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c. Rudi Klimpert

letters, opinions, editorials

re: PNM light pollution

Residents within line of sight have no doubt been disturbed by the new PNM spotlights that, we were told by a PNM representative, have been installed for security reasons because of copper theft. They have been aimed across the Placitas Open Space, are unshielded, and have been left on all day and night for the past month. The lights are so bright that they are visible in broad daylight from miles away.

We emailed the following complaint to PNM:

Thank you for your reply to my husband Ty's note about the unnecessarily tall and bright lights at the PNM switching station in Placitas. They are driving everyone crazy. You must turn them off or reinstall them down on the ground with shielded covers. They are destroying our and our community’s view of the stars, which is very important to the residents of Placitas; and they are more than a nuisance to have shining in our windows at night and glaring as we try to sit outside in the evening. They are truly awful. They can be seen for miles all around the site.

Please tell me that you will turn them off until you figure out a way to install them lower and shield them, or put in motion detectors so at least they will go off. If installed for thieves, they are only making it easier for them to get to the station and see what they are doing! There is no "night watchman" to report any activity there, if thieves do come to steal the copper.

Please make our valley dark again. It seems unlawful to install such a nuisance as your lights. People in Placitas all shield their outside lights downward as suggested by the "Dark Skies" ordinance. Newcomers to Placitas are told upon arrival how much residents value the starry skies here. We don't shine spotlights into each other’s windows at night. Please have some consideration for the people who live around your switching station and also for those who can see them from miles away. We can't imagine living with these lights the rest of our lives.

In your solution to install a "different type of lighting that will not disturb the night sky," please keep the new lighting installation low to the ground and completely shielded downward, so that it cannot be seen from afar, and so that the light doesn't escape upward into the sky, where it offers no use for security.

PNM responded as follows:

“I'm very sorry for any disturbance these lights may be causing. I have been notified by our electric service center representative that within the last few months, there have been a rash of copper thefts in our substations and switch yards. Unfortunately these thefts cost PNM a significant amount of money. It has been decided to leave our station lights on at night for security reasons. We are however, looking into a different type of lighting that will not disturb the night sky or surrounding neighborhoods.

We have confirmed that the lights are in fact deterring thieves from stealing copper from this station. We understand, though, that the lights that are currently at the location are not an acceptable long-term solution. I have sent an inquiry to my contact in our service station, asking whether he can provide a time frame for addressing the type of lighting that we have at this location.

In the meantime, unfortunately, we will not turn off the lights. I want to stress the impact that these copper thefts have, not only on PNM, but on our customers. As I mentioned in my previous e-mail, the replacement of this copper is expensive, which unfortunately eventually impacts our rates, and what customers are paying for their electricity. We must take every action possible to keep costs low for our customers.”

The lights remain on 24/7. PNM is playing the “keep costs low for our customers” card in regard to our light pollution request—the same card they play to continue polluting the air and water in New Mexico with power generated by the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plant in the American West.

These lights contradict PNM’s public-relations policy that encourages users to conserve energy. If PNM is storing copper at the site, why not move it someplace more secure? What thief would drive several miles down a one-way gravel road to climb a six-foot fence topped with piano wire to risk electrocution while stealing copper from an activated system carrying about a zillion volts?

If you also find the lights problematic, we could use some reinforcements at the complaint department. Complaints can be emailed to PNM Customer Service at: PNM.customerService@pnm.com or you can call Donna Holliday in the customer-relations department at 241-4930.

—Barb and Ty Belknap, Placitas


re: Big Oil’s October surprise in Placitas

About three weeks ago, a few thousand people in Placitas received a letter dated May 29, 2012 in their postal mailbox that was about Senator John Sapien. The letter was mailed in such a way as to make it appear that it was I who sent it. I didn’t send that letter to you. Nor did I authorize anyone else to send it. Nor did I approve of it being sent. The entity shown waaay down at the bottom of the second page as being responsible for sending the letter was “Reform New Mexico Now,” a Super PAC that reportedly, is principally funded by two large oil companies in Southeastern New Mexico.

So why do you think large oil companies would spend big money to elect someone to represent Placitas in our State Senate? Could it be because of all that BLM land that adjoins Placitas being up for mineral grabs? Or is it because they want to ram more oil and gas pipelines through our beautiful community? I don’t know the answers, but I don’t think it’s because Big Oil cares about us as individuals or about our politically non-partisan love for Placitas. I am offended by their use of the letter to deceive you and to play a dirty trick on me. I recently spent some of my meager funds to send an explanatory postcard to more than one-thousand Placitas residents in an attempt to alert you about the May 29 letter and by inference about oil companies being interested in influencing what happens politically in Placitas. I know I can’t compete with a dark-money-funded Big Oil Super PAC, but I can talk to my friends and neighbors about what we want and don’t want in Placitas.

—Floyd Cotton, Placitas Resident


re: Archetectural Control Committee (ACC)/ Home Owners Association (HOA) behaving badly

As former ten-year residents of Placitas, we elected to pave our increasingly unruly driveway last year. We approached our neighbors across the street thinking that we would get a better deal from the paving company if there were two driveways and proceeded to have both our driveways paved. During the paving process our HOA/ACC representative arrived and insisted that we stop immediately, as we had not applied for specific permission to pave our driveways. I declined to stop, not because I wanted to be contrary but, because I felt we were doing nothing but improving the value of our homes.

Sometime later, we received a letter from the HOA/ACC informing us that we were in violation of the covenants regarding constructing an ‘impervious surface’ and creating excessive runoff with said construction. This letter cited a covenant that does not lend itself directly to driveway paving, and when challenged, it was said to be our ‘interpretation.’

I immediately e-mailed a copy of the letter to my neighbor in Sky Mountain, who is both an attorney and a previous member of the ACC, who told me that this was an example of over-reaching by the HOA/ACC and to give them ample opportunity to consider having sent such a letter. In the meantime, I consulted a drainage engineer who informed us that the runoff created by this new surface would be infinitesimal and suggested that the HOA/ACC representative was not qualified to make such an assessment.

Several months later, we placed our home on the market and, within days, received a certified letter from the HOA/ACC signed by the president of the HOA threatening a lien if we did not bring our property into compliance. This threat was not only supported by her official capacity as president of the HOA, but also with her knowledge of property sales as a former realtor which we felt should disqualify her to adjudicate the matter. After several bouts of back and forth with the ACC we were made to agree to a plan to construct a headwall (small dam) in the arroyo next to our driveway on Sandoval County property and a speed bump on our driveway at a cost of over $6,000 or the HOA/ACC would make the sale of our home impossible with the aforementioned lien. Of course, there is not a lender in the world nor a buyer in the world who would even consider a property with a lien pending against it, so we were effectively blackmailed into complying with an action prompted by an overzealous and ill-informed HOA/ACC, that cost us dearly—and not just financially. 

We sold our home for a very good price to a couple that told us straight-away that the aesthetics of the driveway were a large factor in their decision to buy our property. To no one’s surprise, most, if not all of our neighbors were ecstatic that our property fetched the price it did because it also affected their property values! They were equally dismissive of the tactics employed the HOA/ACC and remain disillusioned with their leadership today.

While my wife and I are cognizant and appreciative of the sometimes thankless efforts these volunteers at the HOA/ACC perform, we are equally cognizant that some people are incapable of separating what they are as neighbors and human beings to who they are as HOA/ACC members who wield the power of Lien.

Lastly, the neighbors who also had their driveway paved on the same day we did were immune to the rules of the HOA/ACC as they were grandfathered in as long-time residents. I would also be glad to present the findings of the drainage engineer I hired attesting to the minimal runoff quotient calculations to anyone who wants to enjoy an informed opinion on drainage. Please feel free to pay a visit to our monument to the intransigence of the Vista de la Montaña Home Owners Association in the arroyo at the top of Vista Sandia Court in Sky Mountain.

And yes, I still volunteer at the Placitas Recycling Center even though we no longer live there.

—Robert and Cia Arias, former Placitas residents


re: Voter suppression outrage

The Sandoval County Republican party has been instructing volunteer poll workers to ask to see voter ID even though this is not necessary and is in fact, against the law. These poll workers have also been instructed to infer that there are no interpreters for non-English speaking voters. But the truth is that polling places will provide interpreters as well as Spanish language ballots.

According to conservative Republican Congressman, Steve Pearce, this misleading training will “help the GOP retake New Mexico.” While Pearce admits asking for voter ID is against New Mexico law, he does not condemn the practice. He cites voter fraud as his justification even though the Brennen Center for Justice at the New York University of Law reviewed the findings of Secretary of State, Diana Duran and found only 19 cases of possible voter fraud—hardly enough to justify Pearce’s concern.

What it comes down to is the only way the GOP can “retake New Mexico” is to intimidate voters, especially Hispanic, and low-income voters. This attempt to prevent people from voting is not only dishonest, it’s deplorable, disgusting, and a disgrace to democracy.

—Gary W. Priester, Placitas


re: Horses and climate change?

Everyone likes to take one observation and apply it—i.e., our landscape in Placitas is changing, so it must be the fault of the “free-range” horses—when there are always other factors to consider, such as climate change. When you walk the open space and find fewer wildflowers, is it the horses, or is it climate change? Is it the piñon die off, allowing juniper to take over? Is it all of the above? Is it none of the above?

This came from ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2012)—“Warming temperatures in Ohio are a key driver behind changes in the state’s landscape, and non-native plant species appear to be responding more strongly than native wildflowers to the changing climate, new research suggests. This adaptive nature demonstrated by introduced species could serve them well as the climate continues to warm. At the same time, the non-natives’ potential ability to become even more invasive could threaten the survival of native species already under pressure from land-use changes, researchers say.”

Whether you accept the science of climate change or not, Placitas has always been a place of periodic and prolonged drought. Several years ago, I interviewed one of the elders from Sandia Pueblo who talked about learning to speak Spanish from the children of Placitas families who lived at the Pueblo in years when they could grow no crops in the mountains because of drought. The people who lived here moved into the valley when times were hard, returning another year to grow their gardens. Now, we don’t pack up and leave during a drought, we just drill more wells and pretend we will be able to do this forever. A century ago, the horses, bears, and other creatures had hundreds of miles of unfenced terrain to roam in search of food and water. Now we are dismayed when they show up in the artificial landscape we have created in our backyards because they are hungry and thirsty and can no longer easily move through the maze of highways and fences.

Do I have the answer? No. I do have a suggestion that we must work together as a community with more tolerance and a willingness to seek solutions that benefit all the species, including the large predators. Our world is changing, and yesterday’s answers may no longer be appropriate. Birth control for the horses to control their numbers would be a good start but there are legal/political obstacles to applying this science here. It seems like a subject we could all come to agreement on, and one we can support WHOA on regardless of how we feel about their other positions.

 —Joan Fenicle, Placitas


re: Roy Streit passes away; community’s loss

Roy Streit died on October 23, 2012. This is a terrible loss for our community. Roy loved New Mexico and Placitas. His smile and enthusiasm permeated our community. At many events, Roy provided the food cooking up brats, burgers, and much else. Roy was a huge supporter of our July Fourth parade and made sure there were floats and horses there. I even remember he and Jody providing a donkey for a democratic political event. Roy never lost the optimism of the Seventies, and he always made me feel young and ashamed for not putting more enthusiasm into things. Even after he was diagnosed, he was still out at the flea market promoting his favorite candidates and issues. He was a great man and I will miss him and I know New Mexico will feel his loss—especially Placitas.

—Elaine Sullivan, Placitas


re: Herb’s letter to friends back East?
Find it in “Animal News” (“Feline Ambassadors”), this Signpost.


re: Comment to BLM regarding disposition of land

This concerns the disposition of BLM lands in Placitas, NM. Space does not allow for my comments on the form, thus this attachment.

I favor San Felipe acquiring these lands. I also favor no more mining on BLM lands in this area, and I oppose any new roads across or adjacent to these lands.

I farm property on Las Huertas Creek, utilizing la Rosa de Castilla acequia, which is now incorporated as an Acequia Association. Our water rights date to 1768 and are adjudicated by court order that came as a result of a lawsuit by the Sandoval County District Court on January 5, 1912. I am presently the mayordomo of this acequia. I have lived here for forty years. I serve as a Supervisor on the Board of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District. Both of these positions are part of the NM State Government. I am also a delegate to the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly, representing cultural, traditional, and historical interests.

This property, known as Sun Farm, is presently owned by San Felipe Pueblo. I sold it to them a few years ago. I have a land-use agreement with the Tribe to live here and farm until my passing. San Felipe Pueblo has rights of use during this time. Sun Farm borders BLM land on the north. This boundary is also the north boundary of the San Antonio de las Huertas Land Grant. All of my acequia parciantes are heirs of this Grant, and their family has been settled here since 1765. They hold the farm that borders Sun Farm on the west and share the water.

San Felipe has a strong historical relationship with this part of Las Huertas Valley. The Grant was founded as a garrison—San Jose de las Huertas—to prevent nomadic Native Americans from coming down through Apache Pass on Montezuma Ridge into Las Huertas Valley, then into the Rio Grande Valley, where they would raid up the Rio all the way to Santa Fe. This garrison was located on land bordering Sun Farm on the east and is preserved and interpreted because of concerns of local residents due to a major pipeline corridor passing through the site. Part of San Jose is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The property is now in the hands of the Archaeology Conservancy, and I serve as steward. It borders this same BLM land on the north.

When I came here, forty years ago, most of the now developed land around was BLM. My mentor and neighbor, Rumaldo Montoya, had a herd of about 22 cows that were dairy. He milked them and sold the milk by subscription, and made queso blanco—or farmers’ cheese—when there was a surplus and sold that all around, including the Rio Grande Valley. He had a grazing lease, which he shared with Alfredo Baca Sr. They split it where the eastern boundary of the present open space is. Since he had the BLM lease, this area was open range. Rumaldo was of the opinion that if the land went out of grazing lease, it would no longer be open range. Although Rumaldo’s family could seek to regain the lease, the condition of the range makes that unfeasible. The immediate BLM lands remain in limbo with no direct management.

When the Grant was founded, the main road went straight to San Felipe Mission. This was a main east-west route for the region. There was no chapel or camposanto at San Jose, so all the early settlers are buried at San Felipe Mission. This road traversed the present BLM land. Cultural resources associated with it have been obliterated by gravel mining (rock cairns were created as markers. Each time a body was carried down to the Mission, they would stop and rest and put another rock on).

My parciante and acequia commissioner, Ora Correa, has given a talk in which, she related that in the late 1930s, when she was a little girl, a large crowd of San Felipe people, around Christmas, would walk up the old road and stop by for feasting and trading here. They went on to Las Placitas Village for more trading and then stopped by again for coffee and biscochitos on their way home. Until the late nineteenth century, there was only a footpath to Bernalillo. San Felipe and Santo Domingo were the main centers along the Rio. San Jose was part of that. Some of us still have relations with the people of San Felipe. Their purchase of Sun Farm demonstrates their desire to have a presence here. One of the main reasons for my decision to sell it to them was that some day the BLM land bordering it would be part of the Pueblo. I believe that these historical relationships need to be reestablished in order to enhance the resilience of our communities.

The resources of the mountain flow down to the Pueblo, as the resources of the Rio Grande flow up the other way. It has been too long that false lines on pieces of paper, as well as outside ambitious exploitation and influence, have kept us apart.

Our community has many problems, some of which are approaching crisis situations. The sustainability, or more so, the unsustainability of our groundwater has been ignored by the authorities. Senior water rights are being impaired by too many wells, with corresponding houses. These water rights are associated with springs, which have been shown by hydrological studies to be threatened by such withdrawals. Allowing gravel pits to pump large amounts of water is another huge withdrawal.

The recent drought has woken some of us up. We know that a “megadrought” can be upon us. It is much more difficult to farm here because of climate change. I haven’t had any good crops here for three years. Temperatures are significantly higher. Many crops don’t do as well as they did, and many have been abandoned. People in Placitas are beginning to realize that we might have to depend on ourselves, and our local resources more in the future. We are preparing as best we can, but we are hemmed in and can’t breathe. If we could hook up our communities better and let the land interact, then more fresh air would flow.

Our range, which we might have to depend on in the future, is highly degraded. We have too many horses. It is getting to the point that we can’t manage these horses because we aren’t allowed to limit their numbers and the present drought has made for little forage for them. The ecologies of the soil are fading fast. We will have a very severe erosion problem as things turn to dust. This has happened before in the Placitas area, as it has on the Rio Puerco. If San Felipe had this BLM land, we would have an elegant solution to a very intractable problem. This is reason alone for granting it to them. We need the experience and knowledge of the people of San Felipe, as we have lost much of our own.

We need to stop exploiting this area by extracting from it, and instead, start to steward it. Land held in public trust is there for the public, not private interests and ambitions towards “economic growth”. Our communities have historically directly depended on this land. It’s time that we are given the right to take care of it again. The BLM does not have the resources to manage this land properly. It must be returned to those who love it most.

—Lynn D. Montgomery, Placitas

 
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