The Sandoval Signpost

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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: Bernalillo’s Historic District threatened once again

On Monday, September 26, at 7:00 p.m., the Town Council of Bernalillo will hear an appeal of the Planning and Zoning decision to approve a high-density subdivision cutting through the heart of the Abenicio Salazar Historic District.
The proposed thirty-three-home subdivision, Cottonwood Ranch, will require a new road, a cul-de-sac, which will be the only access onto Camino del Pueblo, in the middle of a culturally sensitive area already substantially affected by heavy traffic. This new road and the high-density subdivision will generate a daily trip count of almost four hundred vehicles and will radically change the entire feeling of this part of town, which serves many civic functions, including the San Lorenzo Fiesta, the annual wine festival, weekly farmers’ market, as well as numerous parades on Main Street.

We, the residents of the Abenicio Salazar Historic District, would like to see a smaller-scale development that is sensitive to the landscape, and to the Historic District, as well as something that maintains the integrity and small-town feel of Bernalillo.

Kelly Moe, Bernalillo’s own Planning and Zoning Administrator, submitted a viable and attractive alternative plan for the P&Z Commission’s consideration. Moe’s plan allows for fewer homes and less traffic, more open space, and the proposal to perhaps use this once agricultural farmland for family gardens or even communal gardening. Wallen Builders, however, has so far refused to consider Moe’s context-sensitive plan, and has remained inflexible despite all concerns expressed.

This is a quality-of-life issue for everyone who lives here or who visits the various cultural events in the Town of Bernalillo. It is ironic that the Town advertises its Historic District on billboards as you enter and exit Bernalillo, but may allow this type of development to encroach into the historic character of this town in such an insensitive way.

“The preservation of the historical and cultural elements of the MainStreet corridor is in the interests of all who live in Bernalillo and love this community. This heritage defines who we are today and what we want our future to look like.” —Bernalillo MainStreet Association, published in “Why is a MainStreet Overlay District good for Bernalillo?”


    re: flood control in Bernalillo

Last October, there was a major rain event that flooded all the homes in the lower area of Hill Road, as well as all along Avenida Bernalillo.

The "pond" on the corner of Avenida Bernalillo and Charing Cross was filled to capacity within twelve minutes of the rain event. I called 911 when the water began flooding my neighbor two houses east of my shop, and the police report shows twelve minute respond time for the police. By the time the police arrived, the pond was full and slamming into waves against my east "levee" wall.

It was not the pond that protected my property from the storm, it was my self-built "levee.” The emergency vehicles could not pull up to the home that was flooding, because the waters were gushing like rivers into the homes in that area.

The ponds are only effective in a "normal" rain event. In a major rain event as in last October, they are as effective as a thimble. We now have twelve ponds east of and all along Hill Road (most of these recently in place on MTC property development and were in place in the rain event last October) and the lone pond adjacent to my shop.

If the City has the money to buy twenty-three acres plus eleven acres, the size of the two north properties on Hill Road that they want to acquire by eminent domain, "condemning,"—they want to acquire the parcels to add more ponds?—they surely have the money to begin and finish a "levee" along the west side of I-25.
This issue is major, and it could effect the lives of more than twenty-five hundred homes in the impact area.

I am sending this info to target people in the media who can bring the issue to light, before action by the Town is taken. The info is falling on deaf ears in the town.


[Editor’s note: Bernalillo town administrator Lester Swindle told the Signpost that he has records of ten public meetings held in Bernalillo since 1948 to address this issue. The Town hand-delivered notices to over four hundred affected residences in order to receive suggestions. Swindle said, “Levees don’t always work, as we have seen. Eminent domain would have to be invoked to build a levee system. This problem did not develop overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. Engineers have determined that ponds have a place in containing storm-water runoff. I’m sure there are other worthy opinions.”]

    re: mosquito spraying in Corrales
    An open letter to Corrales Mayor Kanin

Dear Mayor Kanin;
The article in the Saturday (9/10/05) Albuquerque Journal Westside about the mosquitoes at the Corrales Recreation Center prompted me to write.

I am disappointed that we allow mosquito spraying in Corrales. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has said that the spraying of adulticides for mosquitoes is the least effective method of control. The city of Corrales is doing a good job on all other aspects of mosquito control but allowing the spraying of pesticides is counter-productive.

A study was done in New York several years ago where a mosquito-infested swamp was routinely sprayed with pesticides on a regular basis. A mosquito count was done at the beginning of the project and another 11 years later when it was finished. There were many more mosquitoes after the spraying than there were before. The mosquitoes developed a resistance to the pesticides, but all the other insects that feed on mosquitoes, such as dragonflies, were killed. I believe that this is what is happening at the recreational center. The mosquito spraying is killing off all the natural predators of mosquitoes, while they continue to thrive and threaten the visitors.

The pesticides used for mosquito control are synthetic pyrethroids. Even though proponents of mosquito spraying will say they are “made from flowers” and are perfectly safe, that is not the case. These synthetic pyrethroids also contain a synergist, piperonyl butoxide, which is a suspected carcinogen according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Mosquito spraying is nothing more than a feel-good measure that has no redeeming value. Many communities around the country have outlawed the indiscriminate and ineffective spraying of pesticides for mosquitoes as they have begun to realize that it will only exacerbate the problem and not solve it.

The use of Gambusia mosquito fish, larvicides and public awareness is all that is needed to make the community safe from mosquitoes. The recreation center and all public areas can make non-DEET mosquito repellents available for users if they wish. This would do a much better job of protecting the public than having pesticide residuals in the grass where children and pets will play.

Citronella and catnip based insect repellents are very effective for short periods of time (about 2-3 hours) and are much safer than DEET products, which are chemicals that can cause problems in some people.

I live in Corrales and I wear a catnip-based mosquito repellent when I am in my yard and I never get bit. I keep standing water out of the yard and my dogs are inoculated against heartworm and our horse has received a West Nile virus vaccination. We are very comfortable with the measures we take and we certainly don’t need any insidious pesticides sprayed in our area that will threaten or kill beneficial insects, birds or family pets.

Please reconsider the mosquito-spraying program. It is not effective (as we have seen at the recreational center).

Taxpayer money can be put to better use.


    re: teaching Policy 401 in Rio Rancho

Last night was my first time at a meeting of the Rio Rancho Board of Education.

I take exception to Dr. Sue Cleveland’s remarks, made at the end of the public comment period. (Dr. Sue Cleveland is superintendent of the Rio Rancho public school district.) As I heard them, she drew or implied a distinction between “teaching” and “discussion,” and said that Policy 401 does not require teaching of “intelligent design.” Perhaps the district’s attorney has suggested that Policy 401 be described in this way, but the portrayal doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

Among all of the infinite varieties of communication embraced within the term “teaching,” the actions of a teacher to permit, lead, or moderate classroom discussion are certainly included.

Whenever a science teacher is engaged in the discussion method of teaching, Policy 401 requires the teacher to belittle scientific theories and data (and, inseparably, the scientific method) in deference to individual religious and philosophical beliefs of students and their parents. Such prescribed belittling is teaching; and its content is “content,” in the sense that the word is used in the New Mexico Science Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Performance Standards. And such content will be religious content whenever it is delivered in deference to religious beliefs.

Finally, such belittling of science and scientific data by a science teacher will constitute the teaching of intelligent design whenever it is delivered in deference to a student’s or a parent’s belief in intelligent design. Moreover, it will constitute sectarian religious teaching, since the belief in intelligent design is fundamentally faith-based and promoted most particularly by elements of the Christian religious right.


The Lesser of Two Weevils c. G. Leichner

What’s at stake in the evolution debate

On my desk is the fragment of a tooth from an ancient camel that roamed the area around Fossil, Oregon, 40 million years ago. My kids and I unearthed it on a summer camping trip, and today I found myself fingering it as I read yet another story about the evolution "debate."

This controversy pits Darwin’s concept of evolution and natural selection against "intelligent design," which asserts that life is so complex that it must reflect a guiding intelligence. Mindful that the teaching of creationism has been barred by the courts, intelligent-design advocates are careful not to name the designer, but their arguments postulate a creation that was perfect and unchanging; in other words, divine.

Across the country and throughout the West, school boards are struggling with this issue, often seeking incoherent "compromises" that satisfy no one. They must certainly confuse students. In Utah, for example, a conservative state senator recently withdrew his plan to require instruction in "divine design," but only after being assured by the state superintendent of public instruction that human evolution would not be taught in Utah schools.

Meanwhile, in a recent sit-down with Texas journalists, President Bush weighed in on the issue: "both sides ought to be properly taught so people can understand what the debate is about." Many may feel, well, fair enough. Give this intelligent design idea equal time, or at least a fair hearing. What’s the problem with that?

The problem is that there simply is no debate in the scientific world about the validity of evolution. After a century and a half of research, there is near-universal agreement among biologists that Darwin’s principle of natural selection, coupled with modern knowledge of genetics, explains the development and workings of life on earth. This consensus is fundamental to modern medicine, to genetics, to embryology, to the classification of plants and animals, and to every other branch of biological science.

Everywhere we look, the living world shows evidence of both past and continuing evolution, from the development of feathers on dinosaurs and birds to the rapid spread of antibiotic resistance among bacteria. In contrast, "intelligent design" makes no testable predictions, and it is not supported by any data at all—certainly nothing as tangible as my fossil camel tooth.

No, the debate over evolution is not really about a scientific idea. It is just one part of a struggle over how Americans understand the world. At issue is this: Will we continue to be a reality-based society, or not?

Placing our understanding of reality in the hands of purveyors of belief—whether they are political ideologues, religious zealots or corporate spin doctors—would mean that we have decided to believe what we choose, rather than rely on factual evidence. Unless compelled by facts, people rarely choose to revise comfortable assumptions or to make sacrifices. America’s conversion into a belief-based society would mark the beginning of an inexorable slide into delusional thinking. Some could argue that this process is already well advanced.

Before the invasion of Iraq, neoconservative members of the Bush administration disparaged "reality-based" diplomacy as quaint and old-fashioned. An unnamed senior official was quoted as stating: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

The disastrous course of events in Iraq following our "victory" there has proved the folly of allowing belief to preempt attention to facts. Any society that believes it is immune to the basic workings of cause and effect is doomed to decline.

Relying on science to understand reality and to predict consequences does not diminish religion. For almost all people the world around, religion fills existence with meaning and provides moral instruction on how to live. Neither evolution, nor the fact that the Earth is not the center of the universe, nor any other once "blasphemous" finding of science, threatens religious faith.

Those who condemn science in the name of religion have a terrible record, ranging from medieval Christian clerics who plunged Europe into the Dark Ages, to contemporary Islamic extremists who reject any conclusion that conflicts with their interpretation of the Koran. How could the United States even contemplate surrendering our understanding of the world to purveyors of belief? That surrender will have begun if we allow a trumped-up debate between science and non-science—evolution and intelligent design—a place in our education system. The stakes could not be higher.

Pepper Trail is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( He is a Ph.D. biologist who lives and writes in Ashland, Oregon.



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