It’s been a busy fall in the Village of Los Ranchos. Trustees had an easy October meeting where they gave raises to future elected officials, discussed legal fees and said so long to the village administrator. There were also some election forums giving voters a chance to hear what candidates have to say.
With three out of the four mayor candidates sitting at the governing table, chances are there will be lots of showing off.
Mayor Don Lopez runs an efficient meeting, sometimes gets a little hot but has an easy banter even with his opposers. Trustees George Radnovich and Gilbert Benevides, who are running against Lopez, are competent trustees and seem to be trying to show their mayoral qualities by asking a lot more questions than at prior meetings. Another mayor candidate, Joe Craig, president of the Friends of Los Ranchos usually speaks at the meetings but did not at the October get together.
Trustees did a good thing when they finally raised the pay for future Mayors and Trustees. This has not been done since Dec. 2003.
The Mayor currently makes $1,000 a month. The future Mayor will now make $31,200 annually. Trustees currently get a whopping $50 bucks for their once a month meeting. Newly elected trustees will now get $200 a month and $50 for each special meeting.
These raises are only for future elected officials. Wouldn’t it be great to see more young village residents signing up in the future to take seat at the governing table?
Trustee Sandra Pacheco questioned Village Attorney Nann Winter over the legal bills that show more than a $57,000 increase in the last two months.
Winter said the usual legal bill is $10,000 to $12,000 a month, which is within the budgeted amount. She said that The Friends of Los Ranchos, and its president Joe Craig, have filed five pending lawsuits, along with more than a handful of motions in those dockets.
At issue are two projects. One is a 13-acre multi-use project at Fourth and Osuna developed by Palindrome Communities from Portland, Oregon. As a side note, this project is also being funded by Bernalillo County to the tune of $29 million in project revenue bonds. The other controversial development is just west along Chavez Road. It is a roughly 9-acre parcel with16-homes. This one is being developed by Jim Long of Heritage Hotels.
Winter explained that for every motion filed it generates a flurry of attorney time in the form of responses and replies. She said this is where the increases are mainly coming from but they have to defend the Village even though she said the law firm is confident they are frivolous.
There have been successes for the Village, she said. One judge denied a writ to stop the Fourth Street project, the state Attorney General’s Office dismissed a open meeting complaint and judges are ruling on motions without requiring a hearing, saving fees to pay attorneys to endlessly brief. She cautioned that it will take months for the Village to wind its way through this legal mess and get resolutions.
Winter said that there are significant fees being generated by these lawsuits and unfortunately they are being borne by the community. Trustee Pacheco summed it up for all of us by saying this is a hard pill to swallow and we all hope it all gets resolved soon.
Village Mayor Elections
This is where the dirt is flying with sides being taken. Four candidates lined up on sides with thin lines drawn. There have been several candidate forums held for both mayor and trustees. This reporter took a look at the Mayor’s race to see what came to light at the forum put on by the prestigious League of Women Voters New Mexico. All four candidates showed up to state their positions.
Firstly, there are some common threads woven through the political shade all the candidates are throwing. All of the mayor candidates say they will preserve the rural nature of the village, support businesses and listen to constituents.
In a piñon shell:
Craig said open space, noise mitigation along Paseo del Norte, better communication with residents are some of his priorities. He said his priorities are people, environment and community. Craig is the president of Friends of Los Ranchos.
Benevides said he wants to restore trust in the Village, tackle safety issues and no big box developments. He said he has no ties to any of the controversial projects. He said he is an ethical person with no project conflicts and should be Mayor because he has the better vision.
Radnovich said the Village needs healing, a comprehensive plan versus a master plan to guide growth. He said he does have ties to the Fourth Street project as a landscape architect on the project. He said the Village is at a crossroad and he wants it to be a place where his kids want to live.
Lopez said he will do everything in his power to keep Los Ranchos rural. One of his proudest accomplishments is the Anderson Fields where, with the recent purchase of the Anderson mansion, the village as 50-acres of contiguous open space. He said agriculture is critical to the Village and will continue to be a priority in the future.
Interested voters can watch the meetings and the candidate forums, including the Trustee forum, on the Los Ranchos’ website or its YouTube channel, then come to their own conclusion if they have not already.
Ann Simon has been Village Administrator for nearly 4 years. She resigned last month effective the end of October. Politics aside, this reporter has found her to be more than competent and knowledgeable in her municipal duties during her tenure which included guiding Los Ranchos through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. Can’t really blame her for leaving after all this dissension of the last couple years. The Village will have a hard time filling her shoes, especially if it has the reputation of being a cranky community.
The next regular meeting of the Trustees is set for 7 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 8. For Los Ranchos government happenings check out losranchosnm.gov .