The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

THE GAUNTLET

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The Gauntlet - Illustration İRudi Klimpert

letters, opinions, editorials

The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.

re: Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade deserves praise (and donations)

Recently my husband and I were traveling back to Placitas from a trip to Albuquerque, when we rounded the corner of the S-curve and spotted a motorcycle out of control sliding to a stop on its side. As we came upon the scene we noticed the rider covered in blood and obviously in pain.

What really surprised us was the rapid arrival of the Placitas rescue vehicle. Out jumped its driver and he immediately went to providing medical care to the motorcycle rider. Before we could render much assistance, he was joined by other members of the rescue group (one was wearing a Placitas fire-and-rescue shirt). They arrived even before the sheriff’s deputy or a Bernalillo rescue truck. My husband and I were amazed by their professional manner and the rapid treatment the group rendered the rider.

I was mindful of a recent visit to our house by the Placitas Fire Department soliciting donations and giving us house numbers. Sheepishly I remembered tossing their donation envelope aside, thinking our annual donation to the Salvation Army was money better spent. But after witnessing the accident in our “backyard” and the rapid and professional treatment given by the Placitas folks, we’re rethinking that donation request.


Could you give us the correct address to send that donation to? Thank you. And thank you, volunteers, that make up the Placitas Fire Department.

—M. GARRISON, Placitas

Editor’s Note: Placitas Volunteer Fire Department address for donations is P.O. Box 567, Placitas, NM 87043, or you can download a donation form at www.placitasfireandrescue.com under Contact Us. Their nonemergency number is 867-5080.


re: pro-Intel “County Line”

On reading Sandoval County Commission chairman William Sapien’s opinion piece [in the October 2005 Signpost] on Intel’s $16 billion bond deal, the message I got loud and clear was this: it’s a done deal, get over it, other states and countries shell out far more to industry to keep jobs than you’ve had to, and you should be glad for the half a loaf that you got.’

Sapien points out that Intel’s $16 billion industrial-revenue bond approved a year ago by the county is “fast becoming ancient history.”

Not “ancient history” and definitely not mentioned as one of those “benefits” that “keep getting better with time” is the county’s current and desperate need for new schools in Rio Rancho. The $95 million ($15 million of which has already been earmarked for Daymon Ely’s train set) won’t even make a dent in what will be needed to build new schools, not to mention added demands for municipal services, sewage treatment, fire and police protection, water (there’s a whole other story!), garbage collection, etc, etc.

Intel got $2 billion in tax breaks on the $16 billion deal. What percentage of that is $95 million? You do the math; my calculator can’t handle that many zeros.

The county did no formal economic analysis when it approved the bond deal in September 2004, but two months earlier, with little fanfare, a study came out from the New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research that showed the 1995 $8 billion IRB cost Sandoval County $15 million in tax breaks for 2002 alone. Sandoval County and Rio Rancho both have had to cut budgets. The bureau projected net losses of $225 million over the fifteen-year life of the $8 billion bond—almost ten times the $27 million net loss originally predicted.

Yes, it just keeps getting better with time! Once again the taxpayers of Sandoval County are forced to subsidize our local corporate-welfare queen, one of the wealthiest corporations in the world.

One more point: the commentary states that the terms of the bond agreement “were deliberated fully in public and extensively reported by the news media before, during and after the Commission gave its approval.” This is a lie. The deal was deliberated behind closed doors by Mr. Ely while he was serving on the task farce that exonerated Intel for its pollution of the air we breathe. Mr. Ely was recently censured by our state attorney general for violating the Open Meetings Act and came within a whisker of being hauled up on charges.

If I were Mr. Sapien, who I think is good and decent man, I would be embarrassed to have my name appear as the author of this whopper. Whoever did write it should be ashamed of themselves. We don’t need this type of Beltway BS in our local government.

—BARBARA ROCKWELL, Placitas


re: intelligent design

In the ongoing debate concerning the teaching of evolution verses intelligent design I find that an interesting dynamic has emerged. Those who support the position of teaching “evolution only” have taken on the mantle of orthodoxy with a fervor no less than those who supported the “world is flat” theory of Galileo's time.

Let's be clear. Evolution, as a description of the origin of life, is a theory not an established scientific fact as some would propose. While it may be true that some species have evolved into somewhat different varieties of the same species, i.e., cottontails and jackrabbits, no one really knows with absolute certainty how different forms of life originated. Where did fish come from? Where did reptiles come from? Where did birds come from? Where, in fact, did man come from? Science currently provides no absolutely certain answers to these questions.

Why is it then that the “evolutionists” take the intolerant position that no other theory for the origin of life is possible? Or that no other theory for the origin of life can be taught to our children in school? With all the intolerance of the orthodox thinkers of Galileo's day or the Talibanic zealots of today they want to deny our students the opportunity to explore alternative theories. “You must believe what we believe,” they say.

It was my understanding (or perhaps misunderstanding) that childhood education was about teaching critical thinking skills not the simple parroting of someone else's beliefs. Nuclear scientists speak of “atomic theory” because they know how little they really know about their area of science. Evolutionists, on the other hand, arrogantly proclaim they know the answers to the origin of life, and no one is allowed to challenge them, let alone suggest to our children that there is an alternate theory. How sad for our children!

It makes me wonder, What are they so afraid of?

—MIKE LAFAVE, Placitas

re: Where did birds come from?

A "repentant fossil poacher" led researchers to a remote spot in east-central Utah recently, where they found the fossil remains of a dinosaur that shows a definite link between an ancient plant-eating creature and modern birds. A mesa top held the jumbled remains of "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of the creatures, says The Denver Post. The dinosaur, which featured four-inch talons on each front leg, had a big belly and resembled a "meat-eater gone to seed."

—BETSY MARSTON, Colorado

[For a more in-depth report explaining the dinosaurs’ relationship to birds, see the Washington Post, May 5, at http://saltlakecity.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp%2Ddyn/content/article/2005/05/04/AR2005050401397.html]


re: open letter to Rio Rancho Public School science teachers

Throughout our nation a well-funded and aggressive campaign is underway to dissolve the legal barriers between church and state that have for so long protected our country from religious discrimination. The interests behind this campaign aim to see government endorse a particularly narrow version of Christianity and make it the standard for religious belief in America. Their movement is as un-American as it is arrogant and self-serving.

Unfortunately, it appears that certain members of the Rio Rancho Board of Education sympathize with this movement and have chosen to make your classroom a battleground for their political campaign. With the recently-passed Policy 401, they intend to open a breach for a subtle version of creationism called “intelligent design” to be studied in the science classroom on par with and in contradiction to one of the most widely accepted theories in science today: evolution.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is committed to stopping this from occurring. We wish to support RRPS science teachers as they struggle to provide their students with a legitimate science education.

Teachers should not be afraid to refuse to discuss or teach intelligent design in their science classes. Any teacher who is disciplined in any way for declining to discuss or teach intelligent design should contact the ACLU immediately at (505) 266-4622.

Students are being prompted to provoke discussions leading to intelligent design in your classroom. The ACLU would urge you to respond with a brief comment on why intelligent design is not science—and therefore not appropriate material for the science classroom—and then direct the class to legitimate science curriculum.

From the National Academy of Sciences to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the most revered bodies of professional scientists have condemned intelligent design as “unscientific” and “improper to include as part of a scientific education.” To devote science class time to intelligent design would be to violate the requirement in RRPS Policy 401 that science educators “teach an objective science education . . . that upholds the highest standards of empirical science.”

The teaching of intelligent design as a scientific theory also would violate students’ rights under the religious Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If teachers of philosophy or religious studies wish to examine intelligent design as a system of religious belief, they should be sure to balance their discussion with the study of other religions. To focus only on intelligent design to the exclusion of other religions would give rise to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have questions regarding this memo. Your First Amendment rights are our concern.

Sincerely,
—PETER G. SIMONSON, PH.D., EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION


Pombo takes on the Endangered Species Act

—BRODIE FARQUAHAR
For the twelfth time in eight years, Rep. Richard Pombo, R-California, is attempting to reform one of the nation’s key environmental laws, the Endangered Species Act. And this time, the chairman of the House Resource Committee, a strong advocate for private property and business interests, may get what he wants. On September 29, the U.S. House of Representatives approved his Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, which proposes far-reaching changes to the law.

Most significantly, Pombo’s bill repeals the requirement to protect "critical habitat"—the home territories of endangered or threatened creatures. It also allows the Secretary of the Interior, a political appointee, to determine what science can be used to make decisions about a protected species. And federal agencies and industry may now be allowed to harm imperiled species, through actions such as building roads, without first consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA Fisheries.

Pombo’s bill requires that recovery plans be developed within two years of a species’ listing; currently, no timeline exists for creating recovery plans. However, the bill says that recovery plans are now "non-regulatory," meaning that they’re no longer enforceable. For recovery on private land, the bill proposes voluntary agreements and federal payments to landowners. The bill further orders the federal government to compensate property owners who lose land value or potential profit because of the act’s requirements. Federal courts have previously limited compensation for property "takings" to cases where the owner lost all use and benefits of the property—not for partial loss. Critics have long argued that the Endangered Species Act encourages landowners to "shoot, shovel, and shut up," killing endangered species on their property to avoid potential land-use restrictions. The Pombo measure passed 229-193, with support from 36 Democrats, mostly from rural Western districts where changes in the law are considered necessary.

On other fronts, Pombo floated draft legislation in September that included provisions to force the sale of 15 national parks and require the Park Service to raise $10 million annually by hawking advertising space on its maps and buses.
Pombo spokesman Brian Kennedy says that those proposals were not meant to be taken seriously. Instead, they appear to be bargaining chips to get drilling access to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Nevertheless, "we view selling parks as a real threat," says Craig Obey, vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association. He fears that a parks sale may reappear in the future, as Congress becomes ever more desperate to fund big-ticket items like the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort and the Iraq war.

High Country News (www.hcn.org) covers the West's communities and natural-resource issues from Paonia, Colorado.

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