Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

  Around Town

Rep. Martin Heinrich

Congressman Martin Heinrich spoke to an audience in Placitas about his first 100 days in office. He told the crowd he loves coming to Placitas because people here really get together and talk about issues.

Congressman Heinrich comes to Placitas

—Ty Belknap, Signpost

About fifty people attended Congressman Martin Heinrich’s town hall meeting at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Most of the Sandoval County commissioners showed up, too. Heinrich carried his two-year-old son Micah, as well as the Obama party line—not that there’s anything wrong with that. He was warmly received by his fellow Democrats, and the line sounded pretty good coming from our enthusiastic freshman congressman. None of the opposition was in attendance to hold his feet to the fire. Apparently, the Republicans were busy planning their “Tea Party” tax protest.

Heinrich told the audience that he loves coming to Placitas because people here really get together and talk about issues. The meeting covered a lot of ground, and included opening statements and a question-and-answer period.

Heinrich listed some of his accomplishments in Congress, saying that the economy was a “tier one” priority, and that he had worked closely with the Obama administration on the Recovery and Jobs Act, which included the “biggest renewable bill in history” that would benefit renewable energy projects in New Mexico. He voted to cancel his own cost of living raise. He worked on the Land Conservation Act, which will have a tremendous impact on the West with a huge expansion in protected public lands, maintaining agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley, and improving federal wildlands firefighting capabilities. He successfully fought the takeover of New Mexico’s national laboratories by the Department of Defense.

Questions were read from cards submitted by the audience. The answers follow:

  • Heinrich did not know if stimulus money would be available for the Placitas Library, but he promised to find out.
  • He supports the Employee Choice Act, which gives employees the right to choose if and how to organize.
  • Heinrich said, “The recession is no excuse to avoid health care reform.” He sees a window of opportunity to address the unsustainable costs of the system as it is, to increase access to care, and to drive down administrative costs while treating the providers fairly. He worked on a health care bill that contains a provision to allow health records to be kept in an electronic data base which, he said, would save money and consolidate the system. New Mexico kids will benefit from the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act that finally passed.
  • He supports community-based planning for the national forests, increased funding, and a more sustainable approach to management.
  • He favors a system that connects land-use planning to water availability and challenges presented by global warming.
  • Although the Crest of Montezuma provides “an important backdrop overlooking Placitas,” he’s not sure it qualifies for certain federal protections.
  • He said that planning for a loop road through Placitas should be done on a local level, and he would not support federal funding if locals oppose the road.
  • He said educators should be allowed to spend more time instructing and less time testing.
  • He sees signs of the economy “turning around” despite structural problems that continue to threaten the system. He said, “If the economy doesn’t grow, we can’t fix anything,” and “We need common sense regulation of how money is loaned, and transparency so people can accurately evaluate risks.”
  • He struggled with Obama’s course of action in Afghanistan, but said that classified briefings have “scared the daylights out of me.” He has talked with General Petraeus and agrees with Charlie Wilson (see the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War“) that the United States blew it when they didn’t follow up military aid against the Soviets with funding for basic human services.

Heinrich concluded by saying that the system in Washington works pretty well even though he is frustrated at times trying to work with Republican unwillingness to cooperate with the congressional leadership and the Obama administration. At the same time, he understands that Republicans have lost many moderate power brokers due to pressure from the right, and are in a “tough spot,” doing what they believe serves their constituents.

Commission Chairman Donny Leonard gave Heinrich a thumbs-up for his performance so far, and said, “We are fortunate to have two young congressmen who have come up through the ranks.”

Poetry/performance event to benefit Wild Horse Observer’s Association

A stellar collection of poets and performance artists will gather on May 16 from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the Anasazi Fields Winery for a benefit/fundraiser program to benefit the Wild Horse Observer’s Association of Placitas.

The program will include poet Lou Liberty, whose latest book of poetry is Bearing Witness, a work of nature poetry resulting from her residency at the Rio Grande Nature Conservancy Wildlife Refuge; poet Dale Harris, former editor of Central Avenue and the author of numerous CDs of poetry, who will perform with flautist Ingrid Burg; Placitas’s Poet Laureate Larry Goodell; poet and performance artist Marilyn Stablein, whose most recent book is Sleeping in Caves; poet/guitarist Mitch Rayes, author of various CDs; poet Mary Oishi, whose voice is well known on KUNM-FM; flautist Johnny Alston, also well known in the area for his excellent flute compositions in the tradition of the Native American flute; poet Merimee Moffitt, co-editor of the poetry broadside The Rag; poet E.A. “Tony” Mares, one of New Mexico’s most well-known writers; performer/composer John Bullock, who heads up the local band Cheap & Easy; poet Jim Fish, who will read from his new book A Sense of Play; writer/performer John Orne Green; and Pastor Elizabeth Lyman from the Placitas Presbyterian Church. Gary L. Browe will read and emcee the event.

Come early to see the Spanish Colonial Horses (Spanish Barbs) at the Placitas Community Library from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Tickets for the event will be available at the library, located at 1 Terre Madre and Highway 165, just west of the Homestead Village Shopping Center. You may also call 771-8174 for tickets. Suggested donation is $10. Wine and snacks, DVDs of the event, as well as CDs and books of the participants will be available.

To reach Anasazi Fields Winery in Placitas, take exit 242 from I-25 and proceed east and north on state Highway 165 until you reach the historic village of Placitas. Turn left onto Camino de los Pueblitos, just as you enter the village (look for the winery sign). After two stop signs, turn left into the parking area for the winery.

Placitas Flea Market reopens

The Placitas Flea Market will be in operation again this year on the second Saturday of the month, starting in May and running through October. The booth fees paid by vendors will help fund art projects, field trips, and the purchase of art supplies for students at Placitas Elementary School (PES) through the “Art in the School” program.

Art in the School is a private nonprofit organization that trains parent volunteers to provide art education in the classroom. Art history, art criticism, aesthetics, and art studio are part of each interdisciplinary lesson. The program addresses a variety of learning styles to make sure every child benefits. It teaches students that art is an integral part of the human experience. PES has been a participant in this program for more than twenty years and students have explored a variety of art forms, including Pueblo pottery, Hispanic tinsmithing, Navajo weaving, African mask-making, Impressionist painting, scientific illustration, printmaking, and photography.

Scheduled dates for the Placitas Flea Market are May 9, June 13, July 11, August 8, September 12, and October 10. Participants can bring items for resale, arts and crafts, and other treasures to set up in the field on the west side of the Merc parking lot. Spaces are first come, first served and setup starts at 6:00 a.m.

The Merc is located in Homestead Village, one mile east of I-25 on SR 165. The cost is $10 per marked space. For $20, artists selling original work may set up under the Merc portal. Vendors of all kinds are encouraged to participate. However, no hot foods or sandwiches are permitted. Bake sales and lemonade stands are welcome.

A parent volunteer will collect vendor booth fees during the day of the event.

For further information, you may call Gregg at 867-8930 or Ellen at 771-0592.

Las Huertas Plaza

NM State Senator John Sapien, Jean and Mark Bernstein, owners of Flying Star, Nick Vuillemot, Executive Director of the Greater Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce, and Bernalillo Mayor Patricia Chavez cut the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the Las Huertas Plaza.   

Wild Birdhouse

The Wild Birdhouse house boasts a full line of birding supplies for the outdoors enthusiast along with a full line of high quality cat and dog food. 

Business’ grand openings at Las Huertas Plaza

—Signpost Staff

It was truly a Grand Opening in April for new businesses in the Las Huertas Plaza located next to The Flying Star Café in Bernalillo. Under Charlie’s Covers, The Wild Birdhouse, and Interior Concepts conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by a weekend of activities for everyone.

The ceremonies were done on Friday, April 17. Officiating dignitaries were Bernalillo Mayor Patricia Chavez, Bernalillo Fire Chief John Estrada and NM State Senator John Sapien.

“Sandoval County's finest independent used bookstore,” Under Charlie’s Covers, is proud to support the Placitas Fire Brigade through the raffle of a beautiful framed 3’ x 4’ photograph generously donated by New Mexico photographer Jan Bartlestone, valued at $900. The photograph is titled “La Nina Suite” and it was taken at the end of Tamaya Blvd., past the resort, in Algodonnes.

This image and more local area photographs are found in Bartlestone’s new coffee table book The Unimaginable Play of Light, available at Under Charlie’s Covers in Bernalillo. Bartlestone will be at Under Charlie’s Covers on May 9 from noon until 2pm to sign his book. Raffle tickets can be purchased individually for $10.00 each or in combination with the purchase of The Unimaginable Play of Light for $45.00. The raffle drawing will be held May 31st. Tickets can be purchased from Captain John Wolf of the Placitas Fire Brigade by calling 771-3788 or view the framed photograph on display and buy a ticket at Under Charlie’s Covers.

All of the proceeds from the sale of raffle tickets will be donated to the Placitas Fire Brigade.

In addition to Bartlestone’s book signing, Under Charlie’s Covers will continue to support local, up-and-coming talent by hosting a series of book signings. 

“My dad, Charlie, loved to attend book signings and add signed collectibles to his book collection.  I am excited to provide a forum for new authors to get some exposure in the community,” explained Under Charlie’s Covers owner Lara Harrison. “We might harbor the next Cormac McCarthy or Tony Hillerman in our midst!”

New Mexico native and Rio Rancho High School teacher Mario Martinez will present his first novel, Converso, published May 14, to sell and sign on May 30 from 10am until noon.

Also on May 30, from noon until 2pm, Placitas author and artist William Skees will be selling and signing his mystery novels Death Picks a Blue Palette and Death in Aquamarine, and A Blush of Maidens, A Foolishness of Old Men, a collection of stories, essays and poems.  

The Wild Birdhouse house boasts a full line of birding supplies for the outdoors enthusiast.  They carry a full line of high quality bird seed along with all the accessories to make a back yard a great birding experience. The Wild Birdhouse also carries a full line of high quality cat and dog food, and all the accessories to make playing with your animal’s fun. 

The owners of The Wild Birdhouse, Heath & Liz Foott and Mike & Cyndi King are excited about opening another store in the Bernalillo area. “We see Bernalillo continuing to grow and want to be involved in the success of the area from the get go”, says Mike King. “It is a risky time to open a store with the economy the way it is, but we are so excited about the store and servicing the local area the timing couldn’t have been better or soon enough”, states Heath Foott. “We see more and more people spending time at home enjoying their backyards versus going out with current economical situation, and what better than to enjoy it and watch birds “, says Cyndi King.

Interior Concepts, owned by Anna and Rudi Rossiter, will create a custom interior for each individual project. “Everyone’s life is impacted by their living environment, and our ideas strive to reflect your lifestyle through the design process. Whether your style is Traditional, Contemporary, or Transitional, Interior Concepts will design a plan that seeks to improve the quality of your lifestyle and surroundings.”

Their projects consist of new construction, remodels, existing homes, and commercial interior renovation. They provide a full range of interior design services, and will provide guidance throughout the design process, from space planning to final interior finishes, color selection, and many more services. Interior Concepts works with leading manufactures and offers an extensive line of quality products for all of their client’s design needs.

The Grand Opening ceremonies of the Greater Sandoval County Chamber of Commerce Members were The Flying Star Cafe, represented by owners Mark & Jean Bernstein and Lindsay Lancaster, Director of Marketing and Public Relations; The Wild Bird House, represented by owners Heath Foott and Mike and Cyndi King; Under Charlie's Covers represented by owner Lara Harrison and Interior Concepts Design represented by owners Anna and Rudi Rossiter. The shops are all located at 240 South Camino del Pueblo here in Bernalillo.

Check The Signpost for more book signings at Under Charlie’s Covers in the upcoming months.

New Mexico Wine Festival poster contest announced

The Town of Bernalillo is looking for the next New Mexican artist whose work will be featured as the 2009 commemorative poster for the 22nd Annual New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo.

The competition is exclusively for New Mexico artists. The Town intends to select an original artwork, which depicts the historical and/or present New Mexico Wine industry of the Middle Rio Grande Valley. The selected artwork must be an image suitable for reproduction as the festival poster and on other promotional items such as a t-shirt. The image should not depict children, or present any negative connotation of the wine industry. The image should not have any text and must be signed by the artist. All submissions need to be framed, with a hanging apparatus for display, but should not be matted.

Please consider that it is the custom of the festival to reproduce the image in the full size of the original artwork. Logistics and expenses of such are a consideration.

The selected artist will receive up to $2,000 for the original artwork and rights of reproduction, one hundred copies of the reproduction, and a booth at the New Mexico Wine Festival at Bernalillo.

For the purposes of this competition, representation in a New Mexico gallery does not constitute residency. Artists must be at least twenty-one years of age to be eligible.

All entries will be reviewed for eligibility and for selection of up to five finalists. If an adequate number of eligible entries are received, selected artworks may be displayed at various Bernalillo restaurants on Camino del Pueblo for three weeks for public vote. If an adequate number of eligible entries are not received, the Town may choose a poster image with no further process. All work not selected must be picked up within thirty days or will become the property of the festival.

Submissions are due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2009 at the Bernalillo MainStreet Office, Bernalillo Town Hall, 829 Camino del Pueblo.

Interested artists must submit the following:

  • A cover memo indicating the specific project for which materials are being submitted.
  • A one-page double-spaced typed biography.
  • Completed work must be framed, not matted, under glass if appropriate, and must have a hanging apparatus.

Questions about the project may be directed to Maria Rinaldi, Executive Director, New Mexico Wine Festival, at (505) 867-3311, ext. 133.


  • March 30: Project announced
  • May 15: Submission deadline
  • May 20: Announcement of finalists or poster selected
  • May 22– June 11: Display for public vote (if finalists selected)
  • June 12: Poster image announced
  • Sept. 5 - 7: 22nd Annual New Mexico Wine Festival

Stamp Out Hunger food drive

—Ellen Baker, Chairperson, Casa Rosa Food Bank

On Saturday, May 9, Placitans are encouraged to put non-perishable food items at their mailboxes as donations to help feed the hungry through the support of Casa Rosa Food Bank. All donated food will stay in Placitas.

For more than a decade, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the U.S. Postal Service have teamed up to collect food donated by postal customers.

This is a very important food drive for those in need in Placitas. During this time of year, food supplies are typically running low, and with increasing demand, the food bank needs more rations to feed families.

Please put out some of your excess food items on Saturday, May 9 to help Casa Rosa Food Bank feed the hungry this summer.

Piedra Lisa Dam cleanup

A team from the Bosque Youth Conservation Corps stands in front of the now-naked slope of the Piedra Lisa Dam after a morning of clearing debris.

Youth Conservation Corps cleans up Piedra Lisa dam

—Keiko Ohnuma

The kids pitched the last load of what was to be an all-day cleanup job soon after lunch, leaving their grizzled overseers shaking their heads.

“It’s been a while since I worked with kids,” admitted Ted Montoya. “They’re running up and down the hill, and I’m a Vietnam vet—Jim and I are saying,” he signals a fellow board member on the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), “this isn’t going to work (for us).”

Montoya, James Pike, and Coronado SWCD chairman Will Ouellette brought eight teens out to the Piedra Lisa dam on a recent Saturday in April to do some long-neglected maintenance work. Ouellette first used the group—the Bosque Youth Conservation Corps—to help clean Las Huertas Ditch last spring, and is now expanding his ideas about what the kids can accomplish.

“All we provide is lunch,” he said of the federal program, part of the New Mexico Youth Conservation Corps, which provides tutoring and paid community work for teens after school. The dam cleanup is supposed to be done every year, Ouellette said, but he could not remember when it had been done last. Sandoval County had not provided money, he said.

Currently the dam, just south of the entrance to Placitas on Highway 165, has six inches of silt that needs to be removed, Montoya said. That work will be done by a contractor using heavy equipment, but no machinery can be used on the slopes of the earthen dam, so all the tumbleweeds and brush had to be removed by hand.

“This (east) side of the dam has never been this clean,” marveled Ouellette, who planned to have the teens clean the west side in early May.

He said he had learned from working with the kids on Las Huertas ditch that you have to break them up into smaller groups, to keep them focused and motivated. But motivation seemed to pose no problem on this Saturday, as the six boys and two girls powered through the job, gleefully pitching the gathered debris over a fence for the fire department to burn. They identified plants they recognized—one of their regular assignments is in a plant nursery—and toyed with a stray lizard and a rat, which they nicknamed Toby.

“It was intense when we were going through the stuff to see Toby hop out,” one of the boys laughed.

“A lot of our kids are inner-city kids, so anytime we can come out to a place like this, it’s an experience,” said Jacob Huling, one of their supervisors. “This went a lot easier than the ditch,” he added—where spring cleaning means hauling large boulders out of the four-mile-long acequia on a steep wooded slope.

Ouellette likes the idea of assembling such multi-agency projects where everyone benefits. He is a member of Las Huertas Community Ditch, whose twenty landowners are responsible for cleaning the acequia each spring.

“I think it will be a steady thing,” he said of his involvement with the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). “They love coming out to places like this.”

Most of the teens in the group rarely venture as far as Placitas, though they live just a few miles away. Three out of five school days during the spring term, they are tutored in academic subjects from 3:30 to 6 p.m.; the other two days, they work on projects such as a community garden, recycling, and building chairs for the public schools, for which they are paid $7.50 an hour. Many, but not all, live in federally designated poverty zones. Involvement in the YCC qualifies them for scholarships and help in choosing careers.

“You’ve got to be a hard worker,” one of the boys said of the competitive application process. “We’re self-motivated.”

Besides getting out of the city and getting paid, projects like this give teens a taste of what an outdoor career might be like, Ouellette said. The work day includes talks about their role in helping to grow food (in the case of ditch cleaning), preserve natural areas, and protect public land.

Indeed, many area residents are probably no more aware of the history of Piedra Lisa dam, built in 1955 to protect Bernalillo after a ruinous flood in 1949. Federal standards enacted after Hurricane Katrina led to the construction of a $2.4 million concrete spillway two years ago, and the dam was just rated “in excellent shape” by a federal inspector, Ouellette said.

The town of Bernalillo had proposed annexing the land under the dam for a proposed retail mall, but last August the town council declined the motion. So the dam remains under county jurisdiction—meaning essentially the Coronado SWCD.

Three of the seven members of that group showed up to oversee the dam cleaning on that recent Saturday, earning less than the kids (as their elected positions are unpaid) and sharing in lunches donated by Bad-Ass Coffee, breakfast burritos from Sonic, and water from Wal-Mart, with Mrs. Ouellette’s chocolate-chip cookies at work’s end.

“We like protecting people,” Montoya explained of his volunteer work on the SWCD. “I’ve been trying to get the arroyo straightened out here in Bernalillo my whole life.” If just one kid from these cleanups ends up a civil engineer, he added, he would consider the program a success.

To that end, Ouellette said the SWCD will sponsor one teen from the group to attend the New Mexico Forestry Camp, a five-day outdoor workshop in the Jemez Mountains. In years past, they have sponsored a student from Bernalillo High, but the principal had not proposed anyone recently, he said, and “we decided [it] might as well [be] one of these kids.”

Rio Rancho Veterans Monument Park

—Margaret Nava, Signpost

Rio Rancho sprang to life in the 1960s after an ad ran in the Wall Street Journal promoting low-cost, low-interest homes located in a new development on the outskirts of Albuquerque. The ad appealed to Midwest and eastern residents interested in buying inexpensive property in an undeveloped area with a temperate climate and beautiful surroundings. In 1966, there were one hundred families living in Rio Rancho. Ten years later, the population swelled to five thousand and in the 1980s to twenty thousand. As of 2006, there were more than seventy thousand people living in the city.

Most of the original settlers of Rio Rancho were retirees, many of whom served in the armed forces during the World Wars, Korea, or Vietnam. As new generations were born, grew up, and went out into the world, many followed their parents’ example and joined the military. Within the first thirty years of Rio Rancho’s existence, the United States was involved in seven different wars or police actions.

On Memorial Day each year, various Rio Rancho organizations, the police and fire departments, and representatives from all branches of the service march together to honor those who served. Stepping off at 10:00 a.m. on Country Club Drive, the parade travels east on Southern Boulevard and culminates at the Veterans Monument Park on Pinetree Road adjacent to the Esther Bone Memorial Library. People line the streets and curbs to cheer and wave flags as the American Legion, VFW, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and many others pass by. Cameras click; children sit on father’s shoulders; dogs watch attentively. After the parade, there are speeches, music, and informative presentations. High above the Monument, flags fly in tribute to all the veterans, past and present, who faithfully served our nation.

One of the groups marching in this year’s parade will be the Rio Rancho Chapter 5 Blue Star Mothers of America. Julie Roberts, president of the chapter says, “We try to do everything we can to assist the troops and their families. Among other things, we conduct welcome home events, put together care packages, make ribbon magnets, and march in parades.” The parade on Memorial Day is especially important because “it’s a way of increasing public awareness and honoring all the men and women who gave their lives and those who continue to fight for our freedom.”

Just beyond the gateway leading into the Monument, a wall bears commemorative tablets listing wars in which the United States was involved. They were the Revolutionary War (1771-1783), the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the Civil War (1861-1865), the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War (April 1898-August 1898), World War I (1917-1918), World War II (1941-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam War (1964-1975), Lebanon (1982-1984), Grenada (October 1983-December 1983), Panama (December 1989-January 1990), the Gulf War (1990-1991), Somalia (1992-1994), Bosnia (December 1995), Afghanistan (2002), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (March 2003—?).

A few steps away, four two-sided walls contain terracotta bricks listing the names of Rio Rancho veterans and organizations such as the Blue Star Mothers and the Gold Star Wives who supported them. Three of the walls are almost full but one empty wall stands ready for additional names. Several obelisks detail the number of those killed, wounded, or declared missing during some of the more recent wars. During World War I, 116,516 men and women were killed, 204,002 were wounded, and 4,500 were missing. During World War II, 407,318 were killed, 671,801 were wounded, and 8,714 were missing. During the Korean War, 54,246 were killed, 103,284 were wounded, and 5,178 were missing. During Vietnam, 58,167 were killed, 153,303 were wounded, and 2,325 were missing. And, during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, 147 were killed, 458 were wounded, and twenty-three became prisoners of war. So far, casualties from the more recent wars have not been inscribed on Park obelisks.

Unlike other memorials, the Rio Rancho Veterans Monument Park features a healing garden, a water conservation garden, a wetlands area, two gazebos, and several picnic areas. Families and children come here not only to remember those who served, but also to watch birds, butterflies, and lizards; to learn about trees, native plants, and water conservation (the Master Gardeners Club offers special classes and programs here); or to sit beneath a ramada and enjoy a sunny afternoon. Monument President Michael Gallegos describes the Park as, “nothing fancy, just a simple place where people can go to honor our veterans. It’s quiet here… there are no outside disturbances.”

There are no graves at the Rio Rancho Veterans Monument Park, just some walls, native plants, and bronze plaques. Etched into one are the sentiments of the people of Rio Rancho:

“For over two centuries, American veterans have pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in defense of this great nation. A grateful city dedicates this monument to the men and women of our armed forces, whose courage, idealism, and sacrifices perpetuate American freedom.“

Another plaque reveals the sentiments of the veterans: “We served so America can be free.“






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