Posts in Category: 2021 – Feb 6

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: JOHN PEREA NAMED ‘LOCAL HERO’

The latest Corraleño to be named a local hero is John Perea. Mayor Jo Anne Roake made that announcement at the January 26 Village Council meeting. She noted he has served on several municipal committees and commissions, including Parks and Recreation and Farmland Preservation, and has served the broader community for years in various ways.

The family business, Perea’s Restaurant and Tijuana Bar, has hosted countless community gatherings over decades. The mayor pointed out that Perea, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, has been a consultant for several Pueblo governments, representing them in Washington DC.

Roake began an effort to recognize villagers as local heroes last year, starting with Red Cross volunteer Linda Crowden, and then Corrales Historical Society historian Mary Davis and Corrales Comment publisher Jeff Radford. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.16 November 7, 2020 “Local Heroes Honored.”)

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: REPUBLICANS CHALLENGE 2021 LEGISLATURE RULES

State Representative Jim Townsend, an Artesia Republican, Representative Rod Montoya,  a Farmington Republican, and Hobbs Republican Larry Scott  filed a lawsuit  January 30 with the New Mexico Supreme Court challenging House rules changes they considered unconstitutional one-week into the 60-day legislative session.

 Those rule changes are significantly different than those of the Senate chamber, in which the Senate will operate in a manner where their chamber will ensure it legislates from “the seat of government” as is set forth in the New Mexico Constitution. During floor debate on these rule changes, House Republican lawmakers highlighted significant constitutional concerns as to the validity of any action the House may take, as well the significant reduction of public access to the legislative process. 

While there were two instances of bipartisan agreement on rule changes, the House Democrat majority defeated numerous other attempts to reverse rule changes that were contrary to years of bipartisan support to encourage public access and create greater transparency in the legislature’s actions, they said.

Before the current session, there were bipartisan concerns expressed about holding the legislative session during the pandemic and legislators from both sides of aisle and from both chambers voiced a desire to hold the session later in the spring when the number of COVID-19 cases might be diminished and vaccines would be widely available. Delaying the session could have also avoided making these rule changes, they contended, and could have allowed greater public participation in the legislative process.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: OPEN PRIMARIES BILL ADVANCES IN SANTA FE

A bill in the N.M. Legislature would allow any registered voter to vote in the primary election for either major party. House Bill 79, or previous versions, has been considered in the legislature over the past five years as advocated by Corrales’ former State Representative Bob Perls, who heads what is now known as New Mexico Open Elections.

This year, the proposal is co-sponsored by Corrales Representative Daymon Ely who testified that the state’s current party-member-only voting for the primaries excludes nearly 300,000 citizens. In the early days of the 2021 legislative session, HB79 was favorably voted out of the State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee with a 6-3 margin.

Under terms of the bill, New Mexicans who are registered as independents, or as members of minor parties, can vote in party primary elections of the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian Parties simply by requesting a ballot; there would be no need to register as a member of one of those parties to participate in the primary. This year, the current N.M. Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, testified in favor of the bill, which advanced to the House Judiciary Committee.

“If we can get it to the House floor, we are fairly certain it will move through to the Senate,” Perls said February 1. In recent years, New Mexicans have increasingly joined the ranks of independent voters. Around 22 percent of voters decline to register as Democrat, Republican or Libertarian. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIV No.9 June 20, 2015 “Corrales-Based Campaign Aims for Open Primary Elections.”) A Corrales businessman and former U.S. Foreign Service officer, Perls last year ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Sandoval County Clerk. Elected to the N.M. House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1992, Perls served in until 1996.

In 2016, he explained why has advocated for open primaries. “New Mexico has more uncontested political races than any state, fewer independent or minor party candidates that any state, the highest and most discriminatory ballot access requirements of any state… and we wonder why democracy does not work well here. The answer is that we need competitive elections with engaged voters for it to work for everyone,” Perls said. “New Mexico Open Primaries believes that we must reduce the discriminatory ballot access requirements of independent and third party candidates to offer more choices for New Mexican voters.”

The non-profit organization is now known as New Mexico Open Elections. “The fundamental belief is that you shouldn’t have to join a political party to vote. In New Mexico, we have a closed primary system; that means you have to register Democrat or register Republican to vote in a primary,” Perls explained. “New Mexico has been a heavily Democratic state, and therefore probably 90 percent of the important decisions are made in the Democratic primary. Most elections are decided in the Democratic Party primary. That’s because there’s either no competition from the other party in the general election or there’s token competition in the general election. Ninety percent of the time, the candidate who comes out the winner in the Democratic party gets elected.

“Here is why it’s important for a primary to be open. These ‘electoral process issues’ are complex, not very sexy and yet are the root-cause of the political dysfunction we see in America and in New Mexico.

“The idea of New Mexico Open Primaries is to open up the primaries so that independents can vote and so that people don’t have to register as a Democrat or Republican to vote in the first-round election. “Most people think of the party primary as a first-round election; what our organization wants to do is educate people about the fact that elections are a fundamental responsibility of state government, and that it is going about it backward to have a private club, or private association [parties], running our elections.

“I believe strongly that parties serve a function, and I believe strongly that this movement is not anti-party,” Perls insisted. “But we need to look at why we have the gridlock and hyper-partisanship and dysfunction that we have in this country. The root cause of that is, in fact, partisanship.”

He thinks it’s wrong —even illegal— to allow private organizations, such as parties, to decide who they will allow to vote in an election for a public office. “Our tax dollars pay for primary elections, and it is illegal (or should be, once the courts catch up based on the N.M. anti-donation clause) for public dollars to go to private associations. We don’t tolerate it in any situation except the most important activity we do in our country —when we vote.”

As a Democrat, Perls won election to the N.M. House of Representatives in 1992 and was re-elected in 1994 before running unsuccessfully for Congress and then for a seat on the N.M. Public Regulations Commission. He applied for admission to the Foreign Service Corps after selling his medical equipment sales business, Monitech, in 2008. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in January 2010.

During his four years in the N.M. House, he was regarded as something of a maverick for not strictly toeing the Democratic party line. That independent thinking cost him support from party leaders. The movement toward open primaries in state level elections began in the 1990s.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: COUNCIL BRIEFED FEB.9 ON FARMLAND PRESERVATION

At the February 9 Village Council meeting to be zoomed starting at 6:30 p.m., an update will be given on the farmland preservation program. The briefing was requested at the January 26 session by Councillor Zach Burkett, who responded to a request forsuggestions for the next meeting’s agenda. “Can we get an update on conservation easements —just if there are any other properties that have been identified as interested? I have heard rumors there are some that are potentially in the works, so if we could get at least a broad update, that would be fantastic. Mayor Jo Anne Roake replied. “Absolutely. I hope it will be more than a broad update. Everybody, keep your fingers crossed!”

That seemed to contrast with the report submitted earlier in the same meeting that noted, “No private property owners are currently interested in participating in the easement program, but if opportunities arise the Village will pursue them.” However, when Corrales Comment asked Farmland Preservation Commission’s co-chair Lisa Brown, she said there is no current application to add a property to the Village’s program. “There is nothing pending.”

The Village Council approved purchase of a conservation easement on 12 acres of farmland at its December 8, 2020 session. The vote was three-to-two to pay $960,000 for an easement on the Haslam farm between the Corrales Main Canal and the Corrales Lateral irrigation ditch at the end of Kings Lane. Councillors Stuart Murray and Kevin Lucero voted no, citing prospects that a more desirable tract might become available during the next six months.

That was almost certainly a reference to the long-discussed, and negotiated possibility that the Trosello tract farther north along the east side of Corrales Road might be saved from development as home sites. Murray, Lucero and several villagers had argued that the Village had negotiated an option to purchase the Haslam tract this past summer and still had six months remaining to exercise it. They argued there was no hurry to close on the Haslam land.

With the Haslam easement purchase, that leaves approximately $1.5 million remaining of the $2.5 million raised from municipal general obligation bonds approved by voters in March 2018 for farmland preservation. Former Village Councillor Fred Hashimoto had urged a delay on the Haslam property. “Some very attractive proposals might pop up between now and June 1, and the council should not cave now to prematurely spend potential funds which might be used for a possibly more valuable proposal in the next coming months.”

Those questions drew sharp responses from then-Councillor Dave Dornburg and Mayor Roake. “I think it’s kind of folly to assume that another deal is going to come out of the woodwork at this day and age when property values in the village are only going up,” Dornburg said. “I think there has been enough man-hours and due diligence put into this process that the time has come to put it to a vote.

“There may always be another option down the road, but in my humble opinion, while I’m sure there are other pieces of property that people would rather have, this is the option we have and it meets the intent of conservation easement that we’re trying to protect.” Murray responded. “I’m not going to dispute the process. They have been working on it quite a bit. I have no objection to Mr. Haslam’s property. It’s a beautiful piece of property.” But he doubted that the offered parcel could be successful as a farm. “I’ve seen farmers back in my hometown who had 150 acres and couldn’t make a go of it and had to work two jobs to make a living…”

Mayor Roake cut in to say that was not relevant, and that waiting another six months on the Haslam option is not really an alternative, given the amount of time it has taken to get the Haslam option ready to execute. “Between getting our financing and getting the bonds issued and getting it approved through the N.M. Finance Authority and all the other gates that we have to go through actually does put the time limitations on this process. I want to address the idea that we can actually wait for months, because all of the pieces that you have voted for have gotten us to the point now where we are issuing the bonds, and that has to be done in a certain time frame… all of this was done based on two different appraisals and two different reviews by N.M. Taxation and Revenue, so I think that’s a false analogy.

“All of this work has taken place since July. It has taken a long time. It’s a lengthy and complex process,” the mayor stressed, making the point that the administration does not actually have another six months to exercise the Haslam option. Before the vote was called, Councillor Dornburg made another plea for approval. “I think it’s a good idea today, it was a good idea six months ago and it will be a good idea six months from now. If we don’t think it’s a good idea, that’s a different conversation. But we have the will of the people for a bond to buy conservation easements. We have a great conservation property in front of us. If you like the property and think it meets the will of the people, either today or in June, the answer should probably be the same.”

The motion to purchase the Haslam conservation easement was approved. More than 50 acres of Corrales farmland has been brought under conservation easement since the effort began here in 2000. Villagers overwhelmingly approved a bond proposal for $2.5 million for that purpose in 2004, but the last of those bond proceeds was spent in 2015. Since the bonds now have been paid off, more bonds were issued without increasing property tax. The first conservation easement here was donated by former Corrales resident Jonathan Porter on land west of Corrales Road at the south end of the valley. Similar to the Haslam farm, the Porter tract is not visible from Corrales Road, nor are most others.

Corrales’ interest in preserving farmland dates back at least to its incorporation as a municipality in 1971. The first master plan produced for the new Village government in 1973 recommended techniques be explored to accomplish that. Successive planning documents and ordinances over the years have endorsed that goal. (See Corrales Comment Vol. II, No. 8, August 20, 1983 “Can Corrales Stay Farmland Forever? Yes, Say Planners, & Here’s How.”) Corrales’ first conservation easement of six acres along Mira Sol Road in 2001 was donated by the landowner, not sold. Jonathan Porter believed in keeping fertile land under cultivation and his donation of the easement to the Taos Land Trust provided helpful tax benefits.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: CORRALES SIPHON REPAIR WORK ADDS BOATER SAFETY FEATURES

More trees will be removed at the north end of the Corrales Bosque Preserve in the weeks ahead as the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District continues remedies for the threatened siphon pipe that delivers irrigation water to Corrales. Starting during the second week of February, the work with heavy equipment will continue through early March, according to MRGCD Executive Director Mike Hamman.

Much of the work inside the preserve involves creating a boat ramp downriver from the rock weir over the Corrales Siphon constructed last year. Safety concerns have been raised about the risk to boaters, rafters and other watercraft users as they encounter the new rapids caused by the small boulders placed all across the Rio Grande. (See Corrales Comment letters to the editor in the January 23, 2021 issue.)

To mitigate that threat, Hamman said some of the boulders nearest the west side of the river will be removed and replaced with a more gentle, smoother passage from the upriver side of the weir to the downriver side. “We’ve gone through two separate projects here designed to save the siphon from the threat posed by the flow of the river,” he explained January 28 in a riverside interview for Corrales Comment.

“That down-cutting of the riverbed [which until recent years covered the 80-year old wooden culvert] has been going on since construction of Cochiti Dam. The original project in 2016 protected about 100 feet of the exposed siphon, but then we had heavy river flows of 2019 when flows here were consistent for weeks on end. That meant the down-cut went even further so that the siphon was completely exposed at the end of that run-off season.

“So that’s when we installed the rock weir that extends clear across the active channel. We feel like we’ve protected the siphon very well now for many years to come.” He said his agency is considering another technique called “slip lining” that would insert an inner lining material that could be expanded inside the wooden pipe to support it even further.

Since the weir has been in place, MRGCD and cooperating federal agencies have observed the results to see whether the river and its sediment load are behaving as expected. One of those has been the river dropping some of its sediment on the upriver side of the boulders which is having the effort of building up a more gentle ramp. “But we did recognize that this creates a hazard for boating, wading and possibly swimming in this area because we did raise the river up about two and a half feet or so from what it was before,” Hamman pointed out. “But we know from experience that the river will continue to moderate that leading edge so that it will start to meld into a more gradual slope.

“But we realize we will have to take additional action to make it more safe. One of the things we wanted to do, after we learned what the river was going to do, was to change this part here on the river-right side [west], to make it a smoother ramp from the upriver side of the weir to the downstream side.” He said the intended slope in the riverbed would be about 70 feet wide east-west starting at the Corrales side. The detour around the boulder weir will be on the Corrales side of the river channel rather than the east side which is under Sandia Pueblo jurisdiction. “They are very concerned about trespass there.”

Hamman said a sign will be posted along the east side warning people on watercraft not to try to go over the boulders, but instead to “stay river right” and pass through the smoother slope along the Corrales side. “People of the low to moderate skill set will probably have no problems coming through here. A skilled kayaker could probably take that rapid, but there are some sizable boulders in there.

“Now, for people who wish to put in here to go downstream and may be a little nervous about coming through this passage, we’re going to take out some of these older trees that are kind of aged out —and some of them are even being undercut by the river, so about four or five trees are going to come out. That way we can have another ramp going down to the river in a gradual slope. So people who want to avoid the weir as it is now will have two options.”

Another advantage, he said, is the new ramp will make it easier for river rescue teams to launch their watercraft at the north end of the preserve. Once the new ramp is completed, probably before summer, boaters and rafters headed down river could take out at the ramp recently built north of the weir, portage across the parking lot bypassing the weir, and put in again at the new ramp.

Another component of the improvements already completed is expansion of the visitor parking area. “We know this is a very popular area. And we wanted to make sure people can use it safely. We’ve had people who backed into the canal as they were trying to leave this area, so we wanted to make it safer.” The 83 year old 1,000-foot wooden pipe has been buried under the river bed since the early 1930s but was being uncovered by chronic erosion of the channel since upriver dams were constructed, reducing sediment deposited here. When the problem was revealed more than eight years ago, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District implemented temporary fixes while trying to figure out what the real solution might be.

With assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, MRGCD constructed a rock weir immediately downstream of the pipe near the west bank of the Rio Grande. “The MRGCD had previously had an inspection performed on the siphon and found that the wood pipe was in remarkably good condition with the exception of one missing wood stave in a section near the east bank,” the district’s executive director said.

The wooden culvert brings irrigation water from the east side of the Rio Grande to the west and into the Corrales Main Canal. About eight years ago, rapids began to appear where water flowed over the pipe. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII, No.16, October 5, 2013 “River Bed’s Drop Disturbs Buried Irrigation Culvert.”)

The former executive director, Subhas Shah, explained to the mayor and Village Council that the uncovering of the siphon had been caused by a reduction in silt pouring into the Rio Grande after Cochiti and other dams were constructed upstream. “In 1975 when Cochiti Dam was built, we started getting less silt coming into the river, and the river bed was getting eroded. So this is what we are seeing after 38 years.” (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXX, No. 2 March 5, 2011 “So Far, River Bed Still Degrading Here.”)

The siphon is made of a series of 20-foot long by five-inch wide wood staves that are held together with steel bands to form a pipe that is approximately 900 feet long. It brings irrigation water conveyed through Sandia Pueblo under the riverbed and into Corrales.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: ‘COMMUNITY SOLAR ELECTRIC’ BILL ADVANCES

If you don’t have your own photovoltaic panels to generate electricity for your home or business, might you be interested in subscribing to use the output from a community solar facility? A bill under consideration in the 2021 session of the N.M. Legislature calls for rules to govern how a community solar facility should operate. Senate Bill 84 was introduced by Liz Stefanics and Linda Lopez.

The bill directs the N.M. Public Regulation Commission to adopt rules to implement such a program around the state, with special consideration for Native American communities. The bill defines a community solar program as one which is “created through the adoption of rules by the commission that allows for the development of community solar facilities and provides customers of a qualifying utility with the option of accessing solar energy produced by a community solar facility in accordance with the Community Solar Act.”

It would operate based on a community solar bill credit that is the credit value of the electricity generated by a community solar facility and allocated to a subscriber to offset the subscriber's electricity bill on the qualifying utility’s monthly billing cycle. SB84 defines a “low-income customer” for such a program as “a residential customer of a qualifying utility with an annual household income at or below eighty percent of county area median income, as published by the United States department of housing and urban development, or that is enrolled in a low-income program facilitated by the state or a low-income energy program led by the qualifying utility or as determined by the commission; And a “low-income service organization” would be an organization that provides services, assistance or housing to low-income customers and may include a local or central tribal government, a chapter house or a tribally designated housing entity; A “subscriber” means a retail customer of a qualifying utility that owns a subscription to a community solar facility from a subscriber organization; A “subscriber organization would be an entity that owns or operates a community solar facility and may include a municipality, a county, a for-profit or nonprofit entity or organization, an Indian nation, tribe, or pueblo, a local tribal governance structure or other tribal entity authorized to transact business in New Mexico; Selected text of the bill reads as follows.

Section 3. Community Solar Facility Requirements.
A. A community solar facility shall:
(1) have a nameplate rating of five megawatts alternating current or less;
(2) be located in the service territory of the qualifying utility and be interconnected to the electric distribution system of that qualifying utility;
(3) have at least ten subscribers;
(4) have the option to be co-located with other energy resources;
(5) not allow a single subscriber to be allocated more than forty percent of the generating capacity of the facility; and
(6) make at least forty percent of the total generating capacity of a community solar facility available in subscriptions of twenty-five kilowatts or less.

B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to a native community solar project; provided that a native community solar project shall be located in the service territory of a qualifying utility and be interconnected to the electric distribution system of that qualifying utility.

Section 4. Ownership of Community Solar Facilities.
A. A community solar facility shall be owned or operated by a subscriber organization.
B. Third-party entities or subscriber organizations developing projects on the land of an Indian nation, tribe, or pueblo are subject to tribal jurisdiction.
Section 5. Subscription Requirements. A. A subscription shall be:
(1) sized to supply no more than one hundred twenty percent of the subscriber's average annual electricity consumption; and
(2) transferable and portable within the qualifying utility service territory.

B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to a native community solar project; provided that subscriptions to a native community solar project shall be transferable and portable within the qualifying utility Community Solar Program Administration.
A. A qualifying utility shall:
(1) acquire the entire output of a community solar facility connected to its distribution system;
(2) apply community solar bill credits to subscriber bills within one billing cycle following the cycle during which the energy was generated by the community solar facility;
(3) provide community solar bill credits to a community solar facility's subscribers for not less than twenty-five years from the date the community solar facility is first interconnected;
(4) carry over any amount of a community solar bill credit that exceeds the subscriber's monthly bill and apply it to the subscriber's next monthly bill; and
(5) on a monthly basis and in a standardized electronic format, provide to the subscriber organization a report indicating the total value of community solar bill credits generated by the community solar facility in the prior month as well as the amount of the community solar bill credits applied to each subscriber.

B. A subscriber organization shall, on a monthly basis and in a standardized electronic format, provide to the qualifying utility a list indicating the kilowatt-hours of generation attributable to each subscriber. Subscriber lists may be updated monthly to reflect canceling subscribers and to add new subscribers.

C. If a community solar facility is not fully subscribed in a given month, the unsubscribed energy may be rolled forward on the community solar facility account for up to one year from its month of generation and allocated by the subscriber organization to subscribers at any time during that period. At the end of that period, any undistributed bill credit shall be removed, and the unsubscribed energy shall be purchased by the qualifying utility at its applicable avoided cost of energy rate as approved by the commission.

D. The environmental attributes, including renewable energy certificates, associated with a community solar facility may be sold or transferred by the owner of the community solar facility to the qualifying utility.

E. Nothing in the Community Solar Act shall preclude an Indian nation, tribe or pueblo from using financial mechanisms other than subscription models, including virtual and aggregate net-metering, for native community solar projects.

Section 7. Public Regulation Commission Rule making.

A. The commission shall adopt rules to establish a community solar program by no later than November 1, 2021. The rules shall:
(1) provide an initial annual statewide capacity program cap of one hundred megawatts proportionally allocated to investor-owned utilities until November 1, 2024. The annual statewide capacity program cap shall exclude native community solar projects and rural electric distribution cooperatives;
(2) establish an annual statewide capacity program cap to be in effect after November 1, 2024;
(3) require a target thirty percent annual statewide carve-out of the annual statewide capacity program cap to be reserved for low-income customers and low-income service organizations. In facilitation of this target, the commission shall issue guidelines to ensure the carve-out is achieved each year and develop a list of low-income service organizations and programs that may pre-qualify low-income customers;
(4) establish a process for the selection of community solar facility projects and allocation of the statewide capacity program cap;
(5) require a qualifying utility to file the tariffs, agreement or forms necessary for implementation of the community solar program;
(6) establish reasonable, uniform, efficient and non-discriminatory standards, fees and processes for the interconnection of community solar facilities that are consistent with the commission's existing interconnection rules and interconnection manual that allows a qualifying utility to recover reasonable costs for administering the community solar program and interconnection costs for each community solar facility;
(7) provide consumer protections for subscribers, including a uniform disclosure form that identifies the information that shall be provided by a subscriber organization to a potential subscriber, in both English and Spanish, and when appropriate, native or indigenous languages, to ensure fair disclosure of future costs and benefits of subscriptions, key contract terms and other relevant but reasonable information pertaining to the subscription;
(8) provide a community solar bill credit rate mechanism for subscribers derived from the qualifying utility's total aggregate retail rate on a per-customer-class basis, less the commission-approved distribution cost components, and identify all proposed rules, fees and charges;
(9) reasonably allow for the creation, financing and accessibility of community solar facilities; and
(10) provide requirements for the siting and co-location of community solar facilities.

B. The commission shall solicit input from relevant state agencies, public utilities, low-income stakeholders, disproportionately impacted communities, potential owners or operators of community solar facilities, Indian nations, tribes and pueblos and other interested parties in its rule making process.

C. By no later than November 1, 2024, the commission shall provide to the appropriate interim legislative committee a report on the status of the community solar program, including the development of community solar facilities, the participation of investor-owned utilities and rural electric distribution cooperatives, low-income participation, the adequacy of facility size, proposals for alternative rate structures and bill credit mechanisms, cross-subsidization issues, community solar facilities' effect on utility compliance with the renewable portfolio standard and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the commission's rules to implement the Community Solar Act and any recommended changes.

Section 9. Exclusion from Commission Regulation.. Subscriber organizations, or the subscribers to a community solar facility, shall not be considered public utilities subject to regulation by the commission under the Public Utility Act solely as a result of their ownership, interest in, operation of or subscription to a community solar facility. Rates paid for subscriptions shall not be subject to regulation by the commission.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: CASA SAN YSIDRO MUSEUM ONLINE EVENTS

After its usual winter hiatus, Casa San Ysidro Museum: The Gutiérrez-Minge House, across from Old Church, is once again up and running, with COVID-19-safe tours, five-person per tour, New Mexico residents only, via timed tickets available for purchase only online through Hold My Ticket. And, according to Site Manager Aaron Gardner, the museum also is offering a full roster of online programming. You can get each relevant Zoom connection by going to http://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/albuquerque-museum/events
February 13: The Unique Legacy of Abraham Lincoln in New Mexico
Abraham Lincoln spoke very little about the far western territory of New Mexico. Yet, during his presidency, two different wars were fought here and the territory’s landmass was divided in half. Lincoln signed into law legislation that would eventually aid in the settlement and development of New Mexico. New Mexico has a county, town, range of mountains and national forest named in his honor. New Mexico State University Professors Christopher Schurtz and Dwight Pitcaithley describe Lincoln’s connection to the New Mexico Territory.
March 13: Traditions of the Santero: Bulto Restoration Techniques
Bultos, sculptures of saints and other religious figures, are a living tradition within the religious iconography of Spanish folk art. They played an integral part in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The tradition of wooden santo carving has been preserved as a folk art in parts of Mexico and Northern New Mexico.
Conservators Allison Herrera and Keith Bakker discuss bultos and bulto restoration techniques while referencing objects from the Museum's collection and other pertinent examples in New Mexico.
April 10: Native American Language Revitalization in New Mexico Christine Sims will discuss the leading efforts in indigenous language revitalization, language maintenance issues, and how the American Indian Language Policy Research Center is providing technical assistance to indigenous nations and training for American Indian language teachers.
In his 1991 revision of Acoma: Pueblo in the Sky, Ward Alan Minge references some of the early work that initiated a bilingual program at Acoma Pueblo’s local school.
Acoma’s bilingual program today is directed by Sims, who is also the state director for the National Indian Bilingual Center and an associate professor at University of New Mexico.
June 12: Native Dye Plants of New Mexico
Native American and Spanish weavers traditionally have used native plants to dye wool with an array of colors to create one-of-a-kind textiles and clothing.
A weaver’s expertise not only required the skill and dexterity to create intricate patterns but the knowledge of where to find the plants that yielded the desired colors.
Las Arañas weaver Myra Chang Thompson and Rio Grande Return Conservation Director Cameron Weber describe native dye plants, their uses, and the local practices that people have employed in New Mexico for generations.

July 10: Bioregional Perspectives with Jack Loeffler. With the ever expanding civic and suburban sprawl of the Southwest, understanding how ecosystems can sustain development in the face of unexpected change is needed now more than ever. Jack Loeffler describes bioregionalism occurring in New Mexico and the Southwest. A bioregionalist, aural historian, environmentalist and author, over the past 50 years Loeffler’s work has focused on the vital importance of indigenous-minded environmentalism —citing Native American, Hispano, Anglo, and countercultural excerpts from interviews and folksongs he’s recorded for local history projects.
August 14: Herreros: The Spanish History of Blacksmiths
Herreros, or Spanish blacksmiths, were highly valued members of Spanish expeditions to New Mexico. They shoed horses and repaired armor, made horse gear, firearms, and small tools. As more colonists arrived, blacksmiths turned their attention to providing domestic goods like griddles, roasting spits, ladles, and knives. Dave Sabo, a local blacksmith skilled in the traditional methods of herreros, describes some of the early iron manufacturing and blacksmithing practices that were used in New Mexico.
October 9: From Spain to New Mexico, The Journey to Keep a Secret. Who were the Crypto-Jews and Conversos?
An award-winning journalist and educator, Norma Libman describes a history of the Jews in Inquisitional Spain, how crypto-Jews kept their secrets, and the forces that brought them to the American Southwest.
Libman has researched crypto-Jewish history for more than 25 years and has interviewed more than 50 individuals about their family histories and religious practices. This program is co-sponsored by the Historical Society of New Mexico.
November 13: Civil War History in the Lower Rio Grande Valley
Long known as a place of cross border intrigue, the Rio Grande’s unique role in the Civil War has been largely forgotten or overlooked. Few know the complex history of ethnic tensions, international intrigue, and the clash of colorful characters that marked the aftermath of the Civil War in Texas.
Professor of anthropology at Rio Grande Valley Texas University, Russell Skowronek discusses Civil War history in the Southwest through the university’s traveling exhibit. In addition to its Second Saturday Programs via Zoom, Casa San Ysidro also will virtually experience the El Camino Real Trade Fair, throughout April. The fair celebrates 1800s life along the Camino Real, and will be filled with living history, music, demonstrations, local artisans, educational sessions, and other family-friendly free activities.

Come May, it’s entirely possible that Heritage Day, May 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., could be experienced actually, rather than in that other manner. The museum joins the Corrales Historical Society in a free event that explores local heritage through exhibits on the living traditions of New Mexico, and a variety of activities that highlight local art and history.

Finally, Corrales Harvest Festival rolls around again on September 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the village’s largest festival, with events at various venues. Family events at Casa San Ysidro will be free. Last year’s program was entirely virtual, alas, and assorted fingers are crossed for a return to an in-person, live festival this 2021. Contact Gardner with any questions via email to agardner@cabq.gov For tour tickets, go to https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/location/casa-san-ysidro-the-gutierrez-minge-house-in-corrales.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: SENIOR LIVING RENTALS FOR COMMERCIAL DISTRICT?


Frank Steiner, who wants to create a complex of five duplexes on the 1.89-acre parcel where his Sunbelt Nursery now sits, said recently he wants to be clear that these two-bedroom dwellings all will be rentals. At this time the actual rental price per unit is not known, because it all “depends on when I get the approval to build, as the cost of construction is increasing almost daily,” as he put it. He added that the project’s cost estimates have risen 47 percent since he first proposed it in the fall of 2019.

Steiner wants to keep rents “as affordable as possible.” And would be delighted were “the Village to reduce or forgive the construction impact fees.” Renting out houses since 2001 on his compound off Espinosa Road, Steiner believes his tenants “love it there and stay forever.” And if a vacancy does come up, it is rented in hours because of referrals from satisfied customers.

He typically requires a year lease, with tenants paying for gas and electricity. Steiner pays for water and trash removal, and his son Brandon, a contractor, does all the maintenance and repair work. “We usually can respond to the needs of tenants on the day they notify us of a problem.”

The planned duplex would sit on land at the corner of Corrales Road and Dixon Road, in the commercial district, which would make walking or bike riding to village stores, restaurants and the Bosque uncomplicated for residents.

The longstanding one-home-per-acre rule that dominates Corrales real estate may no longer apply to plots in the commercial zone, if Steiner can convince the right people. As Steiner suggested in early January, “We need a majority of the Councillors to vote for approval of this project and direct P&Z to offer the appropriate zoning solution.”

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: COVID CASES HERE CONTINUE TO MOUNT; VACCINATIONS UP

By Meredith Hughes
It was big news a week ago, when the University of New Mexico opened its Health COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at The Pit, the university’s basketball arena. Those in charge had hoped to inoculate 3,000 people a day at The Pit, but started out doing about 1,700 a day, then, on the day this reporter got there, 700. The entire operation was efficient, friendly, and professional —there were traffic control people guiding cars into the enormous parking lot. There were greeters, doing the obvious in the huge Pit walkway area, lined with tables or numbered stations. Most all shuffling through appeared to be in the “elder” category.

There were “runners,” aiding supply drop-offs; “scribes,” who checked in patients and handed out small paper cards; vaccine preparers, and of course, vaccinators, these latter two categories filled only by medical pros. The Pfizer shot administered, by a pediatric specialist, a longtime nurse from New Jersey, retired, and now a volunteer, guided the recipient to an open space near some exit doors, the space filled with socially distanced folding chairs. On which one sat, either for 15 minutes, or 30, depending on what one had admitted to, allergy-wise.

Here the “post injection observers” roamed, looking for signs of imminent collapse among the fully masked occupants, who checked phones, and noted the appointment for shot number two on that little card, roughly three weeks in the future. And then rose, to exit The Pit when appropriate. Or maybe some people scooted out early.

After an essentially positive experience, one soon noted the news was filled with reports that The Pit would close for a week. Not enough vaccine, even with assistance from N.M. Senator Martin Heinrich. Supply chains are iffy everywhere, and N.M. Health was concerned, rightly, that people awaiting shot number two, had to be considered. Hence, the pause on administering the first shot.

Meanwhile, on January 28, “Oregon health workers who got stuck in a snowstorm on their way back from a COVID-19 vaccination event went car to car injecting stranded drivers before several of the doses expired….” January 29, according to the Washington Post, “…staff and volunteers with Seattle’s Swedish Health Services had been rushing to administer hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine set to expire early in the morning after a freezer malfunction. Finally, they had only a few dozen shots left and about 15 minutes to get them into people’s arms.”

“In the end, none of the more than 1,600 soon-to-expire doses in Seattle were wasted, health officials said, after a colossal scramble that showcased both the enormous pressure on those immunizing millions of Americans and the hope these vaccine doses have brought. The rollout of shots nationwide has been plagued with bottlenecks, frustrations and disagreements over who should get protection first.”

Good people are stepping up everywhere, and working hard to get these pesky vaccines into waiting arms. In fact, New Mexico is among the top ten states/US territories in getting that first shot to people. Do register for the vaccine at https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org, create a profile, and wait. A text and email will arrive regarding your appointment. Really.

2021 FEB. 6 ISSUE: MORATORIUM ON PERMITS FOR CASITAS, SHORT-TERM RENTALS


Responding to villagers’ concerns that Corrales’ long-standing one-home-per-acre policy is consistently being circumvented, the Village Council has imposed a six-month moratorium on permits to build secondary dwellings on lots and on applications to operate short-term rentals. After substantial public comment at its January 26 session, the council voted five-to-one to impose the 180-day moratorium noting that “the size of accessory structures is virtually unregulated, sometimes resulting in what appears to be two homes on one lot,” and that such residences “are being utilized for the commercial purpose of providing short-term rental accommodations.”

The approved resolution noted that “the proliferation of loosely-regulated accessory structures being used as short- and long-term rentals has the potential for far-reaching deleterious effects on the village, including negatively impacting neighborhoods with greater numbers of vehicles and persons not previously present and increasing the effective density above that permitted or intended in the A-1 an A-2 zoning districts.”

Much of the discussion during the Zoom meeting, to which at least six listened in as audience, focused on the perceived need for a moratorium when the same issues are being addressed by planners with the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) through a contract with the Village approved last month.

The lone hold-out member of the council who objected to the moratorium, Councillor Zach Burkett, said he thought the resolution was “duplicitous” because its stated purpose is to allow time for the Planning and Zoning Commission to analyze the problem and come up with recommended fixes, “but this is exactly what MRCOG is supposed to be doing” by the end of the year.

The problem has been recognized for years, even decades, but it has become more acute with the advent of Airbnb and other short-term rental opportunities. Going back to the 1980s, pressures to bust the prohibition against higher residential density were expected to intensify when the Village installed a sewer line, thereby obviating groundwater pollution from septic leach fields. But nowadays, the pressures actually come from neighborhoods not served by the wastewater system, especially where new homes are built on vacant lots. The current controversy apparently erupted over a new home being built on West Ella Drive last year. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “West Ella ‘Casita’ Draws Neighbors’ Ire.”)

Construction of a large “casita” next to a new home underway at 489 West Ella Drive last summer riled neighbors, including the mother of former Mayor Scott Kominiak. The new home construction site on West Ella Drive is at least the third project in recent years where a house and “casita” have been built simultaneously in seeming contravention of the one-dwelling-per-acre regulations.

Corrales’ laws allow “casitas,” or guesthouses, on a one-acre lot, as long as the secondary residence does not have a full kitchen. And the builder at 489 West Ella, Wade Wingfield, assured Corrales Comment that the “casita” there complies with that rule. “You can have a separate living quarters as long as it doesn’t have a fully-functioning kitchen,” Wingfield said August 11, 2020. “You can have a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and anything else, but you just can’t have a stove and oven.”  Wingfield said he had obtained all the permits and approvals needed through the Corrales Planning and Zoning Department.

However, one of the main protesters against Wingfield’s casita, Mary LoGuercio, has provided photos to Corrales Comment and Village officials of the interior which show a kitchen area under construction plumbed for a full kitchen, including stove vent and gas line stub-out. LoGuercio also forwarded a 2018 email from former Village Attorney John Appel referring to a similar dispute with the same builder, Wingfield, erecting a guesthouse in the Tierra de Corrales neighborhood.

Appel’s memo to the mayor and to the Planning and Zoning Commission reads as follows, in part. “I just wanted to alert you to an issue that could become ‘significant’ in the near future. Yesterday [P&Z Administrator] Ms. Stout, on [Village Administrator] John Avila’s instructions, called me during a meeting with developer Wade Wingfield to address a proposed 1,100-square foot ‘casita’ (open-plan living area, kitchen, bedroom suite with bath, storage room, carport) that was proposed as an additional structure on a lot in Tierra de Corrales that already has a house on it.  “Mr. Wingfield’s asserted reasons why this second home on a one-acre lot in the A-1 zone should be allowed (my paraphrase, of course) were:

• He himself had just such a ‘casita’ on his own lot, approved by C. Tidwell.
• Manuel Pacheco had been consulted about this proposed ‘casita’ and said it was fine.
• The homeowners’ association had approved it.
• Such structures had always been allowed up until some change in the Village Code during the past two or three years.
• It was all still one family, because the present (elderly) residents were going to move into the new casita and let their kids and families live in the big house.
• ‘Life style’ changes make it necessary for the Village to change its policies to allow these sorts of structures.
“My responses to Mr. Wingfield were, basically:
• If he has such a casita on his property, his property is in violation of the Village Code.  (Unless it was grandfathered before about 1987, which I doubt.)
• If Mr. Pacheco said this was OK [and I expect he probably did], Mr. Pacheco was incorrect.
• Homeowners’ association decisions under the covenants are irrelevant.
• There has been no such change in the Code.”

Former Village Attorney Appel continued his explanation regarding Wingfield’s assertion that is permissible to build such a guesthouse. “Two houses on the same lot are two houses on the same lot. Period.  Doesn’t matter who lives in them.  And, of course, what are they going to do with the ‘casita’ after Mom and Dad die?  Tear it down? Of course not. It becomes a rental property. That’s the huge fallacy with this ‘family accommodation’ argument that we keep hearing.

“I refused to waste my (Village-compensated) time listening to Wingfield’s “life style” argument.  I told him if he wanted to change the Village Code, he needed to talk to his councillors.   “Just wanted you to know about this, since I expect we have probably not heard the last of it.” Before the council imposed the moratorium, they heard or read statements from villagers giving both sides of the controversy.

One of those was from builder Norm Schreifels of Sun Mountain Construction who wrote, “It has come to my attention that there are those in the village as well as council members that are trying to impose a moratorium on the construction of casitas. I have several upcoming construction projects that are casitas for family members of my clients and was told that I will not be allowed to obtain a permit for the casitas.”

Schreifels forwarded to Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin and Councillor Zach Burkett what he said is in State statute that specifically allows such casitas “which cannot be overridden by local municipalities. The law not only allows for casitas for family members but it also allows for a second kitchen.

“I am aware of why this has become a concern, and hope that one occurrence by a certain builder does not reflect on all builders. I have built many casitas and outbuildings here in Corrales and the neighbors didn’t have any concerns or objections. The casitas were considerably smaller than the main house, and the total area never exceeded the allowable percentage of construction that is allowed by the Village of Corrales.

“A way that we have done this in other areas is to have the homeowner sign a letter stating that the casita is to be used by family members and not as a rental.” Presenting the other side was a letter from Bob Pinkerton, who resides along Dancing Horse Lane. “My concern is with the apparent speed that accessory dwelling permits and short-term rental permits are under consideration without a real, focused study of impacts to our village and maintaining our rural heritage per the Corrales Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

“[I] strongly urge adoption of Resolution 21-03 moratorium on all accessory building permits and short-term rental permits until conditions and procedures are thoroughly studied with due care and diligence, precluding adverse effects upon our village. Foisting partially thought-out permit procedures in a rush to approve is absolutely out of character, and detrimental to the citizens, homeowners and residents of the Village of Corrales.”

At the council meeting that adopted the moratorium, no mention was made of the casita project on 489 West Ella. The former mayor’s mother, Patricia Kominiak, was one of six villagers who wrote to Mayor Jo Anne Roake on August 13 last year protesting the project on West Ella. Others were Charlotte Anderson, Dan and Estelle Metz, and Joe and Meryl Hancock.

“Secondary dwellings, guest houses or ‘casitas’ are simply not allowed in our land use codes, and it is therefore a mystery to us how the Village would issue a permit for such development, yet you appear to be doing so,” they wrote. “Multiple inquiries to the building inspector about this question have been effectively ignored. No information has been made available about the project in question, and it was not until construction was well underway that the problem became apparent to us and our fears were confirmed.”

At the time, Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Laurie Stout explained how the casita on West Ella gained approval, and suggested the Village Council may re-visit the rules in the months ahead. “In Section 18-29, the definition of dwelling unit in Village Code states: dwelling unit means any building or part of a building intended for human occupancy and containing one or more connected rooms and a single kitchen, designed for one family for living and sleeping purposes.”

The definition of kitchen, she added, “means any room principally used, intended or designed to be used for cooking or the preparation of food. The presence of a range or oven, or utility connections suitable for servicing a range or oven, shall be considered as establishing a kitchen. “This means a second structure on a lot, as long as there is no range or oven (or utility connections for such) meets the letter of the law in Village of Corrales Code. Contractors can and will exploit this loophole if their clients request.”

Stout said the mayor and council may try to tighten up relevant regulations. “Potential options in Corrales could be looking into limiting the size of the accessory unit, requiring that it merely be an addition to the home, etc. The intent of the N.M. Statute is to allow family members, such as elderly parents, to live on-property with their relatives.

“The reality is that often at some point the separate structure ends up having a kitchen added retroactively, and that structure eventually becomes a long-term rental with a tenant —thus becoming a zoning violation.” The council’s moratorium adopted January 26 reads as follows, in part. “Be it resolved by the Governing Body of the Village of Corrales, that:

1. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection, or establishment of an accessory structure built or modified to accommodate human habitation.

2. Beginning on the effective date of this Resolution there shall be in force a 180 day moratorium on the acceptance, review, or consideration of any new applications, including but not limited to land use applications, building permit applications, and business registration applications related in any way to the development, erection or establishment of Short-Term Rentals in an existing or planned accessory structure.

3. The moratorium imposed by this Resolution shall not be deemed to affect the status of any facilities existing and operational in the Village, nor permits having been properly issued on the date of adoption of this Resolution.

4. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the Village of Corrales will exercise due diligence and work in good faith with the citizens and interested parties to develop and implement balanced and workable public policies relating to these issues.

5. During the time that the moratorium described in the foregoing sections of this Resolution is in place, the provisions of this Resolution shall prevail and have precedence over any contrary or inconsistent provisions of any prior ordinance or resolution of the Village; provided, however, that the provisions of prior ordinances and resolutions are not deemed to have been repealed by this Resolution, and shall remain in full force and effect to the extent not inconsistent with the provisions hereof.

6. The moratorium enacted by this Resolution shall terminate and be deemed repealed in its entirety on the date that is 180 days after the effective date of this Resolution, unless otherwise specifically provided by resolution or ordinance duly adopted by the Governing Body subsequent to the effective date of this Resolution.”

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