Villagers living in the vicinity of the Wagner Farmland Experience on Corrales Road, now in full swing, have noted almost no pandemic safe practices in place, with overflow parking, groups of more than five people, few masks, many lined up to buy tickets, and nothing close to social distancing. Each fall Wagner’s creates a corn maze, and invites visitors to pick out future jack-o-lanterns from their pumpkin patch.
New this season, a “Vegetable U-Pick,” featuring a variety of vegetables including different color bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, eggplant and chile piquin. Farmland Experience is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through October 31. Admission is charged.
The Farmland Experience website states this in tiny print: “We are adhering to the CDC guidelines and NM Health department requirements to keep our fellow New Mexicans safe.” A separate tab on the website recommends social distancing and mask-wearing, and says that hand sanitizer is scattered around the field. Elsewhere on the site is posted “Please note that by visiting Wagner's Farmland Experience, LLC, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
The State of New Mexico’s website has detailed instructions on safe practices for agritourism events, including pumpkin patches and mazes. It says that “Access to attractions such as corn mazes shall be on a reservation-only basis and must be strictly monitored to maintain capacity and social distancing standards.” And it underscores contactless scanning of tickets, and plans in place to insure contact tracing. Agritourism info here.
As of October 17, the first-ever online Old Church Fine Arts Show has had 1,423 visitors to its site. According to the Corrales Historical Society board of directors secretary, Carol Rigmark, “close to 1,100 are first time visitors and over 300 are returning to the site for another look.”
The show featuring about 50 artists is running online through October 31. It is produced in collaboration with the Corrales Society of Artists. It can be viewed at www.corralesoldchurchshow.com.
“To date we have sold 16 pieces of art ranging in price from $86 to $800. The majority of these have been paintings, followed by photographs. Most have been sold to local New Mexican buyers but several are being shipped out of state to places like Seattle, Chicago, smaller towns in California and Rhode Island. We have received many compliments about the quality of the art as well as the show itself.”
Naturally, all involved would like to reach more potential buyers, so Rigmark suggests artists send another invitation to their own mailing lists. She also reminds them that “your art being shown here may not be sold outside the show for the remainder of this month.”
Although organizers are pleased with the response so far, as Rigmark put it, “of course we hope for continued interest.” Back in September Rigmark explained that the online show was considered “a gift we should provide for the artists, especially during this very difficult year. Our two primary goals were to highlight New Mexico’s fine artists and to raise some badly needed funds for the Old Church.”
She saluted Diane Cutter, Cheryl Cathcart and Rachel Dushoff, all Corrales artists, as well as Clark, for their contributions to the event. Twenty-five percent of each artist’s sales is donated toward preservation and maintenance of the Old Church.
Exasperated by the continuous flow of traffic on Corrales Road these days? Rest assured it’s not because everybody and his uncle or her aunt has moved to Corrales in a mass migration. Instead, the clogged condition of Highway 448 through Corrales is caused by closure of lanes on Highway 550 between Interstate 25 and Highway 528 through Bernalillo.
The widening project, presumably to serve motorists going to and from Rio Rancho, seems to have gone on for generations. Cars that traversed that route back when it started are surely now in a junkyard, unless they were deemed “totaled” in a minor wreck and are now putting along in Mexico. A website dedicated to informing folks about the project, Keep Moving 550, offers weekly updates. Work is expected to continue Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and possibly weekends as well.
It warned that crews are installing a 60-inch storm drain and setting up curb-and-gutter, grading medians and laying base course for paving in some sections. “Due to the amount of work required, eastbound traffic will continue to be shifted to the north for the installation of a 60-inch storm drain pipe and other improvements on the south side of U.S. 550 through about November 8, 2020,” the website notes. “Motorists are encouraged to expect delays, and to give themselves extra time to reach their destinations.”
A drone might be handy, in these pandemic times, to slowly drift along high above Corrales Road to look down on what businesses are in, what out, what pending, etc. But, a car must do. The long-debated and awaited medical cannabis retail shop via TopShelf, aka Southwest Organic Producers, or SWOP, is still not open at 4604 Corrales Road in an end space in the former Kim Jew building.
But there are tiny signs of progress. The building itself is still not sold, but SWOP reported on its website October 9 that it had “just started harvesting our first couple of harvests. The results are in and they’re testing better than ever.” Cannabis for SWOP is being grown now in Corrales at 379 Camino de Corrales del Norte, under the guidance of Spencer Komadina. It comprises three greenhouses.
Though the site development plan application for the dispensary was approved by the Village Planning and Zoning Commission back in November, in July of this year assorted hoops still required jumping through, or what P&Z administrator Laurie Stout described soon thereafter as “applicable state and federal agencies on their specific requirements.”
Two new businesses, Corrales Teas and More at 3923 Corrales Road, and Shelby At Home, 4448 Corrales Road, are holding their own during the pandemic. As Corrales Teas’ owner Janelle Boyle put it, “We were about to open when the pandemic hit, so officially we opened May 15.” Boyle and her boyfriend own the store, which sells “fair trade” teas, essential oils, CBD products and items made by local crafters, including aprons, bags and purses. Boyle ran two spas for 20 years in San Diego, spas that included tea offerings, then divorced and moved to New Mexico about three years ago.
The shop features an oxygen bar, a concept which Boyle explained first popped up in the 1970s at airports, in particular to relieve customer hangovers and jet lag. For 1$ per minute, 15 minutes being the norm, “customers breathe purified, scented, oxygen through a nasal hose.”
You may choose from a variety of fragrances, displayed on what Boyle called a “smell wall.” Corrales Teas’ website, https://www.corralestea.com/, further explains that “We use an industrial concentrator (non-medical) machine that filters out nitrogen and other atmospheric gases to produce oxygen that is about 85 percent pure. The air we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen.”
Coming soon after a final inspection, is an actual tearoom, where customers can enjoy both tea and coffee, as well as a line of chocolates, to be added to the menu. Closed Sundays, the shop is open weekdays 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturdays. Call 619 438-4600 to be certain of hours. Masks are required.
Shelby Hohsfield, of Shelby At Home, who grew up in Corrales, has owned Lorenco’s Hair Salon on Alameda Boulevard with her mom, Cindy Kokurek, for 16 years. Both are experts in permanent cosmetics, as in eyebrows, eyelashes, even lips, that in essence are tattoos, but much less permanent than those. About five years ago Hohsfield decided to add to her output a new online venture, selling native American jewelry and her own paintings, as well as a clothing line.
Today Shelby At Home is part online, and part in person, dealing with pandemic restrictions. Her gallery and boutique recently hosted a pop-up opening the weekend of October 16. And she plans another in time for Christmas. She offers custom paintings of people, places and critters you may hold dear, as well as some self-help videos, along with the clothing and jewelry. As she posted on social media, “These are the life experiences and everyday challenges of myself trying to find my inner rock star while inspiring others to hold steadfast on their mission towards internal happiness.” See http://www.shelbyathome.com.
At Mercado de Maya, Ambiente is “temporarily closed” again due to the increased risk of COVID-19, Chris Windisch said October 18. Meanwhile, Frame-n-Art at 3563 Corrales Road, owned by the Derr family, officially closed down September 30, via this message on social media: "Thank you to all our wonderful customers over these many years. We have some bittersweet news. We are retiring and closing Frame-n-Art. Michael is going to focus more on his artwork and Suanne and John will be hitting the highways in their RV.”
For over 20 years, in addition to the framing business, the business supported the Young in Art show with Corrales Elementary School. Carrying on in these pandemic times, more or less, is Corrales Fine Arts, the gallery owned by oil painter Barb Clark and paper sculptor Susana Erling. The shop at 4685 Corrales Road is open Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and posted on its door are these sentences: “1. Mask on, please; 2. Only two at a time; 3. No cursing!; 4. OK, you can curse….” Call 280-1896 to be sure the gallery is open.
Also adjusting to the times is Beth Waldron, artist and wedding/social photographer installed at the end of Mercado de Maya in the former Moon & Dove spot. Waldron, former geologist, is open only by appointment, for photo sessions. She opened up Beth Waldron Studios in mid-November. Information can be found by calling 633-5740.
The spot formerly occupied by artist Laura Balombini at 4436 Corrales Road, Del Rio Plaza, now has a paper sign on the door reading “Meraki Studio Heart, Soul, Hair. (Donna’s New Salon Studio.)” No word back from Donna af ter calling 508-7063.
More mysterious, however, is what appears to be a school or a pandemically-inspired teaching pod perched where assorted coffee shops have struggled to operate in the same complex at 4436 Corrales Road. On a visit this month, kids and one adult could be glimpsed and heard. The outside patio has tables and chairs but is closed off by a low fence and assorted potted plants.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. If one is old enough, the images of that day, especially those of the fire-filled, crumbling Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan, are seared into memory. As New Mexico writer Jesse Ehrenberg put it in the new book New Mexico Remembers 9/11, “And the people trapped, more than one hundred stories above the ground, their only choice to die in flames or jump out into the sky, and fall like leaves, screaming, (screams that would never be heard, but our imaginations would never forget.)”
The book was conceived of and edited by Corrales’ Patricia Walkow, who has her own particular tale of that day. It was published by Artemesia Press on October 13, New Mexico Remembers 9/11 will be available as an e-book or in paperback.
Walkow was in California on business, her husband in Corrales, headed to his job at Sandia Labs, on September 11. Her first concern was for her brother’s wife, who worked in a building in the World Trade Center. (Jeanne, her sister-in-law, made it safely home from Lower Manhattan, though covered in debris.) Walkow’s next issue was getting safely back to New Mexico. Planes, trains, buses —all air transport stopped, the rest was jammed up. But she did have a Hertz car rented, and regardless of husbandly concerns, inspired by the notion of safely being back home, and all that home meant, she decided to drive back to Albuquerque. Hertz waived the return fee. She arrived safely, without drama, reuniting with her husband at the Owl Cafe, just off I-40.
Clearly, the notion of “home” being attacked, of the United States’ presumed strength and supposed invulnerability crushed in New York and Washington, DC, and the saga of bravely united yet doomed passengers bringing down a plane in a field in Pennsylvania, left its mark on Walkow. She says, too, that she “wanted to create a body of work that enshrines the connectedness that New Mexico has to the rest of the country.”
Twenty-five people contributed to the book, the prime requirement being that they were witnesses to 9/11, wherever they lived at the time, and that they currently live in New Mexico. Walkow particularly wanted the memories/reactions of young people as well.
A native of Manhattan who grew up in Brooklyn, Walkow has lived in New Mexico for many years after a career in informational tech, based in Glendale, California. She first met her husband, Walter, in 1968 at a Christmas party where he asked her to dance. And Walkow had one of those bizarre “this is the man I will marry” moments. She did so, in 1972.
She writes in her office at home, her baby grand there no longer played as often as it might be —it needs a tune up— and recalled recently the fun she had doing a column for the Glendale News Press in the 1980s called “Dog’s Day Out.” Her canine at the time, Cheyenne, was once delightedly recognized by a gentleman who said “That’s the dog who writes that column!”
Now retired and fully committed to writing projects, a co-founder of the Corrales Writing Group and on the board of SouthWest Writers, Walkow favors the books of Barbara Kingsolver, “likes depth of character” in what she reads, and actually prefers non-fiction to fiction.
Her latest project with co-CWG member Chris Allen, however, is a murder mystery set in southeast New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. Titled Lake Fortuna at the moment, it also contains a spoonful of romance.
Her biggest personal success thus far may be a “narrative biography” about her husband’s father called “The War Within, the Story of Josef,” described as the story of a “teenage Christian Polish slave laborer, forced to work in Nazi Germany.” The book was self-published via CreateSpace in 2016.
Pushing the envelope on writing “what you know,” which actually means writing from your observations, imagination, dreams and such, she’s also pondering returning to a manuscript she set aside, about a widowed missionary in Southeast Asia in the 1900s who falls for an African-American minister.
If you’d like to bring recognition to someone you consider a local hero, the mayor wants nominations for that designation. “Let’s recognize those among us who do their best to help others here in town, in New Mexico, the nation and even the world,” Mayor Jo Anne Roake said in her weekly message. “Please nominate your local hero, and we’ll recognize that person at our Village Council meeting.”
Nominations should be emailed to Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Roake said she was inspired to start the program after learning of the volunteer work being done by Linda Crowden with the Red Cross in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helping distribute food and supplies to families devastated by recent hurricanes.
Corrales author Rudy Miera has been named the Village’s poet laureate. Long a resident here, Miera was so designated by Mayor Jo Anne Roake last month, based on his volunteering with the Corrales Library. He is directing the library’s “I Love to Write” youth poetry contest, the results of which will be announced October 30, the birthday of the late Rudolfo Anaya, who Miera considers a mentor. The contest was open to persons in middle school and high school. Each poet was to begin with the phrase “Life in New Mexico is….”
“Mayor Roake asked me if I would consider being the poet laureate of Corrales,” he recalled. With that came a request to collaborate with the Corrales Library’s Melisa Chandler on the youth poetry contest. Three judges reviewed the submissions: Stacia Spragg-Braude, Mary Gerhart and Corrales Librarian Marian Frear. Author of several books, Miera’s recent novel, After Hours in Aztlan, was a finalist in a national competition for literature about Hispanic culture. It is on sale at the Frontier Mart, as are others he wrote.
Set in the 1970s, After Hours in Aztlan is a humorous story that focuses on young student revolutionaries’ attempts to right society’s ills. A blurb by Milagro Beanfield War author John Nichols for the novel published by Floricanto Press advises, “Hang on to our hats, folks, because Rudy J. Miera’s gang of student revolutionaries is on the loose, bumbling in their awkward but affecting way to Salvation.”
Albuquerque Journal writer Ollie Reed reviewed the novel this way. “Rudy J. Miera’s tale of youthful activism in 1970s New Mexico shines strong and true because it comes out of his own life and is burnished by his creative gifts.” Miera’s play Adelita Sanchez: Harvey Girl was entered in the 2018 Latino Books into Movies competition.
Miera’s two-act play was first staged at the University of New Mexico experimental theater years ago to considerable acclaim, according to news reports at the time. Representatives of film studios and screenwriters were expected to attend the award ceremonies in Hollywood, Miera was told.
The play is set in Belen in 1945 when young Adelita Sanchez is hired as a waitress in the lunchroom at the local Harvey House. In his synopsis, Miera explains “Like other Hispanic and Native American women, this is her first job working away from her home and family farm in Jarales. “Taken under her wing by the matronly Miss Davenport, and embraced by her fellow Harvey Girls who work in the lunchroom of the train depot and live in the upstairs dormitory, Adelita observes the cultural exchanges and clashes of the era (that still resonate to this day).”
The girl is forced to take a transfer to the El Tovar Harvey House in the Grand Canyon. “The threats and prejudices from the outside world, as the War escalates, test and challenge the old ways, the cultural traditions and spiritual beliefs that have been passed on to Adelita and her generation by respected ancianos” like her grandfather, a local santero and poet.
Miera’s stage play script is in the drama category along with four other entries. The competition is a project of Latin Literacy Now, whose board chairman is actor Edward James Olmos. Last year, Miera published a satirical novel The Fall and Rise of Champagne Sanchez which he described as a story of “rags to riches to rejection to redemption” for Sanchez as he tries and mostly fails, to make a living on the streets of Albuquerque. As a promo blurb for the book, acclaimed novelist Rudolfo Anaya (Bless Me, Ultima) wrote, “If you enjoy reading a story with authentic characters and a brilliant narrative style, then I highly recommend The Fall and Rise of Champagne Sanchez.”
Decisions on how Village officials will use the former residence of Harvey and Annette Jones, west of the Corrales Post Office, have advanced little since the property on which it sits was acquired more than four years ago. Village Administrator Ron Curry said in a phone interview October 16 that a final assessment has yet to be made whether the structure can be re-purposed and renovated or should be razed. That is about where things stood in 2016 when the 2,54 acres of land and buildings were purchased.
“A chemical review will be done to see what is in that structure. We’re having Facility Build and another company go in there to look for asbestos and mold and other problems that would diminish the integrity of the structure,” Curry said. Facility Build is a firm owned by Corrales resident Brian Kilcup and which last year renovated the old Corrales Valley Fire Station which now houses the Planning and Zoning Department.
“What we don’t want to do is make a plan for using the building and go forward with those plans, then discover problems that will mean additional costs,” he added. "Depending on the evaluation, we could do a re-model or we could raze the structure and build on the foundation or expand the foundation.
“We had a meeting with folks who examined both of those possibilities. We’re trying to be prudent as we go forward.” In the meantime, interim uses are underway. The Corrales Police Department is now using space in the old Jones residence as a secondary office to encourage social distancing, Curry said. Community groups have met there in recent years, although those gatherings are curtailed due to the pandemic.
“My hope is that we can have a plan in the next six months that we can start to move on, start in getting financing.” Curry was asked whether Village officials have gained input from community groups regarding potential uses of the residence that is at least 50 years old. “Just last week when we had a meeting with some of the folks interested in it as a performance space,” he replied. “Once we know what we have to do as far as the structure goes, we’ll have to get public input because there is a lot out there and everybody has an opinion about how it could be used.
“But we don’t get in front of ourselves. Going forward, we’ll be looking at what that facility might do versus any expansion we might do at the gymnasium at the recreation center.” To pay for required renovations or rebuilding on the same site, Curry said the Village may be able to use some money from the bonds approved by voters in 2018.
A primary use for the Jones acreage was clear from the start: then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer wanted to relocate the Corrales Public Works Department (mainly its heavy equipment such as road graders and tanker trucks) away from the municipal complex at the corner of Corrales Road and East La Entrada. That largely has been accomplished.
When the Village closed on the transaction to acquire the property July 22, 2016, then-Councillor Gasteyer recommended that a task force be formed to take public input on how the property might best be used. The land lies between the Corrales Post Office and the recreation center’s TopForm Arena. The Village paid Jones $865,000 at closing. The property came with the residence of more than 5,000 square feet, two large barns or sheds, a well-landscaped yard with swimming pool and water rights.
During the council’s June 2016 discussion, Mayor Scott Kominiak said an estimated additional $328,000 would be needed for repairs, upgrades and remodeling for use as municipal facilities. Neither the purchase price nor the renovations were expected at that time to cause Village officials to dip into savings, or cash reserves. The funding was identified, largely from the Village’s municipal bonds tied to the a “hold harmless” gross receipts tax source the State (temporarily) allowed as compensation for excluding sales tax on food and pharmaceuticals.
Back in 2014, near the end of Councillor Phil Gasteyer’s second term as mayor, he persuaded the Village Council to earmark $500,000 from the sale of $3.3 million in municipal bonds for “real estate acquisition for Public Works Department relocation.” Other funding was directed to that purpose when Corrales got an unexpected windfall of $1.3 million from the State treasury through the Small Cities Assistance Fund. Village officials had explored opportunities to buy the last remnant of the Jones property for more than a decade.
Since the mid-1990s, Village officials have bought the Jones property piece by piece. They purchased the front parcel of the Jones pasture in 1995 for soccer fields and the second half of the pasture a few years later after an intense and prolonged fundraising effort that included appropriations from the State Legislature. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XIV No.1 February 25, 1995 “30 Days to Buy First Piece of Jones Pasture for Rec Center.”)
Then came the Village’s acquisition at the far western end of the Jones’ remaining property for what is now TopForm Arena. With the parcel in front of the Jones residence long-since sold to the U.S. Postal Service for what is now Corrales Post Office, that left the parcel holding the home and sheds to the west which served as a heavy equipment and construction yard for Harvey Jones’ construction business. Annette Jones had convinced the Village Council to zone part of that for professional office use before she died in 2004.
With coronavirus infections spreading rapidly, Corraleños are intensifying precautions. Plans for political rallies were halted, trips to grocery stores were kept to a minimum and appointments for clinics and hospital visits were cancelled. As of October 18, cases of COVID-19 in the zip code 87048 reached 42. In Sandoval County about three percent of people tested were positive for the virus.
Statewide, 934 people had died by that time and 36,788 people had come down with the deadly disease. “COVID-19 is out of control in our state, with 672 cases reported yesterday, Mayor Jo Anne Roake cautioned.
“The governor calls it a ‘raging wildfire,’ and it threatens to overwhelm our medical resources. Unless it is work, self-care or necessary errands, stay home. If you must go out, practice “MAD:” 1) wear a Mask 2) Avoid groups of more than 5; and 3) Distance from each other.
“Plus, just 15-20 seconds of hand washing and sanitizing eliminates a virus that can otherwise live on skin for nine hours. Corrales now stands at 41 cases,” she said October 16, “still good considering how many cases there are in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.
“But know this. If you go out to a restaurant or bar or attend a rally or gathering without taking COVID-19 precautions, you may bring disease and even death right back to our doorstep. Your every action is vital to the health of Corrales. We must work together 100 percent to crush COVID.”
An unprecedented rash of arson fires in the Corrales Bosque Preserve is threatening the beloved forest along the river and nearby homes. “We have had a total of seven fires in the bosque on two separate days,” Corrales Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin told Corrales Comment October 18. No evidence was found to suggest any of the blazes was caused accidentally by campers or squatters. In Mayor Jo Anne Roake’s message to villagers days before, she flatly stated, “Corrales has an arsonist in the Bosque. Numerous fires have been started in the last week. The Corrales Fire Department has successfully responded to each one, helped by neighboring first responder organizations.” Lattin said a fire Thursday, October 8 was discovered near the bridge over the Riverside Drain at the end of Andrews Lane. She described that one as a small fire about 200 feet by 200 feet in area.
Then on Friday, October 9, two fires were set more or less at the same time near the Dixon Road entrance to the preserve, near the levee, burning a total of about a half-acre. On Wednesday, October 14, “We had a total of four fires all burning during the same time, two of them were near the Romero Road access to the bosque, and two were approximately two miles south of Romero.” About two acres were burned near the river while a lesser area was ignited closer to the levee.
Two fires were started near the end of Paseo de Dulcelina between the river and the levee. “There was no evidence of any illegal camp fires in the area of any of the fires. Corrales fire and police, along with Sandoval County Sheriff’s officers, have increased patrols in the bosque.
“We are asking for anyone in the bosque to be sure and report any smoke or fires,” Lattin added. “We are asking anyone in the area of these fires that may have any information to call 898-7585 so we can contact them.” Lattin said there has been no indication that any of the fires were caused by lightning strikes “so these fires are human-caused.”
The Fire Department battalion commander offered the following guidance for villagers who might be in the preserve. “Your safety while in the bosque is number one. If you decided to go out and do a patrol, take a cell phone, let someone know where you are going, stay on trails, do not get into thick areas that can cause you to get turned around or trapped if you run into a fire.
“If you smell smoke in the bosque, please call 911. Do not call the fire station; calling the station can delay our response. We are not always in the office to answer the phone, and when we are, we have to gather the information from you that dispatch normally would get and cannot start our response to the emergency. Dispatch can reach us no matter where we are and get important information from you while we are heading to the call.”
If a villager encounters a situation that should be reported, Lattin said it would be very helpful if the person raising the alert could state the location accurately. She pointed out that mile-marker signs are painted on standing galvanized silver-colored vents along the west side of the levee. “Try to keep in your mind how far you have traveled from your entry point.
“If you have a smart phone, your mapping application will help you determine your location in the bosque and its relationship to roads within Corrales. Knowing where you are helps get emergency responders to you in case of an emergency.
“If you see flames or smoke, call 911. Make sure you get to a safe area and leave your phone on. Responders may call you for more information after dispatch has completed their questioning.
“The bosque is extremely dry and weather is still unusually warm. Thanks to people reporting these fires early, we have been able to control them quickly, but someone has to report them while small for our best chance of preventing a large fire,” Lattin said.
“Just know Corrales Fire is taking this very seriously and we are doing extra patrols. The Corrales police department has issued extra patrols and has officers in the bosque, and Sandoval County sheriff's officers are also in there patrolling.”
By Jeff Radford
Finally, candidates for national offices are forced to address citizens’ demand for a substantive response to ever more severe consequences of climate change. In the first presidential debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, President Donald Trump and challenger Joe Biden were not expected to be asked to comment on that issue at all. It came up briefly anyway, with Trump backing down a little from his earlier position that the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by China, while Biden assured the electorate that he would make combatting climate change a priority and would quickly re-join the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.
Biden has touted his plan to confront climate change which is similar to what the New Mexico Legislature last year adopted as its Energy Transition Act, which required that investor-owned utilities and cooperatives produce 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy within ten years, with a goal of 80 percent by 2040.
During the presidential debate, Trump offered a halting admission that climate change may be real and that some of the effects already being experienced may be caused in part by human activity. His administration has heavily and consistently promote the use of coal to produce electricity and exploitation of other fossil fuels. His officials have rolled back regulations for fuel-efficient motor vehicles.
As a former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under a Democratic president, Gina McCarthy put it, “The Trump administration has done everything they can to deny the science and denigrate scientists.” She is now president of the National Resources Defense Council. “They have really done everything humanly possible to try to convince people that what they see and feel and taste just isn't happening in front of them,”McCarethy added.
The strategy outlined by Biden has the following goals:
• Ensuring that the United States achieves a 100 percent clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050.
The Democratic candidate said if elected he will immediately sign a series of new executive orders to correct reckless orders issued by Trump. He said he would demand that Congress enact legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025, 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation, 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.
• Building a stronger, more resilient nation by making infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.
His plan calls for aiding in development of regional climate resilience plans, in partnership with local universities and national labs, for local access to the most relevant science, data, information, tools and training.
• Rallying the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change. Biden said he will not only re-commit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change, he will go much further.
• Standing up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. Vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the climate emergency and pollution.
The Biden campaign has pledged it will not accept contributions from oil, gas and coal corporations or executives. Trump has stressed his position that any major shift toward renewable energy resources away from fossil fuels will be a “job killer” leaving thousands of American workers unemployed during a ruinous economic depression. Biden says his strategy will create far more jobs in the fast-growing solar and wind energy sectors.
The Democratic candidate says his plan can be paid for by reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion and outsourcing, ensuring corporations pay their fair share, closing other loopholes in the tax code that reward wealth, not work, and ending subsidies for fossil fuels.
Candidates seeking to represent New Mexico in Congress are also being forced to state their position on climate change and what they would do to confront it. Former Albuquerque TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti is running as a Republican to take retiring Democratic Senator Tom Udall’s seat in Washington. He faces long-time Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, Democrat, and Libertarian Bob Walsh running for the senate seat.
Walsh, a retired scientist, has said computer models used to predict future greenhouse gas emissions produce contradictory conclusions about the effect of the earth’s cloud cover, among other uncertainties. “Each predicted climate has both costs and benefits,” he has said in campaign material. “Let’s stop requiring that worst-case assumptions direct policy.”
Ronchetti has been quoted as saying, “While the atmosphere is warming and there are steps we can take to protect our environment, we can’t restrict our economy when countries like China and India continue unrestricted pollution. “I oppose the Green New Deal, which includes provisions like guaranteed salaries for those who choose not to work.”
Lujan has taken a strong position on confronting climate change. “Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life. Congress should work to reduce our carbon footprint, increase clean energy production and create jobs. “That’s why I introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act, which has the support of environmental and labor groups because it would move our nation toward carbon-free electricity and create jobs.”
Running to replace Lujan in the U.S. House of Representatives are Democrat Theresa Leger Fernandez and Republican Alexis Johnson. Leger Fernandez has said “Climate change is an existential crisis. Congress must act to reduce carbon pollution, invest in wind and solar and pass clean energy tax incentives while reducing fossil fuel subsidies. The United States must also rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
Republican Johnson has said “I am an environmental engineer and have worked to make sure that not only are New Mexicans employed, but our energy was flowing and our environment was clean. I promote funding for Los Alamos Lab and Sandia National Labs as they are working on innovative technologies to promote the better utilization of our energy.”
As the two candidates for the presidency gear up campaigns in the final weeks before the November 3 election, news about the climate and the warming planet grows more dire despite hopeful trends.
• Last month was the warmest September on record for much of the world.
• Almost half of the United States is in a worsening drought. In California last month that drought and high temperatures were blamed in large part for the worst fire season in the state’s history.
• In New Mexico, climatologist Dave DuBois last month said he suspects climate change for increased aridity here and elsewhere in the Southwest. “The dry areas get drier, and it’s more erratic,” he said.
• Canada’s last intact ice shelf collapsed into icebergs at the end of July.
• Albuquerque’s West Mesa is expected to become a major center for solar power generation based on plans revealed in mid-October for an utility-scale 800 megawatt solar electric project.
• State officials in California said late last month they intend to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. Fifteen countries have already announced similar plans.
• A former Corrales resident, reporter Laura Paskus, has published a book, At The Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate, about the impacts of climate change already occuring and the urgent need for action.
• In the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, amost half of the coral colonies have died in the last 25 years due to the rise of oceanic temperature.
• New Mexico’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department this month issued new rules to control releases of methane from oil and gas operations which account for about 62 percent of methane releases in this state. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases.
• The World Meteorological Organization published a report this month that global temperatures are causing “the increased frequency of extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, flooding, winter storms, hurricanes and wildfires.”
• The snows of Kilimanjaro in East Africa, described by novelist Ernest Hemmingway in the 1930s, are melting.
Corrales Comment Editor Jeff Radford was the only New Mexico journalist to report from Paris on the 2015 Climate Accord convened by the United Nations. His reporting can be found at http://www.corralescomment.com.
With Election Day 2020 immediately ahead, the democratic process is in full swing. Regardless of which candidate or party it favors, the electorate seems to be far more engaged than at any time in recent memory. Maybe candidates proclaim it every election cycle, but this year both presidential candidates, Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, have loudly asserted this election is the most important in American history. That call for voters’ support echoes through down-ballot campaigns. Early and absentee voting seems to validate that.
Enthusiasm and determination are running high. As Bernalillo County Clerk Linda Stover put it, “I don’t care if you’re 18 and voting for the very first time or you’re 90 and you’ve voted your entire life, this is probably going to be the biggest election any of us has ever participated in.”
In an opinion article in the October 17 New York Times, Roger Cohen referred to the 2020 election as “a last stand for white America,” an assessment that encapsulates both resistance to the “Black Lives Matter” movement and reaction to election of the nation’s first African-American president in 2008 and 2016 and now, possibly, its first African-Asian-American vice-president in 2020.
In the run-up to November 3, huge monetary contributions poured in to the coffers of the two major parties up and down the ballot. Uncharacteristically, the Albuquerque Journal refrained from endorsing either Trump or Biden. In its October 18 editorial, the paper’s editorial board put it this way: “As early voting continues at a record-breaking pace, the one thing we can all agree on is that this is a critical presidential election, and it is important that every New Mexican and American exercise their right to vote.
“So who is the best person to lead our nation after COVID-19 and over the next four years? Both candidates have track records our readers are familiar with, and the decision is in their —your— hands.”
The New York Times published an extraordinary condemnation of Trump’s presidency in its Sunday, October 18 issue, a ten-page blistering appraisal written by the Times’ Editorial Board. The front page of that special section led with a full-page headline: “Lies, Anger, Corruption, Incompetence, Chaos, Decay. End Our National Crisis. The Case Against Donald Trump.”
Anticipating the rush to vote absentee and early, Corrales Comment published its candidate profiles and election procedures in the October 10 issue. These can be read at the paper’s website, corralescomment.com. An abbreviated re-cap of that information can be found in this issue as well.
New material published in this issue focuses on the election of judges and ballot questions such as general obligation proposals and amendments to the N.M. Constitution. On the first proposed constitutional amendment, voters are asked whether the N.M. Public Regulation Commission should be changed so that its members are appointed by the governor rather than by the general electorate.
It is described in summary this way. “Proposing to amend the Constitution of New Mexico to provide that the Public Regulation Commission consist of three members appointed by the governor from a list of professionally qualified nominees submitted to the governor by a nominating committee as provided by law and that the commission is required to regulate public utilities and may be required to regulate other public service companies.”
Constitutional Amendment 2 involves the terms of officials elected to non-statewide positions. It is described this way: “Proposing to amend Article 20 Section 3 of the Constitution of New Mexico to permit the adjustment by law of terms of non-statewide offices, and to standardize the date an officer begins to serve.”
Neither amendment is printed verbatim on the ballot.The first proposed amendment to the State Constitution is by far the more controversial. To some observers, the change allowing the governor to appoint commissioners would invite corruption and unethical influence.
The proposal would transform the current five-member, elected commission into a three-member board appointed by the governor, with the N.M. Senate having confirmation power. No more than two of the three could be of the same political party.
Terms would be extended to six years (now four years), with a two consecutive term limit. In recent years, PRC deliberations and rulings have been controversial, especially as they address electrical power companies’ closure of coal-fired power plants and conversion to alternative energy sources. New Mexico’s Energy Transitions Act calls for the state’s electrical grid to be “carbon-free” by 2045. The PRC will rule on proposals to achieve that.
Corrales voters will be asked to choose between PRC incumbent Cynthia Hall (Democrat) and Janice Arnold-Jones (Republican) to represent the commission’s District 1. Both are Albuquerque residents. Arnold-Jones served in the N.M. Legislature during four terms, 2003 to 2011. She is retired from a business career that included work for nuclear energy-related firms.
Hall is a former attorney for the PRC and former commissioner for the Bernalillo County planning and zoning board. After her election, she joined the PRC in 2017. Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow the staggering of terms for elective positions that are not statewide; it is expected to be most significant for judgeship races. The idea is to reduce the number of candidates, especially judges, appearing on the ballot for any given election. The State Legislature would be authorized to lengthen or shorten some terms so the contests did not all appear on a given year’s ballot.
This year, your decisions are sought on the following judgeship position and candidates.
• Justice of the N.M. Supreme Court, Position 1: Ned Fuller, Republican, or Shannon Bacon, Democrat.
• Justice of the N.M. Supreme Court, Position 2: David Thomson, Democrat, or Kerry Morris, Republican.
• N.M. Court of Appeals Judge, Position 1: Republican Barbara Johnson or Democrat Zach Ives.
• N.M. Court of Appeals, Position 2: Stephen Curtis, Libertarian, Shammara Henderson, Democrat, or Gertrude Lee, Republican.
• N.M. Court of Appeals, Position 3: Thomas Montoya, Republican, or Janes Yohalem, Democrat.
• District Court Judge: Chris Perez and James Noel have no opponent.
Voters will be asked whether the following judges serving in the 13th Judicial District should be retained, yes or no. Jacqueline Medina; James Lawrence Sanchez, George Eichwald, Allen Smith, Cindy Mercer and Cheryl Johnston. All of the above, with the exception of Judge Medina, were recommended for retention by the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. No finding was made for Judge Medina because the evaluation commission said she had not been in office long enough to determine whether she should be retained in office. Voters will also be asked to decide four general obligation bond questions with implications for property taxes, three posed statewide and one specifically for Sandoval County residents.
The Sandoval County GO bond proposal would raise $1,975,000 for libraries around the county for books, supplies, equipment and other improvements. Respond for or against.
Statewide Bond Question A asks whether voters approve issuance of GO bonds to raise $34 million for senior citizen facilities and services. For or against. Statewide Bond Question B asks whether voters approve issuance of GO bonds to raise approximately $10 million for libraries around the state. For or against. State Bond Question C asks whether voters approve issuance of bonds to raise $156,385,475 to improve higher education institutions, special schools and tribal schools. For or against.
Here is the roster of other candidates closer to the top of the ballot, profiles of which were presented in the October 10 issue.
N.M. Senate District 9: Democrat Brenda McKenna and Republican John Clark
N.M. House District 23: Republican Ellis McMath and Democrat Daymon Ely
N.M. House District 44: Democrat Gary Tripp, Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Libertarian Jeremy Myers
District Attorney, 13th Judicial District: Democrat Barbara Romo and Republican Joshua Joe Jimenez
Sandoval County Clerk: Republican Lawrence Griego and Democrat Anne Brady Romero
Sandoval County Treasurer: Democrat Jennifer Taylor and Republican Benay Ward
Sandoval County Commission: Republican Jay Block and Democrat Leah Michelle Ahkee-Baczkiewicz.
And in case you missed it, the contest for president of the United States pits incumbent Donald Trump, Republican, against former Vice-president Joe Biden, Democrat.