The Sandoval Signpost

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THE GAUNTLET

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letters, opinions, editorials

A white mare and other horses

A white mare and other horses roam through Placitas

re: petition for a wildlife corridor through Placitas

Dear Neighbors,
The history of Placitas includes the free-roaming herd of wild mustangs that have been here for many decades. They are part of the heritage of New Mexico and of this wonderful community of Placitas.

The freedom of the wild horse herds is continually threatened by various agencies and individuals who may not understand the importance of maintaining the legacy of this wild herd. This part of our heritage needs preservation and protection. We are taking a pro-active measure by compiling a list of names of Placitas residents who want to enable these horses to continue to be free-roaming.

We are asking that willing residents agree to have their lands be part of a "wildlife corridor," benefiting the wild horses and other wildlife of the area. In such, we can establish a precedence of agreement that will assist us when interacting with the BLM or Livestock Board. We urge everyone to talk to their neighbors, gather names, respectfully discuss this position, and consider signing a petition to help this effort.

You may sign the petition online by going to whoanm.org and to the pertinent link. If you prefer, you may clip and return the following petition and any comments or concerns to: Laura Robbins, 16 Dos Hermanitas, Placitas, NM 87043 or call 867-3189 for further information.

Thank you for your support.
—LAURA ROBBINS, Placitas

Petition:
I, the undersigned Placitas resident, am in favor of maintaining a voluntary wild horse and wildlife corridor in the north/northeastern section of Placitas. I agree to allow the wild horses and other wildlife passage across my property. I understand that should the horses become a nuisance or cause a safety concern, the management of the corridor and the wild horses will be revisited.

Signed,

__________________________________
(Name)
__________________________________
(Address)
__________________________________
(City, State, Zip)
__________________________________
(Telephone, optional)


re: commercial development in Placitas

Dear Editor:
I read with dismay the article on page 5 of the February 2007 issue of the Signpost regarding the proposed commercial development at the intersection of I-25 and Exit 242. I was even more shocked when I reviewed the accompanying “conceptual site plan” of the development. The site plan shows restaurants, offices, a medical center, and 1000 parking spaces.

It is almost incomprehensible how such a plan could even make it to the drawing board. Has anyone looked at the 165, frontage road, I-25 intersection lately? There is gridlock at this intersection and through Bernalillo during the morning and evening rush hours. During the rest of the day, trucks exiting from the LaFarge gravel mine operation snarl traffic. Remember, LaFarge is campaigning to expand its operations. If they are successful, the amount of truck traffic entering 165 from the frontage road will increase.

Developers are building in Anasazi Meadow and proposing a new development at Petroglyph Trail. People exiting from these subdivisions will have to exit to the frontage road, creating an even more chaotic situation than exists now. The traffic load will far exceed the capacity of the intersection to distribute traffic in an orderly fashion. And, this will all occur across the street from a proposed 1000 parking space commercial development. Unbelievable!

Rapid development also continues along 528 leading from Bernalillo to Rio Rancho and along the 550 corridor. The residents of these new developments will only have one alternative to reach I-25. The traffic through Bernalillo on 550 is already causing nightmares for businesses along 550 and for the highway engineers who are faced with resolving these issues. A commercial development of the scope and size proposed in the “conceptual site plan” will only exacerbate the current mess.
What we need here is some appropriate planning and sequencing of development. Let’s not fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. We have a very bad intersection now. We shouldn’t do things to make it worse.

—RICK SMITH, Placitas


re: child-play hecklers

To: Placitas residents
For those of you who live in a Placitas neighborhood with teenagers, please keep in mind that there is another side to the antics on the streets. There are families who have children here who have lived here all their lives. Ten, fifteen years ago, they could play in the streets under our watchful eyes and have fun with their neighborhood friends. Ten and fifteen years ago, the speed limits were the same, yet, many now drive way above what is posted. My request is that when you see kids playing in the street, neighbors going on their daily walks, coyotes and rabbits doing their thing.... please keep in mind that this is what they have always known. For the most part, our streets and las placitas have been safe for them until now. Now there are hecklers who would rather they "go somewhere else" if they want to "play." Can't you see the wonderfulness of where we live and that of kids playing in front their homes or friends' homes? It's almost too old fashioned to even comprehend these days! Our driveways are gravel and some of the nicest of driveways do not even include kids or anyone under 18. It seems it has become an annoyance to some who drive the roads and are startled when they see any activity in the road. If you are watchful and know what to expect, and if you are driving anywhere close to the speed limit, then you should not be so freaked out and annoyed. Respect is mutual—you get what you give. If you are upset and in a hurry and they are in your way (walking their dog, skateboarding, riding a bike or jumping rope), what kind of reaction do you really expect to receive?
Live and let live!

—A MOM, in Placitas


re: Flying Star lands in Bernalillo

Long ago in debate class I learned the delight of a good verbal wrangle with an intelligent and passionate opponent, and as a municipal and regional planner, there are few things I like to discuss more—even argue about—than issues related to the built environment. So it was with pleasure that I read the letter to the editor by Mr. Richard Sutton in the February 2007 edition of the Sandoval Signpost. His comments and concerns were at once knowledgeable and heartfelt, demonstrating an engagement with issues related to the common good which is to be applauded. However, I disagree with his assessment that the recent decision by the Town Council to approve a Zone Change and Master Plan for the Las Huertas development (ie. Flying Star) will be destructive to Bernalillo’s local character and sense of place. I would like to explain why.

Although at first glance, the Flying Star development may appear “modern” and unconnected to the local culture and neighborhood of which it will be a part, further study reveals how carefully the architect and property owners have striven to create a project with traditional land-use patterns, building components, plantings, and color palette—a project that will not only serve as a center for its developing neighborhood, but that will strengthen the economic and cultural role of the Town’s historic center, Camino del Pueblo. Laid out like a traditional family compound surrounding a “placita” linked directly to the street with housing behind and commercial areas up front, and with multiple pedestrian connections to adjacent streets and developments, Las Huertas is merely a larger version of similar historic developments within Bernalillo and other Hispanic communities throughout New Mexico. This mixed-use development is also replete with traditional building elements such as: a “zaguan” providing a secondary pedestrian linkage of the central open space to the Camino; a long “portal” fronting the Main Street providing pedestrian shade and reducing the visual scale of the commercial structure to match that which is typical of a small town; the use of facades which are placed close to adjacent streets with minimal setbacks, helping to create that sense of tangible enclosure which is so typical of traditional street design; the use of residential courtyard walls helping to create graduated public/private spaces which heighten a communal sensibility while providing privacy and security; and the use of non-asphalt permeable parking surfaces. Plantings within the development include grapevines and large Rio Grande cottonwoods along the Camino, which will provide amenities such as food for wildlife and shade for pedestrians. As much as possible, these plantings are designed to be sustained with drainage waters from natural precipitation. And the color palette chosen for the development is designed to complement that which exists in the surrounding neighborhood.
Together, the new Las Huertas compound, the Zócalo Complex currently being renovated by the County, and the Loretto/Lady-of-Sorrows grouping across the Camino form a “keystone” or “critical mass” of traditional development and historic properties from which the cultural character and economic viability of the remaining northern half of the MainStreet can be strengthened. Additional work still needs to be done to realize the potential importance of this area to the daily life of the Town—primarily through the completion of a proposed street and pedestrian network—but the essential components are now in place. It should be remembered that none of this was certain. The Town’s and County’s citizens, elected officials, dedicated staffers, and property owners and developers (yes, even them!), as well as the local Catholic Parish and others, have worked responsibly and often tirelessly for many years in order to get to where we are today. Certainly our work is not perfect, but it is one of the best possible outcomes, given the real-world constraints of the law, finance, development markets, available time, and other limited resources. The residents of the Town and of surrounding areas should have every reason to be proud and confident of the decision made by the Town Council to approve the Las Huertas/Flying Star Master Plan—we will all be the better for it.

—KELLY MOE, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING AND ZONING, AND FLOOD PLAIN ADMINISTRATOR, TOWN OF BERNALILLO


re: Richard Sutton and the Flying Star

There are many problems with Mr. Sutton’s critique of the design for the new Flying Star complex, but I feel his heart is in the right place. While it’s clear he has no use for modern architecture, I would like to point out to him that the “proud people” of Bernalillo actually have fostered a tradition of establishing Bernalillo as a place where the modern fits in with the traditional. One needs to look no further than El Pueblo Health Clinic and the Department Of Human Services, two great examples of home-grown regional modernism—and in the case of El Pueblo, parts of it were even made with rammed earth. Indeed, the mid-nineties makeover of T&T and Ta Gr Mo is another.

As to the elected officials doing a better job in this regard, I suggest he read my interview with Mayor Chavez, paying special attention to her pride in announcing the Corner Stone Grant project where this summer, Bernalillo youth will be paid to learn adobe-making and masonry. Perhaps Mr. Sutton can put his money were his mouth is and lend a hand in this project.

No, Bernalillo is not Santa Fe. It is a city at the conjunction of all that is ancient and modern in New Mexico. It stands on its own. The Flying Star project will prove to be another great step for this town. “I guaran-told you.”

—BEN FORGEY, Placitas

re: passing on Glorieta

Dear Friends Back East,
I’m pleased to learn that you will soon extricate yourselves from the asphalt jungles of the east to pay me a visit in the Land of Enchantment. How exciting!

Your pre-planning questions require immediate answers. No… you do not need a passport or visa to come to New Mexico. New Mexico is actually a part of the United States, i.e., it is a state and has been since early 1912. You’ve obviously confused New Mexico with a foreign country. Were you thinking of Monaco? Or perhaps the country immediately to our south with a similar name—Mexico? Or were you thinking of Luxembourg? Suffice it to say, you can enter New Mexico just as easily as you can New Jersey—but with greater serenity and a decreased need for munitions.

No, you do not need to bring snake bite kits. Just bring eyesight and a reasonably high degree of auditory acuity. You also don’t need to bring water… at least, not yet. Perhaps in years to come that will be required. Right now, the inconvenient truth is my hope that you will bring your own booze and refrain from long showers.

The same high school football coach/physical education/drivers’ training instructor who unfortunately also taught American history to most of my generation told me that New Mexico history began with Coronado’s 1540 expedition which came north from what is now Mexico and explored this region in search of gold and affordable health insurance. I’ve learned, however, that the region had actually been inhabited by native peoples for thousands of years before that, with unique languages and cultures and whose descendants will most likely be here long after folks like you and I are called to that great Starbucks in the sky.

Yes, the history of this area is infinitely dramatic, rich and compelling. Yet you stubbornly refuse to believe that a significant US Civil War battle could have occurred way out in New Mexico in a place called Glorieta Pass and directly astride the Santa Fe Trail. (You seem afflicted by that increasingly common eastern condition—denial.)

The Union victory was sealed after a contingent of troops accessed the Confederate rear and destroyed their poorly guarded supply wagons. I could take you to the exact spot where those Confederate supplies were burned, and where you can still detect a faint odor of charred grits, black-eyed peas, and red-eye gravy emanating from the soil. (The peculiar crackling sound you hear will be your minds expanding.)

And, finally, one of you has asked if we can pay a visit to Juarez for a “… rollicking good time.” No, we can’t. It’s too far. It’s in Luxembourg. But I will, however, take you to Las Vegas. How’s that sound?!! It’s closer than you’d think—not far beyond Glorieta Pass.

—YOUR FRIEND, HERB, Placitas


re: Tuscan-style architecture not native

Have you noticed the latest trend in new home design? It's called Tuscan. This design as far as I can tell is nothing more than the New Mexico "Pueblo" style with a turret and a red tile-like roof stapled on. Have the people buying (and I have to think, insisting upon) these pricey Tuscan-style homes ever been to Tuscany? Or even seen photographs of real homes in Tuscany? I think not. The homes they are buying look no more like Tuscan architecture than Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Google "Classic Tuscan Homes" or "Homes in Tuscany" and then click "Images". I think you'll agree that the mark-down style being fobbed off as Tuscan should really be called Tuscan-like, or better still, Tuscan-lite. The homes you see in coffee table books on Tuscany don't have turrets. The walls are not stucco but hewn stone. They have rustic wood shutters, tall windows and hand sawed beams, not vigas. But most importantly, they have genuine charm. So, if you really want a genuine Tuscan home, why not move to Tuscany?

—GARY W. PRIESTER, Placitas


250 New Mexicans come from around the state to stop Desert Rock

A rally held on February 6 at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe drew more than 250 people from all around New Mexico. Native American and Faith groups joined with Environmentalists to fight state tax breaks for a polluting coal power plant from Sithe Global Power and to bring their members to the capital to speak to their legislators against proposed state tax subsidies for the plant.

The Plant would go in on the Navajo Nation near Farmington. Though Sithe Global Power says the project could provide up to 200 jobs in the plant, they admit it would emit millions of tons of greenhouse gas pollution into New Mexico’s air and water. Sithe, a Texas-based multinational company, is seeking $85 million in state tax breaks for the plant, which will export power to Arizona and Utah.

Many on the Navajo Nation are unhappy with plans for the plant despite Sithe’s promises of economic development in the area. A blockade of the building site by Navajo elders has been in place since early December. Alice Gilmore, one of the elders in the blockade, says “I still herd sheep on that land and now they want to put that power plant there. I never gave them approval to put it there”. More that 25 elders and 50 other tribal members came to Santa Fe to protest the tax breaks and oppose the project.

The coalition opposing the plant and the tax breaks ranged from the Navajo groups Dine Care and Do’oda Desert Rock to citizen organizations like the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and religious groups such as the NM Conference of Churches and the NM Interfaith Power and Light.

The planned plant, though “clean coal” technology, would emit more than 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. Other pollutants like mercury which are known to have major health impacts would also be emitted by the plant. The emissions from the plant would push the area over EPA pollution allowances, severely limiting future economic development in the Four Corners. Jesse Weahkee, a 12 year old from Shiprock and Albquerque who spoke at the rally, said “if the plant is so great, why don’t they build it in their backyard?”

The plant would also erase all the greenhouse gas emission savings that the state is considering based on the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Group (CCAG). The CCAG was ordered by the Governor to deal with New Mexico’s contribution to global warming, and consisted of government agencies, business and industry representatives, and advocacy groups.

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert


Get ready for an emergency

—INGELA HARTMAN
Reminders of winter have surfaced with the recent snowstorms, floods and blackouts. The weather has affected local neighborhoods and communities throughout Northern New Mexico. In light of the recent events in New Mexico region, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is taking this opportunity to remind people to "get ready" and be prepared for possible future emergencies, including blizzards and power outages.
Homeland Security's Ready Campaign is a national public service advertising campaign produced by The Advertising Council that is designed to educate and empower individuals and businesses to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies.

The Ready Campaign encourages individuals to visit www.ready.gov and learn how to get an emergency supply kit, make a family emergency plan and be informed about the types of emergencies that can occur in their area. There is specific information available on the site about preparing for natural disasters, such as floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, and fires. On www.ready.gov, there are also downloadable checklists for emergency supply kits and information about what to do before, during and after a snowstorm or other natural disaster.

In a recent national survey conducted by The Ad Council, 91 percent of Americans agreed that taking some simple steps to prepare could help protect themselves and their families in the event of an emergency. However, only 55 percent had taken at least one of the three steps recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready Campaign.

For further information about Ready, you may call 717-232-5554, extension 152.

Heard around the West

—BETSY MARSTON

WYOMING
What do newcomers need to know about living in the Cowboy State? Quite a lot, it turns out, or so says the Wyoming Humanities Council, which is putting together a guide called Welcome to Wyoming. After talking to folks who’d moved to the state during the last decade, the council came up with several suggestions. First, even if newcomers have built a huge house and have tons of money, they ought to hang back and learn about where they live before offering advice. Second, volunteering is a time-honored way to become involved in a community, and helping somebody out is a Western tradition. New Jackson resident Brian Dougherty says he was buying furniture at a thrift store when a man walked by and offered to help. Before he knew it, the man had loaded up the chairs and table in his own truck and was following Dougherty to his place: “I remember taking a right turn at a stop sign and thinking, ‘If I was in New York, this guy would take a left turn.’ “ But he didn’t, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. “ ‘The stranger had no ulterior motives, just kindness.’ “ Was there any subject that was taboo? You bet, says a Humanities Council member — wolves. “We had one woman say, ‘I wanted to learn about (wolves) but the way to do it was not to ask people about it.’ “

THE WEST
Continuing our hunt for amusing headlines, we spotted a provocative one recently from IdahoStatesman.com: “City Councilman suspected of dying after falling off bridge in Oregon,” and another from the Salem, Ore.-based Capital Press: “Rancher smolders long after fire extinguished.” The Columbia Journalism Review posted a couple of howlers from Western papers in its recent issue: From the Herald of Lusk, Wyo.: “Voters flock to the poles,” presumably both north and south, and in the San Diego Union Tribune: “Sandal rocks GOP House leadership.” No word on what kind of sandal it was.

OREGON
Some hospitals in Oregon have decided that their patients don’t require special meal plans; all they need is healthy food — sans additives or trans fats. Raves are the result, with some patients liking the made-from-scratch meals so much that they “come back to eat after their stay is over,” reports AP. The Good Shepherd Medical Center in Portland serves lean bison and wild salmon, while hospitals elsewhere in Oregon have added their own farmers’ markets. “The purer and cleaner the food is, the better the ability of that food to improve the health of people,” says Mark Peterson, who manages food for St. Charles Medical Center in Bend and Redmond, Ore.


THE NATION
Molly Ivins, that passionate defender of the underdog, died recently from breast cancer at age 62, leaving behind hilarious books skewering the Texas Legislature and a Texas homeboy named George W. Bush. The word “scrappy” doesn’t begin to describe her style. John Nichols, in a tribute to Ivins in the Nation, called her a “wisecracking, pot-stirring populist,” who wrote columns carried by some 350 papers, large and tiny, while also touring the country to give unpaid talks about the meaning of democracy. Nichols said the best thing that ever happened to Ivins was irritating her boss, A. M. Rosenthal, the imperious and stuffy New York Times editor, 25 years ago. She did it by calling a small-town chicken-killing festival a “gang pluck.” After that contretemps, she went back to Texas to cover politics her way. Just before her death, Ivins wrote one more column about the war in Iraq, telling her readers that each of us in a democracy must be a “decider.” “Keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds,” she urged in a column a few years ago, “but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

UTAH
Back in 1982, the Bureau of Land Management found that off-road vehicle drivers were grinding up the desert, pulverizing the land and the cactuses trying to survive around iconic Factory Butte, east of Capitol Reef National Park. But the agency couldn’t muster the moxie to limit ORV use until September 2006, when it announced that off-roaders had to stay on designated routes on 142,000 acres around Factory Butte. It had been a long struggle for local environmentalists and some public officials, and for them the agency’s decision was a huge victory over those who consider public land nothing more than a free-for-all jungle gym. For ORV groups, of course, the end of complete freedom was a bitter defeat. The newsletter of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Redrock Wilderness, collected some enraged comments from off-roaders, including this one: “What if we just burn the cactus and get rid of the problem all together? If it’s an endangered species, then it has obviously outlived its usefulness…there should be a new open hunting season on SUWA members. ...” And from another rider: “Who besides environmental weirdos cares about a stinking cactus? … Kill the cactus, let people enjoy the open space!” The newsletter’s editor responded: “This one puts us in mind of Mo Udall’s classic definition of the difference between cactuses and caucuses: ‘With cactuses, the pricks are on the outside.’” SUWA congratulated all those who worked hard to protect the area, including the Richland Field Office of the BLM.

ARIZONA
It might be everyone’s nightmare: Rats popping up out of the water in the toilet. That happened in a neighborhood next to the University of Arizona in Tucson, reports The Associated Press. The swimming animals were white, like lab rats or the kind sold in pet stores, but even so, the county health department said it’s not smart to “handle or touch a toilet-surfing rat, though the chance of getting rabies or plague is low in this situation.” The situation is certainly puzzling, since rats coming into a house would have to hold their breath and swim against the current, so to speak, of a sewer pipe leaving a house. A spokesman for Arizona’s Health Sciences Center said the rats were certainly not from academe, “and I wouldn’t want that to become an urban myth.”

COLORADO
What do you do when your city golf course has become a haven for deer? You ask golfers to stay home and invite hunters in to kill the animals, reports the Valley Courier in southern Colorado. Alamosa did just that in late January, selecting 30 hunters by lottery to cull the nearly tame deer that had been causing car accidents and spearing pets. There was a constraint: Only archers were allowed on the golf course to bump off the animals.

NEW MEXICO
A coyote protecting her family can be a formidable opponent, says Georgia Holguin in the newsletter of the Chihuahuan Desert Conservation Alliance in Carlsbad, N.M. Holguin found that out while riding horseback with her husband and two dogs. Coming over a rise, they were confronted by a furious coyote that pawed “the ground like a bull ready to charge us.” The animal even barked right into the face of one of the dogs, all the while pacing back and forth. Holguin says her husband noticed that the fierce little female was nursing: “She’s hidden her cubs nearby; that’s why she’s so frantic.” The couple hastily withdrew, escorted for about a mile by the coyote. There’s a moral to the encounter, Holguin says: “Don’t mess with mamma coyotes. They are small but mighty.”

THE PLANET

NewScientist magazine’s New Year Competition asked readers to compose a brief message to the home planet from an alien visiting Earth. Editors were bemused by the many responses along the lines of “No intelligent life found.” But some of the winning entries embellish the idea: “Weather chilly but improving steadily over the next century or so. Found out why Aunty didn’t come back from her Roswell trip.” And: “Our assumptions were wrong. Their diet is so full of unhealthy chemicals they don’t taste at all like chicken. Even their chickens don’t taste like chickens.” And our favorite: “Dominant species ‘car.’ Colorful exoskeleton and bizarre reproduction via slave biped species. Aggressive but predictable. Intelligence uncertain.”

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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