The Sandoval Signpost

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letters, opinions, editorials

re: Spillway Plaza undone

In the Town Council meeting on August 25, the Trustees may have voted to end the current drive to annex Placitas. Looks like three of our five elected officials have jumped ship, after paying close attention to the content of the P&Z Officer’s presentation of a developer’s concept. Mayor Chávez tried her darndest to portray Spillway Plaza (One Placitas Center) as a wonderful opportunity for our Town. However, she neglected to explain just how we would benefit. Regulations require this, but an informed public can be a dangerous thing.

Questions brought up by the Council were answered by pie-in-the-sky descriptions of what might be in the plans some day. Trouble is, the Special Use (SU) Zone requires a specific plan showing features—e.g., drainage, building dimensions, etc.—that must be in the footprint (the master plan). The developers seem to know how to avoid the P&Z Commission’s review of their projects by using SU zoning. Once that zone is in effect, decisions of what actually happens are granted through “administrative approval.” Hence, the developers can slide on following the regulations.

Sweet. But only for them, not for us.

When are our elected officials going to start following our laws and procedures? You see, first the Council annexes a property; then it goes to the P&Z Commission for an opinion on the zone change; then back to the Council with the opinion; then the Trustees can decide whether to go ahead with the rezoning or not. This process takes a little time (weeks), but a rush to judgment is rarely good government.

As I said, this was not to be. The Town Attorney interrupted the proceedings and informed Councilor Montoya—who beats the Mayor’s development drum—that the annexation must be dealt with first. After glossing over a report from the federal government and saying it shows the dam is safe—when the report actually says, “the Piedra Lisa Dam is classified as having a high hazard potential,” Montoya made a motion to annex.

After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for someone to second it, the Mayor’s face began to redden as she realized her current pet project was about to die. Elaborating once more on the fabulous potential for a business park cozily nestled below a dam—next to a residential area people have escaped to in order to get away from commercialism—her eyes pleaded for a second to the motion. When none was to be had, the motion failed, and the attempted annexation and the development were done for. Of course, in a Town Hall which disrespects itself enough to have a redo on a previous development vote, no decision they make is necessarily final.

With the denial of the annexation, the room burst into cheers and applause. Most of the astonished crowd noisily filed out to the parking lot, grinning like they had just won an election. This amazing turnaround of a series of nonsensical (if not bizarre) Council meetings had raised their hopes that there might be an end in sight to a town government’s actions that frequently ignore the will of the people and their lawful regulations.

Only time will tell.

—MAX SMELLING, West Bernalillo

re: Kottel celebrated as president of New Mexico Gourd Society

Since she took office as president in 2002, Lynne Kottel has made great changes in the complexion of the New Mexico Gourd Society. This year, as we enter our fourth year in staging a city-wide Celebration of Gourds, we have her to thank for the many innovative ideas that kept this organization growing over the years.

Lynne has been an ambassador of gourds and gourd art, and has taken this love into the community through programs such as local harvest festivals, lectures to master gardeners, and a partnership with the Albuquerque Zoo in the animal enrichment program. She has single-handedly gotten the word out to hundreds of people about how to beautify gourds, and for this we thank her!

She has chaired so many meetings and classes that the entire membership knows her well. Lynne has also been instrumental in bringing the history and story of gourds to many school-aged children. She and her husband Rob have set up, coordinated, and improved the website and newsletter over the past six years.

Come join the fun at the fourth annual Celebration of Gourds. There will be twenty different classes for all levels of learners, from children to advanced students. Classes will include: Gourd Ornaments, Beginning Gourd Art, Color, Wood Burning, and Emerald Gold Bowls. There will be something for everyone. It’s all about the gourd! Say hello to Lynne and thank her for what she has done. For more information about the Celebration, visit

re: Sandia Land Claim and Sandia Pueblo representation

I’m proud of the work that I did with Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici to settle the Sandia Land Claim.

I worked on the issue since I was elected to the Congress in 1998 and the T’uf Bien Shur Preservation Act of 2003 was a major accomplishment for the Pueblo, neighboring cities, Sandia Tram, homeowners at the base of the mountain, and nearby farmers and ranchers, who all deserve credit for the agreement.

I have maintained direct relationships with Sandia Pueblo leaders, as my constituents and a federal Indian tribe, on a wide range of matters important to them for a decade and I continue to do so. Greenberg Traurig was retained by Sandia Pueblo to represent the Pueblo concerning the land claim in 2002-2003. We have worked with whomever the Pueblo has chosen as its representatives and with tribal leaders directly on matters of concern to the Pueblo.

I was completely unaware until today of any former staffer’s emails—which appear to have been sent after Congress passed the final legislation on the Sandia Land Claim on February 13, 2003. I have not been contacted by the Department of Justice about this matter at any time.

Regarding the March 2003 emails between two rogue lobbyists concerning whether they would continue to be retained by the Pueblo, I am not sure whether to be amused or offended that they were operating under the delusion that I would help them retain their contract, or that losing their contract would hurt the Pueblo’s longstanding relationship with me. I represent the Pueblo as they are my constituents, regardless of who they hire to represent them. At no time did I take any action on behalf of Greenberg Traurig with Sandia Pueblo.

We have very strict rules in our office on gifts—including tickets to events. We train our staff about House ethics rules and we enforce those rules up to and including dismissal.

Mr. Kevin Ring hosted a fundraising lunch at Signatures restaurant to benefit my campaign for reelection in May 2003 and contributed $1,000 to my campaign on June 2, 2003. When we discovered that Mr. Ring had not submitted a bill for the cost of the fundraiser to my fundraising consultant, our consultant sought to pay the bill and, when unsuccessful because the restaurant was no longer in business, my campaign made an equivalent contribution to charity as required by Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules.


re: thank you, Dr. Kaplan

Dr. Mark Kaplan was our family physician. Often, he would show up at the family residence to administer his oath of medicine. Vaccines were delivered during outbreaks of childhood diseases and bruised body parts were gingerly repaired. His bedside manner included a viewing of the tattoo numbers indelibly etched on his forearm. He will always be remembered!

I thought about Dr. Kaplan the other day when I lost it. I needed a flu shot and coincidently received a letter from our healthcare provider that the flu vaccine was available. For me, leaving Placitas is a once-a-week event, and I try to stage at least a couple of stops along the trail. This time, it would be groceries and a shot. When I arrived at the pharmacy to get my poke, I received a startled look from within the dispensary and was told that there were no vaccines available. “What!“ I exclaimed. I immediately knew that my venting needed to be pointed in another direction. Within a day, all was well. I got my flu shot and the providers patched up a serious hole in their delivery, marketing, and customer care systems.

What is interesting and why I thought of Dr. Kaplan was the process by which I received my vaccine. During that day, I got a cell call from the CEO, an email apology, and a telephone call from the pharmacy where the mea culpa occurred. “Sir,” the caller said, “We apologize for the inconvenience and can we send a pharmacist to your Placitas doorstep and give you the flu shot? “ As I gasped a resounding, “Yes, you can,” I realized that the Hippocratic Oath was once again being honored and, most importantly, implemented. An hour, later a certified pharmacist arrived at my driveway with her box containing the paraphernalia and medicine. Sitting comfortably at my dining room table and with my shoulder exposed, I barely felt the jab.

After a brief exchange of a thank you and more apologies, my pharmacist was on her way… hopefully to make another house call.

Again, Mark Kaplan, thank you!



A water rights primer for Placiteños


Water rights might seem a simple topic on the surface, but they are actually very complex and can be extremely confusing for the average Placiteño. Over the last couple decades, citizens in our region have been struggling to come up with a regional water plan to deal with our water use in a sane and sustainable manner. This effort was engendered by the Office of the State Engineer and its sub-agency, the Interstate Stream Commission.

A plan was finally drafted after many years of intense volunteer effort and few funds, and has been accepted by our local governments and the State. Its mission statement is: “Balance use with renewable supply.“ This is a daunting task. Even if we achieve it, we have a “debt” to pay back, in that the Albuquerque area has pumped so much water out of the local aquifers, some of them have dropped nearly two hundred feet. This impacts Placitas directly, as we sit over the same aquifers, and all aquifers are connected and impacted by withdrawals. This situation sucks water from the surface, including the Rio Grande, Las Huertas Creek, and local springs.

As our region has grown and many water uses have changed with it, the state of affairs of dealing with water rights has become so contorted and confusing it threatens the resource, the environment, our economy, and our very future. Although it is impossible at this point to quickly clear up this thick fog we find ourselves in, we can attempt to prepare for lucid and reasonable management of our water resources. If we don’t do anything about recognizing and honoring our water rights system, then we will walk in the fog until there is a point of no return, and we will not be able to restore and sustain water for ourselves and our world.

The concept of water rights has evolved over thousands of years of water resource management. New Mexico has a unique confluence of two ancient cultures, Pueblo and Spanish-Moorish, both of which depend on institutionalized customs of using and distributing water. Both cultures evolved in the context of producing food in an arid climate. Both are based on survival needs. When the Spanish arrived in New Mexico, they were very surprised at how civilized the Pueblos were and how similar their water laws and customs. People were able to use the water without a lot of conflict by utilizing these laws and customs, but then the Europeans arrived. Water rights became property instead of community-held commons. Exploiting the water resource for economic gain superseded survival necessities and people started to fight more over it. The conflict between each other and between these cultural perceptions continues to this day and peace remains elusive.

In order to create stream system areas or regions to facilitate the administration of water rights, the New Mexico State Engineer is given the power to declare Basins. This happens when the State Engineer determines the waters of the Basin are fully appropriated by all the water rights declared in that Basin. Subsequently, any new uses must acquire senior water rights so that new uses do not impair senior rights and ensure surface flows so that compacts with other states are honored.

There are three elements of Basins:

All the surface flows from all the springs and tributaries of a Basin, plus the main stem;

The natural storage systems, which include natural bodies of water and the underground aquifers;

The recharge systems, which include the watershed and all the connections between groundwater flows.

People interfere extensively with all these elements, often to their diminishment and sustainability.

Our region has restraints on how much water we use. In a legal sense, these restraints are applied in context with the Rio Grande Compact. This agreement between Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas requires our region to let so much water flow down the Rio Grande to serve downstream users. Not meeting compact requirements triggers sanctions that will make our lives much more difficult. It is accepted that pumping water in our region depletes surface flows, as the pumping creates a “vacuum” that sucks water from the surface and surrounding aquifer, so groundwater use is restrained also. These restraints are the only thing available to us to protect the environment from drying up and to keep the water resource healthy enough to ensure water for future uses.

The status quo, or fog, we find ourselves struggling with today is a result of putting economic growth ambitions above everything else when it comes to administering our water rights. New Mexico has always been a colony since Europeans arrived, even to this day, and colonies are to be exploited for their resources, human and natural, so that patrons can become wealthy and governments can become powerful. Until we recognize this destructive colonial attitude within our society and government and begin to utilize the rights and duties of free citizens, things will simply remain the same until the system crashes from the weight of neglect, injustice, and ongoing ambition.

Our region has not had its water rights adjudicated yet. This should have been started over a hundred years ago. So much water has flowed over the dams since then, we have a tangle that is going to take an odyssey to unravel. Adjudications are lawsuits, generally filed in state district court, that include all water rights holders in a defined region as defendants. The primary goal is to determine water rights so they can be administered by the state. The State Engineer has no powers to determine water rights in any fashion. The court has full jurisdiction over water rights and only the court can determine and validate them. Adjudication takes a long time, as water rights are complex things. A lot of research, scientific and legal, has to be done, plus the expense keeps the legislature from providing the necessary funds.

The State Engineer has been granting permits to support the growth and expansion of human settlement, often without requiring existing water rights to support the new appropriations. There are no adjudicated water rights in the region, so the validity of transferred water rights is not guaranteed. Water is allowed to be transferred into the ground in upper watersheds that deplete the local surface flows of springs and creeks and rob the natural sponge storage of these critical areas of recharge. Eventually, our surface sources will dry up, along with the ecologies they support, and we will renege on our compact obligations, losing control of our water and society.

Determining our water rights and implementing priority administration will give us the handle to manage our water in the detail necessary. Otherwise, we will be helpless to save ourselves without doing great damage to our resources and society. Our community cannot exist without a healthy water resource. We need to work closely together to form a truly sustainable community to protect and conserve our water, the environment, and human resources, and create the means to sustain ourselves and our world to meet the dire challenges of the future. The opportunities to achieve this are not going to hang around much longer. Placiteños have always governed themselves and rejected outside exploitation. We need to continue this venerable tradition, stop the present oppressions, and take better charge.

Romaine McGoughre: Romaine McGough


Romaine Elizabeth Sinclair McGough, born to Harry and Alice Sinclair on September 2, 1920 in Baltimore, Maryland, passed into the arms of God on Wednesday, September 17, 2008 in the family home surrounded by loved ones.

Romaine was the beloved wife of Retired Major General Edward A. McGough, III for sixty-five years. They were residents of Placitas from 1975 until 1997, when they moved into Albuquerque. The McGoughs were longtime members of the Las Placitas Presbyterian Church and active supporters of the Placitas Volunteer Fire Brigade. Romaine participated in the Placitas Jardineros and had many wonderful friends in Placitas, with whom she enjoyed horseback riding, painting, and music. She supported her husband during his state senatorial campaign and during his term in office. She cared deeply for the environment, especially wildlife conservation. Romaine was a poised and gracious hostess who greatly enjoyed entertaining friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents and grandson, Lindsey Green. She is survived by her husband Ed; four daughters, Sara Lendzion and husband Dennis, Ann McGough, Nancy McGough and husband Sean Green, all of Albuquerque, and Gail McGough-Madueña and husband James Madueña of Placitas; granddaughters, Pamela Sever, Alexandra Dyer and husband Brandon, Brooke Green, Mara McGough-Madueña, and Alison McGough-Madueña; grandsons Joel Green and James McGough-Madueña; and one great-granddaughter, Alynna Dyer.

She was loved by many and will be greatly missed.

—The McGough Family

Jeremy Hightower

re: Jeremy Hightower


I would like to write a few lines here to express our gratitude for the outpouring of support shown to our family by friends and neighbors in the village of Placitas. We lost our son Jeremy Hightower suddenly on August 25, 2008, at the age of twenty-eight. There was a memorial service for him at the Placitas Presbyterian Church, and the church was filled with Jeremy’s friends and relatives. We would like to thank everyone who came to the memorial or the reception, and also those who donated food, helped to plan the memorial, or provided a house for the reception. We would also like to thank the countless people who told us how much they appreciated Jeremy, and expressed their sympathy for us.

Jeremy will be missed in Placitas. He was an outgoing person who loved the company of friends. He also loved to travel. At the age of eighteen, he traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. When he returned to the mainland, he traveled extensively throughout the United States, working and making friends wherever he went. He came back to Placitas over and over again, and always brought stories of his travels with him.

Jeremy had a life-long appreciation of music, and he liked to play his electric guitar with other musically-inclined people. When he was in this area, he would play with some of the musicians here.

His friends and family will always remember him.

Erica Hightower, Jemez Valley

re: honor and integrity—gone the way of the dodo?

I have always believed that the best man always wins! But as we near the November election, the lies, distortions, fabrications, innuendos, and character assassinations have reached the point where I am changing my mind.

The sad truth, it seems, is good guys finish last. It’s the evil, ruthless, dishonest candidate that wins. Tell the big lie enough times and people will believe it. Honor? Integrity? Those things don’t win elections. C’mon!

A friend recently received a call from a national polling company. They wanted to know who he was voting for. When he stated his preference, the poll taker asked if he was Jewish. After that, the so-called poll taker asked if it would affect my friend’s vote if he knew some nasty anti-Semitic things about his candidate that he knew were outright lies. Now, my friend is very politically savvy. But what about the voter who is not as well-informed? Sad to say, this kind of swift-boating works. Worse still, it wins elections.

So what is a voter to believe? Well, for starters, don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t forward an email unless you know the source. I don’t mean who sent it; I mean the verifiable source of the information. And be very suspicious of emails with dozens of recipients. Bogus email stories are being spammed out by dishonest campaigns. There are several independent fact-checking websites you can visit, such as and where you can learn the truth.

And finally, ask yourself, what kind of candidate approves this kind of deceitful campaign? And is this the kind of candidate I want leading my country?


re: who are you?

You are Barack Obama.

It is the first debate.

I ask you, “In one hundred words or less, what is the essence of your Change?”

“The Change does not arrive on Inauguration Day. The Change is right now. If you vote for John McCain, then We the People are doomed, doomed to four or eight more years of stewing in right-wing psychopathology. I share an emotion with many of you. After eight years of George Bush and Dick Cheney, I’ve had enough. If you vote for Barack Obama, if you will work with me, I promise to expose the underbelly of the United States government and the corporate and Wall Street looting that is forever the hallmark of the Bush years. “Washington D.C.” is a political game, a game involving money, power, and force, a game involving you, your life, and the lives of millions of families and friends. It is my opinion that the Republicans need to sit in the corner for at least eight years. We have come to the end of the duplicity of the Bush/Cheney administration. I am appalled at the damage done by Bush/Cheney. I intend to win this presidential race and restore sanity and the rule of law to the office of President of the United States. Mark my words. We’ve had enough Bush/Cheney, enough of the Republican Party, and enough of the likes of a Bush clone like John McCain. Enough! The Change is right now!”

You are John McCain.

It is the first debate.

I ask you, “In one hundred words or less, what is the essence of your Change?”

“In no special order… No earmarks for the first four years of the McCain administration.

I’ll do everything in my power to destroy the agents of militant fundamentalist Islam. I will appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court. I will not allow socialist tendencies to further creep into our capitalist culture. I will not be blackmailed by lobbyists and Wall Street con men, and neither will the Republican members of the Congress and Senate. After Inauguration Day, any Republican caught with a lobbyist will answer to me. I concede that the Left is progressive and artistic. I declare the Right to be the warriors and the realists, both feet firmly planted in American soil and the Higher Power. We have come to the end of the Bush/Cheney administration and I am appalled at the damage done. I intend to win this presidential race and restore dignity and honesty to the office of President of the United States. I intend to kill Osama bin Laden, with or without due process. I will prosecute all war profiteers, starting at the top. Our weapons manufacturing and weapons development will continue to be unrivaled. Don’t be fooled by pie-in-the-sky Obama. His mere hope changes nothing. Mark my words. We are at war.”


re: the friends of Agnes Shreve

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the many kind friends of our beloved Agnes. Your caring sympathy was a comfort to us. Our sorrow from the loss of our mother, daughter, sister, and friend was bearable because of friends like you! We want you all to know how much we appreciate everything that you have done and are still doing for us. Thank you for your generous donations, the lovely flowers, the food, the letters, and spiritual remembrances. We will always remember your kindness. Your love and compassion helped us through this very sad time.

Thank you for everything! God bless you!




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