The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


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letters, opinions, editorials

re: sad shakers of salt

Dear Friends Back East:
You have frequently mentioned your eagerness to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and it was out of curiosity that I asked what you believe the Cinco de Mayo celebration is all about. All of your responses were unique, ranging from “Jimmy Buffett’s birthday” to “…commemoration of Thomas Edison’s 1928 invention of the agave plant.”

Forgive me for saying it, but your views are ludicrous and “gringo-like.” To begin with, Jimmy Buffett was, in fact, born on December 25, 1946—not May 5th. Furthermore, Thomas Edison did not invent the agave plant. (I’m not certain who did, but believe it was Ricardo Montalbán.)

Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the May 5, 1862 victory by Mexican forces over invading French troops in the city of Puebla. France was seeking to establish a monarchal government in Mexico City to help counter U.S. power and acquire a Central American foothold. So, Cinco de Mayo has nothing [directly] to do with tequila, but remains a worthy symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. I do, however, admire your Mexican nationalism, especially in view of your Irish, German, African, Swedish and Canadian heritages, respectively. I would hate to think that the Cinco de Mayo celebrations in your region—or any region—are crass commercial contrivances, aimed at profiting from the sale of tequila, limes, Cointreau (or Triple Sec, depending on taste), special glassware, salt, chips, salsa, and the like—or that any of you would fall for such superficiality and miss the true meaning of the occasion.

That would be like considering the 4th of July in the U.S. as commemorating the invention of pyrotechnics by the Chinese in the 2nd Century. Imagine.

Another potentially confusing holiday observance in this region is the annual (November 2) Day of the Dead wherein the living remember their departed relatives and celebrate death as a passage to a new life. It’s a beautiful, joyous ritual of remembrance with ancient roots and is not at all gruesome or scary.

In other words, the Day of the Dead has nothing to do with the Day of the Hungover and Lethargic so popular in your area of the country, and which I presume you are destined to observe on May 6, following the Night of the Designated Driver.


re: flood control

I agree with Carol Parker that creating Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority was hardly “our idea,” and would rather say that the County took our concerns over last summer’s flood damage and the lack of storm water control as an opportunity to advance their preferred strategy. That said, I can understand how forming a new Arroyo and Flood Control Authority is an attractive option for the County. First, it follows in line with the creation of AMAFCA (Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo and Flood Control Authority) and SSCAFCA (Southern Sandoval County Arroyo and Flood Control Authority) as a centralized and independently funded agency responsible for dealing with storm water control issues typical of growing urban and/or urbanizing areas. I can’t speak to the justification of the lax enforcement on the part of the County regarding storm water ordinances, but such an effort must present a huge administrative and financial burden. Forming an FCA bestows the responsibility, concentrates the technical expertise, and creates a separate and substantial funding stream appropriate for dealing with a problem of this magnitude.

It’s easy for us to lay blame in hindsight, but the fact is that storm flows of the extreme levels observed last year dangerously exposed active pipelines and literally washed away acres of private real estate. Insufficient storm water regulation and enforcement can’t be blamed entirely as substantial runoff flows were contributed to Las Huertas Creek from undeveloped areas (lands to the north of Camino Rosa de Castilla are a good example of this).

The way the proposal is structured appears fairly community-driven. The voters will need to support whatever proposal the ESCAFCA group develops, or the whole program goes away. I believe there’s also a petition provision that could kill plan implementation with a sufficient response. One of our shared concerns at Las Placitas Association (LPA) is that the plan will follow a heavily engineered and concrete-intensive approach that will spell the demise of the natural riparian aspects of Las Huertas Creek and its tributary drainages. We are actively engaged in implementing restoration methods in the watershed that work with the natural ecology of the landscape and the Creek, as opposed to overpowering it with concrete-lined ditches, dams and spillways. The benefit of this approach is that more storm water is retained in the watershed to nourish riparian growth and wildlife habitat, and more water goes to groundwater recharge. We also believe this approach works to enhance the natural beauty of the Placitas area.

In the aftermath of last year’s monsoon floods, it’s clear that something other than the status quo is needed in the Placitas area regarding storm water management. Whatever form this takes in the near future, Las Placitas Association will continue to advocate for methods that retain water in our watershed, recharge our aquifers, and enhance the natural beauty and ecology of the area that inspire many of us to live here.


Signpost cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

re: county’s priorities?

When I read of the money that has been ineptly squandered by Sandoval County to provide broadband service and then I see the rapidly deteriorating conditions of the roads in my neighborhood, roads that have not been maintained for at least seven years, unless you count dumping road patch in a few places and letting the automobiles tamp it down, I can only wonder where the county’s priorities are. Yes, it would be swell to have access to the Information Super Highway. But having roads that look like some 3rd world country is a bad trade-off.


re: RV and boat parking

The Rio Rancho City Council is holding meetings for residents regarding the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas. One of the issues that has arisen during these meetings is the parking of RVs. Many residents of Rio Rancho have some type of RV or boat parked at their home. I am concerned that the restriction of RVs will be one of the results of any law passed regarding commercial vehicles. Should this occur, there are several factors to consider:

1. If the city passes such a law, how much time will pass before Sandoval County Commission follows suit?
2. There is insufficient storage space for such vehicles in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County. And, storage can be costly. Available land for such storage facilities is inadequate. Available land is being zoned for housing developments.
3. Many of our residents are couples who live on retirement income and want to enjoy the use of RVs. We have families who find that RVing is the least costly way to spend vacations.
4. Many residents have RV parking pads established beside or behind their homes.
5. FMCA and Good Sam organizations are extremely interested in the outcome of the City Council’s action. We spoke to FMCA regarding the matter today, and I know that others in Sandoval County have notified these organizations. As RV and/or boat owners, we need to make our presence known at these meetings. We cannot wait until a bill reaches the City Council.


re: pet dog shot dead by “sick-o”

Attention: All residents north of volcanic dike (Briley Hill) and south of the ridge above Las Huertas Creek in Placitas. There is a SICK-O in the neighborhood. Be watchful of all your two- or four-legged animals.

I had a dog shot on March 28 between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. A plumber came and [my dog] ran out to greet him and started to come back inside, but apparently saw a rabbit and took off like a streak. After the plumber left, I went to look for him. I found him by my car.

The second the vet saw him, [he] stated it appeared to be from a .22 gauge. It entered the left hip, perforated both sides of the small intestine, and exited the right side.

Needless to say, the dog died a horrible death from peritonitis while in surgery. This could have been an animal of yours or a person. Also, my close neighbor had a dog poisoned by rat poison last year. Fortunately, she survived.

This was a dog all my neighbors would say was “a lover” and would never be intimidating to any person. Until now, he never met a human he did not like. As the old TV show said, “Be careful out there.”


re: Santa Ana Pueblo and US 550

In the April 2007 issue of the Sandoval Signpost, a letter was printed from one of our neighbors who serves on the Santa Ana Tribal Council. He wrote about Highway US 550 being a threat and something about spiritual significance of a sacred site. What site was he referring to?

Was he referring to Tamaya? The Santa Ana-owned hotel/spa/golf resort whose sole access is off US 550 in Bernalillo? The resort that’s visited daily by hundreds of vehicles and supply semi tractor trailers?

Or was he referring to The Prairie Star Restaurant? The Santa Ana-owned restaurant whose sole access is off US 550 in Bernalillo? The restaurant that’s visited daily by gaggles of vehicles and supply semi tractor trailers?

Or was he referring to the Santa Ana Garden Center? The Santa Ana-owned plant shop whose sole access is off US 550 in Bernalillo? The plant shop that’s visited weekly by herds of vehicles and supply semi tractor trailers?

Was he referring to the Santa Ana Star Casino? The Santa Ana-owned casino whose sole access is off US 550 in Bernalillo? The Casino that is visited daily by thousands of vehicles and supply semi tractor trailers?

Am I misinterpreting his letter, or is he really saying that the congestion on US 550 is the neighbors’ problem and that the Santa Ana Tribal Council is unwilling to even discuss alternatives to help alleviate US 550 traffic overload as they continue their businesses expansions?

Is he really saying that Santa Ana pueblo wants the benefit of having ALL its business customers use US 550 to access Santa Ana businesses and is willing to offer nothing in return to help alleviate the traffic problems in Bernalillo?

If so, the only thing that can be said is, ‘Bad Neighbor, Bad.’


Re: “Chamber Chat”

Thanks, Ty, for your thoughtful and thorough article [Chamber Chat, Signpost, April 2007] concerning various issues and personnel in three local Chambers of Commerce. I believe you tiptoed through the tulips very nicely and presented the past and present situation in a very informative manner.

For the record, I voluntarily served on the Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce Board from 2002 until December 2006, and I was involved directly with Mr. Vuillemot during his tenure with the Chamber. I want to address one aspect of the April Signpost article concerning Mr. Nick Vuillemot, former Executive Director for the Greater Bernalillo Chamber of Commerce (GBCofC). The Signpost article states, “Vuillemot told local media that he was given no credit for turning around ‘a social club with no structure into a professional Chamber of Commerce.’” As I recall, Mr. Vuillemot made his “social club” statement in his final letter to the Board last May, and it was also carried in the Albuquerque Journal.

Mr. Vuillemot’s “social club” statement is very unfair to the Chamber Board, in my view. While Nick certainly made a contribution to the growth of the Chamber during his brief tenure, he was a member of the Board team, and all of us made contributions in many ways.

Since Mr. Vuillemot’s departure, the Board has worked diligently in search of a revised direction for the Chamber and its members. Local business owners need access to health insurance and a voice not only in the local community but in Santa Fe during legislative sessions. These are the issues the Board is presently using its energy to address. Numerous meetings have been held with Rio Rancho Regional Chamber leaders and local Bernalillo key people such as Bill Sapien, former Sandoval County Commissioner, and Sandoval County Manager, Ms. Debbie Hays, among others. At the same time, the Board has opted to delay billing their 2007 members until it has a concrete direction to present—a very ethical approach, in my opinion.

Last March through late May, three Board members worked closely to develop a detailed Executive Director job description and a method of pay for Mr. Vuillemot. Chamber President Mr. Gary Saiz, Board Treasurer Mr. Bill Walters, and I spent many hours on these matters. Mr. Vuillemot lost patience with the time the process was taking. I understood his impatience with the slowness of our approach and his decision to leave the Chamber. But his remarks about a “social club” do not do justice to the energy, time, and interests of those who voluntarily serve the local business community.


re: wild horse legislation

In 1974, New Mexico had over six thousand wild horses and burros on federal lands alone, as per the BLM and Forest Service’s Joint Report to Congress in 1975. Now it is less than four hundred on federal lands in New Mexico and fewer on other public lands in the state.

They are an American icon and an integral part of our cultural heritage and enchantment! Now on to giving them a job—equine eco-tourism—a clean industry with many rural economic development possibilities in our beautiful state, supported by the New Mexico State Tourism Department!

Continued support is needed to move both New Mexico Congressional Senators toward commensurate federal protections for the Wild Ones.

Please join WHOA [Wild Horse Oberservers Association] in thanking Governor Richardson for his continued support of the Wild Ones. Please also join WHOA in thanking Senator Komadina for his four years of persistence in carrying Wild Horse Bills SB655, SJM8, and SM13 all to successful completion this year for the horses.


Out-of-state corporations play shell game with New Mexico taxes

Big, multi-state corporations like Wal-Mart use a variety of methods to pay less than their fair share of corporate income taxes to the state of New Mexico, according to a report released today by New Mexico Voices for Children. The report is called “Corporate Shell Games: How Wal-Mart and Others Shield Their Profits from New Mexico Taxes.”

Some multi-state corporations take advantage of a loophole in New Mexico’s tax laws that allows them to manipulate their revenue so the companies appear to make lower profits in New Mexico than they actually do. The state Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) estimates that the loophole costs New Mexico $80 million annually.

Wal-Mart, for example, has used this loophole to play a multi-million dollar shell game, shifting its profits to a subsidiary in Delaware—where it was not subjected to corporate income tax.
After New Mexico’s Taxation and Revenue Department ruled that Wal-Mart owed the state $11.6 million, Wal-Mart devised a new shell game. The retail giant transferred its real estate holdings to a trust and now essentially pays rent to itself—which it then deducts from its tax bill as a ‘business expense,’ even though that money never leaves the company. The state has also taken Kmart to court over taxes—and won.

A change in state law would make it much easier to collect the revenue that’s owed the state. “The solution is simple,” said Rep. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). “Change the law to require ‘combined reporting’ and require multi-state corporations operating in New Mexico to pay corporate tax regardless of how they do their internal bookkeeping,” he added. Rep. Wirth has sponsored so-called ‘combined reporting’ legislation in the last three legislative sessions, but the bills have always died in the House Business and Industry Committee.

Combined reporting is catching on all over the country, as twenty states now have such laws. They require multi-state corporations to ‘combine’ the income from all of their subsidiaries. A formula is then used to determine how much income tax is owed each state.

“States with combined reporting—Arizona, Colorado, and California, for example—have enjoyed strong job growth,” said NM Voices Research Director Gerry Bradley. “Combined reporting levels the playing field for corporations doing business only in New Mexico.”

Advocates argue that there’s more to this issue than lost revenue. There’s also the issue of fairness. Every dollar that the state fails to collect from a corporation such as Wal-Mart is a dollar that has to come out of someone else’s pockets—like those of local businesses or hard-working taxpayers.

“Local New Mexico businesses are paying their fair share of the corporate tax,” said Rep. Wirth. “Why should their out-of-state competitors be allowed to pay little or no tax on the money they make in New Mexico? This is bad economic policy and makes no sense.”

The “Corporate Shell Games” report was released in conjunction with Change to Win, a federation of unions dedicated to improving working conditions and pay for Americans. The report is available for reading at

Heard around the West


MONTANA: Let’s get this straight: Was a unicorn behind the wheel of a truck that crashed in Billings? A deputy prosecutor told a judge that story in all seriousness, asking for a high bond because he thought the driver claimed a unicorn was driving. But the prosecutor misunderstood a colleague’s email using the term “unicorn defense”—legal slang for a defendant who blames anybody but himself for an accident, reports the Associated Press. In this case, the driver, Philip Holliday Jr., told police that “an unnamed woman” was driving when his truck hit a light pole. Holliday has serious problems, said the county attorney, but hanging out with reckless unicorns is not one of them.

THE WEST: t’s no secret that riding in the back of a pickup isn’t safe, but it sure seems like fun to dogs. They brace their four legs and stand proud, noses sniffing air redolent of roadkill, and whenever a truck corners, there’s a little sideways slide to enjoy. Border collies seem most at home traveling in the open air, maybe because they get to sit on the very top of bales of hay. But for a Democratic legislator in Colorado, dog abuse can be defined as allowing unrestrained canines to ride in truck beds. Her bill to ban the practice provoked a flurry of letters to several newspapers, but then seemed to go nowhere fast. Meanwhile, in Arizona, a bill banning children from truck beds—unless all the seats in the cab are filled—also went down, and not for the first time. Bills banning kids from truck beds have been introduced in Arizona for more than twenty years, and each time they’ve been defeated, reports We can see the bumper sticker now: “Truck Beds, The Last Bastion of Freedom.”

NEVADA: The Stardust Hotel-Casino on the Las Vegas strip bit the dust in ten seconds on March 13, the 2:30 a.m. demolition timed to meet few crowds and little traffic. It will be replaced by a $4 billion fifty-three-hundred-room complex called Echelon. The Stardust was only middle-aged—48—but that’s ancient by Las Vegas standards, reports the New York Times. The resort leaves at least one mourner, twenty-three-year-old Joel Rosales, whose website,, pays tribute to such demolished properties, including the Dunes, Hacienda, and the Sands. “I am disappointed that we as a city have no sense of preserving our past and heritage,” he said, “no matter how tacky or out-of-date it might be.”

There’s nothing like a bunch of twitchy-tailed rodents to annoy some people. The squirrel population in a Santa Monica park has mushroomed to one thousand, even though the city has tried poison and gassing to knock down the numbers and reduce any risk of the animals spreading disease. But nothing slows the animals’ reproduction rate for long, and since 1998, the city has been cited five times by Los Angeles County for “squirrel overpopulation.” So this summer, squirrels in Palisades Park will be injected with contraceptives, thanks to a birth control program pioneered at Berkeley. Not everyone agrees there’s a problem: Catherine Rich, described by the Associated Press as an “animal activist,” pooh-poohs a health risk. “There is not a pressing threat of squirrels attacking people,” she said, “so I don’t know why the county is getting their panties in a bunch.”

Mail carrier Debra Smith, in Parker, Colorado, told Mother Earth News that she knows something about bird pals: “I’ve had crows escort my left front bumper, and one of my current ‘buddies’ almost caused a five-car pileup when he momentarily landed on my head to get my attention.” Smith carries dog food in her pocket for the crows, who now expect all mail carriers to come similarly equipped.

A celebrity made the scene at a rural reservoir in western Colorado, dropping in by air and preening at all the attention, though at first she—after determined to be a he—was the one following people around like a groupie. The charismatic creature was a greater sandhill crane, a truly big bird at four feet tall. Orphaned at a young age after his parents and sibling were killed by a dog, the crane was rescued by a ranch hand and raised along with a flock of chickens in Nucla, a former uranium mill town. The crane flourished there for three years, but when his savior was stricken with cancer, the crane was dropped off at Fruitgrowers Reservoir during “Crane Days.” The hope was that the bird, dubbed Baby, would bond with its “fowl-mates.” Instead, the extrovert preferred hanging out with people who came to watch hundreds of migrating cranes gathered at the water. The Delta County Independent’s headline captured the all-too-familiar story of a celebrity’s descent: “Baby steals our hearts, then checks into rehab.” In this case, rehabilitation is happening at the Schneegas Wildlife Foundation in Silt, Colorado. Given Baby’s need for human companionship and constant attention, the crane’s final destination might well be a zoo.

Betsy Marston is editor of Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( Tips of Western oddities are always appreciated and often shared in the column, Heard around the West.



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