The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

 
THE GAUNTLET

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Signpost Cartoon c. Rudi Klimpert

letters, opinions, editorials

re: why I will vote against the ESCAFCA bond

At the election on November 4, we will be asked to vote for an Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) Bond. This Bond vote is also the only chance voters will have to vote on whether to authorize the creation of a Flood Control District roughly covering the areas of Algodones, Bernalillo, and Placitas.

The vote is binding. If the Bond passes, the District will, for all practical purposes, be irrevocably created and exist in perpetuity. We are told that this flood control district is the will of the people due to horrible flooding in the area. The reality is that it is the result of legislation sponsored by Kent Cravens (R) from Albuquerque and Roger Magdalena (D) from Jemez Pueblo at the direct request of the Sandoval County government.

I am voting ‘No’ to this Bond and to the creation of the Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority for the following reasons and more:

It gives the ESCAFCA board the authority to take your money. According to Section 22 (I), the “Authority may…levy and cause to be collected general ad valorem taxes on all property subject to property taxation within the authority.“ This legislation allows a 2mil tax rate to be passed at the discretion of the board. What will this cost you? If your house‘s assessed value is $100,000, then it will potentially cost you $ 2 times one hundred, or $200 a year. In other words, you are giving this board the authority to take that much money from you every year.

It gives the ESCAFCA board the authority to take your land or house by eminent domain. According to Section 20 (C), the Board may: “exercise the right of eminent domain, either within or without the authority, in the manner provided by law for the condemnation of private property for public use.“ If you own land or a house in Placitas, Algodones, or Bernalillo, watch out. According to ESCAFCA’s website, if you have “a roof, pavement, and even disturbance of the soil,” you are contributing to the floodplain, therefore virtually all land within the district is potentially subject to being regulated or taken under this provision. If you have land with irrigation, springs, wells, waterways, or livestock, you are especially at risk.

It gives the ESCAFCA Board the right to come on your property without warrant or permission for virtually any reason. According to Section 22 (Y), the Authority may “…enter upon any land, make surveys, borings, sounding and examinations for the purposes of the authority…“ By voting for this Bond, you are giving up your Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted searches of your property.

It provides no due process to any affected individual. In the entire seventy-five pages of the Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Act, there is no mention of due process or an appeal mechanism for Board decisions. They are final.

The election process is blatantly unfair. The ESCAFCA Board is using thousands of taxpayer’s dollars to promote the passage of this Bond with a website, yard signs, and newspaper ads. This is blatantly unfair to those people who are opposed to this Bond. Their tax dollars are being spent to support an election issue that they are opposed to. It does not get more unfair than that.

The ESCAFCA Act allows for ESCAFCA to be incorporated with another flood control entity. Your tax dollars may end up going to projects in Rio Rancho if ESCAFCA combines with SSCAFCA in Rio Rancho. Section 38 (C) gives Powers of Public Bodies…[power to] “…enter into any agreement or joint agreement between or among the federal government, the authority and any other public body, or any combination thereof, extending over any period not exceeding fifty years…“

The current ESCAFCA board that approved this bond issue contains five unelected board members (directors) who are political appointees. The Act calls for the election of five board members. Shouldn’t we elect board members first and then let the elected members decide on the need for a bond issue? According to Section 10, “Election of Officers: At the time that a proposal to incur debt is first submitted to the qualified electors or at the first general election next following the effective date of Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Act, whichever comes first, the qualified electors of the authority shall elect five qualified directors.“

IN CONCLUSION

The argument for this authority is that we have occasional flooding problems in the Bernalillo, Algodones, and Placitas areas, so we need the authority. How is it that we have fire protection without a Fire Authority, roads without a Road Authority, and police without a Police Authority? Flood control is Sandoval County government’s responsibility, and it does not require a new level of government. ESCAFCA is not necessary and will harm the citizens of the area with more taxes, more bureaucracy, and less individual rights. Please vote ‘No.’ If we vote down this bond, we will put an end to ESCAFCA once and for all.

According to Section 35, “…if the first proposal for the issuance of bonds fails to receive a favorable vote by a majority of the qualified electors voting on the proposal, the board shall proceed to dissolve the authority.“

—GARY MILES


re: ESCAFCA rumors

I am writing to dispute several rumors that have been circulating regarding the Eastern Sandoval County Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA). I will address each rumor and then the facts below:

Rumor: The legislation governing ESCAFCA gives the board the authority to take your money.

Fact: ESCAFCA will only be able to assess mill levies based on voter approval every four years. The first mill levy is being voted on this November 4th. Unfortunately, to build and maintain flood control facilities costs money, and a small increase in property taxes to plan for the future will be a lot less expensive than having to rebuild a community because of flooding.

Rumor: The ESCAFCA board has the right to take your land or house by eminent domain.

Fact: ESCAFCA will not take property nor utilize eminent domain at will. ESCAFCA will follow the same guidelines as both AMAFCA and SSCAFCA (Albuquerque and Sandoval County’s flood control authorities). The statute allows for purchasing property when necessary to build flood control facilities—it does not mean you or any property owner is at risk of losing your property. When private property is taken, there is a legal process involved, which requires that the landowner receive full value based upon one or more competent appraisals. Property is purchased; not taken.

Rumor: The ESCAFCA Board has the right to come on your property without warrant or permission for virtually any reason.

Fact: Again, ESCAFCA would come on your land—with permission—to survey, study, or look for solutions to flooding issues. This is not a free-for-all come on your property for no reason. We will have neither the staff nor the inclination to do so.

Rumor: ESCAFCA provides no due process to any affected individual.

Fact: Much like AMAFCA and SSCAFCA board meetings are run, ESCAFCA meetings will always be open to the public. No decisions will be made without public input. Due process rights are established by the state and federal Constitutions and cannot be taken away by the ESCAFCA legislation.

Rumor: The ESCAFCA election process is blatantly unfair.

Fact: ESCAFCA was funded by the state from its general fund. The funding of ESCAFCA for the last two years was paid for by legislation that passed in 2006. The money that has been used for the bond election does not tell people how to vote, but rather gets information out to voters in the form of the website and informational fliers. A separate bond committee was established that raised funds from private entities. That committee purchased yard signs, which were not paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Rumor: The ESCAFCA Act allows for ESCAFCA to be incorporated with another flood control entity. Your tax dollars may end up going to projects in Rio Rancho if ESCAFCA combines with SSCAFCA in Rio Rancho.

Fact: The intent is to have ESCAFCA partner with other entities to obtain additional funding to maximize the opportunities for the region. ESCAFCA will not be merging with SSCAFCA. If SSCAFCA provided adequate services for the Eastern Sandoval County area, there would be no reason to create another entity. SSCAFCA’s jurisdiction doesn’t cover Eastern Sandoval County, which is why we need our own flood control authority.

Rumor: The current ESCAFCA board that approved this bond issue contains five unelected board members (directors) who are political appointees.

Fact: For the first term, the board members are appointed. Future board members will be elected.

Every major area in the state has set up a flood control authority when development has reached a certain level. Albuquerque was first, followed by Las Cruces, followed by Sandoval County. With the tremendous growth of the Eastern Sandoval County area, it is now time for a flood control authority. Without one, there will be no systems in place to assure responsible building and growth, there will be no entity accountable for flood control, and no entity watching to protect our wildlife and open spaces. The formation of ESCAFA will allow all these things to happen in a cost-effective and efficient way.

If people have additional questions, they can go on our website at www.escafca.com or call me at (505) 261-4444.

—JOAN GRIFFIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ESCAFCA


 

re: huge property tax increase—for what?

On October 11, I attended a workshop to discuss the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA). It is very clear that ESCAFCA is needed simply because Sandoval County has not been doing what it has been paid by us to do: manage development in a manner that protects the community from flooding, and repair damage to infrastructure that has been damaged by floods caused by that failure of management.

So, the ESCAFCA solution is to tax the homeowners of Placitas, east Bernalillo, and Algodones to the tune of $231 additional annually for a $350,000 (market value) home, or $462 additional annually for a $700,000 home. (Note: the ballot doesn’t mention these additional taxes!)

And this ESCAFCA solution includes staffing a brand new layer of bureaucracy (as if we needed another one of those), hiring an engineering firm, repairing infrastructure, and writing and enforcing a new set of rules and regulations to replace the ones that the County has not been enforcing. Oh, yes, the ESCAFCA plan includes coming to us for more money in the future—these kinds of bureaucracies always do.

My interpretation is that this board has no business plan; no financial plan; no operations plan; no engineering plan; no staffing plan. And they want us to fund this whimsy?

We do not need ESCAFCA! We need the County to do its job with the money we have been giving it all these years.

All of us in eastern Sandoval County have the opportunity to vote ‘No’ on ESCAFCA on November 4. The ballot entry is titled “Flood Control Bond Question.”

And while I’m at it, we need to take a close look at the Hospital mill levy—an even bigger tax bite to the tune of $591 additional for a $500,000 (market value) home! Combined with the ESCAFCA levy, watch your property taxes climb!

Aside from your monthly cash flow, consider the impact on your property value—the first thing a prospective buyer asks is, “What are the property taxes?” In this market, do we need more downward pressure on property values?

—JERRY BLINN, Placitas


 

re: my view of the bailout

By late last month, the Bush Administration presented Congress with a three-page proposal calling for a $700 billion taxpayer-funded bailout to deal with the continuing crisis. Two weeks later, Congress passed and President Bush signed a revised 451-page law that did too little for homeowners, too much for executives, and nothing to prevent Wall Street from making the same mistakes that caused the crisis.

I voted against the bailout both times.

The first bill deservedly failed to pass the House. The second bill was nearly identical to the first, with the exception of several unrelated provisions added by the Senate. Those provisions convinced many of my colleagues in the House to switch their votes and approve the same bailout they had rejected a few days earlier.

Now, taxpayers are on the hook for $700 billion to bail out Wall Street, the very people whose irresponsibility helped to undermine America’s economy and threaten the jobs and life savings of millions of American families.

Make no mistake: America’s economy is in serious trouble. Eight years of reckless fiscal mismanagement by the Bush Administration—policies my opponent in the Senate race, Steve Pearce, supports—are coming home to roost.

By appointing people who disdain regulation to oversee the American economy, President Bush let the foxes guard the regulatory henhouse in Washington. With little to no oversight, financial institutions and investment houses were encouraged to take huge gambles with our money, affecting the pension funds and retirement savings of millions.

Meanwhile, bankers and mortgage lenders eager to make a quick buck or commission were encouraged to make risky loans and engage in predatory practices. Families with low income, bad credit, or both, were encouraged to take out high-risk loans. Wall Street bankers then repackaged those loans beyond all comprehension and pawned them off as trustworthy investments to anyone willing to buy.

Now, those investments are going bad and the risk-taking has come to an end. Banks are refusing to lend each other money and investors who own the mortgages can’t find anyone to buy them. Small businesses are having trouble getting credit. Trust in our financial system has collapsed. Trust in our government has collapsed. And who could blame us for losing trust?

The Bush Administration has spent eight years using fear and distortion to deceive the American people. This administration misled the American people in order to take us into a war that has cost more than four thousand American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

We were told the imminent threat in Iraq required quick passage of war authority to the president, no questions asked. We were told imminent threats to our safety required rapid passage of the PATRIOT Act, turning over extraordinary powers to the president, no questions asked. And with the bailout, we were told imminent disaster required our turning over unprecedented power to the treasury secretary, no questions asked.

I voted against those requests and I voted against this one because we cannot let fear and artificial timelines drive our decision-making. Our solutions should meet the demands of the day without producing greater hardship in the future.

The bailout bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush is rife with problems: In a sadly familiar sight, the bill’s oversight provisions amounted to little more than a Congressional rubber stamp. These should have been strengthened.

Instead of bailing out Wall Street investors, the bill should have helped responsible homeowners by allowing them to renegotiate their mortgages in bankruptcy court. This would have directly addressed the root cause of the problem—risky mortgages gone bad—while helping responsible families stay in their homes.

Meanwhile, many of the corporate executives who ran their companies into the ground can still walk away with millions in taxpayer-funded golden parachutes and lavish compensation packages. New Mexicans and Americans everywhere should be angered that the bill falls short on such a basic question of fairness.

When the Bush Administration presented its three-page proposal, more than four hundred economists wrote Congress a letter urging them to take time to pass a good bill that addressed the underlying problems. On this measure, the bill again fell short, doing nothing to strengthen regulation to prevent Wall Street from making the same mistakes again.

These shortcomings and others were simply too much for me to justify placing $700 billion of taxpayer money at risk in exchange for an uncertain solution. It was a difficult vote, one of the hardest I’ve ever cast, but it was the right vote for New Mexico’s Third District, the people of New Mexico, and our country.

—TOM UDALL, U.S. Representative, New Mexico’s Third Congressional District


Re: An accident waiting to happen

What most people say when they drive into the Algodones Contract Postal Unit is, “Why would anyone put our post office at this location, this just is not right?”

That is a good question since it is so dangerous and difficult for Algodones residents to get their mail. Any person going to the post office has to drive down a long, narrow 13.7 ft. wide single lane alley. There are four or five parking spaces available to serve a facility that has over three hundred post office boxes. If you are on foot you must share the alley with the cars and trucks that are entering and exiting the narrow single lane entrance. No protection exists, so you are sandwiched between the building and traffic passing by just inches away.

Everyday, people complain about near misses in the parking lot and the driveway. A few weeks ago a man said he came inches from hitting a small child that walked out in front of his truck in the alley.

Over 387 people from Algodones, San Felipe, and Sandoval County signed a petition in November of 2007 asking the U.S. Postal Service not to move their Post Office to its present location. They were ignored even though federal law states that the wishes of the local people must be considered when moving a post office.

The Algodones postal unit violates several Sandoval County laws such as the 20-foot minimum driveway/fire access width, and it has no separate off-street parking area for large delivery trucks. The current owner of the Algodones Postal Unit signed a federal contract, which is legally binding, stating that her building complies with all county, state, and federal laws. It does not!

The U.S. Postal Service says the current Postal location was selected because it has ample parking and good access. They also claim that they are exempt from all safety and zoning laws even though they are unable to produce a copy of that law. Even if the Postal Service were exempt from our laws, why did they choose such a dangerous and inadequate facility? Why was the postal contract given to the highest bidder when other lower priced locations were available that had safe access and plenty of parking?

The Federal Court Case challenging the Post Office move has now been moved to the Colorado Federal Claims Court. Let us hope that the Federal Judge there will move the postal unit to a safe location before someone is killed or permanently injured. Our governments are supposed to protect us and look after our best interests. In this case they failed the people of Algodones, San Felipe Pueblo, and Sandoval County. We have been ignored, inconvenienced, and needlessly endangered.

Please do not take our word for this. Come and see the Algodones Postal Unit entrance and parking lot for yourself. You can help Algodones get a safe postal facility by signing the new petition at the Algodones Market front counter. It will also help if you call or write the below listed officials and let them know about any safety issues you have witnessed and your feelings about the current postal facility.

  • Albuquerque United States Postal Service Consumer Affairs - 505-346-8061
  • Algodones Contract Postal Unit - 505-867-3283
  • United States Postal Service Consumer Affairs
    475 L’Enfant Plaza SW
    Washington, DC 20260-0004

—ALAN TOORAEN, Algodones


re: voting the straight party

I thought it would be helpful if folks knew that concerning the election ballot this November, those who like to just vote “straight party” can also go down the ballot and vote for other individual candidates. These choices will override their straight party choice. I remind folks of this only because we have a third-party candidate running for the Public Regulation Commission (PRC).

He is Rick Lass, the Green Party’s candidate for PRC. He is independent-minded, and the most qualified man for the job. He’ll look after the interests of the people of New Mexico over that of big business. He wants to stimulate New Mexico’s economy with jobs through growth in the solar and wind power industries. And he will work hard to keep everyone’s utility rates fair.

If you just fill in the “Straight Party” option, you will miss out on the chance to vote for a great consumer advocate for New Mexico.

—CARL HANSEN, Madrid

 


re: Signpost article on the removal of the Placitas segment of the BLM from the West-Wide Energy Corridor

In the October Signpost, Ty Belknap had a lengthy report on the removal of the Placitas segment of the BLM from the West-Wide Energy Corridor. However, one important supporter for the removal of the Placitas segment was not included in the report.

Early this year, we informed Congressman Steve Pearce that the Placitas BLM segment was included in the West-Wide Energy Corridor, and that Placitas residents were opposed to its inclusion and concerned about future environmental impacts. Congressman Pearce’s staff member Ron Morsbach was asked to attend our first public meeting at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. Mr. Morsbach drove up from Socorro and attended the April 5th meeting at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, and then forwarded Placitas residents’ concerns and comments to Congressman Pearce.

As the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Congressman Pearce actually chaired the April 15th Joint Oversight Hearing on the West-Wide Energy Corridor Process: State and Community Impacts. Following that oversight hearing, Congressman Pearce wrote the following letter to Mr. Luke Johnson, Deputy Director for Programs and Policy.

Dear Director Johnson,

Thank you again for testifying today before the House Natural Resources Committee on the Section 368 West-Wide Energy Corridor program. I appreciated your candor and comments before the Committee.

I wanted to follow up with regard to a specific section of corridor designated in New Mexico around the community of Placitas (80-273) just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I believe the result of today‘s hearing was the clear understanding that the small sections, like the Placitas corridors, are not particularly helpful for addressing our national corridor solutions.

Small sections like this without the corresponding private land pieces are unlikely to solve our energy transmission problems. As a result, I would strongly urge the BLM to review the decisions that lead to the inclusion of these small sections into the Section 368 process and consider at least removing the Placitas piece of the corridor designations.

Thank you again for your time and attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Steven Pearce
Member of Congress

Along with my fellow Placitas residents, we have watched the progress of this issue with great interest and we were thrilled to learn that Congressman Pearce’s recommendation to remove the Placitas segment was accepted by the BLM. All Placitas residents should applaud and thank Congressman Steve Pearce for listening to our concerns and recommending the removal of the Placitas segment from the West-Wide Energy Corridor plans.

—BARBARA AND KEN LONGEWAY, Placitas


re: to everyone who helped locate my horse, Lily

I’d like to express my thanks and appreciation for your help. I started out on my own following her tracks, but then lost them around the Ranchos water tank. Then Ted Woods offered to drive around the area to help out. After some searching in the area, Ted’s wife Janet called about a “Horse Found” sign she saw at the entrance to Ranchos. Ted called the number, and the rest is history.

Lily was found grazing around the Placitas Fire Station by Fire Engineer Jerry Malloy, who called Chief Brinkerhoff for advice, since he had experience with horses. Jerry called Brian Frank at Sandoval County Animal Control, who contacted horse people, Paul and Patrice on Tunnel Springs Road. Patrice came to the station with a halter and lead for Brian, who walked Lily to Patrice’s place, where she had space to hold her.

This was over a three-mile walk, but Brian said he needed the exercise. I called him later for more information and he mentioned there was some humor in it during Lily’s visit to the Fire Station when he gave her some water from his snake-trapping bucket. She immediately knocked it over, which concerned him since he realized it probably smelled of snakes. I assured him that unless her water buckets are tied down, she always knocks them over.

Thanks also to Jim Sartor who did some tracking East of Juniper. And thanks to Carol McKinley. If anyone else was involved, please contact me through the Signpost. Thanks again to all.

—ANNE AND LILY, Placitas

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