A bill pending in Congress aims to help farmers adjust to climate change. The Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA, H.R.5861) is intended to set farmers up with the tools they need to confront the climate crisis. Representative Chellie Pingree, Maine Democrat, introduced a comprehensive policy proposal to facilitate farmers’ access to scientific data.
Here are the key points as described by the congresswoman.
• The ARA takes a systems approach. Climate change is bringing a wide range of challenges to U.S. farmers and food system stakeholders. The vast suite of tools will put support in a range of areas where it’s needed. For example, investments will range from supporting farmers in improving agricultural practices on crop and livestock operations, to expanding renewable energy use in farms across the nation and helping to curb senseless losses of farm and food waste.
• The bill would quadruple agricultural science funding. With its call to massively increase agricultural research and extension funding, this policy proposal should appeal to all who love science, including the farmers who can benefit from it.
This is especially true considering that the US investment in public agricultural research has been in decline in recent decades. Further, the USDA’s leading competitive grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has not yet received anywhere near the full $700 million dollars authorized for it (the maximum amount appropriated so far was $415 in 2019).
Other key research programs, such as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, which funds critical participatory research, receive far less funds. The new proposal would ensure that these and other programs have a better chance of getting the most effective solutions into the hands of farmers.
• The ARA aims to boost sorely needed funding for agro-ecological and climate change science. The new proposal is a big win for agricultural research overall, but what’s really exciting is the emphasis on research tailored to agroecology and climate change. While some recent investments have been steps in the right direction, the new proposal would prioritize relatively untapped areas. It expands such research within the competitive grant programs at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (including AFRI) and at the Agricultural Research Service (the USDA’s internal research branch).
It would also fund the Climate Hubs and the Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research Network that could serve as a foundation for the multi-year, regionally focused science that is essential, particularly during changing times.
• The ARA supports science-based, time-tested programs. Wisely, the ARA doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Given the need for swift action, the commitments to invest heavily in proven programs is a smart approach.
An important example is the planned expanded investment in the Conservation Stewardship Program, a program that we have found has a high return on investment due to the practices that it incentivizes as well as its holistic approach. The new proposal would also leverage other popular and highly effective programs, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
• The ARA commits to establishing new, science-driven initiatives. While the new proposal builds on and leverages a wide range of existing programs, it doesn’t stop short of innovating. Fortunately, proposed new areas of work incorporate strong science. For example, the bill calls for a new National Academy of Sciences study investigating the connections between human health and soil health, to help identify the most promising agricultural pathways for people and planet.
It also directs the USDA to establish science-based criteria for new incentives, to ensure that such efforts deliver the best possible outcomes.
• The ARA is anchored in science-informed goals.
The new proposal puts forward a dozen specific goals for 2040, all of which are highly ambitious, and based in science. The top line goal is to require U.S. agriculture —which currently contain nine percent of the nation’s heat-trapping emissions— to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.
To get there, the multi-pronged approach includes: restoring at least half of lost soil carbon (scientists have identified several ways to work toward this, and achieving it brings co-benefits), maintaining year-round cover on at least 75 percent of cropland acres (a goal which already has momentum, and which can help with both soil carbon storage and building resilience to increasingly extreme weather), eliminating farmland and grassland conversion (which often leads to soil carbon loss, and threatens future farming legacies), reducing food waste by at least 75 percent. That is a reasonable goal considering that up to 40 percent of food in the United States is currently wasted, which causes climate emissions at landfills and also represents preventable emissions and other environmental consequences all along the supply chain), and more.
“In short, this new policy proposal leads with science to set out a bold and inspiring vision for a world in which farmers are key players in combating climate change,” the congresswoman said. “It recognizes that the science, practice, and policies we have today give us a lot to work with, while also acknowledging the need to accelerate our learning, investments and actions along the way. It may just be a first step, but it puts our best foot forward.”
Tired of going to Book Club? Yoga? Consider reeling in a few good pals to play around with messy Portland cement and peat moss in order to create your own stone-like planters from hypertufa. Or, if you are self-isolating, dive in by yourself. Tufa is limestone rock, so hypertufa is fake rock that is lighter weight and porous, thus perfect for plants, especially drought-tolerant succulents. The creative director of Burlington,Vermont-based Gardener’s Supply, Susan Romanoff, developed this recipe: Materials: 1 part Portland cement 1.5 parts peat moss 1.5 parts perlite Water Tub for mixing ingredients Rubber gloves Dust mask 2 cardboard boxes, one about 2" smaller than the other Mix one part Portland cement with 1.5 parts each of peat moss and perlite in a large tub. Add just enough water so that when you form a ball in your hands and squeeze it, it holds its shape and little or no water drips out. Pack the hypertufa mixture into the bottom of a box in a two-inch thick layer, creating the floor of your container. The size and shape of this larger box will define the exterior footprint of your container. Insert a smaller container inside the larger box, on top of the base layer of the concrete mixture. The difference in the sizes of the boxes determines the thickness of the walls. Ideally, the walls should be at least two inches thick. Fill and pack the gaps between the boxes with the hypertufa mixture. Wrap your mold in plastic and keep in a shady location overnight. Remove the plastic and allow to cure for another few days before planting. Plant. For full details, see gardeners.com.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions released unofficial numbers for new unemployment insurance claims filed for the period March 27 to April 2. The total number of new claims processed for the week was 28,344, but not all claimants will qualify for benefits. The number of weekly certifications for the same timeframe was 44,000. These include people receiving benefits and others who are in the system and awaiting determination. As of April 2, the current trust fund balance was $450 million. Individuals are required to certify every week after they apply for benefits, including the weeks before they receive their first benefit payment. The department encourages those who are able to complete their weekly certification online at http://www.jobs.state.nm.us or they may call 1-877-664-6984, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A video on how to file weekly certifications has been published on the NMDWS official YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/NMDWS. “Governor Lujan Grisham wants all New Mexicans to be safe and healthy as we work through the COVID-19 crisis,” said Bill McCamley, secretary of the New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department. “Our staff is working as hard as we can to ensure that New Mexicans get the benefits they need and we very much appreciate the patience and kindness of our neighbors as we get through this together.” In recent weeks, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Unemployment Insurance filing system has faced an unprecedented increase in volume. In order to address this surge, the department has:
• Implemented a new, more efficient filing system based on the last number of the applicant's Social Security number: 0 - 3 : Mondays; 4 - 6 : Tuesdays; 7 - 9 : Wednesdays; if you missed your day, you can call on Thursdays and Fridays.
• Streamlined the account creation process for New Mexico Workforce Connection Online System, resulting in over 95 percent of initial claims being filed online; • Waived the work search requirements;
• Dedicated 115 staff to the NMDWS Unemployment Insurance Operations Center telephone line, with plans to bring an additional 61 staff on board;
• Added a chat bot feature to the NMDWS website to provide guided information serving 96,973 sessions since 3/23, and;
• Waived the charges for new claims related to COVID-19 separations for both reimbursable and contributory employers.
Additional information for workers affected by COVID-19, including frequently asked questions, can be found at www.dws.state.nm.us/COVID-19-Info. For the latest announcements and updates, follow NMDWS on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
On April 6, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small announced that New Mexico Tribes will receive over $674,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
The funds are part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that the entire New Mexico delegation voted to pass Congress last week.
The grants are part of $2 billion in emergency supplemental funding for federal programs benefiting Indian tribes. The CARES Act also established a $8 billion Tribal Coronavirus Relief Fund to ensure Tribes have “one stop” access to resources to fund a Tribal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Mexico Tribes will receive $674,279 to fund Tribal public transportation systems for their communities.
“Tribes have made it abundantly clear that the effects of COVID-19 on Indian Country will be devastating if they do not receive necessary public health, economic stabilization, and infrastructure resources,” said Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “As Tribally-owned and operated businesses are forced to shutter to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the federal government must now more than ever stand shoulder to should with Tribal governments to continue to provide essential services. Reliable access to transportation is especially important for Tribal communities during this public health crisis so that families can get the resources and health care they need, especially because transportation infrastructure in many Tribal communities is severely inadequate and in disrepair. This additional funding is a step in the right direction. As the vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I will keep working to ensure Tribal communities have the full support of the federal government to stay healthy and financially afloat in this challenging time.”
"Tribal governments are facing unique challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to confronting a public health crisis with already strapped medical resources, they are also losing much of the revenue they rely on from Tribal enterprises disappearing,” said Heinrich. “This federal funding support will help make up some of those losses and ensure tribal communities can continue maintaining their transportation services, which is absolutely critical right now for connecting health care workers to those who need medical attention. I will continue doing everything I can to deliver the lifesaving resources tribes in New Mexico need to get through this emergency and rebuild thriving communities when it is over."
“Tribes are among the hardest hit of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s critical that we support investments that will support Indian Country’s public health, economy, and infrastructure. This critical grant for Tribal Nations will help keep essential services running during this public health crisis,” said Luján. “As Congress negotiates another coronavirus response package, I am continuing to work with Tribal leaders to address the needs of their communities.”
“Transportation infrastructure is important to ensuring Native Americans have access to the health care and resources to combat the coronavirus, however Tribes have been left behind for decades. The delegation and I worked hard to make sure the transportation funding available in the coronavirus stimulus package included dollars specifically for Tribes, so they have what they need to support public health, safety, and economic stability during this trying time,” said Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
“First responders across Pueblo of Isleta, Pueblo of Laguna, and Zuni Pueblo depend on safe, reliable public transportation options as they rise to meet the challenges from the current public health emergency. I’m proud to share this funding will support frontline essential workers by keeping our public transit systems in operation and I will continue to ensure Tribes and Pueblos are not left out of Congress’ response to COVID19,” said Torres Small.
The full breakdown of the $674,279 grants is below, distributed under Section 5311(c), Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Formula Apportionments:
• Jicarilla Apache Nation, $36,605
• Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, $86,691
• Pojoaque Pueblo, $16,893
• Pueblo of Isleta, $38,990
• Pueblo of Laguna, $88,113
• Pueblo of Nambé, $10,033
• Pueblo of San Ildefonso, $16,452
• Pueblo of Santa Ana, $56,079
• Pueblo of Santa Clara, $123,759
• Tesuque Pueblo, $19,791
• Zuni Pueblo, $180,873
While no one is out and about shaking hands, Democratic candidates who have announced to replace State Senator John Sapien, not seeking re-election to the Senate District 9 seat, are Ben Rodefer, Kevin Lucero and Brenda McKenna of Corrales.
Senate District 9 covers all of Corrales, Placitas, Bernalillo, Algodones and parts of Rio Rancho and Sandia Pueblo.
Democrat Jodilynn Ortiz of Placitas recently withdrew from consideration, claiming in a statement that “…one of my opponents, Brenda McKenna and her team, challenged some of the signatures in my nomination petition form, and because of that, a judge decided that I did not meet the minimum requirement to have my name appear on the ballot.”
McKenna responded that her “campaign team looked at Ms. Ortiz's signatures and she only filed 180 signatures (the threshold was 176). The rest of the candidates in SD-9 filed over 300. When we looked at who signed her petitions there were several registered Republicans and many people who signed from outside of District 9. All candidates for office have to abide by the same rules and the judge agreed.”
She added that she, “along with wonderful volunteers, worked hard to secure over 300 signatures and I will work with the same tenacity for the people of District 9.”
McKenna had just posted on her campaign website an endorsement by Congresswoman Deb Haaland, representing New Mexico House District-1, for whom McKenna has worked as a field representative. Haaland said in part, “I’m excited to endorse Brenda McKenna for State Senate. Brenda is a lifelong Democrat and proud Pueblo woman. I’ve seen her work ethic and determination firsthand. I know Brenda will fight for all of us in the State Senate.”
As Ortiz withdrew from the District 9 primary race, she endorsed Rodefer. “I will be supporting Ben Rodefer as I believe he is the progressive voice of the remaining candidates in this race.”
Rodefer served in the N.M. House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010, and twice was president of the Renewable Energy Industries Association of New Mexico. While in the state legislature, he was rated as voting 100 percent with the Conservation Voters of New Mexico, the Sierra Club and animal protection advocates.
He has founded several companies, including the solar energy firm Rio Grande Renewables, GoBox Software and Vibeway Games. He grew up in Corrales.
Lucero, a member of the Corrales Village Council, is a fourth-generation rancher/farmer in northern Sandoval County, “who grew up in Sandoval County and knows Senate District 9. He has 27 years of public service experience in city, county and state government.” He has had a career in law enforcement.
Republicans seeking the District 9 seat include Tania Dennis of Corrales, described as a business owner and member of the board of Family Promise of ABQ, a transitional shelter for homeless families. taniadennisfornm.com/
John Stahlman Clark of Placitas is also listed as running, but appears to have no web or Facebook presence.
Bridget E. Condon of Rio Rancho has worked for former Congressman Steve Pearce, and also the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce.
The 2020 primary is June 2. For those interested in voting absentee, visit the N.M. Secretary of State’s website. You may request such a ballot through May 28.
The Republican Party of NM, as well as Republican House and Senate caucuses, filed a motion March 31 to block the mail-in effort for the June primaries. The State Supreme Court set a hearing on this for April 14.
Long-time Corrales Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert survived a challenge to her petitions last month in her bid for re-election to represent N.M. House District 44. She has no opposition in the June 2 Republican primary, although she will face Democrat Gary Tripp and Libertarian Jeremy Myers in November’s general election.
By Meredith Hughes
A “controlled environment agriculture” project that reuses over 90 percent of its water, gives life to plants and fish, and runs on power from a solar array operates on the Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) campus, as part of the Trades and Advanced Technology Center.
It is the domain of Charlie Schultz, a well-traveled hydroponics and aqua-ponics expert, who, after earning two degrees at Virginia Tech, “found his calling” at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. For 14 years there he specialized in developing aquaponics using tilapia and a variety of plant crops, as well as other fish production systems.
Schultz focused on similar matters at Kentucky State and San Marcos, Texas, as well as in Alberta, Canada.
He finds it amusing that New Mexico Tech is still hesitant to have him as a speaker during its Organic Farming Conference, because the topic is water. But then, farmers devoted to soils may have to be wooed to the world of greenhouse water-recirculating growing.
“In 13 years we used and reused the same water,” he says. He and some of his crew had a “vendor” table at the recent conference, however, featuring healthy heads of romaine.
The setup at SFCC began in a small geodesic dome greenhouse, which is still planted in the parking lot and still in use. “Water-based agriculture as yet is not granted organic status, and there is major anti-water farming bias,” according to Schultz.
Today the newish 12,000 square foot greenhouse occupies one-quarter of an acre, and in February was 80 percent off grid. Schultz expected it to be totally off grid in a month. Eighty percent of the campus is powered by solar, and wind power already is supplying electricity.
Situated on 366 high desert acres, SFCC was among the first campuses in the nation to adopt a sustainability plan in tandem with their campus master design. “The plan, approved in 2009, called for the increase in the use of renewable energy to lower the college’s carbon footprint and provide strategic educational opportunities campus-wide.”
The Technology Center, built in 2011 to propel students into newly developing careers in the green economy, was awarded the highest level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points by the United States Green Building Council, a non-profit based in Washington, DC.
“We’re all about sustainability,” said Schultz, picking up handfuls of just-harvested turmeric roots. It’s all about growing plants, whether greens, herbs, tomatoes, or eggplant, along with ever-amiable tilapia, the major African staple for fish farming that does not taste “fishy.” Much of the food raised here goes to the college’s cafeteria.
Now people cannot live on lettuces alone, though fish and greens likely would do, although tilapia is among the least nutritious fish, far below salmon and sardines. Schultz believes farmed fish to be healthier than wild caught, incidentally, claiming that wild salmon has been tested and found replete with opioids, and also estrogen.
In any event, if you also grow cabbages, strawberries, cucumbers, cauliflower and squashes, though those are harder, and eat them, you can likely sustain your own life.
To be clear —hydroponics is defined as growing with water, no soil, whereas aquaponics means the same, plus fish. According to Grow Green Aquaponics, based in California, “An aquaponics system works by creating a nitrogen cycle. In this cycle, the three main elements, the fish, plants and bacteria, share the water. In the fish tank, fish produce waste. Microbes in the water convert fish waste into nutrients. Nutrients feed plants and vegetables which also clean the water. Plant roots clean the water in the grow beds before the water returns to the fish tank.”
Aquaponics uses no soil, and less water than plants grown in soil. Naturally there is no water runoff. The fish involved do need to be fed, but the system involves no fertilizers. Plants can be grown close together, and produce continuously, rain, shine or cold. There is no weeding to be done, and plants grow faster than they would outdoors in soil.
Schultz also does hydroponics, pointing out hugely tall cucumber vines growing out of what is known in the industry as “Dutch buckets.” Similarly, tomatoes. Dutch buckets also are called Bato buckets.
“For about $300, you can set up your own Dutch bucket system at home,” says Schultz, possibly even using those tall Home Depot buckets you may have too many of. Most hydroponic growers use a soil-free growing medium to anchor the plants, such as fiber, sand, perlite, coco fiber or stone.
The Tech team also grows spirulina, a blue-green algae super-food considered healthy for people.
All around the greenhouse and in an adjacent office, SFCC students are harvesting plants and rummaging around in growing medium, such as clay balls. It is compelling stuff you want to play with, like marbles. The place is so rich in edibles a visitor must restrain from chowing down on a random, tossed-aside heirloom tomato.
Schultz and his team welcome visitors, preferably small groups who can call to sign up for a tour of the greenhouse. Scout Troops, senior groups, Master Gardeners, 4Hers and others can ask a myriad of questions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 428-1205.
See also: howtoaquaponic.com
Back when Pat Clauser began paying attention to Corrales politics, plans were under way to build what is now Cottonwood Mall on vacant land between Cabezon Road and Corrales Center.
That land, the northern parcels of the old Seven Bar Ranch, instead became the Riverwalk and La Paz apartment complexes.
Earlier this month, Clauser ended her 12-year service on the Village Council when Stuart Murray replaced her to represent District 6. Prior to her initial election to the council in 2008, she had served two years on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
She agreed to a retrospective interview with Corrales Comment April 3 looking back on those 14 years.
Over all, she lamented the relative lack of citizen involvement in Village affairs these days. “I think it’s really important to have more discussion at Village Council meetings and to have more people there.
“We used to have many more work-study sessions about projects than we have now. In previous times, we had much more discussion by residents coming to council meetings.
She recalled that the last standing-room-only discussions were whether the Village of Corrales should become a “sanctuary village” for undocumented immigrants and whether to allow firearms in La Entrada Park.
“I believed it was important that we not become a ‘sanctuary village’ because the council’s role is to decide how to spend public money and we have to be very careful that we don’t have a problem with the federal government.”
Another major issue that recently brought out lots of discussion was whether to buy the vacant acreage next to Wells Fargo Bank for an arboretum and other public activities. Part of the problem with that proposal was that advocates had variously stated specific desired uses, when it might have been better to stress its intrinsic value to the community.
Clauser pointed out that former Albuquerque planner Ed Boles advised her that the important thing was to identify such properties. “The land north of the bank, owned by the Gonzales family, is a property just like that… it has potential for what it could one day be for the Village of Corrales.”
During candidates’ campaigning ahead of the last municipal elections, she said, villagers urged Village officials to devote more attention to long-term planning. “Some long-term planning would be a really good thing to do, with a lot of discussion and a lot of participation.”
Clauser said the long-time director of the N.M. Municipal League, Bill Fulginetti, who died recently, “definitely believed that a village council needed to have good people on it and also needed residents who were involved and interested and actually spoke out about projects. Having more discussion and more long-term planning is a good idea.”
Among the most pressing ongoing issues that needs to be addressed, she said, is traffic. “We need to decide what is the best way to control traffic, if we can.” Integral to that is to assure that Corrales drivers have adequate green light time at the Corrales Road-Alameda Boulevard intersection. “We need to have more studies on that and more discussions with the City of Albuquerque.
“Albuquerque has really worked on raising the speed limit on Highway 528 to get drivers across to Interstate 25. We ought to be much more a part of those discussions. And we should try to find ways to make Corrales Road safer,” she added.
Clauser feels the Village and its citizens need to move ahead with an update to the Corrales Comprehensive Plan. “It is somewhat overdue.” She is certain that the plan, and the ordinances that implement it, should retain restrictions on residential density.
She pointed out that during the election last month “nearly everyone campaigning wanted to keep Corrales rural and have open space.”
Village Council meeting agendas seem much less full than in years gone by, the long-time councillor observed. “I think that’s because a number of things are being given for the staff to do rather than having residents involved.
Asked to specify what issues have gone unresolved for lack of discussion and action by the council, Clauser listed the potential purchase of the Gonzales field next to the bank and farmland preservation.
“A lot of people would like to see the Trosello property at the north end of the valley saved as farmland. And a lot of villagers want to see the Corrales Road Scenic Byway retained. I think those things are important to Corrales.”
When she and her husband, the late Milton Clauser, bought property at the south end of the valley, they soon discovered that Albuquerque was advancing northward. “When we moved into our house, we were really pleased that the land was so open and there weren’t as many houses around as there are now. We were just thrilled to be there —and then, it turned out that the City of Albuquerque was building out toward Corrales.”
At that time, the south end of the Corrales Valley was unincorporated Bernalillo County territory to which Albuquerque developers requested approvals. So Clauser and other residents of “Baja Corrales” pressed County officials for transitional buffer zoning between high-intensity development (as proposed for the Seven Bar Ranch) and the open tracts of Corrales.
“We had a hard time getting them to understand what we were trying to do. So in the late 1970s and early 80s, we went to the Village of Corrales with petitions asking to annex to them. That was something that Corrales also wanted because they wanted a stronger population base for the things they wanted to do politically. We signed several petitions to try to come in. One of those petitions included all of the property north of Highway 528, which would have brought in the grocery store [now Sprouts] and land east of there.
“That would have brought into Corrales a bit of commercial activity that would have helped Corrales with gross receipts tax. But there was opposition to that, so we re-wrote the petition with just the residential portion, which makes Cabezon Road now the southern boundary of the Village of Corrales.”
Later, the Seven Bar Ranch developers attempted to subdivide the bottomland pasture east of what is now Las Tiendas de Corrales Center at a residential density of five homes per acre.
Then-Mayor Gary Kanin vigorously fought that proposal and prevailed. The Village Council approved that subdivision at one home per acre.
Clauser recalled the developers’ other aborted plan to locate the proposed regional mall, not immediately north of Cabezon, but farther south where it is now. “It was basically determined more by the road going up to Intel,” she said, referring to Coors Bypass.
When Phil Gasteyer became mayor, filling in behind Kanin, he appointed Clauser to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Among the thorny problems the commission had to address was what to do about the dozens of home-based businesses —such as auto repair shops, welding and construction yards— considered “grandfathered” when such properties were annexed into the Village. “We did a lot of work on what could be done that would not be a concern for other residents. I thought that went fairly well. It gave Corrales a very strong way of having people work from their homes and not be a bother to their neighborhood.”
At that point, P&Z commissioners had to give particular attention to increased traffic in a residential area caused by the home business. “Now, when we have people wanting to have Airbnbs and casita rentals, that brings in new concerns for the Village from extra traffic.”
Clauser acknowledged that Corraleños have always fretted, even fought, about the conflict inherent in the desire to keep the community rural and residential and the need for gross receipts taxes from business.
The P&Z commission attempted to circumvent that conflict by designating a new commercial area in the then almost entirely vacant northeastern corner of Village territory, along the Rio Rancho boundary north of the Montoyas Arroyo. With ample public involvement, the commission produced a Far Northwest Sector Plan with 70 acres delineated for a “neighborhood commercial, office zone (NCOD).
“There were virtually no homes up there, but anyone who went up there realized how beautiful the views were. Of course, it backs up to the industrial park in Rio Rancho. The property that was designated for potential commercial use backs into the sewage plant and the Waste Management operation and all that.”
Clauser was also involved in establishing a new zoning category for Corrales, the professional office zone, referred to as the O-zone. “It was designed for businesses like doctors and dentists, because they don’t need a large parking lot. Corrales has always had small roads, so we didn’t want large parking lots for the most part.”
She joined the momentous decision-making process regarding a sewer system along Corrales Road. Unfortunately, she said, villagers were never really offered the wastewater project as one that would use grinder pumps that could take both solids and liquids. “Basically, the South Valley did go with that, and have been very successful with it.” What was chosen here, sending liquids-only wastewater to a sewer line but retaining septic tanks “has been a concern.” she said.
A watershed event for Corrales came during Clauser’s time on the Village Council: approval of a senior living project. “We determined that we could have a senior housing development down by Sandia View Academy,” she pointed out.
In fact, it never materialized —not because it was rejected by the council or by the public, but because the developers could not secure financing for it.
“During my years on the council the Corrales Bosque Preserve has had several record successes. In 2013, Janet Ruth, a Bosque Commission member, worked with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to have the Audubon Society recognize an ‘Important Bird Area’ in the Corrales Bosque Preserve. Showing that the many years of volunteer work in the preserve has been fruitful in providing excellent habitat,” Clauser said.
“Just this year, in the Middle Rio Grande Song Bird Study by Trevor Fetz with Hawks Aloft, it was found that three survey transects in Corrales were found to have the highest number of wintering birds in the study area.”
She said the chair of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission, Joan Hashimoto, reported that the Army Corps of Engineers’ restoration project has brought great quantities of water when the river is running full into the Corrales bosque by lowering the riverbanks for the willow swales and their native plantings are doing very well.
And, she pointed out, Fire Chief Anthony Martinez worked with Trenton Koger whose Eagle Scout Project to put in nine river mile marker signs to orient persons on the river needing assistance so that they could give rescuers their correct locations.”
Clauser also played a key role in implementing Corrales’ Trails Master Plan. “Work on the Corrales trail project has allowed more work on trails throughout the village. Plans continue to add connections carefully for us all to use.”
She recalled the economic downturn in 2008 that brought closures in the Corrales Road commercial area. “I’ve been totally impressed with the work that Corrales MainStreet started during Mayor Scott Kominiak’s time getting those buildings sold and successful again. From that, Sandy Rasmussen [of Corrales MainStreet] did an incredible job getting Ex Novo in on that property across from the fire station after the T-House burned down.
“And then we saw the old Perea House redone so beautifully. We’ve had really great progress. I can remember even having the gasoline station empty, and we got that back. Now I believe the Frontier Mart has been sold. I know Jean Waszak was quite happy about it. That store has been really marvelous for Corrales.
“And I believe Corrales Pharmacy has been a real plus for the village as well.”
Village government’s new fiscal year begins July 1, which may come before gross receipts taxes rebound from the collapse of commerce here and statewide.
Village Administrator Ron Curry had started the budget process for fiscal year 2020-21 before the worst business closures hit.
In early April, he was optimistic that the Village’s finances would hold strong through June. “Our gross receipts tax revenue for the next 90 days looks really good,” he said April 1. “But starting three or four months from now, we will be very cautious” about expenditures.
The Village of Corrales’ annual budget process typically begins in March with the heads of departments (such as police, fire, library, public works and others) reporting what they expect to need for the new fiscal year.
Gross receipts (sales) tax on the sale of goods and services provides the biggest chunk of income for municipal governments, as intended by state statues. But much of that revenue stream is expected to have evaporated due to mandatory business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Village’s 2019-20 budget, which went into effect July 1, 2019, anticipated more than $3 million coming in from gross receipts taxes. Part of that was to come from sales within Corrales, while other such taxes were to be shared by the State treasury from taxes collected elsewhere.
For Corrales, $1,354,386 was projected to come from “municipal share,” while $1,118,438 would be derived from “gross receipts municipal,” $326,931 was projected from “municipal hold harmless GRT,” $195,600 from “municipal infrastructure GRT” and $55,902 from “environmental GRT.”
In Corrales’ last year budget, the Village was projected to receive $1,623,193 as its share of property tax collected. Issuance of building permits was anticipated to bring in $150,000 during FY2019-20.
Corrales’ budget for the current fiscal year is more than $5 million.
Unless extensions are granted from the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration, Village officials are required to submit a draft 2020-2021 budget by May 31. That would be reviewed and okayed by DFA, so that the Village Council can adopt a final at the end of June.
Corrales may be in better shape financially than many other municipalities since it was discovered late last year that the Village’s investment account held way more than had been thought. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.1 February 22, 2020 “Mystery Continues for Village’s Extra $4.7 Million.”) Curry said April 1 that an audit was still underway to learn the source of the extra money.
Curry said April 6 that DFA officials in Santa Fe had advised that the Village should look at last year’s budget as a starting point for developing the FY2020-21 budget. “But we will be having more conversations with DFA later this week. We have advised Village department heads to submit a flat budget for next year.”
He expects State government will be able to provide the level of funding to Corrales as projected, “although the legislature will be looking at its budget projections, which were based on oil selling for $50 a barrel and it’s now down to $20.”
He said the Village administration is keeping careful track of its expenditures related to costs incurred due to the pandemic. “We’re hoping that some reimbursement may come to us through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Right now, we’re concerned that the number of COVID-19 cases in Sandoval County continues to rise.”
Although much of Corrales appears shuttered, businesses are responding to customers and clients by phone and on line, essential municipal services are continuing and, generally, community spirit remain high.
Tanya Lattin, commander at the Corrales Fire Department, said April 7 that she was not aware of any Corrales resident who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, now sweeping the globe.
At least 1,000 people in the United States died of the illness on a single day, April 3, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nationwide, more than a quarter-million people are confirmed to have the virus, which apparently began coursing thorough humans in an inland Chinese city late last year.
A statistical projection made in early April indicated more than 2,100 New Mexicans may die of COVID-19 over the next 12 months. The state’s death toll stood at 13 as of April 7, although New Mexico had 794 confirmed cases at that time.
Sandoval County had the second highest number of people testing positive for the virus, 128, while Bernalillo County had 307 as of April 7.
“Together we must reduce the rate of spread of COVID-19,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake urged. “Our state has a ‘C’ grade for social distancing, but Sandoval County has a strong ‘B’ because we have reduced our interactions by 37 percent.
“C’mon, if we get over 40 percent, we’ll not only get an ‘A’ but we’ll literally save lives. Let’s step up our game and then stay the course. Corrales is a special place. So many are doing things to help each other, like food donations, phone visits, ‘rainbow tours’ and a boy named Braeden doing back-flips for his neighbors, to name just a few,” the mayor added.
“We’ll get through this. Stay strong and stay safe, Corrales style.”
The Rainbow Trail project is a global movement primarily for kids to paint a rainbow for display in a home’s window to cheer passersby. Photos are taken of the bright artwork which is posted on social media to be viewed worldwide.
Elsewhere, New Mexico maintained its quirky status when Albuquerque Tea Party President Leland Taylor filed a lawsuit in federal court against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for violating his right of freedom of assembly and freedom to worship when she issued emergency orders for closures to halt the spread of COVID-19 last month.
From a different perspective, Albuquerque folk music authority Dave Dunaway, a University of New Mexico professor, penned an opinion published in the April 3 Albuquerque Journal which concluded, “The virus that condemns and sickens many of the world’s inhabitants has slowed climate change to give us time for the major transformation to green transportation and industry, and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
“COVID-19 could teach us to hoard or to share; to shun or to find new ways of connecting. It could turn us suspicious or hostile; or finally compassionate. It is almost as if the virus was sent from above to allow us to become the more humane society we could be.”
Corrales businesses are expected to move quickly to seek loans or grants through the federal small business program to stay afloat during the current enormous economic recession. Local bank branches are accepting applications to the Paycheck Protection Program funded by Congress’ $2 trillion appropriation to re-start the economy.
But while some Corrales businesses are hit hard by the mandatory shut-down, others are experiencing a boom.
Founded less than a year ago, Candlestick Coffee’s Zack Smith said his business is doing well from on-line orders. A customer reflected, “I guess New Mexicans can’t get by without chile, coffee and toilet paper.”
There's definitely a change in the way we are talking about coronavirus. Yes, it is here in New Mexico, but we are not going to panic. We are going to do what we can to protect ourselves and each other. Our goal is to stop or slow the spread of the virus to ensure New Mexico will have adequate medical resources to take care of those of us who will need help. What each of us chooses to do protects not only us, but those around us, especially our more vulnerable neighbors. Please wash your hands, wipe down surfaces and avoid crowds. Most of us are going to be just fine, even if we get ill, but these safeguards are crucial to those who are most at risk. But what about government? One of its main functions is to safeguard the health and welfare of its citizens. Therefore, following state directives to limit exposure, the Village is canceling public meetings and programs within our buildings. The Library will be closed until further notice. The Village Administration Office will be open but needs to limit in-person visits; instead, would you please call us and see if we can address your issue over the phone or by email? These measures are meant to avoid gatherings where safe social distance cannot be maintained. Of course, emergency services will continue normally. Check the website for additional local information and updates, along with links to the New Mexico Department of Health and Center for Disease Control. The Village of Corrales will continue to plan, prepare and adapt to new information. Its citizens will continue to make smart decisions based on personal risk factors and their care for others. Let's work together to be the healthiest community we can be.
- Jo Anne Roake Mayor of Corrales