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letters, opinions, editorials

re: make the Rio Rancho mayor a full-time position—why not

So, Rio Rancho’s Charter Review Committee has recommended making the mayor’s position a full-time job.

The real question here is: If the mayor’s position is full time, does Rio Rancho need and, more importantly, can it afford to have a full-time city manager? The current city manager is making somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000/year, plus benefits. City leadership is forever telling its citizenry that the city is broke. The fact is, it is. The city could not honor pay raises for its employees, including police and fire, because it didn’t have the money to pay for the raises. Every year, the city is forking over $2.1 million, more or less, to pay the debt load on the Santa Ana Star Center because, contrary to what the city told its citizens, this facility has been and will continue to be losing proposition for the foreseeable future. The city manager told the public that the city spent nothing on the failed Green 2V fiasco, yet the city is suing whatever remains of Green 2V for over $14,000 for the money the city spent on legal work. How much more did the city spend on this failed endeavor that they are not telling the public?

And what exactly will be the duties of the full-time mayor, and how different will they be from those of the city manager, if any? If they will be nothing more than a duplication of responsibilities, or if the mayor’s duties will continue to be mostly ceremonial, then one or the other has to go. If the bottom line here is to allow the mayor to cast a vote in council matters, where now he can only vote in case of a tie, it will be a lot cheaper and just as effective to give him that authority without making the position full time. What this city government does not need in its present fiscal situation is a duplication of duties and responsibilities that do nothing more than add layers to local government and place city officials further away from the public that they have sworn to serve. And who exactly are these handpicked people who make up the Charter Review Committee? What are their relationships and/or vested interests with the mayor, city councilors, and city manager?

Anytime the city wants to undertake infrastructure improvements, the next thing we know is there is a bond vote. Funny how the city can’t fund negotiated pay raises, but they can find $90,000 to finance a special election for a road bond. The police and fire departments, like other departments, are being told to make do with what they have because there is no money to buy new or additional equipment and supplies, which could make the employees safer and more productive at a lesser cost. And when the city’s department heads’ monthly vehicle allowances came under fire, how did the administration “hide” those expenses? They incorporated them into the employees’ salaries and then announced to the public that they no longer pay vehicle allowances. It seems not to just me, but to a whole lot of other Rio Rancho taxpayers, that there is always money to do what the city leadership deems a priority, though it may be at the expense of others.

Now, let’s review the facts. The population of the State of New Mexico is over 2 million, and the governor’s salary is $110,000/year. The City of Albuquerque’s population is approximately 500,000, and the mayor’s salary is $103,854/year. The City of Rio Rancho’s population is 87,500 plus, and the city manager’s salary is approximately $158,000/year, plus bonus, plus benefits. Is it me or is something out of kilter when it comes to salaries?

So, am I opposed to the city having a full-time mayor? A qualified “no.” But if the citizens say “yes” to a full-time mayor, then Rio Rancho does not need a full-time city manager. That is just padding the public payroll at the public’s expense.

—Harry Gordon, Rio Rancho

re: redefining America

It’s been very interesting for me growing up in Albuquerque, attending Highland High School, graduating in one of the largest classes they have ever had, and later moving to Placitas to the comforts of quite ‘country’ living. Many things have changed and appropriately so. My beloved family’s weekend roller coaster ride in the back of the family station wagon on the one lane dirt road through the arroyos is now a six-lane arterial called Tramway Boulevard. Obviously, there are many more dramatic changes than this, but the one that I’ve never become comfortable with is way we (Americans) change or morph our definitions of words to accommodate a politically correct attitude. As I look around, I see this particular change dramatically accelerating, and I’m left breathless.

It used to be an honor to be a Citizen of the United States. We called ourselves Americans, and we WERE proud of it. A Citizen was someone who was born in the United States or through a long process became a ‘naturalized’ citizen. In my youth, there was a difference between a Citizen and an Alien. Aliens had to comply with Title 8 of the U.S. Code and file for papers to be in this country. An Alien wasn’t even permitted to work without the proper documentation. If an Alien wanted to become an immigrant, there was a process, a way forward. If an Alien entered the United States without this paperwork, they were classified as an illegal alien and, if caught, were deported.

Well, this is a thing of the past. We’ve changed or redefined illegal alien in the public perception to “undocumented workers” or “immigrants.” Gone is the process that my grandparents went through to become Americans. Gone are the requirements for legal access to this country. We no longer require the paperwork and even, in this state, issue them official documentation to drive and cast votes, and now they can attend our universities as in-state residents.

Now, we’re changing again. The other day, I heard on the news that Donald Trump was entering the presidential race. I just shook my head—

I no longer asked, “What’s this country coming to?” Oh, how I long for the backseat of that family station wagon going 25 mph up and down the arroyos, but I know better. I know enough to ask myself, “Just what’s behind all of this?” and then it struck me.

Mr. Trump is bucking the system. He is actually trying to stop the redefining of America. Look at it this way—the United States Constitution states:

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Simple—at least it was until it was redefined by Mr. Obama. For whatever reason, Mr. Obama refuses to produce his original birth certificate. No big deal—he’s presented a certificate of live birth. What isn’t being discussed is that nowhere in the United States Constitution or in Title 8 of the U.S. Code is a statement that a certificate of live birth is a birth certificate. Actually, I imagine that a New Mexico driver’s license is a little harder to get, but I digress. Mr. Trump has taken it upon himself to verify that Mr. Obama does indeed have a birth certificate issued from the State of Hawaii. I’m glad he’s spending his money and not mine.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has taken on changing and redefining America in ways we will never understand. By presenting the certificate of live birth in lieu of a birth certificate and having us accept it without question, he has opened up the floodgates for others to do so… The implications are, well, unnerving.

Like many of us, I just wish issues like this would go away, but now I’m beginning to understand and take a stand. I don’t want the Constitution redefined. I don’t want to redefine marriage, aliens, citizens, rights, or Easter eggs. Invent your own words, please, and quit redefining America.

—Tobias Flatow, Placitas

re: Hanna Skandera is the appointed secretary of the public education department

The state senate refused to confirm her and with good reason. She is not qualified for the position, does not meet the constitutional requirements, and in her first few months in the position, has proven to be enormously incompetent. Her most egregious error is not understanding how schools are funded in New Mexico, and, as a result, our students and educators must pay an enormous price beyond that dictated by budgetary problems. It is in the best interest of the State of New Mexico, especially our children, if Ms. Skandera resigns her position.

The appointment of Ms. Skandera was ill-advised, and the people who recommended her did a great disservice to both the governor and the state. It appears as if Ms. Skandera is a political token, being appointed in exchange for a favor of some kind. She has been shuttled from one position to another in various states and the federal government, serves without distinction for a period of time, and is then encouraged to leave. Each new appointment comes with an insubstantial recommendation from the previous position, thus attesting to her unexceptional performance.

By resigning now, Ms. Skandera can use as her justification the unwillingness of the senate to confirm her. This will benefit her own career, which will not suffer because she knows another position is waiting for her. Moreover, leaving her position will reduce the potential harm to the governor that Ms. Skandera’s poor performance might cause, avoid any uncomfortable hearings that will occur later, and allow the governor to choose a more suitable candidate.

There is little we can do to prompt Ms. Skandera to leave office other than contact the governor. We can call the governor’s office at (505) 476-2200 and leave a respectful message. We can also write to the governor’s office with a short and respectful message (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Room 400, Santa Fe, NM 87501). The letter might have more weight if it were signed by you and a few friends or family members. Contacting your school board members directly, by telephone, or by letter might be helpful because they, in turn, can express their dissatisfaction to the governor.

There are a number of qualified and capable educators in New Mexico who can do a far better job than Ms. Skandera. She should give the governor an opportunity to appoint one of these professionals and move on to a position for which she is more suited.

—Michael Milone, Ph.D., Placitas





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