator Kent Cravens (R- Albuquerque) won unanimous Senate approval
for a study of penalties for first-offense underage drinking, to
include loss of driving privileges, only to see the proposal die
in the House. Senator Leonard Tsosie (D-Crownpoint) used debate
on the issue to lament the free flow of liquor licenses into neighborhoods
that don't want them and failure of the state to revoke licenses
of liquor retailers selling to minors.
Tsosie and Representative James Roger Madalena (D-Jemez Pueblo)
introduced companion bills requesting a study on either turning
the Jicarilla Apache reservation into a separate county or expanding
Sandoval County to include the western part of the reservation now
in Rio Arriba County. Both bills died.
Representative Kathy McCoy (R-Cedar Crest) joined with Cravens
and Senator Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Albuquerque) to commit $500,000
of their district capital money to the Placitas Community Library.
McCoy dedicated about $612,000 of her $2.2 million district allocation
to Sandoval County projects and also won approval for requiring
state emergency planners to include pets in evacuation plans.
Representative Tom Swisstack (D-Rio Rancho) proposed increasing
a tax break for any film company building a fifty-five-thousand-square-foot
or larger studio in Rio Rancho. Presumably aimed at Lions Gate Entertainment,
which produces the TV series Wildfire in Rio Rancho and Bernalillo,
the bill emerged with a larger tax break for all production companies,
with an extra 5 percent for anyone building a large studio anywhere.
The Senate approved a memorial sponsored by Senator Steve Komadina
(R-Corrales) urging the federal government to do more to protect,
promote, and expand New Mexico's wild-horse populations. The memorial,
which lacks the force of law, requests DNA studies to confirm lineage
to early Spanish horses and a ban on helicopter roundups in rough
country and during foaling season.
Judge Eichwald to speak on openness in government
The West Side League of Women Voters will present Judge George
P. Eichwald, speaking from his courtroom on “Openness in Government,”
on March 15 from noon to 1:30 p.m. The program is designed to broaden
public awareness about the issues involved in the threats related
to openness in government.
The talk will be given at the new county judicial complex, at
NM 528 and Idalia Road. For further information, please contact
Maryann Swartz at 994-1666.
State Sen. Kent Cravens listens to a question during
final debate on his proposal to study penalties for first-time underage
Santa Fe Roundhouse hosts the greatest show in New Mexico
The circular design of the capitol in Santa Fe brings instant comparison
to a railroad roundhouse, a dark and smoky stable of hissing locomotives
all steamed up and occasionally spitting fire.
Often called the Merry Roundhouse, it has the feel of state fair
with suits when the Legislature lures the people and their business
into the arched hallways. Theme-a-day events turn the rotunda into
a midway of program promotions, student musicians, and news conferences
infused by busloads of school kids, the press corps, and just plain
Mingling, too, is a small army of lobbyists, those volunteers
and hired guns mostly dressed in dark business attire testifying
and arm-twisting in hopes of spinning the state cylinder their way.
Ostensibly the main purpose of a thirty-day session, which alternates
yearly with sixty-day gatherings, is to craft a budget for the fiscal
year beginning July 1. But awash in windfall cash from petroleum
produced on state land, legislators proposed bills at a record rate,
ultimately topping two thousand, plus $6 billion in requests for
the single billion available for capital outlay.
Capital projects are the one-shot expenditures usually called
pork—until they pay to pave your road or restore the community
irrigation ditch. A week after the session ended, Sandoval County
lobbyist Gayland Bryant said he tracked 207 county-specific bills
and still was trying to sort out what happened to some of them.
Not all bills involve the budget, since Governor Bill Richardson
can and did puff up the short-session agenda: payday-loan rules,
state minimum wage, tax cuts and repeals, Spaceport development,
power-transmission authority, state treasurer reform, medical marijuana,
paper ballots, and, by the way, it's the Year of the Child.
Of that list, only the Spaceport, paper ballots, and, by the governor's
accounting, 80 percent of Year of the Child passed. Richardson expressed
disappointment early, particularly with the pace of the Senate,
which prompted an impassioned defense by Senate Majority Leader
Ken Sanchez, followed by loud bipartisan applause.
“Quite frankly I think the Senate returned to its customary
role as a thoughtful, deliberative body exploring issues and coming
to the reality of what to do,” Senator Kent Cravens, an Albuquerque
Republican whose district includes most of Placitas, said a few
minutes after the session adjourned.
On the House side, smooth operations fell apart in the closing
hour, when frustrated Republicans led by Justine Fox-Young, of Albuquerque,
questioned details of one spending bill. By the time Fox-Young yielded,
after forty-five minutes, barely four minutes remained until the
constitutional deadline for adjournment, at high noon on the thirtieth
The session then ran over, as House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa
Fe, read a six-minute speech thanking all for hard work and cooperation.
By Republican thinking, the stall blocked bad bills and exercised
what little power they have given Lujan's control over the agenda
and committee assignments.
“We'll probably be vilified for this, but the fact is we're
bulldozed all the time,” Representative Kathy McCoy, of Cedar
Crest, said as she cleared out her office. “All we want is
a little balance in the process.”
The rough-and-tumble extended to a reported hallway showdown over
Rio Rancho Democrat Rep. Tom Swisstack's proposed tax break for
a TV production company if it built a studio in his city. Two smaller
producers from Albuquerque and Los Angeles claimed a state tourism
department official, wearing his other hat as a union official,
threatened them with loss of union support if they didn't back the
Denials followed, but the dustup made the news and editorial columns.
The biggest buzz of the session came from Senator John Grubesic,
the Santa Fe Democrat cleaned up after well-publicized and alcohol-fueled
brushes with the law last year. Returning for the first time to
his old watering hole near the Roundhouse, and sipping a tonic and
lime, Grubesic described his new perspective on the mixture of legislators,
lobbyists, and attractive women and the parade of seekers lining
up to show fealty to Richardson, who was holding court in his usual
Grubesic's political sin was not giving up alcohol but publishing
his observations as a bylined commentary in The Santa Fe New Mexican.
That day he apologized for calling Richardson “the flabby
king” and announced a memorial service for all of his capital-outlay
So mark your calendar for January 16, 2007, when the greatest
show in New Mexico starts its sixty-day run. Best of all, admission
is free, if you don't count your taxes.
Get to know the issues and the candidates before
the March 7 elections
—JACK THOMAS, CHAIRMAN, SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSION
It may be a fact of political life that the more someone needs the
services that government provides, the less they know about how
to access appropriate agencies or voice their thoughts to elected
I had the opportunity recently to talk with county residents attending
the opening session of Leadership Sandoval, a training ground for
members of government, business, and civic groups who want to play
key roles in our area's future.
As I mentioned to them, almost everyone recognizes a photo of
President Bush. Few people, however, can readily identify a picture
of their city counselor, county commissioner, or other local government
official. Yet it's the local elected officials that have the most
direct and greatest impact on our everyday lives.
I have found employees at all levels of government are committed
to excellence and they have a passion about serving residents that
is second to none. The effectiveness of government, however, comes
down to one common element: the involvement of its residents.
That's where all county resident plays a vital role. Get deeply
involved in your neighborhoods, communities, and our county. Become
passionate about the workings of your community and your local government.
One of the easiest ways to make a distinct difference in our communities
is also one of the most overlooked.
Vote in each and every election. Your vote counts and you have
real choices to make when you enter the voting booth.
Several local elections in our county in the past few years—two
races for the Corrales Village Council and one Rio Rancho Council
race—were decided by just one vote. A state legislative race
in our county a few years ago was decided by just three votes. So,
one vote certainly does make a difference.
Most county residents have the opportunity—right now, in
fact—to determine their local officials for the coming years.
Early and absentee ballots are available now for elections on March
7 to elect mayors and city, town, and village counselors. Those
are among the elected officials who directly shape the future of
Municipal elections are being held in Rio Rancho, Bernalillo,
Corrales, San Ysidro, Cuba, and Jemez Springs. Early and absentee
voting in those races began in early February and will continue
through March 3. On Election Day—March 7—polls will
be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Contact your local town, village, or city clerk to get information
about voting locations. Ask, too, for a list of the candidates and
races. Then contact the candidates themselves to hear firsthand
their thoughts and ideas on the issues that directly affect you.
The freedom to vote is a privilege assured by our democratic form
of government. As citizens, it is not only our privilege but also
our responsibility to make certain our voices are heard by means
of the election process. Take the time to study the issues and candidates.
Then, vote in local elections either by early or absentee ballot
before March 3 or on Election Day, Tuesday, March 7.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Thomas
may be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices,
P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo, 87004.