Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  The Gauntlet

Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: when do taxpayers get relief? 

Every day, we hear on the radio, see on TV, and read in the print media that we as a nation, state, county, and city are facing an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Dozens of national banks and hundred-plus-year-old investment houses, along with numerous major national retailers, have gone or are going out of business. Numerous local retailers have also gone out of business, closed stores, combined operations, and reduced staff. Day after day, we read, hear, and see that thousands of Americans are being laid off almost daily: fifty thousand today, seventy thousand yesterday, and millions over the past year.

The numbers of citizens unemployed in New Mexico is staggering, so staggering that the state agency responsible for processing unemployment benefits was unable to keep up with increased workload.

And Rio Rancho has not been spared. Home values throughout the city have dropped, in some areas very significantly. Foreclosures in Rio Rancho are at an all-time high, with no end in sight.

Thousands of its citizens have been adversely affected by layoffs and have seen their investment and savings accounts decimated. For many of these people, the peace of mind and economic security they felt two years ago has disappeared.

So what do our elected officials do? They indirectly raise taxes! Their latest ploy is to vote, as a body, to send a tax increase measure, such as a bond proposal, to the voters, knowing damn well that few citizens vote, or when they do vote they don’t take the time to understand the issues and vote based on the information provided in the media blitz that supports a particular measure. As a result, the measures are passed by a very small minority of the electorate, and by the time citizens realize the consequences of their vote or lack of vote, their property tax or gross receipt tax has increased.

The two latest tax increases from our elected leaders in Sandoval County and Rio Rancho are the recently enacted hospital bond issue and the mayor/City Council’s coming road bond issue.

How many property owners in Sandoval County realize what the hospital bond proposal will cost them each and every year? What passed was a 4.25 mill increase on all property in Sandoval County. That means every property owner in the county will see a $4.25 increase per thousand dollars in his or her property’s net taxable value.

Let’s say a home has an assessed value of $300,000. It, therefore, has a net taxable value of $100,000. As a result of the passage of that bond, the owner will see a $425 increase in property taxes this year. Since Presbyterian Hospital has announced a delay in the start of construction of its Rio Rancho hospital until economic markets get better, the question every Sandoval County property owner should be asking his or her county commissioners is, “If they aren’t building it now, why should we be paying for it now?“

As for Rio Rancho’s coming road bond proposal, the mayor says this bond proposal won’t raise taxes. True, it will continue an existing tax. If this bond is not approved, it would translate into, on average, a $60 a year reduction in taxes for Rio Rancho property owners. While this amount may be insignificant to the mayor, it is a lot of money to someone who has lost his or her job or is on a fixed income.

What is upsetting is that the bulk of the money will be used to pave Paseo del Volcan from Iris to U.S. 550, not to repair the many streets in Rio Rancho that are in desperate need of reconstruction. It is not like there are no other roads for people in northern Rio Rancho to get “downtown.”

What else is interesting is Sandoval County has requested $63 million in its stimulus bill submission to build out the Northwest Loop from U.S. 550 to I-40. The plan for Paseo del Volcan was for it eventually to connect U.S. 550 and I-40.

A question every Rio Rancho property owner should ask his or her elected representatives before voting on this proposal is, “Why do we need two roadways within a mile or so of each other connecting U.S. 550 to I-40?“ The answer is, we don’t!

I am not the only citizen in Rio Rancho who, given the current economic climate, thinks this is not the right time to float another bond issue. There are many others out there who feel the same, and their voices need to be given as much coverage in the media as those political forces that seem to control news stories in this city. 

—Harry Gordon, Rio Rancho
(Harry Gordon lives in Enchanted Hills and is a retired senior management official of the U.S. General Services Administration, a former deputy director of public works, and a civil engineer.)


re: the road to Chaco Canyon

The driving distance from Camino de las Huertas and El Cerro Negro de Placitas to County Road 7950 leading into Chaco Canyon World Historical Site is 120 miles. You can get there in about two hours. Depending on weather conditions, the remaining few miles into the Canyon site may take a bit longer.

For years, the last thirteen miles of the twenty miles or so has been the focus of much discussion by San Juan County officials, Navajos living along the route, tribal elders, and friends of Chaco. The question is, should the last thirteen miles of unpaved road be paved or simply maintained and left alone?

When you come to the end of the paved surface part of that road, life takes an unexpected turn. As you view the terrain at a much slower speed, it is not uncommon to see herds of goats, sheep, cattle, and horses meandering alongside the open range. Sometimes they even share the road. You will also pass the homes of the dozen or so families who live near the Canyon. They are all Navajos and their homesteads and hogans are part of the landscape.

In good weather, the unpaved leg reminds me of my grandmother’s rippled washboard. During inclement weather, it becomes a passage full of ruts and mud much like what we find in Placitas. If water is flowing down the wash and across the road, you may not make it to Chaco that day. The only place to pitch a tent is beyond the wash and in the park.

Your options are to turn around at the wash, head back home, or spend the night in Bloomfield or Aztec. There is one pre-travel arrangement you should make, and that is to check the weather before leaving. Enjoy the experience. The Chaco culture will be there for another day.

—Ron Sullivan, Placitas


re: Placitas water war is on!

Marc Adrian, I’d like to thank you so very much for your letter in last month’s Gauntlet. You provided a window into the minds of people that take glee in suing over one hundred of their neighbors to take away their water rights. Your honesty is refreshing and rare in this modern world so full of covered-up greed and corruption. Thanks also for personally relating to me additional facts, as you see them, in regards to this case.

I keep hearing squawking sounds from folks associated with your side of the issue that this is just about irrigation or surface water rights. If only it were that simple… Since it’s clear that none of you have actually ever read it, let me spell it out for you: The paperwork that I received when I was sued by Lomos Altos/Garden Path is slipshod, to say the least.

Amongst a host of other problems, it did not specify what type of water right is at issue, nor did it specify why I and my neighbors are so special as to have been selected to be the targets of this action. In the State of New Mexico, there are several types of water rights and very specific rules about water rights lawsuits.

The non-specificity of the situation means that I need to vigorously defend myself from someone whose intent seems to be to take the well water from me and all of my neighbors. Sorry, but I’m not so gullible as to trust the opposition’s unsworn statements when it doesn’t match what has been filed with the court. Beyond that, being party to a lawsuit puts question marks over the creditworthiness of me and my neighbors, and might come to cloud the title to all of our land until this case is disposed of.

As there are lots and houses for sale in El Cerro Negro, the damages inflicted by this situation could be huge. Being forced to disclose a lawsuit (regardless of type) makes buyers balky, to say the least. Not disclosing can lead to severe consequences for the sellers and real estate brokers involved. Imagine the surprise and indignation that a new homeowner would face when finding out right after purchase that they’re being sued. Do you think this has happened yet?

Further, the faulty tactics employed in this case have created the very real possibility of opening up the Pandora’s box of a general water rights adjudication. This became an option the very moment I and my neighbors were brought into this dispute. Prior to that action, initiated not by the Office of the State Engineer, but by Lomos Altos/Garden Path, this was an isolated transfer protest.

New Mexico water law does not contemplate partial adjudications. If my motion to dismiss fails, a full adjudication will almost certainly happen, and the water of everyone in the area is definitely going to be at stake, including individual and shared domestic wells.

Only the lawyers will enjoy the revenue they’ve gleaned from the carnage this will create.

I can be contacted via the following means: email: waterrights@tiltedplacitan.net; web: http://www.tiltedplacitan.net/waterrights.html. No phone calls, please. 

—Jack Bates, Resident landowner, El Cerro Negro de Placitas


re: Placitas planning and who will decide your future 

The question for Placitas today is, “who is going to decide your future?“ You, or the Sandoval County Planning and Development?

For several months, community workshops have been held to build consensus among all Placitas residents to create a unified list of goals and objectives for our area. As each phase of building a Placitas Master Plan through community input has been fulfilled, it is disconcerting to watch the Sandoval County Commission, including Michael Springfield, review our several months’ efforts by diluting our wishes to keep Placitas zoned RR&A and the extant C-1 zoning that is already in place preserved without any further changes.

Our entire community input has been firm on this. However, at least one Commissioner has suggested he doesn’t like the term “C-1” commercial zoning because it has a bad connotation for Placitas, a community he doesn’t even live in. Instead, he would like to replace that designation to “non-residential” zoning, though such a designation is not listed on the Sandoval County P & Z website. Makes you wonder.

It is also disconcerting that an Albuquerque development group wishing for a zoning change from RR&A to C-1 in order to develop well over one hundred acres near the Placitas Fire Station appears for months to have the ear of the Commission—to the extent that this outside group is continuously invited to participate in Placitas goals and objectives agenda throughout the process. Legally, the process is supposed to involve only the Placitas community input, not outside groups. It makes you wonder again.

So, Placitans, be vigilant, because it’s either you or Sandoval County who will decide your future quality of life. I suggest participation now more than ever in Commission meetings. Do not let outside forces with influence supersede the value of our several months of work to protect the place we live in and above all, the voices we have raised as a community to define what we want—because a Commission that has no representatives from Placitas doesn’t hear us unless we act.

—Chris Huber, Placitas


re: the shepherds of Placitas

Recently we suffered a horrific loss to the community of El Cerro Negro de Placitas. Several alpacas were viciously attacked and killed by a neighbor’s pit bulls. The owner of the dogs will probably be prosecuted and retribution will be served.

However severe the punishment, the alpacas can never be replaced. It became the week’s top online video story for the Albuquerque Journal. It’s a story that will not soon be forgotten. Since the savage attack, I have observed the remaining herd of alpacas from our dining room window. They seemed to be stunned at the losses. The owners must be equally in shock.

Shepherds have been around certainly since biblical times. In Lou Sage Batchen’s book, Las Placitas Historical Facts and Legends, she describes the herds of goats and sheep that were tended to by the shepherds of Placitas. In the chapter titled The Brave Little Shepherd, she describes the panic when four young boys, responsible for the flocks, were accosted and one was killed. The families said that from now, on an adult must be with the shepherd boys at all times. The moral of the story is a fresh reminder.

In a sense, we are all shepherds. It is our responsibility to watch over all members of our community and be vigilant and act when danger is near.

—Ron Sullivan, Placitas


re: my stinky valentine  

Dear Friends Back East:

Just a note of thanks for providing my household—and the entire Placitas community—with a most interesting Valentine’s Day experience. I’ve never been on the receiving end of a lovely carrion plant, dependent on flies for pollination and attracting them by a unique ability to generate the odor of a rotting carcass. And in the case of this plant (genus Stapelia), the flowers are the very color of exposed flesh, plus hair—truly a marvelous creation of nature. It was kind of you to share it with us.

Regrettably, the putrid odor forced me to set the lovely bloom outside, whereupon it attracted massive squadrons of houseflies and blowflies from as far away as Argentina, and several yipping, screeching platoons from the local coyote population. Further indications of this plant’s deceptive qualities included subsequent visits by an area SWAT team and CSI unit. And there were my camera-bearing Placitas neighbors, roaming about, looking for decomposing flesh.

I realize these plant species are popular in your area, as they help disguise even more wretched odors unique to your neighborhoods and which regularly waft in from New Jersey. Fortunately, we require no such defenses in the Land of Enchantment (although Arizona can be a bit ripe on occasion). And please know that if you find any plant species capable of attracting precipitation, they would be most welcome any time. Have you come across any of these?

Fortunately, a visitation by a killing frost that evening, in combination with a shovel and dry sandy soil, allowed for proper disposition of the matter.

For future consideration, please be advised that Patrick and I both appreciate cheesecake.

Speaking of Patrick, you hit a home run with your Valentine’s Day gift to our marvelous old Maine Coon cat. He adored those little catnip-filled canvas mice, disemboweling both of them in just one of your New York minutes. Clearly, the experience triggered fond memories of his unchecked serial killing days in Rhode Island years ago.

Upon completion of his make-believe massacre, Patrick silently stared at me in a manner similar to that of Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) when visited by young FBI agent Clarice Sterling (Jodie Foster) in “The Silence of the Lambs.” 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy my gift of framed prints of the small Chicago garage on North Clark Street in which the St. Valentine’s Day massacre occurred on February 14, 1929 and the prints of its gory aftermath. Please notice the nice double matting.

Patrick and I can’t thank you enough for your thoughtful Valentine gifts. 

—Your Friend Herb, Placitas

 


 

The very worst thing about hard times

—Jaime O’Neill, Writers on the Range

Studs Terkel died as last year drew to a close. He was one of the great chroniclers of life in the 20th century, gathering the oral histories of hundreds of Americans. Most were the people historians don’t trouble themselves with -- people who pay the price when the historical figures bungle the task of running things.

One of Terkel’s best books was Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. There’s a distinctive thread running through the book’s hundreds of stories, and that is the shame people felt at being poor and out of work.

Though none of them had done anything to create the economic conditions that caused their suffering, they still felt responsible. The collapse was caused by the irresponsibility and greed of the financial wizards in the boardrooms of America’s biggest companies. But many ordinary people felt guilty because they failed to rise above the circumstances inflicted upon them. The stories in Terkel’s book are heavily weighted with this guilt, a feeling that only added to the miseries people suffered as they lived with hunger and desperation during the ‘30s.

A woman I know recently shared a family story that brings those hard times vividly to life. Her grandfather lost his job during the latter years of the Great Depression, but rather than face the shame of telling his family what had happened, he kept it a secret, dressing each morning for work, then going to sit on a park bench all day, until he was expected home each night. The charade continued for a year until all the family’s savings were exhausted, and he was finally forced to tell the truth to those he loved.

Shame like that tends to come from the old American Puritan belief that God rewards the worthy -- in cash. If you’re well off, it’s because you enjoy God’s favor, and if not, not. The poor and downtrodden of the 1930s may not have consciously held that old Puritan attitude. But the shame they felt was real nonetheless, an insult added to the economic injuries they suffered.

The comedian Chris Rock has a sharp observation about the difference between having a job and having a career. If you’re lucky enough to have a career, Rock says, there’s never enough time for the things you want to do. If, on the other hand, you get stuck in a “job,” time hangs heavy and the hands of the clock refuse to move. I’ve had such jobs, and I can remember the weight of those dragging minutes as I waited for the whistle to blow and release me from my servitude. I’ve also known the other kind of work, where time rushed like water in a mountain stream, when a 50-minute class was over before it began, or where time spent writing consumed a morning before I even knew it had slipped by.

But even a dead-end job is preferable to being unemployed. The pain people suffered during the Great Depression didn’t just strike at the belly; it wounded the souls of people who were reduced to accepting charity from organizations that served humiliation along with their handouts.

Now, the times are getting hard again as millions of Americans find themselves out of work, for much the same reasons their grandparents were jobless in the ‘30s. Unbridled Wall Street greed coupled with a neglectful or complicit set of blind government watchdogs built, and then brought down, a house of cards.

In the 1920s, scam artists like Charles Ponzi helped lay the foundation for the Great Depression. He’s been reincarnated in our own time’s Bernard Madoff. This decade’s political corruption is a lot like that of the Harding administration, resulting once again in more hard times for all but the very rich.

It remains to be seen if President Obama can shorten this new depression with the infusion of vast amounts of federal money. But however long these hard times last, people should never feel guilty for poverty they did nothing to create. It’s bad enough to be laid off from work without thinking it’s all your own fault.

 

     

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