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letters, opinions, editorials
[Editor’s note: The following editorial does a good job of describing the issues presented to the Sandoval County Commission on February 16 by Otero County Commissioner Ronnie Rardin and several Sandoval County ranchers. They encouraged the SC Commission to join in their struggle against U.S. Forest Service tyranny and mismanagement which they say has destroyed New Mexico’s land-based economy and threatens the health of the forest.]
Standing with New Mexicans
—U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce
The surge of massive forest fires has been too common in the West in recent years. Mismanaged, overgrown forests have contributed to the spread of wildfires. Otero County has taken a stand against irresponsible forest management in their county. Officials have worked to give their residents safer communities and healthier forests. They said that “enough is enough” when it comes to the federal government’s mismanagement of the forest around Cloudcroft.
In June, the Otero County Commission voted to create an emergency plan, allowing the county to begin thinning the forest for fire prevention. They created an 80,000-acre plan, which they submitted to USFS, which calls for responsible management to protect local watershed and prevent fires that have threatened Cloudcroft for many years. This level of forest management is exactly what the Otero County Commission was trying to accomplish with the emergency tree cutting on September 17 near Cloudcroft.
It was an historic day, marking the return of common-sense local resource management, and I commend their efforts and determination. In the days leading up to the event, an agreement was reached between the US Forest Service (USFS) and the County, stating that USFS would not interfere with the emergency plan. This breakthrough demonstrated that cooperation between local and federal governments is both possible and desirable.
Their efforts are admirable, and the law is on their side—both state law and the Constitution.
Now, the federal government is attacking Otero County, and trying to stop actions that would prevent communities from going up in flames. USFS filed suit against the County Commission, claiming the County does not have the right to protect their homes, property, and forests.
In the lawsuit, The United States of America vs. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Otero and State of New Mexico, the federal government claims that federal law preempts the actions of the County. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction, halting Otero County’s efforts to make the forests safer.
There are two major problems with this lawsuit. The first and most important is that in the Constitution, the powers of the federal government are explicitly outlined and the Tenth Amendment states that all powers not given to the federal government belong to the states and to the people. The right of forest management is not given to the federal government. Therefore, it is reserved for the people and the states. Second, New Mexico law gives the County the right to manage these lands after an emergency declaration by the commission.
Otero County’s plan is legal, reasonable, and looks out for the safety of constituents. It does not call for clear cutting of the forests. Instead, it is a responsible plan to clear dead trees and underbrush that act as kindling when wildfires start.
I am not a proponent of clear cutting our forests; however, I am strongly in favor of healthy conservation through targeted forest management. Regular thinning of trees helps protect local watersheds, decreases the risk of fires, and provides a better forest for wildlife and the people of New Mexico.
Otero County is on the right side of the law, and has worked diligently with USFS to ensure the safety of the county’s residents. Forest management cannot be handled in Washington alone; local resources are best managed by local governments who better understand the needs and interests of their communities. This is a local issue that directly affects the safety and welfare of New Mexicans.
Common-sense solutions exist, and Otero County has been actively pursuing them. I will continue to stand with my fellow citizens to ensure the safety of our communities, economic growth, and a clean environment.
re: SB 9 closes loopholes
On February 13, the NM Green Chamber of Commerce applauded the passage of CS SB9 on Combined Reporting with a vote of 28-13. The bill closed the tax loophole for “big-box” stores and requires them to file a combined tax report and lowers the corporate income tax to 7.5 percent.
“We applaud the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Wirth for this strong first-step toward leveling the playing field for small businesses in New Mexico,” said Allan Oliver, CEO New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce. “This is a big win for New Mexico’s small businesses. This bill lowers corporate taxes for small business, requires “big-box” corporations to pay their fair share and helps our small retail businesses compete on a level playing field.”
The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce is a non-partisan association with over 1,100 business members dedicated to advocating on behalf of clean energy, seizing the green business advantage, and supporting local economies. The NM Green Chamber of Commerce members believe that responsible business invests in people, protects air, land and water, and creates long-term sustainable profits.
—New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce
re: NM Senate opposes Citizens United
On February 12, NMGCC President Lawrence Rael praised the New Mexico Senate vote opposing Citizens United, calling it strong support for New Mexico’s small businesses. This vote made New Mexico one of the first states in the nation to pass legislation opposing Citizens United in both Chambers.
“The NM Legislature sent a strong message to Washington that its time to put power back into the hands of the people,” said Lawrence Rael, President of NM Green Chamber of Commerce. “The Citizens United decision is deeply unpopular with our businesses, and the vast majority of small businesses leaders believe the decision hurts small companies.
According to a recent national survey, two-thirds of American small business leaders believe the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United vs. FEC case handed down two years ago on January 21 hurts small companies. The decision overturned existing campaign finance law and resulted in a flood of campaign contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals.
Only nine percent of small business leaders thought the ruling positive, according to an independent national survey of five -hundred small business leaders released today by the American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, and Small Business Majority.
The survey also found that 88 percent of small business owners hold a negative view of the role money plays in politics, with 68 percent viewing it very negatively.
The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce is a non-partisan association with over 1,200 business members dedicated to advocating on behalf of clean energy, seizing the green business advantage, and supporting local economies. The NM Green Chamber of Commerce members believe that responsible business invests in people, protects air, land and water, and creates long-term sustainable profits.
re: Super Bowl two-minute message from GM, featuring Clint Eastwood
I am enjoying the controversy over the General Motors pep talk, “It’s Halftime in America.” I do not think that either General Motors or Clint Eastwood was endorsing Obama. I think Clint Eastwood (playing a combination of the Man with No Name, Dirty Harry, and Walt Kowolski) was telling all of us (and that includes all government and corporate leaders and lackeys) to stop the divisive whining and subterfuge and let’s get on with the task of fixing this country, together.
As an example of the success that comes when we work together, GM used Detroit’s nascent comeback. Obama chose to bail out the car industry, and that strategy, so far, has succeeded. When Eastwood said, “It’s halftime in America,” I don’t think he was cleverly endorsing support for another four years of Obama. It doesn’t have to be Obama at quarterback. We, the people (every one of us, no matter who is president) still have to play the second half, pushing onward toward full economic recovery. I think Clint Eastwood’s take-home message was to not forget who were are as Americans. We might get knocked down, but we get right back up.
“We” is a very important American word. Maybe, right now, “we” is our most important American word.
—Greg Leichner, Placitas
Fisher Sand and Gravel Quarry Mine, east of I-25 near Placitas/Bernalillo
re: Public comment presentation to SC Commission
In the opinion of our communities, County Manager Rios has made a noticeable difference. Following complaints directly to his office, a correction notice was issued by County Development within days for violations that been ignored for over a year prior to Mr. Rios’s intervention. County Development had previously insisted to citizens that there were no violations. Residents near the gravel quarry are very grateful to the commissioners and to your County Manager.
Residents east of I-25 are concerned about Sandoval County Development Department’s inaction on the Fisher violations, and more generally, the continuously unfavorable interpretations of land use that are inconsistent with the character of the area. We question if this pattern is being motivated by a disdain for the residents, or simply a blind eye towards anything that does not resemble development west of the river? Is the behavior driven by the Commission, or is staff willfully neglecting their duties? Could the name “Development Department” in itself be the root of the problem? This department used to be called “Planning and Zoning.” In other counties around the county, similar departments are still typically called “Planning and Zoning Departments,” as that is what they do: they plan, administer plans, and regulate zoning ordinances—they are not developers. The zoning department’s primary role should be defender of the public’s general welfare.
There is underpinning language in both the Sandoval Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances “To provide for and protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of the County.” This language is not just verbiage, but is required for compliance with the state law that enables the very existence of the county. Staff enforcement of county ordinances is likewise not a choice—it is also required by state law. They are law enforcement officers.
Recent examples of lapses of enforcement of county zoning ordinances, processes, and interpretation that may be putting the County in jeopardy:
- Ordinance 10-11-118.7B1-6 was brought by the Development Department to the County Commission meeting of 18Nov2010 as a part of the Town of Bernalillo/Sandoval County Extraterritorial Zone (ETZ) demise. Based upon erroneous staff testimony, adoption of that ordinance brought a conditional SU-Sand and Gravel zoned property, surrounded by Rural Residential Agricultural zoning, into the County Maps, and this action violated both the County and the ETZ’s zoning ordinances. This property just happens to be the next property to the south of the illegal Fisher Sand and Gravel Quarry Mine.
- Fisher Sand and Gravel “Terrain Management,” which turned out to be a Sand and Gravel Quarry Mine was an administratively approved permissive use with no public review or elected official consideration. Section 10 (1) (C) of the zoning ordinance is very clear about exemptions that would have allowed this, and none apply. The Director of County Development ignored the ordinance, and violations evident well over a year ago are now addressed in a correction letter. Many residents believe that the lack of enforcement has already caused them damages due to their inability to sell properties. There still remains no timeline for the completion of the operation and restoration of the land.
- The Cashwell re-zoning application has been fraught with problems and not the least are multiple staff recommendations that are inconsistent with the County Commission adopted area plans. The first application Development Department staff recommendation for approval was for a Master Plan re-zoning that failed to address crucial issues regarding water, sewage, traffic, etc., as required by ordinance.
Sandoval County east of I-25 has as a primary goal in its area plan, to “Preserve the Character of the Area.” This character is shaped by development interwoven within natural terrain, many loosely connected communities, sparse housing, abundant wild life, clean air and dark night skies. Protecting this character is protecting the area’s general welfare. Please help us.
To read the entire presentation, visit es-ca.org.
—Bob Gorrell, ES-CA president
re: More about Conservation Seedlings from the NM Forestry Division
This is a follow up to the article on Conservation Seedlings in last month’s Signpost. The website for the New Mexico Forestry Division Conservation Seedlings program is here: www.emnrd.state.nm.us/FD/treepublic/default.htm. More information about the Seedlings program can be had at the NM Forestry Bernalillo District in Rio Rancho at 867-2334.
I would be happy to act as a broker to set up a seedlings exchange. If some of the readers are actually going to plant Conservation Seedlings, you can email me at: email@example.com with what seedlings you are buying and also list the species and number of your surplus seedlings to trade with other Placitas planters so we can all get a more diverse collection of plants to go into the ground. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could plant enough to actually help get some local ecological processes going again?
—Michael Crofoot, Placitas
re: Am I the only one who sees this?
Bernalillo’s a small town, yet between the arsenic problems, and what seems to be a huge commercial vacancy rate for a town this size, the glowing reports act as if the town is growing spectacularly. Here’s a listing of twenty-five commercial properties for sale or lease, acres and acres, and hundreds of thousands of feet in this small town of about 8500: www.loop-net.com/New-Mexico/Bernalillo-Commercial-Real-Estate/.
Jackalope’s land and building is in there, which has been empty for a couple years now. The Coronado Restaurant closed. There’s a big former bank building along that same strip of 550 sitting empty. The Bottega closed. Another large structure on the south side of 550 is boarded up. It’s only a matter of time until at least one or two motels near the freeway go under. What is the County P & Z Commission and/or the County Commission thinking by granting the Petroglyph re-zoning permit? There are anywhere between seventy to eighty homes for sale in Placitas and at least a couple hundred parcels of land. Most homes have been for sale for a long time. Quite a few more are empty or abandoned and not on the market. I know; I run and hike all over the area.
These county officials need to quit seeing dollar signs from future property taxes and realize that this state will never have the type of population growth that other retirement states do, nor are families with children going to want to relocate to a state that is 48th in education. From 2000 until 2010, New Mexico’s population only grew from 1.8 million to 2.1 million, about thirteen percent, or 1.3 percent per year. Arizona, meanwhile, grew from 5,130,632 to 6,482,505 over that same time period, or twenty-four percent, 2.4 percent per year, almost double the ten year population growth of New Mexico, and that growth was slowed in the second half of the decade by the housing bust.
This state and Sandoval County are run by incompetents. No matter how many tax incentives Governor Martinez may offer businesses, her willingness to roll back water and air pollution standards ensures that people will continue to live elsewhere. People know and care about those things today. I say, good, Governor. Don’t subsidize clean industries like films and television production or tourism, keep burning coal and allowing those plants to spew mercury into the air, even though New Mexico is the tenth largest producer of natural gas in the country. I hope no one else ever moves here. There’s not enough water, and it’s only going to get worse over time. Idiots.
—Kevin Quail, Placitas
An unwary Cooper’s hawk became a meal for a hungry bobcat in Placitas.
re: bobcats and hawks in Placitas
I had seen a Cooper’s Hawk fly by and check out my feeding area for prey (birds) more often in 2010 than in 2011 and so far in 2012.
A Cooper’s Hawk succeeded in 2011 in carrying away a White-wing Dove that it had flushed at the feeder and accidentally driven against my kitchen window where the dove was knocked unconscious or died before falling to the patio floor.
And I had seen a Bobcat once in my yard, in 2011, up close, as it crossed the patio and passed within inches of the dining nook window where I was standing enjoying the view of the Crest of Montezuma.
Today, February fourth, close to noon, I had just come back home from a neighbor’s when I stopped at the kitchen window to look out at the bird feeder. No birds were in view on the feeder or on tree branches nearby. So, my gaze went to the ground where birds also were absent. That’s when I saw the Bobcat close to the exclosure, feeding on a bird that I first guessed to be a Eurasian Collared Dove. A closer look through the telephoto lens on my camera revealed banding on the bird’s tail, which shouted Cooper’s Hawk. The Bobcat fed for more some thirty minutes during which time juncos returned and took up perches on tree branches twenty or so feet away for their own look at the cat, a killer of a bird killer. After downing all of the hawk except for feathers, the Bobcat departed my yard out of sight behind stacks of firewood and returned nourished to the juniper and grass on the hillsides of Placitas. And Oregon Juncos, House Finches, and White-crown Sparrows soon returned to the seed feeder for the nourishment they need on this cold, breezy winter day.
—Cosmos Dohner, Placitas
re: Valentine vulgarity
Dear Friends Back East,
The reports on your Valentine’s Day activities in the Big Amorous Apple were gratefully received. So was your thoughtful Valentine card containing friendly good wishes and warm holiday wisdom expressed thusly: “Love is an exploding cigar we willingly smoke.” Thank you for this thoughtful urban sentiment.
The nature of your Valentine’s Day celebration was as non-traditional as it was imaginative. I never would have expected you fellows to spend that special evening watching a videotaped trilogy of “Nightmare on Elm Street” with your lady friends. I was also surprised that you chose to give your sweethearts each a five-pound Gummy Bear rather than the usual Russell Stover triple decker.
Those candy gifts must have been visually striking before the rampant ripping, tearing and devouring commenced, i.e. made in glistening three-tone colors of orange, pineapple and bubblegum flavors. And, as you reported, the 6,120 calories in each bear could be considered nutritionally offset by the presence of citric acid among the Goodyear-like composition, and the happy fact that these monster confectionaries were gluten free.
I am grateful you held back a portion of tasty bubble-gum lower torso, with one cute chubby leg still attached, to mail to me for my enjoyment. But I am herewith asking that you keep it for your own ingestion. I understand this material has a shelf-life of 127 years, and I’m also reasonably certain you and/or your inamoratas will be hungry again in time for Easter. Thanks anyway.
To be honest, I was prepared to label your Valentine’s Day arrangements as inconsiderate, stupid, and tactless until I read at the end of your report that your ladyloves had specifically requested this holiday protocol including the ‘Elm Street’ selections and choices of Gummy Bear flavors. So, it seems you really came through and did so in the spirit of H. L. Mencken’s words: “Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” Victory is yours!
Here in the Land of Enchantment we celebrated with a beautiful New Mexican day and a great lunch at one of the area’s many wonderful eateries. For dessert, we brought home a few heart-shaped biscocittos—the state cookie—and a single large éclair with a custard filling. We extruded the custard filling into Patrick’s open, grateful, and largely toothless mouth until he was sated. The last we saw of the little beast that evening he was sitting on the dining room table, watching the sun go down, punctuating his purring with the occasional small belch.
Your Friend, Herb
re: Uncle Lalo
What a pleasant surprise to read through the Signpost to find an article written about my Uncle Rumaldo Montoya. My Uncle Rumaldo was more than an Uncle to me—he was my Uncle Lalo. My Uncle Lalo was so near to my heart, he became a grandfather to me. In fact, his baby portrait graces a wall in my dining room. Not many people knew that my Uncle had a twin brother who died at a young age. I have both portraits, my Uncle’s portrait, and his brother’s portrait is on the inside of my Uncle’s wood cook stove. I can honestly say my Uncle got all the looks.
If you had the honor to meet my Uncle, your first impression wasn’t the greatest. He was a big man who was gruff. Honestly, when I would visit the ranch in Placitas with my mom and dad, I would be scared to death of my Uncle. It wasn’t until he came to live with us in Albuquerque when I was thirteen that I got to know him. He became ill with diabetes and was forced to leave his beloved ranch. My Uncle almost lost his life to diabetes, but instead he lost his right leg below the knee. It was my job to help my him with the dressing covering his stub. During this time, my Uncle and I began to form a special relationship. He would tell many of his stories in his gruff way, but I fell in love with this gruff old man. My Uncle had a heart of gold and honestly would give the shirt off of his back if you needed it. I remember the old truck that Denise spoke of in his story. My Uncle also had an old scout. This was going to be my first vehicle and I remember when my dad told me what the plan was going to be. I was not happy with the thought of driving around in that beat up old scout. You see, my Uncle started hitting more than just poles in the middle of the road; he started hitting about anything that got in his way. Parts of his old truck still grace my sister’s yard.
Another interesting fact about my Uncle Lalo was that he was the first hippy in Placitas. He was the one who taught the many hippies who lived in Placitas in the Sixties and Seventies how to live off the land and how to survive the harsh winters. He even showed several of the ladies how to sew on his peddle-operated sewing machine. One of his beloved friends is our Placitas-famous Lynn Montgomery. Lynn lives above my Uncle’s ranch and now has a prosperous garden and sells many of his crops at local markets. Lynn is one of our local advocates who fights alongside us for water and the preservation of our heritage.
There are so many wonderful memories of my uncle. The milk pail that he used lives on his old cook stove in my dining room and will be used when I start milking my goats. His old recipes of how to make cheese will be used when I start making my cheese. He left me with a love for Placitas, particularly the land that my family has fought for through generations and continues to fight for. He left me with a love for animals and living off the land. He showed me how to make salve for your hands out of Pinon sap and shampoo out of a yucca plant. He left me with so much. When my Uncle passed away he left his ranch—Las Huertas—to my mother. When my mother inherited the land she divided it between her children, and other relatives. My mother moved to Placitas shortly after my Uncle’s death and has been living on the land where she was raised. Both my sister and myself have made our home in Placitas and several of our relatives live here as well. Thank you, Signpost, for re-printing this wonderful story written by Denise Raven and stirring up all of these wonderful memories of my Uncle Lalo.
—Rebecca Skartwed, Placitas