As part of last month’s Bernalillo Arts Trail, the Art Parade impressed and delighted onlookers with giant colorful puppets, art cars, bicycles, and samba dancers set to the rhythmic beat of Samba Fe musicians.
Alexandra Kerry (right), daughter of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, leads voters down Camino del Pueblo to the Sandoval County courthouse for early voting on October 21. Kerry, a filmmaker and actor on a get-out-the-vote tour of the Albuquerque area, rallied about a hundred party faithful at the Range Café before the group proceeded to the courthouse.
Controversies proliferate as Election Day approaches
With the November 2 election nearly at hand, Sandoval County seemed mired in political controversy earlier than usual.
- Republican county treasurer James Truscio responded to Democrat complaints and apologized for what he said was an inadvertent mixing of politics and county business.
- Democratic sheriff John Paul Trujillo, who can't run for a second term until 2006, was criticized for turning a mobile command center into what Republicans called a rolling campaign sign by displaying his name on it.
- County commissioners decided not to open a last-minute early-voting site in Rio Rancho, prompting Republican to charge the inconvenience might disenfranchise older voters and single parents.
- Election officials said early voting was going well, then took several electronic touch-screen voting machines out of service amid voter complaints that included one candidate was picked but the vote showed another candidate.
Truscio's campaign for election to a second term already was burdened by allegations from a former secretary that he harassed her with unwanted attention, including personal notes and flowers. County commissioners met in executive session on October 7 to discuss a financial settlement with the employee.
“I stopped when she said it was a problem,” Truscio told the Signpost. The former banker also said he was worried the negative publicity would overshadow his success in cleaning up county books, removing county money from risky and money-losing investments, and instituting checks and balances to prevent fraud.
Truscio said before first running for treasurer in 1996, he was last politically active as a volunteer in Robert Kennedy's Senate campaign in the 1960s.
The latest trouble involves Truscio placing his office phone number and e-mail address on campaign literature and putting a campaign sign on his county car while it was parked at a noon-hour political event. The records needed to answer constituent questions about the brochure were only available at his office, he said, and he took the sign off the car immediately when someone complained.
Still, Ruben Miera, Sandoval County Democratic chairman, wrote to the Secretary of State and revived the issue up at the October 21 county commission meeting. “I'm really sorry for this oversight,” Truscio told commissioners.
Truscio's Democratic opponent, former county assessor and commissioner Lorraine Dominguez, declined to comment on the treasurer's troubles. “I want to talk about my accomplishments,” she told the Signpost.
Dominguez herself is not without controversy, after news reports in February questioned whether she falsified time sheets and then altered appointment calendars while serving as executive director of the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women. Dominguez denied any wrongdoing but resigned from the appointed position.
Also at the October 21 commission meeting, Barbara Longeway of Placitas questioned the propriety of the sheriff’s putting his name on the command truck. “The sheriff has been running for office every time he takes it out,” she said.
Longeway said she was speaking for herself and not as head of the Bush-Cheney reelection effort in the county.
Commissioner David Bency, the lone Republican on the five-member panel, said people make honest mistakes and that he once left required information on who paid for his campaign literature off a brochure.
“We need to give direction to the administration to do countywide education,” Bency said. “Our employees can get in serious trouble here, too, not just elected officials.”
Commissioners declined to open an alternative voting site at the Meadowlark senior center in Rio Rancho after county clerk Victoria Dunlap and bureau of elections manager Eddie Gutierrez said they already had their hands full. The court challenge against Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's nominating petitions delayed election preparations more than two weeks, Gutierrez said.
The county is required to have at least one alternate early-voting site in addition to the county courthouse and opened one in San Ysidro. Gutierrez added that more than sixty-four thousand voters are registered in the county, an increase of about fourteen thousand in a month.
“I fear a lot of voters will be disenfranchised on Election Day because of the long lines,” Bush-Cheney volunteer Bill Howland of Rio Rancho told commissioners.
After the October 21 meeting, Gutierrez said early voting was going well, with steady lines. By the end of the week, however, reports of voter complaints and touch-screen machines felled by power surges were circulating.
By Signpost deadline, neither Dunlap not Gutierrez had responded to requests for further comment.
Public office: the good, the bad, and the ugly
Sandoval County Commission
While voting is one way all of us can make a difference in our community, I'd like to offer some advice for residents aspiring to be on the other end of the election process and hold public office. Please run for election. We need you.
But before you do, here's a reality check of the good, the bad, and the ugly of political life.
The good: you can make a difference. Public service offers remarkable opportunities for those willing to combine vision with hard work, patience, and the ability to follow through.
In our county, Commissioner Bill Sapien wanted to solve the water and sewer problems endemic to Bernalillo. Now, with his wisdom and guidance, the county commission is in the process of setting up a permanent fund to address such problems throughout Sandoval County. Commissioner Dave Bency will use that same fund to access water-reclamation projects in Rio Rancho. Commissioner Jack Thomas, meanwhile, is working with Governor Bill Richardson to tie Sandoval County to the state's rail project so that, for the first time, the county will have a real mass transit system—both for populated areas and rural communities.
Those are real-life examples of what's good about public service. But, it's not all good ….
The bad: anything you believe is worth doing should be worth receiving criticism for. You may be yelled at, receive nasty letters and phone calls, and even be the target of an occasional outraged editorial. Those come with the job. You will attend meetings when you would rather be with your family. You will worry and lose sleep over whether you are doing the right thing. And, of course, your life at times will be very stressful.
The ugly: you will be wrong and, when you are, it's rarely pretty. On those occasions, you will have to correct your mistake. Some friends may desert you. You will be accused of motives you don't have. And you will certainly have days when you wonder why you ever got involved in public service in the first place.
So, is public service worth it? Of course it is.
Here's my advice for newly elected officials: keep a sense of humor. That simple sentence doesn't mean you should be funny, although humor can be an effective tonic. Rather, it is an indirect way of saying keep things in perspective. Don't take yourself too seriously.
The bad and the ugly are actually a healthy part of the process. A public mad enough to write and yell at you is an involved public. And isn't that what we profess to want?
You must have a thick skin. But not so thick that you don't recognize legitimate criticism when it comes. Admit mistakes—everyone makes mistakes, even public servants. Worry, but try not to lose sleep over it. (I can give advice; I just can't always follow it!)
Do the right thing and do it for the right reason. I know this sounds corny, but it makes your job so much easier. If you do what you believe is right, negative comments won't bother you nearly as much. If, on the other hand, you knowingly do what is wrong, no amount of praise will make you feel better.
And, finally, keep your eye on the ball. A public servant is there to accomplish things for the public. It's not about winning partisan battles (that's for the campaign) or making yourself look good. It's about making honest judgments and decisions in the public's best interest. Worrying about your own ego, getting mad, or getting even simply takes your away from your focus. So, don't do it.
Finally, on the day when you leave public life, you can hopefully look back and say, “I tried my best and made a difference for the benefit of others. I made mistakes, but I owned up to them. My motives, I hope, were pure. I worked hard and I tried to keep my focus on public policy.”
Knowing that makes public service very worthwhile.
Questions or comments for Commissioner Ely can be mailed to him in care of Sandoval County Administrative Offices, P.O. Box 40, Bernalillo 87004.
A recent arrest has failed to stop the ongoing theft of mail from rural cluster boxes in Placitas. Mail thefts and subsequent fraud, forgery, and identity theft have been on the rise since July 2004. Thieves pry open either the front or back of the boxes during late-night hours. Depending on the expertise used, the break-in may or may not be obvious.
Postal inspector Jennifer Herman told the Signpost that the thefts are commonly related to methamphetamine users. Outgoing checks stolen from the boxes have been “washed” with chemicals, and the pay-to-the-order-of line is rewritten. She said that the thieves have also forged checks on home computers. All that is necessary is an account number and a bank logo that can be scanned.
These are fairly sophisticated crimes that are investigated by federal postal inspectors in conjunction with local law-enforcement agencies. Possession of stolen mail is a federal offense. The recent arrest is still under investigation, so specific information about the suspect is not being released.
A local victim of mail theft recently told the Signpost of his brush with a now arrested felon:
“Last August, I put my bills with my payment checks in them into the outgoing mail slot in Placitas West’s cluster mailbox on a Saturday. He [the felon] must have hit the box that Saturday night. I didn’t realize that my checks had been stolen until my wife told me about her conversation with our neighbor. Seems that someone had stolen her checks out of the same mailbox and taken her credit card numbers, as well.
That same day I received my bank statement and in it was an obviously forged check made out to Best Buy for $840. Two of my other checks were missing: one was a very large check for $11,000 to pay a private school tuition. I immediately closed my account and called the postal inspector, who told me that the thief had probably sold the two missing checks to other ‘meth addicts’ who target a person they know has a lot of money in their account. They can then copy the stolen check, erase everything but the signature, print out multiple copies, and forge checks in smaller amounts.
The postal inspector also said that sometimes they will print a fake driver’s license number on the check and when asked for ID, say, ‘Oh, it’s already printed on my check,’ and quickly flash a fake driver’s license.
My neighbor told us that other boxes up the road had been hit on that same Saturday night. She suffered through having to change all of her credit cards and collection agencies coming after her for insufficient fund charges on bounced checks from the forgeries.”
Inspector Herman advises residents to mail their checks at the post office or at the blue mailboxes as long as they are not so full that letters can be reached through the slot. Mail should not be left in the cluster boxes overnight, and delivery should be halted when residents plan to be out of town. Herman also said that the ink from gel pens is harder to wash out.
Post offices are generally very secure, but last month the post office at the Cotton City Exchange in Algodones was burglarized. Inspector Chris Lowler said that a specific security breach had since been dealt with. A $5,000 reward has been offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.
Victims of mail theft or people with information can contact the Postal Inspection Service at 346-8490.
Judge George P. Eichwald appointed to 13th Judicial District
On August 25 Governor Bill Richardson appointed George P. Eichwald to serve as judge for the Thirteenth Judicial District (the district that covers Sandoval, Cibola and Valencia counties).
Eichwald, fifty-one, succeeds Kenneth G. Brown, who retired on July 31. Eichwald was selected from a group of fourteen candidates who applied for the position of District Court Judge. A nonpartisan committee of seventeen individuals which included a chief supreme court justice, a court of appeals justice, a chief district court judge, the dean of the UNM law school, as well as Republican and Democratic Attorneys and lay people. Due to the timing of Eichwald’s appointment, he has to run in a contested general election on November 2.
Ty Belknap from the Signpost interviews John Washburn, convener of the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court.
Coalition continues to push for international court
On October 18 New Mexico celebrated United Nations Day at the UNM Student Center Ballroom with a speech by John Washburn, convener of the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court. The ICC holds individuals accountable for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The coalition was convened to arouse public opinion for full United States support for the ICC through education, information, and promotion.
The Placitas Mountain Band provided entertainment. Guitarist Roger Schense, cofounder of the New Mexico coalition for the ICC, arranged for a Signpost interview with Washburn and deputy convener Wasana Punyasena over breakfast at Abuelita’s Restaurant in Bernalillo. Washburn said that the hometown meeting with the hometown newspaper was consistent with his organization’s grassroots effort to overcome Washington's opposition to the ICC. He said that the government is failing to represent the 76 percent of Americans that polls show are in favor of the court, and that “nothing has greater credibility than the local paper. I want to be right in there with the news about the barbecue and the Rotary Club.”
The ICC is a major issue in the upcoming election. During the presidential debates, George Bush said, “I made a decision not to join the ICC in The Hague, which is where our troops would be brought to ... brought in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge. That was unpopular ... you don’t want to join the ICC just because it’s popular in certain capitals in Europe.” Bush criticized John Kerry’s willingness to submit to a “global test” for foreign-policy decision making.
According to the AMICC’s Web site, Kerry has also not supported the ICC treaty because he feels that it does not sufficiently protect U.S. troops from opposing political agendas. Nevertheless, he has said that he “will not continue the obsessive and self-defeating campaign President Bush has waged against the ICC. All he’s done is to alienate our closest allies and diminish his own authority in the world.”
Back at Abuelita’s, Punyasena said that the Bush Administration not only opposes the court, but has actively tried to undermine its authority by threatening to withhold foreign aid to its allies unless they agree to bilateral immunity agreements that would exempt U.S. personnel from prosecution.
Even though the ICC prosecutes only individuals from countries that are unable or unwilling to deal with domestically, the extreme right wing resists any higher authority that might interfere with the U.S. role as a superpower.
Washburn said that even if Bush is reelected, the coalition will continue its efforts. He emphasized that the ICC is independent of the United Nations. “One hundred thirty-six counties have signed the treaty. Ninety-six countries have ratified it. All of our closest allies are members of the ICC,” he pointed out. “There is a great deal of public support for a permanent international judicial institution that would try heinous crimes that are condemned by all governments, religions, cultures, and peoples. This is an issue that has the potential to cross the polarization that splits the country along partisan lines. Politicians are only as brave as they have to be, but public opinion could force a change.”
The Placitas Mountain Band was a big hit at the United Nations Day event, according to banjoist Gary Libman who said the band was the perfect backdrop for an hour of mingling with Mayor Martin Chavez, John Washburn, Wasana Punyasena, NM District Attorney Kari Brnandenburg, and the City Honorary Chair for UN Day. He describes the event:
“The program began with a reading of the State Proclamation signed by Governor Bill Richardson in support of the ICC by Roger Schense, stand-in for the State Honorary Chair, Dr. William Pratt of Bosque Farms. The main speaker for the evening, Mr. Washburn, delivered a clear introduction on the International Criminal Court, the first cases being investigated, the relationship between the Bush Administration and the Court, and the impact the Court will have on the state of the world. The audience was a particularly active one with many questions for Mr. Washburn on a wide range of issues dealing with the Court. The evening was a great opportunity for attendees to access local and national officials on important personal concerns.”
The ICC gives the world community a way to deal with the international tyrants and criminals that have murdered and victimized millions of people and continue to do so today.
For more information, visit www.amicc.org. For questions about the New Mexico Alliance, call Roger or Mary Schense at 298-4544.
Sponsor a marine in Iraq, a wounded marine or sailor at Camp Pendelton
My son in-law, Marine 1st Lt. Mike Sandstorm, was deployed to Iraq in September 2004. He leaves behind a wife and nine-month-old daughter. Mike says things are getting better, "the days are cooling off (105 to 110 instead of 120 to 125, amazing how you can feel 15 degrees."
We may of think of our troops in Iraq but we really don't know what they go through. Even the simple things they miss—"fresh water (not that it was really fresh’ to begin with). It's pumped straight out of the Euphrates, thrown into a big trough with some bleach and voilà! Fresh water to wash and clean with.
The PX is stocked with snack foods but they are not real healthy; it’s more like bad junk food. So I ask anyone who wants to help to please send a package and some letters. These boys are from all over the country, and I feel that it would be really neat to get a package from New Mexico with something special from someone who just wanted to say Thanks.”
For or against the war does not change the fact that the troops are still there and we should support them! All it takes is for us to give up that one night out. Take the money that you were going to spend on dinner and a movie for two or for your family and spend that time and money on a package. It could make for a more memorable night anyway. It could make a real difference in some service man or woman's day. There are about sixty-five to seventy-five wounded marines and sailors at the hospital at Camp Pendelton; they could use care packages, too.
Below is a list of suggested items given to our family by Mike and the Marine Corps and by his wife (our daughter), Madalyn Sandstrom, who is the key volunteer coordinator for spousal support at Camp Pendelton in San Diego. Please feel free to add to it and make it more personal. I added a pillow and some juniper to a package I sent directly to Mike. He said it was so nice to open a box that smelled like home, instead of like mud. Include a copy of the Signpost so they can see where the package came from.
It takes about three weeks for a package to get there, so if you want your package to arrive before Christmas, send it by November 20. Keep in mind that it’s 110 degrees over there, so what you send may melt.
Things the marines are requesting:
Current newspapers (complete old ones will be fine)
Guns, Cars, Pop Culture, Popular Science, Fishing,
Homemade food items:
Rice Krispies treats, brownies, cookies
Potato chips in hard case
Assorted hard candies
Granola bars, Pop Tarts, etc.
Dried fruits: cranberries, plums, etc.
Any type of power bars, health foods
Microwaveable products (mac and cheese, popcorn)
Canned food with high protein (fish, meat, beans)
Mixed nuts, canned nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, etc.
Any type of Gatorade, Powerade dry mix.
Solar-heated 5-gallon camp showers
Brushes with medium bristles
Baby wipes—can never have enough
Thumb drives small mb
New or used computer games (Play Station 2 and CD-ROMs)
New or used DVDs
New or used CDs
Envelopes #10 and 5 x 7 padded
Batteries AA, AAA, C, D, 9V
Assorted “zip-lock” bags
Supplies for the wounded:
Towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, toothpaste, mouthwash, games of any type (board games, puzzles, etc.)
Mail addressed to Any Marine will be auto-forwarded to the battery first sergeant for distribution:
2/11 HQ Btry
FPO AP 96426-0445
2/11 Btry G
FPO AP 96426-0460
2/11 Btry K
FPO AP 96426-0461
2/11 Btry S
FPO AP 96426-0462
(for wounded Marines/Sailors)
Master Sergeant William J. Bonney
1st Marine Division, G-7
Division Readiness Chief