Outgoing County Assessor reports to SCC
Lorraine Dominguez presented her last annual report to the Sandoval County Commission in October. She wrote, "That report summarized the innovations the assessor's office has undertaken to assure appraisals are fair and accurate. Many of these accomplishments will continue benefitting property owners long after I leave office on December 31." Copies of the report are available for residents to pick up at the assessor's office.
Dominguez claimed, furthermore, "A major indicator of both the professionalism and accuracy of the work performed by the assessor's office is the justifiably low number of protests my staff receives. Of the 136,000 notices of valuation sent to property owners last year, we received only 303 protests. Only seven protests required formal resolution by the county's valuation protest board."
Dominguez took credit for introducing her office to the computer age, increasing her staff to keep up with growth, and keeping tax rates stable. She failed to mention the tremendous effort and legal expense she put forth to keep public records out of the hands of certain members of the public who alleged that appraisals were not performed equitably throughout the county. Controversy raged over the issue for over a year of her second term of office.
Several lawsuits resulted and Dominguez was finally ordered by the courts to to release the property record cards in question. Despite allegations of favoritism and bias, no further legal action resulted. Both candidates running for election on November 15, Democrat Rudy Casaus and Republican Henry Pacelli have pledged to maintain an open door policy and to treat taxpayers equitably.
Libraries need your support
Library Books Bond 2002 Committee
If your child wants a book dealing with up-to-the minute developments in laser technology, bioengineering, or genetic research, tell him to go to Texas. Chances are he or she won’t be able to get this information in a New Mexico public-school library. Most of the books there were written well over a decade ago.
In fact, in most public school districts, there is only enough money to buy half a book per student per year. So how do we prepare our children for life in the twenty-first century when three-quarters of their textbooks were written in 1990 or even before??
The fact is, we’re facing an education and information crisis in our state—largely because the last significant funding of our libraries occurred in 1994. And, most of the books we purchased back then are either out of date, badly worn out, or both! New Mexico has ranked forty-ninth among states in terms of per capita spending on libraries for the last twenty years.
Our public and community libraries, public-school libraries, and college and university libraries are starved for books and other contemporary resources such as academic journals, educational materials, and computer upgrades.
Costs for college and university books have increased 83 percent in recent years, severely impacting already tight higher-education budgets and probably increasing our already documented brain drain to out-of-state institutions.
Libraries represent the very heart of many of our communities. They provide an extraordinary array of services to hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. Many of our fellow citizens are facing a great deal of social and economic pressure. The rich resources of libraries help to change their lives for the better. They are places where people not only check out books, but learn new skills, find answers to perplexing family problems, do research on the Internet, and even e-mail friends and families across the globe.
Today’s librarians are consummate professionals who have graduated from their role of maintaining silence and overseeing the card catalogue to assisting patrons in accessing all kinds of information, finding community resources that will improve their quality of life, and linking them to whatever they need for a better today and a brighter tomorrow.
Last spring, the New Mexico State Legislature passed a virtually unanimous vote approving a $16 million bond issue that will be offered to voters as General Obligation—or GO Bond C—in the upcoming election. If passed, this bond would provide $7.7 million to approximately 770 public school libraries in eighty-nine school districts, $4.9 million to about one hundred libraries in all thirty-three counties in New Mexico, and $3.4 million to twenty-five college and university libraries throughout the state.
How much would this badly needed funding cost the average property owner? State sources estimate about $1.95 a year per $100,000 of a home’s market value. This really isn’t very much when you consider the average cost of a school-level library book is $18.58. In fact, it’s a lot less than the price of one paperback book!
This GO bond issue will be at the bottom of the ballot, but it needs to be a top-of-mind consideration if New Mexico is to cope with the many challenges facing our state today.
New Mexico’s place in the twenty-first century may well be defined by how voters respond to the call for badly needed nurturing of some of our communities’ most important assets: our libraries.
Let’s enrich a child’s life with more than half a book. Let’s improve the competitive capabilities of our colleges and universities. And let’s give families a leg up on the future. All this is possible because “Libraries Change Lives.”
Whether you vote early or you go to the polls on November 5, vote yes on GO Bond C. Simply put, it’s a vote for our future.
Sandoval County Commission to consider election-related rules
The Sandoval County Commission, at its regular meeting on Thursday, October 17, considered a resolution establishing rules for election-related activities during times of voting in the county courthouse in Bernalillo.
If approved by the commission, the resolution would ban dissemination of any material related to a candidate or ballot question during the time of voting. It also would prohibit "campaigning, strategizing or advocacy" relating to candidates or ballot questions during the time of voting. The rules would be in effect "in and within 100 feet of the Sandoval County Courthouse."
Additionally, the resolution recognizes that candidates for office and elected officials are required to enter the building for nonelection purposes. It specifies that candidates or elected officials will not be restricted from entering the courthouse during the time of any voting and that no person will be prohibited from obtaining public election information.
The resolution recognizes that county clerk Victoria Dunlap is responsible for overseeing federal, state and county election laws, and designates the clerk as the county official responsible for enforcement of the resolution.
The resolution notes that "the right to vote is the cornerstone of our Democratic form of government, and the unhindered ability to exercise that right is paramount."
Confusion arose as to the status of the Sandoval County Courthouse as a polling place for elections, primarily due to the county's attempt to distribute information in the building on two upcoming bond issues. The county had made the information available in the courthouse reception areas after the secretary of state's office determined the information to be "neutral," and that distribution would be allowable while the building was being used as an early/absentee voting site for the November 5 General Election.
Separately, the secretary of state's office had determined that state law excluded early voting sites from prohibitions concerning politicking or distribution of campaign materials within a hundred feet of voting locations.
The county stopped disseminating the information in the courthouse and removed the materials from he building's common areas early Wednesday, October 9, following news reports that Attorney General Patricia Madrid had said she disagreed with the decision by the secretary of state's office to allow campaigning at early voting locations.
Your vote makes a difference
Sandoval County Commission Chairman
Make a difference in your neighborhood and nation. Vote in the November 5 General Election. Voting is an obligation and a fundamental right under our democratic government, and a privilege available in only a few countries.
New Mexico and Sandoval County are fortunate to have ranked high in voter turnout in past elections. This year promises to be no exception as large numbers of voters already have taken advantage of the early and absentee voting processes. Early voting in person will continue until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, at the county courthouse in Bernalillo.
For more information on how or where to vote, call the county's bureau of elections at 867-7577.
In addition to a long list of candidates facing voters this year, Sandoval County residents also will decide two local General Obligation Bonds that appear as separate questions in the bottom right corner of the ballot. The bonds will provide: $2 million for improvements to libraries across Sandoval County and $7.5 million to build 160 needed jail cells at the Sandoval County Detention Center.
If approved by voters, funds from the library bond will be shared among the county's thirteen community libraries. The $2 million will buy books, educational materials, and computers to access digital information resources, and will improve library facilities and equipment. Approval of the library bond question will not increase property taxes, as the new bond would replace a bond issue set to expire.
The county commission approved placing the jail bond issue before voters as the most practical, least costly solution to overcrowding at the county detention center. The bond issue would provide money to build 160 critically needed cells and common facilities at a cost to property owners of $14.36 a year, based on a home valued at $100,000. While no one likes the idea of higher costs, the few dollars we are being asked to pay now are much lower than any of the alternatives we would have to pay for in the future.
The county jail currently has an average daily population of about 15 percent more than its capacity of 194 detainees. More prisoners are being held in the jail today than a comprehensive study a few years ago showed we would have by 2008, six years from now. Even with approval of the bond now, construction and related work will take about two years before the new cells can be opened.
Overcrowding is a major public safety concern. Too many prisoners in too little space threaten the safety of the public, detention officers, and civilian staff. Overcrowding also results in a higher risk of disturbances, assaults, suicides, and escapes, all of which expose county taxpayers to costly liability.
There are no less-costly alternatives to building new cells. Renting jail beds—providing space can be found to rent—would cost taxpayers more than four times the amount needed to build secure cells.
If we fail to provide adequate cells for prisoners, the courts will become involved, as has been the case in other counties. That drives up the cost of jail operations and could result in ordering early release of prisoners. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I believe that once a person is found guilty of committing a crime, they should do the time. Our job as taxpayers and residents is to provide a secure place for that time to be served.
Study all questions on the ballot and know where candidates stand on issues that affect you, our communities, and our nation. Then vote and let your voice be heard in the General Election.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Johnson can be mailed to her in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo. NM 87004.
Secretary of State urges voters
to study ballot questions
Voters can access the New Mexico Secretary of State’s web site at www.sos.state.nm.us for a complete list of all candidates and questions on the November 5 general election ballot. The complete list as well as position statements for and against the Constitutional Amendment and General Obligation Bonds are available to educate voters.
“As taxpayers we will all be affected by the outcome of these questions. It is also extremely important to study these issues prior to election day to avoid unnecessary delays at the polls,” Vigil-Giron said.
The general election ballot will also list judges running for retention. Voters will vote yes or no for retention of the judges. Internet sites are available at most local libraries. Voters without internet access can call the Office of the Secretarty of State at 1-800-477-3632 for further information.