As most youngsters are having to adjust to school work that is entirely online, Corrales fifthgrader Maya Gomez is right at home with it —literally. She’s in her second year with New Mexico Connections Academy, and is maintaining a grade level of 99 percent, she reported in a Corrales Comment phone interview October 29.
She and her parents, Danelle and Roberto Gomez, chose the remote learning model as a better alternative to classes at a typical brick-and-mortar school because she can better cope with diabetes problems. In a regular school, she recalled, she missed too much class time when she had to go to the school nurse’s station to manage her erratic blood sugar levels. “With home schooling, I can stop what I’m doing and check my blood sugar, and then start again where I left off.”
The program she’s in now, a tuition-free virtual public school, allows more flexibility, but still structured, learning environment. “The first year worked out very well,” she reported. She also credits her academic success to wearing a new Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring device.
Her school day starts soon after breakfast and continues with breaks until about 4 p.m. Her favorite subjects are social studies and science, especially space walks. “I want to be a scientist and I’d love to do a space walk.” She’d like to go to Cal Tech after high school. The Gomez family has lived in Corrales going on four years. Roberto Gomez is a pharmacist.
With the Connections Academy, he said, the curriculum is more structured and involves more face time with teachers compared to online programs his daughter had used earlier. “Homework” is accomplished differently as well. “When she’s finished with her lesson, she’s also finished with her homework,” he explained. “Built into the lesson is the paperwork portion of it.
“But there’s enough flexibility that if you wanted a little more tradition way, like doing homework after dinner, you could do it that way too.”
Another difference is in testing. There’s not a clear distinction between instruction and testing since testing is built in instruction. She finds that all subjects are equally well presented for optimal response. Her school program has integrated physical activities with options. Before the coronavirus pandemic reduced choices, she played softball all year around. “Now, we just do the softball practice here at home,” her father said, “and we log in and submit that information.
“Because New Mexico Connections Academy is technically a public school, they still have to follow New Mexico state standards which include PE for kids,” he added. As might be expected, “socialization” with kids her age is difficult under home school conditions. But she said she gets to interact with other students by participating in Explora program experiments.
She also enjoys interacting with other kids through the Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Club. “Before, she could do things like that, but with COVID, it’s even more difficult,” Gomez said. New Mexico Connections Academy teaches students in grades four through 12 in communities all around the state.
The Village Council will vote at its December 8 meeting whether to buy a conservation easement on the Haslam farm at the north end of the valley. That might have come at their November 10 session except that the appraisal for that purchase was not available to the public ahead of the meeting. Village Attorney Randy Autio and Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin admitted the oversight and said the appraisal document would be posted on the Village’s website immediately and would be included in the information packet for the December 8 council meeting.
The appraised value of the easement that would keep the land as agricultural open space in perpetuity came in at approximately $960,000. That money would be raised by the sale of general obligation bonds approved by Corrales voters in March 2018.
At the November 10 meeting, the Village Council unanimously approved issuing $2.5 million in municipal bonds for the purpose of farmland preservation —without specifically earmarking it for the 12-acre Haslam property. This past summer, the council approved taking an option to acquire the easement amid considerable controversy over whether the transaction would be the best use of those funds. A tie vote on the matter was broken by Mayor Jo Anne Roake.
Opposition arose over the Haslam farm’s lack of visibility from Corrales Road, especially compared to the iconic Trosello fields farther north. But it was thought at the time that negotiations for the Trosello farm would not be successful. In recent weeks, talks have resumed for the possibility that at least some of the expansive fields that have grown corn, chile and other crops in the scenic foreground of the bosque and Sandia Mountains might be saved from development as one-acre home sites.
That renewed effort came after three members of the Village Council voted against the option on the proposed conservation easement for the Haslam farm in July. One of the three dissenting councillors, Bill Woldman, told Corrales Comment October 29 that he had met with the Farmland Preservation and Agricultural Commission’s co-chair, Lisa Brown, to discuss that opposition and learn why the effort to save the Trosello tract had fizzled.
“She reached out to me about why I hadn’t voted for the Haslam easement, and so we had a walking tour of that farm. In the course of that, we discussed the possibility of some kind of joint operation of the Trosello fields.” Woldman recalled that “when voters were asked to approve general obligation bonds for farmland preservation, it was the Trosello tract that people were excited about. The Trosello field was the number one target for use of those funds, and about 80 percent of Corrales voters were in favor of that bond proposal. I wanted to know why nothing was happening with that.”
When Corrales Comment raised the same question to the Village’s negotiator, Michael Sisco of Unique Places LLC earlier this year, he said that the owner of the Trosello tract had lost interest in participating in the Village’s conservation easement program. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.10 August 8, 2020 “Farmland Preservation Easement Decision Explained.”)
He added: “We exhausted our options on Trosello before Haslam became a potential project.” At the November 10 council meeting, former Councillor Fred Hashimoto urged members to postpone any action on the Haslam proposal. He said he wanted to address the process, “not about any cons or pros of the Haslam proposal, which I don’t think is a particularly good deal, nor about the timing of a final decision on the proposal, which would make most sense to be done closer to June of 2021, the deadline Haslam gave.
“Tonight, I’m speaking about transparency of government and why the Haslam approval item should not be on tonight’s agenda,” Hashimoto continued. “An appraisal apparently has been done for the Haslam conservation easement proposal, but it has not been made available for public inspection and comment. It is neither in the meeting agenda packet nor on the Village website; at least as far as I and others can tell.
“Interestingly, the final purchase price is $960,000, which was the minimum, base price asked by Haslam. Months ago, a projected final price was about $1,200,000. One wonders whether a realistic purchase price might be lower than $960,000 and it was reverse-engineered up to meet the sellers’ minimum asking price. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but the public should be able to see the appraiser’s data, calculations and conclusions and perhaps comment on them before the governing body votes to finalize the deal.
“Not allowing public inspection of the non-confidential appraisal, which was paid for by public funding and concerns public funding, is not an example of transparency in government. Hashimoto said he had consulted with the N.M. Foundation for Open Government which confirmed that the appraisal should be public record.
“Because the appraisal has not been available for public inspection and comment, I request that Haslam approval item be tabled until such time when it has, or if you think the proposal does not fit the bill, reject it.” More than 40 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 could be issued without increasing property tax.
A key figure in that early effort was then-Councillor Sayre Gerhart, who explained its importance this way. “We have prime soils in the valley, limited in New Mexico and valuable to the state and to the country. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded conservation easements in Corrales, they did so to protect prime soils for agricultural use, all the more valuable for agriculture because of the superb water delivery system to the land.”
And beyond those values, she said, “We preserve farmland in order to preserve our lifestyle, our quality of life and our property values in Corrales.” She stressed the importance of issuing more general obligation (GO) bonds to preserve portions of remaining farmland. “The local GO bonds are critical for farmland conservation to make financial sense in New Mexico. First of all, the federal grant programs require a local match. Secondly, we have the highest land values per acre in the Corrales/Albuquerque area, so we need to bring cash to the table as an option for property owners.”
“We need to offer property owners an alternative, to provide a program over several years, decades, which gives an option to not develop the land. That is the vision behind the funding of the second GO bond proposal,” Gerhart explained. 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.
Corrales cases of COVID-19 have climbed ominously this month, reaching 74 as of November 15. The number rose from fewer than 60 in October to 63 cases as of November 10, and then up to 72 four days later. Statewide, the number of coronavirus cases reached 64,201 as of November 15, resulting in 1,215 deaths.
On November 14 alone, 1,180 new cases were reported. The state reached a record seven-day average of 1,170 new cases a day. In response, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered a strict lock-down of businesses for two weeks and ordered New Mexicans to stay at home except for essential outings. Hospital bed were reported filling up.
With Thanksgiving approaching, the governor urged New Mexicans to avoid family gatherings. “It’s not worth the risk,” she advised. Families that ignored that warning, it was suggested, might hold their following gathering at a loved one’s funeral. Corrales’ Emergency Medical director, Fire Department Commander Tanya Lattin, reported November 15 that “we currently have 74 cases, that is an increase of 33 cases in 31 days. “In the last 14 days, we have had 21 new cases with 11 in the last seven days. Sandoval County has had an increase of 1,362 in 31 days, 819 in 14 and 538 in seven days.
“I cannot confirm COVID deaths as they are not reported to me or anyone else in the Village; we only get the county death breakdown from the state.” Lattin said emergency medical calls to the Corrales Fire Department for critically ill patients continue to be transported to hospitals. “Our patients who need or want transport would still be transported but possibly not to their hospital of choice,” she explained, adding, “This is not new; it happens all the time in trauma cases.” Although the virus spread has been exponential in recent weeks, Lattin said Corrales first responders are sticking with earlier established protocols. “Nothing new in station’s protocols since March. We take the safety of the citizens and staff as the very most important thing we do.
“We handle every single call as a possible COVID-19 infection. We have N-95 masks which are standard on every call. We wear a cover over our N-95 so they stay cleaner and the cover mask is washed. Everyone also has access to full facemask P-100 or half-face with shield. They are mandated on any call that sounds like it could be respiratory in nature or may require aerosol generating procedures or COVID positive.
“Patients who can come out of their home are asked to do so. All patients are given a mask to wear. Dispatch also directs them to put a mask on before EMS arrives. On calls where COVID is a high probability, crew members must shower and wash clothes as soon as they are back at the station. We disinfect all equipment and bags after every call. The station is sanitized at least once daily.
“We currently have a good supply of PPE but I look for availability daily and order if it is available.” Lattin said access into the fire station is limited and must be approved by Fire Chief Anthony Martinez before anyone can come in. “On large calls or in the case of multiple calls at the same time, staff and volunteers respond and sign in after the emergency is mitigated. We have a health check and sign in for anyone entering the station.
“We have pulse oximeters for patients either COVID-positive or waiting for test results, if they contact us. We can also monitor pulse oximetry remotely if needed for patients if they or their physician requests it. I encourage everyone to think of your neighbors and your family. It takes us all following COVID safe practices to protect each other.”
A woodworking business on a recently C-zoned property along Hansen Road has been approved by the Village Council following an appeal by a nearby resident. Following a hearing November 10, councillors voted unanimously to uphold the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a site development plan for Dendro Technologies, owned by Rick and his son, Jacob Thaler at 4404 Corrales Road. At its September 16 meeting the P&Z commission unanimously approved the Thalers’ proposed site development plan on the condition that buffering walls for noise control be erected on the south, east and north sides of their property.
Commissioners specified that six-foot buffer fences would have to be erected within one year on the south and east sides and within two years on the north side. The primary piece of equipment for Dendro Technologies is a band saw that is used to cut slab planks to make furniture and other purposes. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 13 September 19, 2020 “Rick Thaler and Son Open Woodworking Business.”)
During the commission’s September session the primary concern voiced by nearby property owners was noise from the saw —and the subjective nature of the Village’s regulations on noise. Commissioners commended the Thalers for addressing neighbors’ complaints or concerns. Brian Whalley, who lives at 4372 Corrales Road, said his property “runs almost the entire length on the south side, we have had zero complications from the business and welcome it.”
But Antonette Roybal, the person appealing, lives at 43721/2 Corrales Road. She said the noise is “very annoying and it’s constant.” She said normal voice is about 50 to 65 decibels whereas the whine from the saw has been 95 decibels or above. That assertion was challenged by P&Z commission Chairman McCandless. She did not take decibel readings, but offered to provide an audio recording of the noise.
Rick Thaler said he had provided to the P&Z administrator a decibel reading made by an application on his iPhone after he had installed noise buffers. He said it showed “about 55 decibels on the south border when the saw was fully engaged and running. The 50-decibel sample is from Corrales Road on a normal day without the saw running; that’s the ambient noise on a regular day.”
In addition to erecting sound buffers, the Thalers had attached a muffler to the saw “which changed the frequency of the noise and made it less whiney. Before we added the sound abatement, standing right next to the saw we were at about 85 decibels, and standing south of the tin shed which is closest to our nearest neighbor, the sound was at about 65 decibels, spiking to 75 decibels. And now it spikes at 55 decibels” roughly the same level as traffic from Corrales Road, he said.
At the appeal hearing, Rick Thaler said he had used the band saw as a hobby for about a year and never heard that anyone was bothered by it. As a business, he said the saw would be used no more than three hours a day on any given day and even then, it would be cutting wood for periods ranging from about one minute to ten minutes.
Roybal told councillors the sound has decreased since the Thalers installed noise abatement measures, but that it is still annoying. She argued the business is industrial in nature, not commercial, and therefore not allowed.
In his remarks to the council, Thaler said a significant part of the conflict is that he mistakenly referred to the business as a “saw mill” in his request for P&Z approval. He regretted that description gave rise to fears about intended use of the band saw. “We’re not a lumber mill producing commercial quantities of lumber,” he explained. “We’re reclaiming dead and down and unwanted trees.”
If granted site development plan approval, he said he would erect an eight-foot high fence between the Dendro site and the Roybal residence. Another nearby resident, Michael Roake, husband of Corrales’ mayor, said they live about 350 feet east of the Dendro operation. He said he wants to promote business in Corrales but has two concerns: compatibility with the residential character and noise. “I did hear a whine once, and it was so distinctive and unusual it prompted me to take a look. If it is a question of noise abatement, I would welcome abatement to the east.”
Mayor Jo Anne Roake recused herself for the council’s appeal hearing. Thaler said he and his son are willing to erected whatever sound abatement is required, although they wanted to know whether they will be issued a business license before spending thousands of dollars on the fencing. “We were waiting to see if we were going to get our business license before spending another thousand dollars on sound abatement,” Thaler said. “We fully intend to do the sound abatement to the east. If we get a complaint from the north, we’ll do more there.”
At the P&Z meeting in September, several villagers spoke in favor of the site development plan, including former Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Claudia “Taudy” Smith. “He’s going above what our ordinances require so that they can fit in with the neighbors.” She said she has known Rick Thaler for 45 years. “This is exactly who we want in our commercial district.”
Should Village government take over Corrales Road from the state highway department? It’s a question that has re-surfaced every few years since Corrales incorporated as a municipality in 1971, and it’s back again. A public presentation will be scheduled for the near future to explain what might be involved if Village officials take up the N.M. Department of Transportation’s long-standing offer to give the road to Corrales.
That prospect was mentioned briefly at the November 10 Village Council meeting during Village Administrator Ron Curry’s report. He tied that possibility to more clarity regarding the Village’s financial situation. “It’s maybe out in the weeds, but I think it’s pretty exciting,” Curry prefaced. “We are getting to a point where we have got a lot of our accounting and finances to a point of reconciliation —where we are looking at fully engaging with our Tyler financial software— and how quickly that can get us to even consider taking over Corrales Road.”
Elected to the council in March, Zach Burkett said he was open to the prospect of Village government taking over Corrales Road, “but my biggest concern is maintenance on the road.” On the other hand, he noted that Loma Larga and other municipal roads receive funding from the state highway department.
Then-candidate Stu Murray, also elected in March, said he thought it would be a bad idea to take ownership of Corrales Road. “It will take millions of dollars just to re-pave it as it is now.”
Tyler Technologies produces the municipal accounting software package used by Village government. Curry said he expects to move ahead on talks with NMDOT on that possibility “sometime within the next 90 days, depending on what their schedule will allow, where they come in and talk about all the details and ramifications involved in us taking over Corrales Road.” Mayor Jo Anne Roake had little to add when asked November 12 for details: “The Village will be meeting with NMDOT next week, and we’ll try to set a date for a public presentation on the topic.”
For decades, Village officials have been reluctant to take over State Highway 448, Corrales Road, fearing road maintenance costs would be unbearable. On the other hand, the community would gain the ability to move ahead with long-delayed projects such as the pathway in the commercial area, speed limits and crosswalks. As in most previous municipal elections here, candidates were asked to explain their position on the Village taking over Corrales Road. In nearly every case, they expressed reservation about possible maintenance costs and liability.
By Meredith Hughes
One group riveted on the results of this election is Corrales Indivisible, created on February 15, 2017, and today comprised of 545 members in its Facebook group. The site states, in part, “We model the values of inclusion, fairness and justice.” Three of the many Corrales members who have been actively getting out the vote this year are Mary Ellen Stagg Capek, Terry Eisenbart and Bert Coxe.
Capek reported with some level of sardonic certainty that she had been mulling “Packing up our camper and moving to Canada,” if Trump prevailed. But her vision post-election is that she “will keep up the ‘town crier’ emails, with input from a lot of folks, and emphasis on local, county and state issues that will need a lot more of our attention. So we can get back to concerns like banning fracking and banning carcinogenic chemicals in public places, especially on school grounds.”
She also ponders how corporate interests may shift under a Biden presidency. “They’ve had free rein under Trump and in my opinion that’s why they took over the Supreme Court: to strip FDR and the Warren/Burger courts’ safety net and civil rights laws, sending us back to the roaring Twenties with no corporate oversight or regulations.
“So unless Biden packs the court, and soon, the focus of organizing and protests will have to shift to the courts.” She adds that it appears that “many Trumpers in his inner circle have given up winning, and their efforts are focusing now on making it much harder to overturn all those executive orders and policy changes they’ve been able to make protecting corporate interests and pillaging the environment. We will have plenty to do.”
Eisenbert sounds as fired up as ever. “After November 3, we’ll switch our energy to the upcoming legislative session. That is, as long as we don’t have to hit the streets to protest a president who won’t leave! “Corrales Indivisible is not going away no matter who wins,” she added. “We will fight on for progressive issues at the federal, state and local levels. We will continue to hold all our representatives accountable. As one of our steering committee members, Steve Conrad, said, ‘I’m just getting started,’ and we believe that’s how most of our members feel. I certainly do.”
“I can tell you that if Trump wins and the Republicans hold the Senate, I do think that we are in for darker times and a real serious move toward authoritarianism,” Coxe said. “There will also be a serious let down and a lot of personal depression if that were to happen. It will be tough to pick up the pieces and swing into action for the 2021 New Mexico legislative session.”
He went on to say that of the people he knew who were clinically depressed after the 2016 election, “The Women’s March and groups like Indivisible allowed them to come together to work toward something positive and feel better about themselves and their country. “The crazy thing is, that if Trump were marginally competent, and could at least fake empathy for the greater electorate, he probably could have coasted into a second term. A lot of the people involved in ‘the resistance’ would have not been able to keep up their energy for four years. It is really a testament of how miserable he is that we are even having this conversation.”
“A win by Trump, especially if he loses the popular vote by a big margin, almost a given, will drive home how truly undemocratic many of our country’s institutions actually are, from the Electoral College, to the U.S. Senate and the federal judiciary.” The Corrales entity is one of many inspired by Indivisible, today a national organization, which began in December 2016 as a 23-page online document written by former congressional staffers suggesting ways to peacefully resist what they viewed as the anti-democratic Trump agenda. “We have to build a democracy that reflects a broad, multiracial ‘we the people,”‘one that works for all of us and is sustained by all of us.”
What began as a document swiftly became “a movement of thousands of group leaders and more than a million members taking regular, iterative and increasingly complex actions to elect local champions. And fight for progressive policies.”
The preservation and maintenance guy for the Old Church, John McCandless, is not one to lounge about even as COVID-19 invades captivating Corrales. He reports that “The pandemic has impacted some of our preservation and maintenance activities, but essential maintenance has continued. The biggest impact so far has been on our revenue stream.
“With public gatherings out of the question, events such as music performances and weddings have been curtailed. The funds generated by these events help sustain our preservation and maintenance activities, so we’ve scaled back or postponed some plans. However, necessary work is continuing.” A month or so ago, some creature was spotted tossing odd bits and bobs up into the air from a hole in the ground just east of the church. On further inspection it was seen to be McCandless, who by necessity was ripping out some old plumbing.
McCandless explained that back in February with the help of Master Gardeners, Corrales Tree Preservation Committee members John Thompson and Don Welsh and the Village Public Works Department, “We planted 10 trees that were donated by Trees of Corrales. The process of setting up a system to keep them irrigated uncovered some weaknesses in the water supply system which kept me busy on a sporadic basis for several months. This culminated in the failure of the pressure tank, which filled the well pit with water and ruined some of the electrical components. Public Works helped by pumping out the pit and removing the old tank.” McCandless subsequently installed a new tank, pressure switch and piping.
Those usually involved with maintenance definitely missed the volunteer help typically available in abundance on Mudding Day, usually held in late April, yet another event canceled because of the pandemic. “In past years we have re-mudded the courtyard wall, cleaned up the grounds, oiled woodwork and cleaned the chairs,” he pointed out.
Still, with the help of Kathie Lehner, “we worked on taking care of these maintenance items until mid-summer when it got too hot for much besides the weeding. With the arrival of cooler weather I’ve finished plastering the wall and there are a number of small projects —patching exterior plaster on the church and repainting the windows— that I’ll be working on in the coming months, along with the eternal weeding.”
A needed project definitely shelved is the replacement of the floor in the Old Church. McCandless explained that the Historical Society board had been discussing various approaches to funding that enterprise, “but once the virus hit, we decided that it wasn’t the best time to approach the community for funds, and put the project on hold.”
According to McCandless, “the current floor was installed in the 1990s and refinished once in 2009 but is showing significant signs of wear and should be replaced sometime in the near future.” Ironically, as McCandless pointed out, “since the Old Church isn’t getting used these days there isn’t any additional wear and tear, so the urgency to do the work has decreased,” but at the same time, an Old Church devoid of people and events seems perfectly positioned for McCandless to get in there and get cracking on floor replacement. That undertaking is unlikely to occur for now.
A near-neighbor to the woodworking business Dendro Technologies at 4404 Corrales Road has appealed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a site development plan for it. The Village Council will hear the appeal by Antonette Roybal during its November 10 session. The business has been operating along Hansen Road by Rick Thaler and his son, Jacob Thaler. As with other parts of the council meeting, the appeal hearing is open to the public via Zoom by calling 1-669-900-6833 for meeting 865-1469-6536# and entering password 282288#.
The council meeting begins as 6:30 p.m. although no specific time is set for the appeal. At its September 16 meeting the P&Z commission unanimously approved the Thalers’ proposed site development plan on the condition that buffering walls for noise control be erected on the south, east and north sides of their property. Commissioners specified that six-foot buffer fences would have to be erected within one year on the south and east sides and within two years on the north side. The primary piece of equipment for Dendro Technologies is a band saw that is used to cut slab planks to make furniture and other purposes. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No. 13 September 19, 2020 “Rick Thaler and Son Open Woodworking Business.”)
During the commission’s September session the primary concern voiced by nearby property owners was noise from the saw —and the subjective nature of the Village’s regulations on noise. Commissioners commended the Thalers for addressing neighbors’ complaints or concerns. Brian Whalley, who lives at 4372 Corrales Road, said his property “runs almost the entire length on the south side, we have had zero complications from the business and welcome it.”
But Roybal, the person appealing, lives at 43721/2 Corrales Road. She said the noise is “very annoying and it’s constant.” She said normal voice is about 50 to 65 decibels whereas the whine from the saw has been 95 decibels or above. That assertion was challenged by P&Z commission Chairman McCandless. She did not take decibel readings, but offered to provide an audio recording of the noise. Rick Thaler said he had provided to the P&Z administrator a decibel reading made by an application on his iPhone after he had installed noise buffers. He said it showed “about 55 decibels on the south border when the saw was fully engaged and running. The 50-decibel sample is from Corrales Road on a normal day without the saw running; that’s the ambient noise on a regular day.”
In addition to erecting sound buffers, the Thalers had attached a muffler to the saw “which changed the frequency of the noise and made it less whiney. Before we added the sound abatement, standing right next to the saw we were at about 85 decibels, and standing south of the tin shed which is closest to our nearest neighbor, the sound was at about 65 decibels, spiking to 75 decibels. And now it spikes at 55 decibels” roughly the same level as traffic from Corrales Road, he said.
Another nearby resident, Michael Roake, husband of Corrales’ mayor, said they live about 350 feet east of the Dendro operation. He said he wants to promote business in Corrales but has two concerns: compatibility with the residential character and noise. “I did hear a whine once, and it was so distinctive and unusual it prompted me to take a look. If it is a question of noise abatement, I would welcome abatement to the east.”
Thaler said he and his son are willing to erected whatever sound abatement is required, although they want to know whether they will be issued a business license before spending thousands of dollars on the fencing. “We were waiting to see if we were going t get our business license before spending another thousand dollars on sound abatement,” Thaler said. “We fully intend to do the sound abatement to the east. If we get a complaint from the north, we’ll do more there.”
Several villagers spoke in favor of the site development plan, including former Corrales Planning and Zoning Administrator Claudia “Taudy” Smith. “He’s going above what our ordinances require so that they can fit in with the neighbors.” She said she has known Rick Thaler for 45 years. “This is exactly who we want in our commercial district.” The council’s decision on the Roybal appeal could not be reported in this issue.
An old farmhouse, considered one of the oldest structures in Corrales, has been designated a historic property by the Corrales Historical Society. The old residence at 4655 Corrales Road, now owned by Susanna Chavez and Doug Findley, was listed in the State of New Mexico’s Register of Historic Properties in 2010. “The Elias Martinez Farmhouse reflects its status as the home of a hard-working farmer who took advantage of existing walls to expand his home. It provides a window into Corrales before it succumbed to mid-20th century development pressures and helps tell the story of the village’s long Hispanic agricultural history,” according to the description for the State Register.
“The largely intact front portion of the house embodies how a remodeled old adobe home in a Hispanic village of the 1920s would appear. Most of the windows throughout the oldest sections date to the 1920s as do its doors, and the ceilings in the oldest part of the house feature milled board tablas.
“Although altered in the 1960s, from Corrales Road the house appears little changed from its 1920s appearance and is one of a handful in the commercial center of Corrales that retains an early appearance.” Referred to as the Elias Martinez Farmhouse, it is “a rare well-preserved example of vernacular New Mexican farm houses built during the 19th century and modestly expanded in the early 20th century.
“Elias Martinez, its primary owner, and the builder of the 1920s expansion, was a descendant of 18th century Corrales settlers, and farmed in the Corrales valley all his life. Although Corrales began to change after World War II when adventuresome newcomers discovered the quiet farming village, a sensitive remodeling done in the 1960s preserved the essential elements of the Martinez Farmhouse so that even now it reflects the architectural heritage of Corrales before World War II,” the description continues.
“Corrales’ recorded history begins with the Alameda Land Grant given in 1710 to Francisco Montes Vigil, a soldier in the Spanish army. Vigil was unable to settle on his grant as required by Spanish law, so sold it in 1712 to Capitán Juan Gonzales Bas who was then living in Bernalillo. The central portion of Corrales was reportedly bought from Gonzales by Salvador Martinez early in the 18th century.
“Little is recorded of Corrales during the first 150 years of its existence since it was not on the major trade routes along the river from Santa Fe; even by 1870 the census records only 141 households with 687 residents. Nearly all were farmers, ranchers or laborers. As the population grew, the land was divided into long, narrow strips, stretching from the river to the sandhills. Prominent Hispanic family names included Gonzales, Martin (or Martinez), Gutiérrez, Cordova, Chaves, Montoya, Armijo, Silva, Perea and Sandoval.
“European immigrants, mainly from France and Italy, began to settle in the village after 1860; several established extensive vineyards and Corrales became known for its wine and brandy production. By the 1930s many of the vineyards were gone, replaced by acres of orchards. These consisted primarily of apple trees, but also included cherry, apricot, and peach trees.
Elias Martinez, age 16, first appears on Corrales censuses in 1880 as one of four sons (Martino, Elias, Ardino and Carlos) of Cristobal Martinez and Guadalupe Gutierrez.… Elias is the owner of record of this property on both the 1927 and 1941 property appraisal records from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District. He was a farmer and the 1927 map shows his chicken pen, garages, a large garden, orchard and vineyards, and his corn field. “Corrales resident Dulcie Curtis told a historic building surveyor in 1981 that the house had been owned by one of the four Martinez brothers. She also told the surveyor that the house was considered by long time Corraleños as one of the oldest in the village.
“The front half of the home has seen relatively little change since the 1920s when a simple two-room addition was built into the 19th century L-shape of the house. “Historic information on the house is scant, but fortunately a student in Professor Bainbridge Bunting’s Architecture 261 class at the University of New Mexico wrote a paper on the house in 1967. The wife of the student author, James Bushman, had family connections with the Wood family who were living in the house at the time. Bushman surveyed the house, drew a house plan and details of some of its components, interviewed the Wood family, and spoke with Corrales residents about the house.
“The chronology of the house given in Bushman’s paper is that it was built in 1818 and added to in 1925; owners noted in the paper… were (in order) Bonifacio Carrillo, Donaciano Perea, and Elias Martinez who is said to have bought the property in 1914.…
“Martinez owned the property until his death in 1943; MRGCD records state that of the 3.42 acres adjacent to his home, 1.40 acres were in orchard and garden (including a vineyard) and an equal acreage in field crops, leaving .62 acre as the homesite. He also owned and farmed other narrow parcels bought from Donaciano Perea in 1914. Three years after his death, Elias Martinez’s wife, Antonia, sold their house to Christopher Fitzgerald, an Irish miner turned farmer who lived in the house until 1962 when he sold it to H. B. Wood. According to Corrales residents who knew Fitzgerald, he was cheerful and hard-working, but during his tenure in the old house it was beginning to deteriorate. Fitzgerald sold it to H. B. Wood in 1962 and Wood soon built the rear addition…. Wood’s daughter-in-law, Mary, sold the house to Susanna Chavez in 2004.”
Americans turned out to vote in record numbers for the 2020 general election in an unparalleled demonstration of civic participation. Whether the candidates you preferred won or lost, you and fellow citizens can take pride in an extraordinary achievement for our political system.
Although total vote counts could not be included in this issue, nationwide more than 90 million people had voted early or absentee for the November 3 elections. In 2016, approximately 138 million Americans voted in that presidential election. So even before election day 2020, early-absentee voters accounted for 65 percent of the total over all four years ago.
The Sandoval County Bureau of Elections reported that the early vote as of October 30 was 97 percent of the total number of the county’s voters in 2016.As of November 1, more than 700,000 voters statewide had weighed in, which was 86.8 percent of the total vote in New Mexico in 2016, setting a record for early voting. Statewide, early, unofficial tallies late on Election Day indicated victories for Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential contest; for Ben Ray Lujan in the race to take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Senator Tom Udall, and Democrat Deb Haaland to retain her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And Democrat Theresa Leger Fernandez was expected to take the U.S. House seat being vacated by Ben Ray Lujan. In the contest for the N.M. Senate seat being vacated by Corrales’ John Sapien, Corrales Democrat Brenda McKenna was the likely winner over Placitas Republican John Clark in partial returns Election Day, Corrales Democrat Daymon Ely was considered likely to retain the N.M. House District 23 seat. Corrales Representative Jane Powdrell-Culbert had been expected to keep the House District 44 seat, and did so.
For Sandoval County government positions, County Commissioner Jay Block, a Rio Rancho Republican, was likely to retain the District 2 seat, while the Sandoval County Clerk position was expected to be won by Republican Lawrence Griego, and Republican Benay Ward was expected to take over as Sandoval County Treasurer.
Democrat Barbara Romo was considered likely to win as District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District, replacing long-time DA Lemuel Martinez. Nationwide, nearly 92 million citizens had voted as of November 1, which is more than two-thirds of all the votes cast for president in 2016, In 16 states, more than half of eligible voters had already cast their ballots before Election Day 2020.
While candidates and all partisans can be excused for beating drums to drive their supporters to the polls, the fervor this election season has been extraordinary. Some of that enthusiasm, or desperation, comes from deep divisions about what serves the national interest, but some of it is a reflection of the personality of the current president, Donald Trump.
Partisan dividing lines have been clear, exaggerated and expanding for months, if not years. For some commentators, the fate of democracy itself is at risk. Precisely that was the warning from New York Times columnist Frank Bruni in his September 27 commentary headlined “America Is In Terrible Danger.” He wrote, “On Wednesday, Trump was asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he lost to Joe Biden. Shockingly, but then not really, he wouldn’t.
Bruni elaborated, “We’re in terrible danger. Make no mistake. This country, already uncivil, is on the precipice of being ungovernable, because its institutions are being so profoundly degraded, because its partisanship is so all-consuming, and because Trump, who rode those trends to power, is now turbo-charging them to drive America into the ground. The Republican Party won’t apply the brakes.” Some would scoff at Bruni’s alarmism, But the president himself made it clear he might not accept voters’ decision November 3. In July, he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that “We’re going to have to see what happens” when asked directly whether he would accept the 2020 election results.
He added: “I have to see. Look, I have to see. No, I’m not going to say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.” Of course, President Trump gained worldwide celebrity based on borderline outrageous, highly combative statements. But he’s unlikely to mount a serious battle if results of the November 3 election declare him the loser… other than possibly mounting a Bush-Gore style challenge following that presidential election in 2000.
In that case, a vote re-count was underway in Florida when the George W. Bush campaign successfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the re-tally, thus delivering Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to Bush. Florida is again a key battleground state, and now it has 29 Electoral College votes to cast.
Regardless whether the incumbent relinquishes the presidency if the final ballot count doesn’t favor him, partisan combativeness is likely to continue. Some observers have gone so far as to warn that a civil war is brewing. Among those is columnist Nicholas Kristof who just before Election Day wrote that President Trump “has left the United States a more turbulent and divided nation, one close to war with itself.”
Across the country retail sales of guns have risen dramatically ahead of November 3. More than 15 million guns were purchased between March and September this year, up 91 percent from the same period in 2019. While some of that rush for gun ownership is thought to be related to coronavirus insecurity, a strong current of anticipated political unrest is also involved.
And it’s not just “coastal elites” who are wailing about an underlying threat to democracy. In New Mexico, incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland told supporters November 1 that “Democracy, decency and sanity are on the ballot.… I’m running against lies, hatred and white supremacy.” Armed self-styled militia groups are organizing and mobilizing publicly in New Mexico and around the United States. So far, there’s no indication that violence will erupt in the days and weeks after November 3, but citizens seem to be preparing for it nonetheless.
A Bloomburg News report October 31 quoted a business security consultant as saying, “If Trump wins, our risk analysts, who look at this every single day, are expecting widespread mass anti-government demonstrations in every major city.” In some commercial centers, shopkeepers boarded up their windows anticipating violence following the election.
And yet, perceived threats to democracy and social stability already are being countered by outpourings of support for America’s political system. A full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times touted a “Democracy Declaration” signed by many of the nation’s leading educators. Signators included the president of the American Association of University Professors, an Alabama State University professor of history, a Duke University professor of public policy, a Harvard professor of government, a Penn State professor of atmospheric sciences, a professor emeritus of Arizona State University and a Rutgers professor of history, to list just a few.
The “Democracy Declaration” states “We the undersigned educators in pre-K through 12 schools, colleges and universities, representatives of schools across the United States, endorse democracy as a means of giving voice to each one of us, of expressing the dignity of each individual, of representing the values of our society, and of ensuring the lawful transition of authority.
“Every freedom depends on the freedom to vote. Each vote counts; count each vote.” A month earlier, another full-page ad was emblazoned with the headline “We’re 100% In For Democracy.” The ad was endorsed and paid for by dozens of corporations including Cummins, Gap, Lyft, Deloitte, Best Buy, Dow, Estée Lauder and Bad Robot Productions, among many others.
In a preview of what to expect in the months ahead, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said October 31 that victories in the 2020 election “will make historic decisions on healthcare, climate change and more, that will determine our trajectory for decades to come.”
As politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have said repeatedly this year, “this is the most consequential election of our lifetimes,” Heinrich said. “We must continue our fight until every person —no matter who they are, where they live, and what they do for work— has access to life-saving healthcare and medication.
“We must continue our fight until the next generation can breathe easy knowing they will have clean air, drinkable water and a habitable climate for them and their children.
“We must continue our fight until people of color no longer worry for the safety of their family, friends and loved ones at the hands of those who are meant to protect and serve.
“We must continue our fight until every American family can afford food on the table and a roof over their heads without taking on two or three jobs.”
Corrales Harvest Festival 2020 officially completed its first virtual event on Halloween with no final results as yet in the Pumpkin Palooza contest. According to the organizers, “there are some problems with hanging chads and we have late voters still casting their ballots.Therefore, The Supreme Court has moved the voting deadline to November 7.”
All involved indeed cheerfully await the final Palooza votes to be tallied, and are grateful to the Key Clubbers from Cibola and Rio Rancho High Schools whose hard work made the event happen. “They put their hearts and souls into organizing and promoting this event,” as Harvest Festival veteran Tony Messec put it. The contest featured 31 entries from kindergarteners through adults, and ranged from scary to beautiful. The contest has already raised over $200, benefiting the Key Clubs of Cibola and Rio Rancho High Schools, with more expected as ballots arrive and are counted.
And Corrales has a new Pet Mayor in Chip the miniature donkey, raising over $2,000 in the process, all going to further the Kiwanis Club of Corrales’ philanthropic goals. Additionally you can still learn about Corrales history via assorted Casa San Ysidro videos, still available on the Corrales Harvest Festival website. http://www.corralesharvestfestival.com “All in all, for an event which none of the committee knew how to put together, it went better than expected,” said Messec.
The Corrales Fire Department’s annual holiday food drive and collection of children’s presents is under way. “As we head in to the holiday season, things will be different this year to help keep everyone safe from COVID-19,” the Corrales Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin explained.
“We still have a need for food and presents for Corrales families, but cannot do a normal food drive and setup a “giving tree.” We will not have groups help with food sorting, food box setup or present wrapping. What we will be able to do as a community is help support those in need.” Lattin suggested that people who want to get gift tags this year, or to adopt a family for food, should contact her directly by calling 702-4182 or email email@example.com to learn what a child wants and needs.
“Since there will be a very limited number of people to make food boxes, if you would like to help supply food for families, donations of money made to Kiwanians Club of Corrales with the memo of Fire Department or ‘Food and Present Drive’ is the best way to help.
The Fire Department will be making orders of food online to supply to families. She explained that drop off of large amounts of food items to clean and sort by one or two people will be very difficult. The address to send checks is Corrales Fire Department, 4920 Corrales Road, Corrales NM 87048. “If you would like to wrap presents, we can arrange to get you presents to be wrapped at your home. If you have any questions, please call. For those of you who have been helping purchase food and internet for families in Corrales since March, we thank you again.”
The recently completed project to prolong the life of the 85 year old wooden culvert siphon that brings irrigation water into Corrales has dramatically transformed the north end of Corrales next to the river. The old barrel stave pipe that delivers water from the east side of the river to the Corrales valley has been threatened by the constantly eroding river bed since about 1974 when Cochiti Dam was built.
The river has washed away about 12 feet of dirt that originally covered the hydraulic siphon when it was laid in 1935. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXII, No.16, October 5, 2013 “River Bed’s Drop Disturbs Buried Irrigation Culvert.”) The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) studied options for a remedy, deciding to cover it with large rocks, arranged in a long line all the way across the river, forming a low dam that over time is expected to cause river water to drop silt and recover the wooden pipe.
Completed at the end of last month, the effect has been to create a mini-white water rapid as water crashes over the rocks for a drop of about three feet. But it also drastically has changed how people use the area for access to the river’s edge.
One of the most outspoken critics of the project’s results has been Corrales photographer Ken Duckert. In a series of emails last month, he questioned MRGCD Executive Director Mike Hamman about environmental, recreational and esthetic impacts. “I have many friends and family who have access to water delivered through local acequias and appreciate the effort, especially with these periods of drought, to deliver that water,” Ducket “The long-time tradition of farming in Corrales can only exist as long as water continues to flow through the acequias.
“For me, and I know for others, the scope of the project is something none of us were prepared to see. North Beach has always been a very special place because of its accessibility and its grand beach area that provided a rare riverside recreation area.
“Seniors and folks with disabilities had a good chance to experience the river without having to walk a long distance on a trail to access a beach area. Many of these folks just wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the beauty and serenity offered by the North Beach area.
“A few of my friends asked why the wood stave construction was not replaced in this repair. I imagine cost was an issue, but staying with the same 1935 year design and the predictable behavior of the river, isn’t the problem encountered this year going to return sometime soon?”
Duckert expressed concern that the river’s fish would be hindered by the rock dam, such as the endangered silvery minnow. “I've been able to discuss this issue with biologists at the University of New Mexico, and they explained that provisions can be made to provide for fish movement. The construction that I saw would require fish moving upriver to accomplish going over what looked like a four- to six-foot height from the downriver side of the dam. Are these fish shut out of upriver movement until the degradation and flattening of the rock dam you mention occurs?
“I haven't been back to the construction site since my visit last weekend and so haven't seen what plans you have for boaters. As a small business person here, I am concerned about losing the visits to the village from the boating community that used the North Beach site. On mornings during the Balloon Fiesta, I have seen well over 200 kayakers leave from North Beach area. Unless I’m wrong, it would appear that these folks will have to carry their kayaks some distance downriver to access a suitable place to put in the river. I’ve talked with Albuquerque outfitters. They had seen the construction and weren't aware of the scope of the project and were eager to come out to check it out.”
Hamman replied in an October 19 email as follows. “Here are the answers to your questions but first let me describe the purpose and importance of the project. The Corrales Siphon is a critical piece of infrastructure to the Corrales area and serves over 1,000 acres of farm land as well as creating the flowing water people and wildlife enjoy throughout the irrigation season.
“When constructed in 1935, the 5-foot diameter wood stave pipe supported by a timber frame was covered with 12 feet of riverbed. Since the construction of Cochiti Dam in 1974, the river has changed dramatically by narrowing and down cutting to the point that the top of the siphon structure became completely exposed after the high and sustained runoff of 2019. “If you have noticed when at the site, there are very tall cutbanks on both sides of the now very narrow (200 feet wide more or less) river channel and the river is leaving the Corrales bosque high and dry.
“To save this critical infrastructure, the MRGCD needed to act quickly as exposed wood begins to degrade rapidly so a grade control structure was constructed to stabilize the bed at an elevation approximately two feet over the top of the siphon.
“This is standard practice for stabilizing degrading river beds and we expect the federal agencies will be constructing more in this reach to help stabilize the bed elevation between the siphon and Alameda Bridge. Over time, the river will deposit sands and gravel and the beach area will return and perhaps become a much bigger area. Now on to your specific questions.
“1. The MRGCD planned, designed and constructed the project.
“2. There is no requirement for an environmental review as no federal funds were used and the District is exempted from federal 404 requirements given that this is an existing irrigation facility. We did, however, consult the proper federal agencies and they concurred that no formal actions were required.
“3. This is solely an MRGCD project but we did inform the Village of Corrales and the boating community of this project.
“4. The MRGCD left the far end of the rock structure in an ununiform condition and a flatter grade to allow for potential fish passage.
“5. A portage area is being constructed to allow for boaters to take boats around the structure at low flows. Over time, higher flows will flatten and fill in the rock structure so experienced boaters will be able to negotiate the weir. Warning signs and public information will assist boaters as to this potential hazard.
“6. The weir itself is complete but crews are placing fence barriers and other safety features and preparing parking areas.”
Duckert got the following response from UNM Biology Professor Tom Turner. “At low flows like we are experiencing now, the structure functions as a dam. Over time, and as higher flows move over the structure, it is designed to degrade into a riffle and act as a grade control structure to prevent channel incession. There are similar structures in place upstream to prevent head cutting This aggraded section will accumulate sediment behind it, covering the previously exposed siphon.
“Minnows could have a hard time making it over the current rock structure, but over time, they should be able to pass it easily. At this point, we do not anticipate the river to dry in the reach between Angostura Dam and Isleta Dam, so minnows should be able to tolerate the presence of the structure with minimal negative effects.”
At least 18 Corrales businesses have gotten grants of up to $10,000 in COVID-19 economic relief. And the deadline for new applications has been extended to November 10. The cap for such financial aid has been raised to $25,000 for each qualifying business, Mayor Jo Anne Roake announced October 30. Businesses already awarded $10,000 can now request an additional $15,000.
These grants derive from the federal CARES Act to help recover from economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. The local administrator, Tanya Lattin in the Corrales Fire Department, explained November 1 that “The Village of Corrales has re-opened the Small Business CARES grant program. Application period is November 1 to November 10, 2020. The State of New Mexico has given some new guidance on the grants; businesses may now have up to 100 full-time or part-time equivalents, and have revenue up to $5 million to be eligible.
“All business owners in Corrales are encouraged to review the application. Due to timeline for expenditure of all grant funding, this will be the final application period.” Questions should be directed to her by calling 702-4182, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said businesses that have operated less than a year as of March 1 could also qualify, “depending on ability to prove financial impact.” The kinds of business expenses that may be reimbursed through the grants include payroll, rent or mortgage, insurance, utilities and marketing, as well as “business re-design” which might include installation of plexiglass barriers, purchase of personal protective equipment and web-conferencing technology.
The program is open to non-profit organizations as well, and to Internal Revenue Service 1099 contract employees who live in Corrales. Application forms can be found at the Village of Corrales website http://www.corrales-nm.org. Completed application forms can be emailed to the Village Clerk at email@example.com, or by mail to Village of Corrales, CARES Grant, 4324 Corrales Road, Corrales NM 87048. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXIX No.13 September 19, 2020 “Corrales Businesses Can Apply for $10,000 Grants.”)
Chip, a five month old miniature donkey, is Corrales’ new Pet Mayor. The winner was announced Sunday, November 1 by organizer Tracy Stabenow, who praised the enthusiasm of Corrales pet owners, as well as donors to candidates’ campaigns. This year’s event raised $2,733, $200 more than last year, remarkable given pandemic restrictions. The money will stay in Corrales to help the two- and four-leggeds in the village.
All candidates are expected to pick up their ribbons and prizes at the Village Mercantile on November 7 between 2 and 4 p.m. The prizes were donated by the Village Mercantile. The first runner up, and new Chief of Police, is Archie, a 12 year old Anatolian shepherd and lab mix. Snickers, the second runner up and new Village Administrator, is a one year old American guinea pig. The third runner up is JoJo, an eight month old standard poodle who now takes office as the new Village Judge.
Finally, in fourth place, is the new Director of Barks and Recreation, Samson, a four year old Anatolian shepherd who graduated at the top of his obedience school class. Voting online for the 2020 Pet Mayor began September 1, and ultimately included 13 candidates, with Angel, Moonshadow, Stinkerbelle, Jacqui, Olga, the duo Jack-Jack and Moose, and Abigail Fae part of the field: nine dogs, one cat, two donkeys and a guinea pig.
The mayor’s new initiative to publicly recognize “local heroes” has produced the first three villagers to be so honored: historian Mary Davis, Red Cross volunteer Linda Crowden and Corrales Comment publisher Jeff Radford.
Mayor Jo Anne Roake started the program last month when in her weekly “Mayor’s Message” she wrote “Hats off to a local hero. Corrales resident and Red Cross volunteer Linda Crowden is in Baton Rouge distributing food and supplies for those devastated by recent hurricanes. Linda said she ‘really wanted to be out in the field, and has the background and experience to do my best for us.’ Thank you to Linda for her efforts.”
In the following Village Council meeting, Roake urged villagers to submit their own nominations to Corraleños who should also be recognized as local heroes. Quickly nominated were Davis, for her work with the Corrales Historical Society and books about Corrales, and Radford, for reporting on village affairs since 1982 and service on several Village commissions, such as the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission and Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission.
“Please keep the nominations coming,” the mayor urged. “Send the names of those neighbors who are helping to make the world a better place to firstname.lastname@example.org.” Davis, retired as head of the City of Albuquerque’s historic preservation program, has led the Corrales Historical Society’s archive program and has written two books based largely on that collection: Corrales Families Through Time and Corrales, published in April 2010 by Arcadia Publishing, which was part of the series “Images of America.”
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 email@example.com. 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.
By Scott Manning
According to Catherine “Cat” Keller, the Animal Control office has not received many coyote reports over the summer, indicating that the coyote population remains at stable levels. Animal Control officers consistently record animal complaints from Corrales residents to determine what areas of the village to patrol. Keller explained that this summer they have received an increased number of snake reports, but coyote reports remain low.
Keller suggests that coyote reports should remain low because the Bosque Preserve currently has a relatively small rabbit population. Rabbits serve as a source of food for coyotes, so coyote numbers should reflect the amount of food available in the environment. Keller mentioned that coyotes may begin to repopulate the Salce Basin along Sabebrush Drive now that construction on the flood control project has ended. Animal Control continues to monitor this region of the village.
In the long term, coyote populations have remained relatively constant in Corrales. Animal Control officers have had to drive coyotes out of certain areas to prevent them from establishing living habits in a single location. Coyotes dislike loud noises, so Animal Control officers clap their hands and run after coyotes to drive them out of the region. Keller explains that many coyotes here now recognize animal control units and leave an area when Animal Control arrives.
These animal control practices aim to discourage repeated coyote activities in a single area of the village, yet Animal Control never intends to permanently remove coyotes from the bosque or village. Coyotes are predators in the local ecosystem, and the removal of coyotes from the environment would destabilize the ecological balance.
Coyotes are generally uncomfortable around people, and Keller affirms that there have been no reports of coyotes attacking Corrales residents. But coyotes have been known to threaten pets and small animals. To keep pets safe, Keller recommends that residents accompany their small dogs outside at all times. Cats should not be roaming outside, and residents should avoid leaving food exposed. As a final precaution, chicken coops should be secured with fencing that is stronger than chicken wire because chicken wire will not provide adequate protection. Animal Control has not encountered a coyote problem so far this summer. But Keller suggests that residents take the necessary precautions to keep their animals safe.
By Meredith Hughes
Should the $4.7 million that turned up unexpectedly in the Village coffers the end of 2019 be spent to finally implement the long-envisioned pathway project along Corrales Road? Former Corrales MainStreet board member and one time active marketer of all things Corrales, Deborah Blank, was on it swiftly. September 4 she wrote the following to Sandy Rasmussen, executive director of MainStreet in Corrales: “I’m delighted to learn of our unexpected windfall of $4.7 million. I foresee quite a long and I hope productive discussion about how to use this magnificent sum. As someone who advocated and lobbied for the pathway, of course I put it at the top of the list of candidates for funding.
“I would like to let you and the board know that many people contributed to a pathway fund two years ago. This effort, which was tied to Starry Night, raised over $20K —a number of individuals (personal friends of mine) gave more than one thousand dollars. Although I’m no longer active on the board, I am frequently asked about the pathway, and in particular, what happened to the donations.
“Speaking frankly, if the pathway is not a major recipient of this traunch of surprise funds, I think that MainStreet should —no, must— return the donations. That is only fair to supporters. Also, an update on pathway status would be appreciated in the next issue of the Corrales Comment.” As for the pathway project, two summers ago MainStreet launched a separate website for it, specifically to invite involvement financially and otherwise from Corraleños, who did indeed respond, as Blank referenced in her letter of September 4.
In April 2019, however, then State Senator John Sapien strongly urged the mayor and Village Council to re-think their support for the pathways project through the business district here. “Please take a second look at that pathway,” Sapien pleaded at the April 23 council meeting. “I think that’s the wrong direction for Corrales.” His remarks came during state legislators’ briefings on the 60-day session of the N.M. Legislature. Neither he nor State Representatives Jane Powdrell-Culbert or Daymon Ely sought funding for the long-proposed pathway project, and none was appropriated. But the project continued to crawl along; it was first proposed 23 years ago as Village officials sought designation of Corrales Road for the federal scenic and historic byway program. After citing his concerns at the council meeting, Sapien closed saying, “I do ask us to slow down on this project.”
On July 24 of 2019, this was posted on the pathway website, http://corralespathway.org : “The Village is in the process of hiring a design consultant to complete construction documents for the first phase of the PAR (Pathway) project. This work will include confirmation of the Phase I limits, extensive coordination with the NMDOT, a high level of community engagement, and will also consider parking requirements for pathway access. The resulting documents will make the first phase of the project ‘shovel ready.’” The website does not appear to have been updated since then. Rasmussen responded to Blank’s September 4, 2020 letter this way. “I will gladly share with the board!
“As you know, we have been working with the Village and New Mexico MainStreet. We have an $80K contract with Steve Grollman to do the construction documents that are needed to apply for any funding. We also have had numerous conversations with New Mexico Department of Transportation, in which the Village has been on the call also, just asking them to please OK the use of crusher fine (already used in another NMDOT path project in Santa Fe, which is in another district) so that we can get the drawings completed and look for funds. “The Village administration has been very supportive but they are also frustrated with NMDOT, on other issues besides ours, too.
“It would seem simple to have the engineer just proceed and do the plans like we want them but if the NMDOT objected at that point, we would be out a large sum of money to then redraw plans. We are just as frustrated as you and your friends but we also do not have the authority or money to buy land to put it off NMDOT right-of-way. Maybe an article in the Comment could help or anger NMDOT; NMMS is trying to help also.
“I will also share your letter with the Administration…yes, some of that money could be nice for at least matching funds! Will keep you posted!” As of October 5, it still was uncertain as to when or how decisions on allocating the $4.7 million would be made.
A branding “tag line” for a marketing campaign by Corrales MainStreet will continue as a “deliverable” in its contract with the Village in the months ahead if funding is secured. MainStreet’s annual contract with the Village was slated to be taken up at the August 18 council meeting. In an August 11 email to Corrales Comment, Corrales MainStreet’s Sandy Rasmussen offered an update for the controversial branding exercise. “So we have carried the ‘branding’ into our contract for 2020-2021 with the Village (going before Council at the next meeting) because we could not complete it because of funding and this pandemic doesn’t help.
“The ‘Be Captivated’ tagline did come out of the committee suggestion process but maybe in a smaller group that was left at the end,” Rasmussen explained. “It is very hard to find a tagline that encompasses all that we have here!” She said one reason for selecting “Visit Corrales… Be Captivated” wording is that the committee was told the message needed to have a suggested action.
“JP Clement is a local resident and has a marketing business here. “He gave us ‘rules,’ and one was that it had to be an ‘action:’ so he still likes ‘Be Captivated.’ “That said, the board can now readdress it and go with it, or look at other options I guess. We are using it on our new website for now I think. We do have a number of new board members, so we can also run it by them. It was such a long process the first time I kind of hate to start all over. We have so many things we want to do and in the end I doubt ‘Be Captivated’ will keep people from coming here if we have things that interest them.”
Assuming the new Corrales MainStreet board of directors sticks with the tagline chosen last year, one of the next steps would be to hire a graphics designer to produce an image to accompany the wording on future marketing material. “We may ask for assistance from NM MainStreet if necessary because then we still have logos, colors, etc. to deal with,” Rasmussen said. “They have great resources for free to us and they just signed up a new revitalization specialist who is pretty awesome at graphic design.”
According to the proposal, an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 would be spent to use the slogan and image on signs, fliers, brochures and ads. The branding project is part of an ongoing program to attract visitors, and visitors’ dollars, to Corrales to achieve economic development. Aside from a presumed necessity to develop, the motivation is to generate more gross receipts (sales) tax to help pay for municipal services such as police and fire-rescue protection, road maintenance and library services, to name a few.
A months-long process to find a “brand” for Corrales came up with “Corrales… Be Captivated.” (See Corrales Comment’s five-part series starting with Vol.XXXVII No. 21, January 19, 2019 “Discovering Corrales’ Brand: How Will We Market Ourselves?”)
Decades ago, Corrales was best known in the metro area as a “speed trap.” That notion was reinforced by a large semi-permanent mini-billboard at the southern entrance to the village which read: “Drive Slow, See Our Village. Drive Fast, See Our Judge.” Both the origin and demise of that sign seem to have been lost in the mists of time. It probably wouldn’t have made a suitable tagline anyway.
The selected tagline was recommended by New Mexico MainStreet based on a series of public input, or brain-storming, sessions here. Early on, a final decision on the brand tag line was to be made by the mayor and Village Council. Corrales MainStreet’s Deborah Blank said the “branding” project which she previously led was initiated by Mayor Jo Anne Roake in 2018; it was among the “deliverables” written into Corrales MainStreet’s contract with the Village.
“Part of the marketing plan we have to develop is taking a look at who we think we are and what we have to offer visitors, potential new businesses and potential new residents.” Back in 2018, Blank said she thought villagers perceptions of who we are is “very fluid.” She based that on results of a survey among Corraleños asking them to define the community here. “The answers were, not surprisingly, all over the place, because we have so many aspects and expectations here. “It was interesting to me how broad the views were.”
Blank said those divergencies were probably related to how long the respondent had lived here, the person’s age and what aspects of the community the person valued most. “Because we offer so many varied opportunities for lifestyles here, people kind of picked out a favorite.”
Among the top descriptors mentioned was the rustic ambiance, mountain views and the bosque, she recalled. Blank said she was involved in a precursor to the branding effort which indicated the problem ahead. “We came up with a ‘vision’ for Corrales. The only problem with it was that it was all over the place… which is our problem. Which is why this ‘branding’ was a challenge.”
Corrales MainStreet, Inc. recently launched a fundraiser for local businesses it is calling “Starry Daze Business Booster Bingo” program. Starry Night, a gala usually held in late August or early September also to raise money for MainStreet projects, was nixed given obvious pandemically-dictated restrictions. The bingo project which runs until November 31, requires players to pick up a bingo card at any participating local business, and spend at least $25 there, thus earning a checking off of a box on the card. The instructions state: “When you have completed a row (or more if you are an over-achiever!) just turn it in with receipts and it will go into the drawing. Our goal is to bring $15,000 in business to the participating merchants and give away $2,350 in prizes. Have fun.”
To enter, you must go to the Corrales MainStreet office with card and receipts in hand, your name, email and phone filled in as well. Twelve gift cards, ranging from $100 per, to $500, comprise the prizes. MainStreet’s director, Sandy Rasmussen, further explained that “sponsors have agreed to provide funding for the prize money, a benefit for everyone. The balance of the costs is being covered by MainStreet, which makes this program available to business owners at no cost.” She can be reached by calling 480-1960.
By Meredith Hughes
A fractured pelvis and a broken elbow? A year before that, a compromised femur? These are mere blips impeding Nancy Butler, age 90, for whom movement and activity are all-important. One of her goals? To compete in ping-pong/table tennis in the 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, November 5-18. She’ll be in the penultimate age bracket then, 90-94… and her forehand is her best shot.
Thanks to her personal trainer, Maureen Healey, for whom she has high praise —“she is keeping me mobile”— Butler likely will make it. In fact, Healey, along with several of the volunteers at Seed2Need, the Corrales non-profit that grows food for distribution to local food banks, recently arranged for a “drive-by-plus-pie” socially-distanced birthday surprise for the indefatigible Butler on September 20.
Car after car slowly moved past Butler, seated out front of her home, people cheering, waving, hooting and hollering. A few days later, veteran master gardener Judy Jacobs welcomed Butler and celebrants to her place for pies, mostly blackberry. Not certain as to who made them all, Butler joked, “Penny Davis has enough pies in her freezer to feed all of us!”
Davis is the co-founder of Seed2Need.
In fact Jacobs is one key reason why so many have such affection for Butler. Several years back, after time in Santa Fe and Velarde, Butler made a beeline to volunteer for and learn from Judy Jacobs’ longtime garden project at Corrales Elementary School —on hold for now— and also became a stalwart at the Seed2Need project, where she digs, plants and harvests, usually two times a week.
Growing up in San Marino, California, where her father worked in real estate, Butler early on was a dog person. At age eleven, she was showing dogs, mostly cocker spaniels. As Butler put it, “I worked for a pet store, and in those days nobody paid much attention to my age.”
Her life-long dog involvement shifted to an Irish breed, the Wheaten terrier, so named for its bread-dough-like appearance, as in wheat, and for years she was a breeder. Her kennel’s name was Trigo, Spanish for wheat. “These dogs are smart, affectionate and have mostly positive terrier characteristics,” as Butler put it. As a mover and shaker with the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America, and its chair for 20 years, in 2019 Butler helped place 100 dogs in good homes. Thanks to her terrier club activities, she has received The Fellowship Award, the American Kennel Club Sportsmanship Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Two Wheaten Terriers live with her and her son, Michael, in Corrales. Hers is named Lark, her son’s, Gator. After California, where her older brother introduced her to ping-pong, Butler lived in Arizona, meeting her first husband at Arizona State University. Four children and some years later, she was divorced and working as a special ed teacher, which was her career until retirement at age 66. A second marriage also ended in divorce, but produced another son.
Five children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren comprise part of her joyful life, along with friends and activities. “What comes through so loud and clear at my age,” says Butler, “is gratitude.” A few years ago, she back-packed in Canada with one of her grandsons, and has done much travel in Mexico. And possibly influenced at least one offspring, her daughter, Laurie Blitz, to go the garden route. Blitz is involved in an Arizona “rent a plot” community garden project, the Mesa Urban Garden, established in 2012 and described as “a community organization that aims to create a gathering space in the heart of Mesa’s downtown. Our mission is to inspire sustainable urban living through gardening opportunities.”
In spite of pandemic restrictions, Butler is keeping up her ping-pong skills (“I am better than ever!”) playing with a friend in her Rio Rancho garage, as the Meadowlark Senior Center Table Tennis Club of about 25 people, is Covidly-closed. And she gathers with three to four close friends outdoors weekly to eat food picked up from local restaurants. “It’s just one way we keep our sanity.”
Crawfish étouffée, beignets, filet au poivre, food for fans of Louisiana is now being served up at C3’s Bistro, whose owners moved into the spot most recently held by Las Ristras Restaurant at Village Plaza, 4940 Corrales Road. Corrales’ Cajun Creole Bistro had its soft opening recently, and awaits a full service grand opening in 45-60 days once its wine and beer license has been secured. C3’s is already working with Ex Novo Brewery across the road to provide edibles to their customers.
The new restaurant’s owners have years of experience in food service, bought the traditional French restaurant P’tit Louis Bistro on Nob Hill in November, and once C3’s is fully launched, expect to open more than one location for an “all things waffle” venture called AJ’s Waffology. One of the owners said that “Corrales is known for supporting Corrales business,” so he jumped at the chance to open up at the Village Plaza.
Indoor dining now is at 25 percent capacity, with ten tables in place outdoors at the east end of the building. Posting on social media as C3’s Bistro, the restaurant is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Mondays. 398-9449. The bistro is a boost for Corrales as well as the plaza itself which in fact is for sale, listed by Collier International at $1,795,000. The 12,000 square foot property built in 2008 houses nine tenants at the moment.
An estimated $10,740,000 would be needed for municipal projects and upgrades, according to the Village’s recently approved Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan (ICIP). The Village Council adopts such a plan yearly. In theory, no project gets funded through the N.M. Legislature unless it is specified in such a plan. At its September 8 session, the council approved the latest plan which gives priority to the following:
• animal services equipment and facilities - $40,000;
• the Thompson Fence Line trail connection - $75,000;
• municipal parking facilities - $100,000;
• fire suppression - $2,155,000;
• residential roads and drainage - $1,225,000.
Farther down the ranked list of projects are:
• computer technology - $75,000;
• wastewater service connection - $1,000,000;
• repair and improve municipal buildings - $500,000;
• Parks and Recreation improvements - $100,000;
• stormwater and flood hazard mitigation - $1,500,000;
• Corrales Road Pathway Project - $1,510,000;
• firetruck and tender vehicle - $400,000;
• a Vactor truck to vaccuum liquids and slurries from pipes, tanks and ponds - $500,000;
• Planning and Zoning equipment - $40,000;
• Upper Meadowlark pathways - $320,000;
• Public Works equipment - $1,000,000;
• Performing Arts Center - $1,000,000;
• Fire-rescue substation for south end of Corrales - $400,000;
• underground utility lines for Corrales Road - $2,000,000;
• reflective traffic signage replacement - $250,000;
• energy saving improvements for municipal buildings - $50,000;
• design and install facilities to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act;
• Casa San Ysidro visitors’ center - $50,000.
The council’s resolution adopting the new ICIP noted that it “is intended that the plan be a working document and is the first of many steps toward improving rational long-range capital planning and budgeting for New Mexico’s infrastructure.” Many of the projects identified have been on recurring ICIPs for years while their rank has risen or fallen as other needs surface.
With the 2020 election in Sandoval County and the nation swirling and twirling towards the vote, political signs have been popping up around the village and environs. For reasons many find tough to comprehend, some people are either defacing or removing signs promoting candidates with whom they are at odds. Adolescent stuff? Frank Wirtz posted on social media late last month a tale that read in part, “There was, in our community, a rather over-zealous neighbor (Neighbor 1) who did not like one of the candidates. This neighbor, devoid of a sense of respect for the opposition and in cowardice fashion, laid siege to the candidate's sign with a knife in order to send a message to the candidate.
“Little did Neighbor 1 know that this actually served an opposite affect. Not only did this not discourage or frighten the candidate, the candidate's resolve strengthened. “In addition to that, some of the neighbors who were undecided in candidate selection realized the sort of person who might deface, steal, or damage someone’s property is not a good representative of the opposition. “One of these “other” neighbors, Neighbor 2, was a gentle soul, caring and full of empathy. Neighbor 2 tended to the injured sign and carefully nursed it back to health. Applying tape, and ministering to its wounds.”
On October 2, Bert Coxe emailed this: “I have seen the reports on TV about Trump signs being vandalized in and around Albuquerque. However, I personally am only aware of Biden signs being taken —especially those taken from people’s yards in Corrales and Rio Rancho. “Corrales Indivisible and the Sandoval County Federation of Democratic Women (SCFDW) had printed and purchased 200 signs and placed them throughout Rio Rancho and Corrales. I am guessing that, by now, at least 50 percent, costing more than $1,000, have been stolen. Last night, approximately ten signs were stolen from homes along West Ella in Corrales, including two at my house, one of which was screwed into my wooden fence.”
Norm Dawson, of 1247 West Ella Drive, weighed in, too. “One of the residents on West Ella was putting up a homemade sign, and the Corrales police showed up and said a person on another street saw someone taking away signs. That person got a picture of the vehicle’s license plate and informed the police.” Other residents said that “a red truck came down their street and those within were taking all the Biden signs. A neighbor happened to be outside and asked his wife to dial 911 while he took down their license plate number. The police came and took a report.”
“Since the signs were on their properties, removing them is a crime. The police asked these folks who had signs taken if they wanted to prosecute and they all said yes.” Corrales police indicated October 5 that the identified suspects were teenagers, and noted that their victims asked for apologies and an opportunity to speak with them and their families.
For the first summer since it was acquired by the Village in 2008 to be preserved in perpetuity as farmland, the 5.5-acre Gonzales field is almost fully growing crops. Approximately two-thirds of the Juan Gonzales Bas Heritage Farm west of Wells Fargo Bank is being cultivated for produce. After lying fallow or growing only cover crops for years, the acreage considered the centerpiece for Corrales farmland preservation program is leased to Silverleaf Farms which is selling to growers’ markets, grocers, restaurants and once a week to customers via drive-thru at Milagro Winery.
The farmers, Aaron and Elan Silverblatt-Buser, had been waiting for the Village to install an irrigation well and pump so the land could qualify for organic certification. They were concerned that use of ditch water for irrigation would not allow such a designation.
When Corrales Comment encountered Aaron Silverblatt-Buser at the farm September 30, he explained the well was installed in mid-August, so they did not plant seed until early September. “That was a week or two later than ideal, but we went ahead with fall crops, mostly vegetables in the cabbage family,” as well as watermelon radish and others.
Including the heritage farm, Silverleaf now has about 18 acres under cultivation, all of it in Corrales. Silverblatt-Buser said he understood that the last third, adjacent to the Corrales Acequia irrigation ditch, may be planted by members of a 4-H club. Preservation of the Gonzales tract, which had remained in the ownership of descendants of Corrales’ founder, Capitán Juan Gonzales Bas, since 1712, could determine the valley’s character far into the future.
The long-anticipated closing on the purchase of the Gonzales family’s parcel came September 29, 2008. Discussions about the purchase of the tract by municipal government went back more than five years. The purchase was made possible by villagers’ approval of general obligation bonds specifically for farmland preservation in 2004 and by grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While the Village owns and manages the land, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, based in Santa Fe, holds the conservation easement on the parcel and will be responsible for its long-term monitoring and legal defense. The Gonzales property was part of the original 1710 Town of Alameda land grant from the King of Spain. The grant of more than 100,000 acres was made to a corporal in the Spanish army, Francisco Montes y Vigil. But the soldier was unable to meet conditions of the grant, so the land was sold to Capitán Juan Gonzales Bas in 1712.
The Village’s outright purchase of the Gonzales parcel, adjacent to La Entrada Park, represented a major shift in the community’s farmland preservation effort: for the first time, the municipality actually owns the land, not just an easement on land that saves it from non-agricultural development. So as landowner, Village officials must get involved in farming decisions: who, exactly, will plow, plant and harvest? Before the Village’s acquisition, the Gonzales family had leased the land to Gus Wagner, who directed Corrales’ most active farming operation.
The 5.5 acres purchased had been the site of the Wagner family’s corn maze and pumpkin patch a little earlier. However, the Village’s 2008 purchase did not include the front three acres of the Gonzales tract, adjacent to Wells Fargo Bank, whichhad been zoned for commercial use since the early 1980s. It remains zoned for an office complex.
On August 31, 2004, by a margin of nearly 5-to-one, Corrales voters approved issuance of municipal bonds to buy conservation easements on farmland here to keep it out of development. The bond election was the culmination of a 33-year commitment by villagers to keep their community rural. Corrales became the first municipality in the state to approve bonds to save farmland through purchase of conservation easements.
Cast your ballot —carefully. A lot’s at stake in the 2020 election, and it’s not just a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Despite the current president’s persistently low approval rating nationwide, many Corrales Republicans chagrined by Trump’s antics and attitude will vote for him nonetheless for reasons that include a concern that the nation is moving toward socialism. And some Corrales Democrats will vote for Biden hoping that it is. The latter see an urgent need for universal health care, economic fairness and regulations on activities and industries substantially contributing to climate change and accompanying hardships.
Those are not the only top-tier issues that may be —partially— addressed in results from the 2020 elections, so candidates’ positions on gun control/Second Amendment rights, women's reproductive choices and other hot-button topics will be closely examined.
The League of Women Voters’ election guide is an excellent resource. Nationally, pundits, columnists and news analysts have warned that our very form of government is at stake. columnist Thomas Friedman, for example, advised, “I can’t say this any more clearly: our democracy is in terrible danger —more danger than it has been since 1861, more danger than after Pearl Harbor, more danger than during the Cuban missile crisis or Watergate.”
On October 2, columnist George Will called for cancellation of the next presidential debates. “The national interest —actually, national security— demands that the other two scheduled mortifications, fraudulently advertised as debates, should be canceled.” No one knows how Trump testing positive for COVID-19 will influence voting which began by mail October 6, nor whether he actually will refuse to accept election results if he loses.
Published in this issue are Corrales Comment’s candidate profiles for local races, based on taped phone interviews. Over the past 37 years, this newspaper has presented those profiles in the edition just before election day. But this year, due to intense interest in early and absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, this material is offered in early October.
In Corrales, early in-person voting is done at the old Community Center, behind the Corrales Senior Center, east of Wells Fargo Bank, Mondays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting October 17 and available through October 31. Mail-in early voting started October 6.
For absentee voting, the cut-off date is October 20, Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin pointed out. He anticipates that all in-person voting on election day will be at the Corrales Recreation Center, southwest of the post office.
In the first presidential debate September 29, candidate Trump repeatedly warned viewers that a vote for his rival would lead inexorably to socialism and threaten America’s greatness. For his part, Biden carefully avoided any tinge of socialism, although clearly it has been the biggest controversy within the Democratic Party since “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders energized millions of potential voters in the run-up to the June primaries.
An e-mail blitz from the Republican Party of New Mexico October 5 attempted to rally supporters, warning, “Socialism has infiltrated the Democratic Party and is being pushed by far-left politicians across the country…, Vote red at the ballot box to defeat socialism and save our country!”
This election will fill all of New Mexico’s congressional positions as well as all seats in the N.M. Legislature and two members of the N.M. Regulation Commission. Below are profiles for Republican and Democratic candidates running for seats in the N.M. Legislature and Sandoval County government. All candidates were interviewed except for the Libertarian seeking the N.M. House District 44 seat, who declined.
Presented here are those seeking to replace the Corrales Democrat, John Sapien, who is not seeking re-election in N.M. Senate District 9: Placitas Republican John Clark and Corrales Democrat Brenda McKenna; N.M. House District 23: Corrales Democrat Daymon Ely and Albuquerque Republican Ellis McMath; N.M. House District 44: Corrales Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Rio Rancho Democrat Gary Tripp; District Attorney in the 13th Judicial District: Rio Rancho Democrat Barbara Romo and Los Lunas Republican Josh Jimenez; Sandoval County Commissioner District 2: Rio Rancho Republican Jay Block and Rio Rancho Democrat Leah Ahkee Baczkiewicz; Sandoval County Clerk: Democrat Anne Brady Romero and Republican Lawrence Griego; and Sandoval County Treasurer: Republican Benay Ward and Democrat Jennifer Taylor.
Corrales voters may be giving more attention to hotly contested races for seats in Congress, such as the battle to replace retiring U.S. Senator Tom Udall and that being vacated by now Congressman Ben Ray Lujan who is instead running for Udall’s seat in the senate. But ample —perhaps more than ample— exposure has been given to those candidates Corrales voters will see on their ballot: former television weatherman Republican Mark Ronchetti and Ben Ray Lujan vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated; and New Mexico’s Third Congressional District race with Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez and Republican Alexis Johnson.
Lots of other entries appear on the ballot, including seats on the N.M. Supreme Court and N.M. Court of Appeals and the N.M. Public Regulation Commission. Candidates for those positions were not interviewed by Corrales Comment. Candidate profiles are presented here in the order in which they were available for interview by phone.
N.M. Senate District 9
Placitas Republican John Clark faces Corrales Democrat Brenda McKenna to replace current Senator John Sapien, who is not seeking reelection. In recent years, Sapien won narrowly in a district considered pretty evenly split.
A Nambé Pueblo member and Corrales resident since 2018, Brenda McKenna is currently a field representative for Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
If she wins the District 9 seat, one of her priorities will be assuring a tuition-free college education for New Mexicans. She also favors universal pre-kindergarten schooling for all three- and four-year-olds. Among other policies, McKenna wants a faster transition to clean, renewable energy. “We need to incentivize the use of electric vehicles through an EV tax credit that increases the lower your household income is.”
She pointed out that “New Mexico ranks second in the nation for solar potential and 12th for wind. The recent Energy Transition Act will lead our state to close to 9,000 clean energy jobs by 2030 and over $4 billion in investment, and slow down climate change. Let’s make sure some of those jobs are in our senate district.” The candidate lived abroad for much of her youth since her father served in the Navy and Air Force during the Korean and Viet Nam conflicts. After high school in Pojoaque, she earned a degree in psychology at Syracuse University and later a master’s degree in organizational development from Central Washington University in 2001.
She has had a long-standing interest in government and public policy, working as a part-time lobbyist in Santa Fe from 2013 to 2018. Among the causes she championed: a ban on coyote-killing contests. “I know how things work in the Roundhouse.” She is also an advisor to Wildlife Conservation Advocacy Southwest. McKenna has served as public relations director for the central New Mexico chapter of the League of Women Voters.
The decision to run for the state senate was “a natural progression for me. I’m a long-time Democratic Party volunteer, and was a precinct chair for years when I was in Bernalillo. Folks had asked me before to run for office, and this year I finally said, ‘okay, I’ll be serious about this because they obviously see something in me and they think I’m good for the job.’” Plus, she added, “We need more women in the senate and more Native Americans.”
In the party primary in June, McKenna took nearly 50 percent of the vote in a three-way race, winning over two other Corraleños, Ben Rodefer and Kevin Lucero. She is aware that her contest this time is likely to be close. “We know that the general election is a brand-new race, and it will be a challenge. We accepted that a long time ago. We’re determined to keep this seat under Democratic leadership.” If elected, she expects to have to “shore up our recovery from the pandemic, especially assisting small businesses.’
She said she would work to protect funding for education, which will be tough given precipitous drops in oil and gas revenues. She supports gun control measures such as the “Red Flag” law passed by the N.M. Legislature which would allow a law enforcement officer to temporarily remove a firearm from someone considered a danger to him or herself or others.
“I’ve lost six family members or friends to gun violence,” McKenna said. “Domestic violence and firearm violence are sensitive issues for me. It’s something I care a great deal about. And when we go out, to fear being shot by a stray bullet. “The ‘Red Flag’ law is now on the books and it’s a very good start, but it may need some refinement. At least it shows that New Mexico is serious about curbing gun violence.”
The Democrat said she would work to diversify New Mexico’s economy so that it does not remain so dependent on oil and gas revenues. That would include encouraging renewable energy as well as legalizing recreational cannabis use. “That would be one source of tax revenue that would be helpful to us, as well as revenue from wind technology.” But she’s cautious about proposing a moratorium on fracking for oil and gas “because that’s an important source of revenue and that’s the industry that many New Mexicans work in. Having a plan for renewable energy grounded in science and the technology to do it is the way forward, but we just need to be politically willing to do it.
“I’m really excited about wind technology. I like the leases that SunZia recently signed with the State Land Commissioner. New Mexico has some of the best wind assets in the country, so we need to utilize them.” The State should facilitate expanding broadband internet service, she suggested, especially on tribal lands. “I’d really like to help remedy that.”
McKenna hopes she can attract support from independents as well as Republicans in her bid for the Senate District 9 seat. “I’m the leader that the district needs,” she said. “I will not be outworked and I will be accountable.” The candidate promised to hold town hall style meetings before and after each session of the legislature “to explain what I voted for and why.”
Describing himself as a conservative businessman, the Placitas resident says he’s “running for public office to thwart partisan politics and to prevent government over-reach and control of our businesses, schools, liberties and inalienable rights.”
After a career with Hunter Douglas window coverings especially around Atlanta, he moved to New Mexico in 1994 to start a related business, JC Blinds, “and to live a dream in a place I believe has the most breathtaking sunsets and best weather in the nation.”
The candidate said he lived in Corrales for six months; “it’s a nice bedroom community that I know it is very safe. But you can’t say that about Albuquerque. We have a rampant crime problem that needs to be addressed. I’d never want to see any kind of legislation that would make it easier for people to sue police officers. That would make it more difficult for police officers to do their job correctly. I would never vote for legislation that would do away with conditional immunity.”
Cutting crime will lead to more economic development, Clark contends. “If we have lower crime, we’ll be able to attract more and more business to New Mexico.” That, in turn, would allow younger New Mexicans to find good jobs here rather than relocate out of state, he said. Clark earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Northern Colorado, during which time he was a legislative intern for Colorado State Senator Al Meiklehohn.
“I will certainly not raise taxes. I’ve already signed a pledge not to raise taxes, so my constituencies can rely on me not to raise taxes. I will vote against any legislation to raise taxes.” He said state officials need to commit to protecting the environment, although he said he supports development of all energy resources, wind, solar, coal, oil and gas… we need it all.
“We’re pretty dependent on oil and gas; they drive out state’s economy, and employ a lot of people. Clark said he wants to see New Mexico rank big nationally for good factors, not negative ones. “I don’t want our state to be last any more. I want us to be first in something. We could be number one in the country in retirement if we offered incentives for people to retire here.”
That would mean eliminating tax on Social Security income, he said, “and we would have to do away with income tax, at least for people over 65 years of age. “Those are just some ideas; I don’t know how they would fly in the legislature because I’m just a business guy. But you know what? We need incentives to get people to move here. As we get more people to move here, that will also create jobs.” Clark said he is “pro-life” and pro-oil and gas. “I don’t think the science is in on any negative effects from fracking whether it’s detrimental to the environment. I’m willing to listen to both sides, but right now I’m pro-oil because I’m pro-New Mexico.”
The candidate is opposed to legalizing recreational use of marijuana, although he supports use of medical cannabis. “I think that system runs incredibly well in this state. I think medical marijuana is fine, but I don’t want to see legalized recreational marijuana. We already have problems and don’t want to see more problems because we make it easier for people to smoke weed.” Clark rejects proposals for gun control, citing his own permit for concealed carry of firearms. “I am pro-Second Amendment, and the right of everybody in this country to bear arms.” He said he is not particularly familiar with the “Red Flag” law adopted by the State Legislature although “I don’t support any infringements on our fundamental constitutional rights.”
The candidate said people tell him they are “deeply concerned about the direction our beautiful state is headed. New Mexicans say they want to step up and fight against this anti-American movement, but feel defenseless, voiceless, and don’t know how or where to begin. I accept the volunteer duty of standing in the gap for New Mexicans, to become a stong, effective voice in the senate.”
Clark pointed to his long business experience as a strong reason to vote for him. “My business experience tells a lot. If you want to find out how I would perform in this seat in the senate, you can look at the reviews for the way I’ve run my business for the last 27 years. That would be indicative for how I would run that seat. “Regardless of whether people vote for me or not, they are going to be my constituents because I plan on winning. I’m going to treat them just like I treat my customers.”
N.M. House District 23
Incumbent State Representative Daymong Ely, a Corrales Democrat, faces Albuquerque Republican Ellis McMath.
After his daughter, Brenda Boatman, ran unsuccessfully against Daymon Ely for the House District 23 seat in 2018, Ellis McMath wants a chance to unseat him. And basically, he’d like to undo just about everything his opponent has done in the legislature. McMath is a retired air traffic controller, having started that career in the Navy. He grew up in Albuquerque’s west side Paradise Hills community and went on to Eastern New Mexico State University in Roswell.
He spent 22 years with the Federal Aviation Administration, but soon signed up as a reserve officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He is also an instructor for concealed-carry firearms. His Democratic opponent was a key backer of the legislature’s “Red Flag” law which allows guns to be temporarily confiscated from a person procedurally determined to be a danger to himself or herself or others. McMath is steadfastly opposed to that.
“The ‘Red Flag’ bill, in effect July 2020, is just the beginning of an unlawful gun grab by Daymon liberals,” he argues. “My opponent is the one who got it pushed through.”
McMath said he supports “permitless carry of concealed handguns for those not prohibited by federal law to own a gun. Criminals fear armed citizens more than the police.”
He contends the new law is unconstitutional and “puts law enforcement officers at risk.” If elected, he would work to repeal the “Red Flag” law. “Thirty of the 33 sheriffs in New Mexico say that is not a good law. It puts law enforcement at risk because they are given a court order to go unannounced into someone’s house who has not committed a crime to take their guns away from them. You can imagine how people might react to that.”
Asked to indicate other contrasts between his candidacy and that of his opponent, McMath explained, “Employees should have the right to decide for themselves whether to join or pay dues to unions. States with right-to-work laws increase employment more than union states and have a higher median income.”
“Education freedom will equal wiser kids. We should allow open competition between education providers. Money should follow our children, not institutions. Vouchers or tax credits should be issued allowing parents to choose public, charter, private or home school options.”
“Abortion law reform. Abortion has become a human trafficking issue. Albuquerque is known as the late-term abortion capital of the USA. Young teenagers are transported into Albuquerque without their parents’ knowledge. This is a human right issue.” If elected McMath would work for legislation to restrict late-term abortions and prohibit such procedures without parental notification.
He would like to see New Mexico’s gross receipts tax eliminated, as well as state tax on Social Security income. “I’ve been told that the gross receipts tax we have here is a real job-killer. The way we do it amounts to a triple tax, so that’s a reason why businesses choose to locate in neighboring states like Texas and Arizona. “Another thing I’m upset about, and a lot of people are upset about is that Ely has pushed for a law that would not allow right-to-work. That kind of legislation is a reason why New Mexico is lagging in economic development.”
He sees a need to reform the state’s licensing procedures to make it easier for people to enter the work force. As it is now, he contends, the licensing process for such professions as landscaping are designed to suppress competition, favoring those who already have the state-required permits. “Licensing was supposed to raise the quality of services, but these licensing laws protect those who already have licenses from competition.
“Daymon Ely is all about supporting unions. That’s a difference between him and me.” The candidate said he does not favor legalizing recreational use of marijuana at this time. “I’m currently opposed but trying to keep an open mind. We need to study the data from other states like Colorado and California to see what impact that might have here on our work force, our health and criminal justice.” McMath says he would be a voice for conservative values in the N.M. House, holding down state government spending and repealing laws that restrict freedom. “When government takes more money, citizens’ freedoms suffer.”
If he wins another term as representative for House District 23, Corrales Democrat Daymon Ely says it will be his last. When he first won the seat in 2016, he said he did not intend to stay in it long.
“It’s not because I don’t like the job. I do, very much. But I like my wife even more,” he said last month. Since he was elected, Ely has become a major force driving progressive issues, including ones that infuriate conservatives. New Mexico’s “Red Flag” law, for example, probably would not have passed without his advocacy for it. “That’s a bill that’s going to work when people start to realize what we’re doing.”
He has also been a strong proponent for legalizing recreational use of cannabis. “We spend lots of money locking people up for marijuana. Those same people, if they crossed the state line into Colorado, wouldn’t even be arrested. I have been the sponsor every year for de-criminalizing marijuana. I think we’re getting there. I think this will be the session when it happens.”
An attorney in private practice, Ely proudly points out his specialty is suing other lawyers. “For the past 25 years, the majority of my work has been litigating against lawyers.” While serving as a Sandoval County commissioner from 2000 to 2004, he was the County’s lead negotiator for a deal that produced the largest industrial revenue bond in U.S. history for a $16 billion expansion of Intel’s operations here. In the legislature, he considers his major accomplishments to include creation of a state government ethics commission that was “40 years in the making” and criminal justice reform.
The Democrat was born in Philadelphia, but his family moved to Arizona shortly thereafter. He was a history major when he graduated from Arizona State University in 1979. He earned a law degree there in 1982, the same year he moved to the Albuquerque area.
Ely did labor law and contract work for a law firm and then set out on his own in 1989. Creating pre-conditions for good paying jobs has been a major interest since he was dismayed that his son had to leave the state for employment. In the state legislature, he sponsored a bill authorizing $400 million in loans for local businesses hit by the pandemic.
One of the main campaign issues for his opponent, Ely said, is retaining the state’s law making abortion illegal. “He is against us de-criminalizing abortion, and I’m for it.” In the next session of the legislature, Ely expects to help pass a bill that gives legislators more control over the governor’s emergency powers during crises such as the spreading coronavirus. Among his accomplishments in the House, he pointed to streamlining the Public Employees Bargaining Act. “That was a big deal because it will give employees and public employers the ability to reconcile differences.”
The candidate said he has devoted a lot of time to criminal justice reform. “I’m not a criminal lawyer, but on a bipartisan basis, we are working hard to develop a system that, for the 94 percent of people who enter the criminal justice system who are going to be back on the street, we want programs that help them not go back to prison and have productive lives. “Believe it or not, the Koch brothers are good on this issue, because they see locking people up forever is a waste of taxpayer money.”
Another recurring interest is internet broadband accessibility, he said “What I’m working on right now is trying to develop better broadband access for the whole state —not fiber optic, because that’s too expensive and too time-consuming. What I hope we can do is help a New Mexico business put up floating dirigibles at a fraction of the cost, which, if it works, gives everybody internet. That would be a game-changer for New Mexico.”
Ely acknowledges that Republicans dislike his strong advocacy for unions. “I really have been, because ultimately, it levels the playing field. I recognize that unions have not had the greatest reputation over time, but there really isn’t any substitute for levelling the playing field.”
Ely wants to explore subsidizing wind and solar power projects in the short term so that later, taxes on those projects on state-owned lands can replace revenue to the State from oil and gas. “That way we would not be so reliant on oil and gas to replenish the State’s permanent fund.
“I am not in favor of having a complete tax overhaul right away, because the danger is unintended consequences, so you have to do it in little bites.” He described his opponent as a lock-step conservative Republican, while “I would say I am between a moderate and progressive Democrat.”
House District 44
Corrales Republican Jane Powdrell-Culbert is seeking a tenth term representing N.M House District 44. She faces Rio Rancho Democrat Gary Tripp and Rio Rancho Libertarian Jeremy Myers. The Libertarian declined to be interviewed for a candidate profile, saying “I’d prefer not to do that.”
A former principal at Rio Rancho High School, Gary Tripp is running for the House District 44 seat with objectives that include improving education, bringing corruption under control and setting term limits for legislators. “In contrast to Jane, I’m a candidate that would like to represent the people, but to serve a limited time. I’ve always believed in term limits. Control in government becomes unbalanced when one stays too long.”
If elected, he said, “I will propose to other legislators that we have term limits in government.” He suggested that might mean a limit of eight years in any body of government.
Tripp said he would like to assure that interests of New Mexico’s business community get consistent attention in the legislature. “We need to stay highly engaged with our business partners. I’d like to see a weekly, or at least bimonthly communications link with small businesses in District 44 to discuss ideas that would help them grow.
“I think it’s happening now, but I could make it happen consistently and often.”He speaks highly of his opponent, adding that when he was principal, he invited Powdrell-Culbert to be the first guest speaker at an annual dinner 15 years ago. Tripp, raised in Las Vegas, has 38 years as an educator in New Mexico, starting at Moriarty High. He earned a degree in education from Highlands University in 1984 and his master’s in administration in 1987. After his 17-year stint in Moriarty, he became Rio Rancho High’s assistant principal shortly after it opened, followed by appointment as principal a year later.
In 2004, Tripp was hired as executive director of the N.M Activities Association. After nine years there, he returned to education, serving as principal at Zia Pueblo’s elementary and middle school from 2012 to 2015.
In 2015, he was appointed chief of staff for the Rio Rancho School System’s superintendent. That led to his current position with Cooperative Educational Services, assisting teachers gain administrative licensure. He resigned from that position December 31, 2019 to run for office. “I’m running because I have things to offer. I’ve always been a relationship-builder, and I’m a work horse. Being a person of humble beginnings, coming up from poverty, that’s something I can offer.
He noted that about 42 percent of the State budget is devoted to education, so he would like to see legislators devote 52 percent of their time on assuring education is improved. “We need to have a strategic plan and stick to it,” rather than shift every time a new governor is elected. “I’m not a fan of fracking or of oil and gas,” the candidate pointed out. “I think we can diversify our economy with renewable energy sources.”
He would emphasize promotion of financial literacy for children in kindergarten through high school. “I think we would have less people in poverty in the future.” The candidate said he has been giving a lot of attention to the issue of marijuana use since launching his campaign. “I would vote for legalizing recreational marijuana. Talking to firemen and police officers, the number one issue they face routinely is alcohol use, not marijuana use. It’s a big problem with drinking and driving and domestic violence.” “Vote for me because I’m just like you, and I will get up and work for you every day.”
Seeking voter approval for a sixth term as Representative for House District 44, Jane Powdrell-Culbert wants to finish infrastructure projects she’s worked on for a long time, such as the Highway 550 corridor through Bernalillo and improvements for Loma Larga and Corrales Road.
But she’d also like to change the kinds of assistance provided to law enforcement. “How can we better protect the law enforcement community as well as our own communities?” she asked, referring to the national turmoil over accusations of police brutality against African-Americans. “Everybody’s scared now. That’s real prevalent.” For youth today, relationships with police are far different than they were 50 years ago, she explained. “What we had back then is not working now. We’re dealing with a whole different set of attitudes toward law enforcement.”
Powdrell-Culbert suggests the State might consider requiring that psychological evaluations be given after an officer has worked in tense settings for five to seven years. She said it’s common for an agency to administer such a test when an officer is hired, but it might be necessary for a re-evaluation years later when he or she may have become jaded by chronic exposure to stressful confrontations. Albuquerque-born, she was one of the nation’s first black women to be hired as a stewardess for a major airline. But that career was short-lived when she encountered racial tension in Chicago where she had gone for training.
By the mid-1970s she was the wife of a Washington Redskins defensive end, living in Reston, Virginia. By 1978 she was divorced and back in Albuquerque working for Lee Galles in public relations and advertising. Shortly thereafter, she worked in public relations for the Albuquerque Police Department.
It was in that role that she became a public figure. When Garrey Carruthers won the governorship, he appointed her as executive director for the N.M. Commission on the Status of Women. She resigned from that position in late 1989 when her new husband, Army Reserve officer Clarence Culbert, Jr., was assigned to duty in the Washington, DC area. She was hired by the National Rifle Association to travel nationwide advocating gun safety from 1993 to 1996. By 1998, the couple was back in New Mexico where Colonel Culbert went to work for Intel; they moved into a home on Corrales’ Richard Road. In 2000, she ran for the House District 44 seat and won.
The candidate has made a point of bipartisanship and finding common interests. “Over the years, we’ve had feuds between Corrales and Rio Rancho, Rio Rancho and Bernalillo and Corrales and Bernalillo, but my focus has always been on what we all have in common. I want to work on things that affect the entire region.” She said she works really well with the Democratic Representative for District 23, Daymon Ely, since they both seek bipartisan solutions.
“I’m good at what I do and I love doing it,” the candidate said. explaining why she’s running again. This time she has both a Democratic and a Libertarian who want her seat. “I had more experience coming into the legislature than either of these guys has. My two opponents can’t even come close to my experience.”
While funding for education continues to be a priority for her, “over my five terms, pay for teachers has really increased a lot, and our facilities are generally up to date. Now in order for us as a state to move ahead, we need to get better parental and guardian involvement.” That could help remedy the situation that now requires teachers to spend 60 to 70 percent of their time on discipline, she contended. Powdrell-Culbert does not support legalizing recreational marijuana, which she considers a “gateway drug,” and she would repeal the new “Red Flag” law for guns.
13th Judicial District
The current long-time DA for counties that include Sandoval, Democrat Lemuel Martinez, is not seeking re-election. Democrat Barbara Romo is running to replace him, opposed by Republican Josh Jimenez.
As Chief Deputy District Attorney for the 13th Judicial District that includes Corrales, Barbara Romo points to her 24 years as a prosecutor that yielded a number of high profile convictions. She had been an Assistant DA since February 2011 before she was appointed chief deputy in 2014. She earned her law degree in Nebraska in 1995; her first job was working in the DA’s office for Sierra County. In 2001 she worked as a prosecutor in Santa Fe where she handled crimes against children. Romo left to join a non-profit, the Victims’ Right Project, for two years representing crime victims.
If elected, one of her main goals would be to secure better funding for prosecutions in the three counties that comprise the district, which has seen spill-over crime from the greater metropolitan area. She expects to be successful because she already has relationships with legislators. She intends to be a hands-on DA. “My management style is to be in the courtroom a lot. I believe in leading by example.” She has prosecuted more than 100 jury trials, one of which involved the killing of a Rio Rancho policeman. While she was lead prosecutor in that case, “I have the supervisory experience necessary as well.”
Romo said she will address the ongoing issue of turnover within the DA’s office. Retention can be improved by determining salaries based on merit and experience and by implementing quality-of-life programs that allow employees to take more time for their families. “We’ve lost a lot of talented people who move on to greener pastures. I want to make the 23th Judicial District the greener pasture that everybody wants to come to.”
She intends to fill several positions that have remained vacant due to budget constraints. The office should have two investigators, but one of those positions remains unfilled, she said. “I truly believe I am the best person for this job or I wouldn’t be running. I’m ready to lead the district from day one. I’ve got a proven record of success. “This is something I feel strongly about, and I know I can make a difference.”
As a Deputy District Attorney in the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque from February 2018 to October 2019, Josh Jimenez secured convictions for murders, voluntary manslaughter and property crimes. He’s now working in a private law practice.
But he also has experience in the 13th Judicial District, in which he hopes to be elected DA. He worked in the current DA’s Belen office from October 2016 to February 2018. That involved supervising 10 attorneys and 11 support staff. “I assigned all criminal cases and approved proposed plea agreements,” the candidate explained. The candidate earned his law degree from the University of Idaho in 2010, three years after his bachelor’s degree in economics at Brigham Young University in Provo. He was a Mormon missionary in California from 2002 to 2004.
He said he decided to run after realizing the inefficiencies in the 13th District after learning how the DA’s office in Albuquerque is run. “I found myself thinking about the surprising inefficiencies and what could be done to modify the way things are done in the 13th Judicial District,” Jimenez said. “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Some functions just aren’t being done well the way his opponent manages the DA’s office, he contends. “I don’t know whether this is happening because she was told to do things that way or because that’s the way she wants it. When I was there, it was such a nightmare trying to get discovery information collected. “We would request police officers’ video recordings, but sometimes it wouldn’t be turned over in time. In one case, it wasn’t turned over until after the case went to trial.”
Jimenez said he has a lot of experience working on drug court cases in Valencia County. “To the extent possible, we tried to avoid incarceration. It really bothers me that drug court has been under-utilized. While I was there, I did see a noticeable drop in cases being referred to drug court.” Similarly, he would like to see more use of pre-prosecution diversion without taking cases to trial. “I don’t know that we’re maximizing that potential. It’s something we can do for first-time offenders.”
At the same time, he’s critical of what he called a tendency to “catch-and-release” those apprehended. “We do have people who are a danger to the community, so we need to file cases and get those people in front of a judge.” Jimenez said protecting children would be a priority if he wins the DA position. “We need to think outside the box to cut crime in this area.” He said that would include improving methods of identifying children at risk. He asks villagers to “vote for me for better prosecutions and safer communities.”
Sandoval County Commission
Incumbent Republican Jay Block of Rio Rancho faces Rio Rancho Democrat Leah Ahkee Baczkiewicz in the race for the District 2 seat on the Sandoval County Commission.
Elected after he retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel at Kirtland Air Force Base in 2016, the incumbent Sandoval County District 2 commissioner seeks another term. He now works as a nuclear weapons consultant and in private industry where he has helped his firm triple in size since 2016.
“As an officer in a very technical field for over 20 years, I had to look at lots of data and metrics, and think through issues to solve problems to accomplish the mission. I was able to do that successfully by working with others to get the job done. This is what I have done on the commission, working with Democrats and Republicans to get things done for the county, and I will continue to do that in a second term.”
A New Hampshire native, he joined the Air Force Reserves just out of high school. He later earned a degree from North Dakota State University in 1995, followed by a master’s degree in 2001. In his military career, he served as a nuclear policy officer in the Pentagon and volunteered for a combat tour in Afghanistan 2005-2006 during which he organized humanitarian missions in the Kabul area.
As a commissioner, Block has made a special effort to give a quarterly briefing to the mayor and Village Council regarding issues before the commission. Most recently he followed up after the meeting with a joint news conference with the mayor and the Fire Department to show off a $56,000 trailer to use in the Bosque Preserve to incinerate forest litter to counter wildfire threats. He has also helped deliver “Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funding for two businesses here, the Ex Novo brewery and Ideum.
The candidate has pushed to establish a new veterans’ cemetery in Sandoval County. He has also delivered funds for the Corrales Arts Center and Corrales MainStreet’s pathway project in the commercial district. Block was chosen by Common Cause New Mexico for its local government award in 2018 for his efforts for ethics and transparency. He said his priorities for a new term will be public safety, economic development, roads such as continued improvements for upper Meadowlark, and a new animal shelter.
Leah Ahkee Baczkiewicz
The Democrat challenging the incumbent for the District 2 seat on the County Commission is home health care therapist Leah Ankee Baczkiewicz who disagrees with him on multiple issues. She is currently vice-chairperson for the county Democratic Party, and serves on the party’s state central committee. She is a 2018 graduate of a program training women to run for office.
Ahkee Baczkiewicz was raised in Cuba within the Navajo heritage. Her mother is from Ojo Encino, west of Cuba, and her father is from Shiprock. “I decided to run for a seat on the Sandoval County Commission primarily because I don’t feel that I, and many others, are adequately represented by the current commissioner for District 2.
“He has supported resolutions that do not align with our values.” One of the biggest contrasts between her views and those of her opponent is concern for the environment, especially regarding water resources and response to climate change. “I believe we are going through a climate crisis in the Southwest. We need to save our water resources.”
“Our ecosystem is primarily a desert where water is scarce; our warming planet is putting this precious resource in jeopardy.” A key response, she said, is to “work with State government to encourage renewable energy sources to move away from oil and gas extraction. “I live in Rio Rancho, and there is a lot of land west of here where the commission was catering to oil and gas exploration. Of course, that would possibly bring fracking.” Another disagreement involves support for unions. She opposes what she refers to as “right to work… for less” provisions before the commission. “I definitely believe workers should have the right to organize for better wages and safe work spaces. I have a history of having a union fight for us when I worked in the Roswell school district.”
She described as “volatile” the commission’s designating Sandoval County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” “I would not agree with that,” she pointed out. “I believe we need regulations on firearms. I am not against guns, so that’s not the issue.” The candidate supports the State’s new “Red Flag” law allowing police officers to temporarily remove a gun from the home of someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. She entered the occupational therapy profession through a program at Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell where she was working toward a degree in education. “I got diverted,” she explained. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years now.”
Sandoval County Clerk
Anne Brady Romero, the Democratic candidate to replace the current Sandoval County Clerk, is now Chief Deputy Clerk. Her opponent in the November 3 election is Republican Lawrence Griego, who has more than 14 years’ experience in county government.
Anne Brady Romero
Having worked in the Sandoval County Clerk’s office for more than a decade, the candidate is now Chief Deputy County Clerk and considers herself ready for the top job. She has been second in command for more than seven years. Among innovations she has overseen have been the recording of documents on line and improvements in the County’s Bureau of Elections.
“One of the things I’d like to implement if I’m elected is a new Native American Advisory Committee made up of the Pueblo governors or their designees.” Among the topics they might consider is use of mobile voting units that would visit Pueblos and other rural areas. “I would like to implement that so we can go out and register people to vote. “And if we do get the voting unit, I would like to use it in Rio Rancho and other communities for voter registration and information and collecting ballots.”
Another priority for Brady Romero is to make sure that all voting sites comply with provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. “Hopefully, when I am County Clerk, that will happen.” She pointed out that, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Pueblo officials are “very hesitant to allow people into their pueblos, which I completely understand, since I am a cancer survivor who went through all that last year during which I was able to work the entire time.”
The candidate said she is confident that voting for this year’s elections will not be vulnerable to attack. “That is all controlled by the N.M. Secretary of State, and she has done a terrific job preparing for the elections. I don’t think there’s going to be any problem.
“But rather than standing around waiting to vote on election day, you can request an absentee ballot which will be mailed to you. You can then research your candidates and then fill out the ballot and take it to any polling place or early voting site. The Secretary of State assures us there will be secure ballot drop box where both a Republican and Democrat will be stationed.
“If you’re not comfortable putting your ballot in the mail, you have that option which is phenomenal. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve already requested my absentee ballot.” But anticipating heavy voting for the 2020 election, officials have agreed to halt vote counting at 11 p.m. November 3 and resume the following morning since “mistakes are made when people are tired.” Brady Romero said she’s the best choice for County Clerk “because I know the job. I have the experience and dedication for it. I promise transparency and honesty.”
The man who wants to become Sandoval County Clerk, Lawrence Griego, grew up in Alameda but says he has deep roots in Corrales. He explained he is a direct descendant of Corrales’ founder, Juan Gonzales Bas. He is now in the County Assessor’s Office where he has served for nearly 15 years. His father had worked there for more than 20 years.
His family has owned property in Corrales, Rio Rancho and Cuba for decades. “I’m running for Sandoval County Clerk to protect election integrity,” the candidate said. “Voter fraud comes in many forms and as your chief election officer, I will make sure our votes are protected against election abuse.” He said if elected, he will “inform all county residents of the importance of voting and voter fraud prevention.” Griego said he would clean up the voter rolls to weed out “deceased people, people that have moved, duplicates, dogs, cats, etcetera.” For other functions in the Clerk’s office, he said he will streamline record-keeping and assure records are accessible. He said the office does not currently have them available on line.
In the Assessor’s office, he uses the same software package, Tyler Eagle, as that implemented in the Clerk’s office. After graduating from the Menaul School in Albuquerque, he worked for a printer toner cartridge firm, but when that firm merged with a copier business, he was laid off. Seeking a new opportunity, he was hired into the Sandoval County Assessor’s office, initially on a temporary basis.
Over the years, he gained certifications and then a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from National American University in 2013. After completing a course with New Mexico State University, he became an instructor for a professional development program for public sector employees. Griego says if he is elected County Clerk, he will clean up its voter rolls and “stop the dangerous practice of ballot harvesting” which he described as a suspect method by which people gather up completed ballots and deliver them to ballot boxes.
He said he was not aware that this had actually happened in Sandoval County. The candidate supports the proposal that every voter in the county be sent an application to request an absentee ballot. “The absentee ballot application process is safer than universal vote-by-mail because the voter is still required to complete and submit an application before a live ballot is mailed.” Griego urged voters to cast their ballot for him to have confidence in secure and protected elections.
Sandoval County Treasurer
The deputy County Treasurer, Democrat Jennie Taylor, wants to move up to the top position, while a Republican working in the County Assessor’s office, Benay Ward, wants it as well.
Sandoval County Deputy Treasurer Jenny Taylor intends to coax more returns from the County’s $24.3 million investments and see what can be done to bring in what is owed from the 18,855 properties in the county that are in arrears for property taxes.
Taylor said, “The total dollar amount that is delinquent is $11,434,511.54” as of 2019. Even so, she explained, the Treasurer’s office “now has the highest collection rate we’ve ever had.” She went to work in the Treasurer’s office as administrative assistant in November 2017 and rose to become Chief Deputy Treasurer in February 2019. After graduating from high school in West Denver in 1993, she attended Colorado Christian University and then the Metro State College of Denver.
In New Mexico, before joining the Treasurer’s office, Taylor was an office manager, operations manager and private investigator for an Albuquerque legal services company, Ancillary Legal Support and Investigations, from 2008 to 2017.
She has lived in Sandoval County nearly 20 years.
If elected in November, Taylor intends to manage the office so that the property tax rolls are cleaned up and financial transactions are better protected. A way to do that, she said, is to make sure payments from the treasury are legitimate. “We now send out thousands of check every month, so I want to make sure there’s less chance of fraud.” Taylor urged voters to choose her because “I have the experience, knowledge and integrity that the job requires.”
The challenger for Sandoval County Treasurer, Republican Benay Ward, contrasts her candidacy with that of her opponent by pointing out she has a master’s degree in business administration and nearly 17 years experience in county government. But most of it was in San Juan County where she was quality control supervisor for the assessor’s office there. She and her husband moved to Rio Rancho two and a half years ago.
From 2017 to 2019, Ward was office manager for the N.M. Engineers and Surveyors Board. She is currently unemployed. “With my experience and dedication, I will bring to this position a common sense approach for the common good. I will take action with the highest standard of professionalism and in a timely and effective manner.”
In a campaign statement, Ward defended the necessity of property taxes. “Property taxes are the backbone that keeps local governmental entities functioning. Without this revenue, things like schools, colleges, police departments, fire departments, the judicial system, jails and community programs would not receive sufficient funding. “Taxes are understandable, but inequities and injustices are not.” If elected, Ward intends to fill vacant positions so that the office runs more smoothly.
“It needs to be fully staffed so we can improve customer service.” She understands criticisms that she does not have experience in Sandoval County. “I sometimes hear that it’s a put-off that I didn’t work in this county, but San Juan County, like Sandoval, is a Class A county with the same requirements.” Her bachelor’s degree (2010) and master’s in business administration (2016) were earned through N.M. Highlands University.
The League of Women Voters of New Mexico launched its statewide voter guide on September 15. Vote411.org provides information on national and statewide candidates, much of it in English and Spanish. This will be in addition to the league’s regular four area printed editions, which will be published later this month. The league successfully launched an earlier version of Vote411.org for the primary election in June.
“This is an ambitious project for us but aligns with our goals of providing excellent, non-partisan voter education and information about the election process,” said state LWV President Hannah Burling. “Now that many people are voting by mail, we wanted to get pertinent information out to them as early as possible.” “We have reached out to candidates all over the state. We have sent them questionnaires to provide voter information. We want this to be an easy to use way for voters to make good decisions about the candidates they want to support,” said Voter Services Chair Diane Goldfarb.
“It is a user-friendly program. Just click on Vote411.org and enter your street address. And Vote411.org will show you everything on your ballot, including all candidates plus explanations of constitutional amendments and state and county bond questions,” Goldfarb explained. Vote411.org is a free service provided by the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.
Former Corrales Comment summer intern Stella Asmerom was praised by U.S. Senator Tom Udall earlier this month when she completed an internship with his Washington DC office. During her tenure working virtually with Udall’s D.C. office, Asmerom worked closely with the legislative team.
She is the daughter of Yemane Asmerom and Lisa Gerber of Corrales, and is a graduate of Albuquerque Academy. She is a rising sophomore at Harvard University where she is studying economics with a minor in government. “U.S. Senate interns gain invaluable experience as they learn to navigate our nation’s legislative process,” Senator Udal said. “I applaud all of our interns who, despite having an unconventional, ‘virtual’ internship due to the global pandemic, found many ways to contribute to my office.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Stella this summer. I hope she finds her experiences during this internship rewarding, and I wish her the best of luck as she continues her studies at Harvard and embarks on a successful career.” Asmerom also issued a statement. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work for Senator Udall’s office this summer. Despite the virtual format, I was still able to learn and become involved with every aspect of the legislative process.”
“I’m leaving this internship with a strong appreciation for the work done by Senator Udall’s office and a renewed commitment to remaining involved in my community. I want to thank everyone on staff for being so welcoming and supportive throughout my internship.” Outside the classroom, she is involved in mock trials, swimming and is an active community volunteer.
Work is expected to continue on the Upper Meadowlark project in the months ahead, starting with curbing and landscaping along the north side of the road. Originally, that is where a paved bike lane and pedestrian path were envisioned. Now, both an equestrian trail and a multi-use bike-pedestrian path are under consideration for the south side of the roadway.
The long-delayed project was discussed at the September 8 Village Council meeting. In recapping, Councillor Dave Dornburg told Corrales Comment, “We are looking at costing the work that remains, and then determining what funding we have available. First will be curbing and landscaping to hold the hillside. The second part is a pathway, w hich will include villager input for alternatives.
“I am currently envisioning a single multi-use path on the south side of the road. Original plan proved unworkable, so simpler probably is better, and still meets the aim of a safe pedestrian trail offset from the road and traffic.
“We are not planning on re-pursuing federal Department of Transportation funds. We think we have options to fund these phases, but time will tell.
“Stay tuned; there is much to be learned and decided in the near future,” Dornburg said September 9. During the council meeting discussion on the annual update of a Infrastructure Capital Improvment Plan, he suggested the Village’s right-of-way along the south side of the road could accommodate the paths. “Back in the day, the whole project was to have been constructed including the road, the paths, the curbing and all the other stuff, we had all the money we needed with the exception of the part [that required Americans With Disabilities Act approval along the north side of the road], so the decision was made to do the road as you see constructed with the understanding that if we could get [the north side bike trail] back into ADA compliance, it’s likely we would be able to get that funding back.
“But we’re not going to be able to go down that road, so that’s why we have to fund the rest of the project separately.” Mayor Jo Anne Roake suggested the Village may be able to get funding for the remainder of the project through the state highway department. “The project was split up into parts, so we’ll just have to go with it that way. We do have a plan, and we’ve been very successful in getting Municipal Arterial Project and road co-op funding, so when we get to that last portion with the path, I think we’ll be okay.”
The mayor said the Village is unlikely to get any capital project funding from the state legislature next session. “I did ask the director of the N.M. Municipal League what our chances were of getting any money this year for capital improvement projects, and he said ‘zero.’
“That doesn’t mean we are not going to be at the ready, and we’ll keep re-sorting this list [ICIP] to be ready to take advanage of funding that is available.” Earlier this year, Village Administrator Ron Curry said he anticipated that another round of public comment and brainstorming will be needed to begin a new plan for the bike and horse trails.
When the proposal began more than a decade ago, its primary goal was to construct a bike path connecting Corrales to Rio Rancho along upper Meadowlark. That was funded by the Mid-Region Council of Governments, but Village officials turned the money back when upper Meadowlark residents objected that funding was insufficient to address anticipated stormwater drainage problems into their adjacent property.
In 2016, the Village was ready to hire an engineer to design the over all project including trails from Loma Larga to the Rio Rancho boundary. The project funded through the Mid-Region Council of Governments and the N.M. Department of Transportation (NMDOT) was to realign and rebuild upper Meadowlark to include bicycle paths and horse trails as well as improved drainage and traffic safety features. (See Corrales Comment, Vol.XXXIII, No.3, March 22, 2014 “Upper Meadowlark To Get Improved Drainage.”)
But only the driving lanes and drainage features actually got underway, since the engineering work ran into a problem with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The N.M. Department of Transportation refused to approve Corrales; design for the bicycle-pedestrian path along the north side of the road because the terrain was so steep at the top of Corrales portion of Meadowlark.
That design obstacle was never overcome. So that’s where prospects for the bike trail and horse path stalled. Curry has said the Village probably would have to find its own funds to complete the project, bypassing the need to comply with ADA. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.7 June 6, 2020 “Upper Meadowlark Project Dispute Nears Resolution.”)
In September 2013, the consulting firm hired to suggest ways to improve upper Meadowlark Lane, Architectural Research Consultants, called for bike riders to use the same downhill driving lane as autos, or divert to the future pedestrian path along the south side of the re-configured roadway. Appearing before the mayor and Village Council at their September 10, 2013 meeting, the firm’s Steve Burstein presented a revised “Option A” that showed a five-foot wide bike lane adjacent to the westbound driving lane, while eastbound bike riders would be expected to come down in the same regular traffic lane used by motor vehicles.
If cyclists did not want to “take the lane” with regular traffic coming down hill, they would be encouraged to bike along the proposed pedestrian path along the south side of Meadowlark. Among the advantages of that revised plan, cyclists using the bike paths along the Rio Rancho section of Meadowlark Lane would have a continuous connection to designated routes coming down into Corrales. Downhill bike riders would be informed to merge with regular vehicle traffic, or veer off onto the pedestrian trail.
Then-Mayor Phil Gasteyer said he thought the revised recommendation would be “much more acceptable to the whole neighborhood.” Some residents along the north side of upper Meadowlark had objected to routing both uphill and downhill bike riders to a future path on the north side of the road. They said they feared pulling into the path of fast bike riders as they left their driveways and tried to enter traffic.
In that plan, downhill cyclists would use the eastbound driving lane or use the proposed pedestrian path along the south side of the road. The change was endorsed by the Corrales Bicycle, Pedestrian Advisory Commission as well, following communications with Burstein and his planners.
At that point, the plans were almost purely hypothetical since no funds had been allocated to tackle the re-make of upper Meadowlark, estimated subsequently at $1.18 million. The most costly part, presumably, has already been constructed and paid for.
Construction of a large “casita” next to a new home underway at 489 West Ella Drive last month riled neighbors, including the mother of former Mayor Scott Kominiak. The former mayor says the current administration is playing favorites for what some villagers consider violations of the Village’s net one-acre subdivision rules. “This is about administrations and building inspectors signing off on things that do not comply with our code, unless you jump through three or four loopholes, while they hold long-term residents hostage to strict interpretation of the code as they see it,” Kominiak explained in an email to Corrales Comment August 17.
“If you are a high-dollar builder who knows how to skirt the rules and get approvals, you get a permit. If you inherit or buy a piece of land that was subdivided in 1955 and filed with the County —sorry! You cannot get a building permit.” 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” 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. “You can have a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and anything else, but you just can’t have a stove and oven.” Wingfield said the project underway obtained all the permits and approvals through the Corrales Planning and Zoning Department.
But the resignation of Corrales Building Inspector Lee Brammeier last month may have exacerbated the controversy. His departure in early August left some projects in limbo. Brammeier was hired here in July 2018. His more than 14 years of building code enforcement included the City of Rio Rancho; City of Albuquerque; Los Alamos County and Sandia Pueblo.
Brammeier served as president of the Central N.M. Chapter of Building Officials and served on the International Code Council’s committee, updating standards for residential green building. He has training as a licensed general contractor, as an electrical inspector, plumbing inspector, mechanical inspector and energy plan examiner.
The former mayor’s mother, Patricia Kominiak, was one of six villagers who wrote to Mayor Jo Anne Roake August 13 protesting the project at 489 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.
“There is no building permit posted on the property, which we understand is required by law.” Since the earliest days of Corrales’ incorporation as a municipality in 1971, a bedrock policy has been adherence to low-density housing. Candidates for elective office here have always vowed to protect the one-acre minimum lot size rule.
But even going back to the early 1970s, many Corrales properties already had “casitas” which were often rented for extra income. Commonly, property owners would seek permission for secondary dwellings so that a relative or other caregiver could assist an ailing or aged resident in the big house. But even such hardship cases were often denied.
Still, for many Corraleños, it has been a truism that sooner or later the one-acre minimum rule would fall. If and when that day comes, the quality of Corrales’ drinking water will become an unavoidable issue. 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.”
A U.S. Senate resolution written by Senator Tom Udall calls for concerted and sustained action to halt destruction of natural ecosystems, establishing a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and ocean of the United States by the year 2030. Referred to as the “30 by 30 Resolution,” it notes that “conserving and restoring nature is one of the most efficient and cost-effective strategies for fighting climate change.”
The resolution’s preamble asserts that “to confront the deterioration of natural systems and the loss of biodiversity around the world, and to remain below a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperature, scientists recommend that roughly one-half of the planet be conserved. “Whereas, as a step toward achieving that goal, some scientists have recommended that all countries commit to conserving and protecting at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean in each country by 2030, with a long-term goal of conserving one-half of the planet.”
The senate resolution was initially co-sponsored by Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Chris Van Hollen, Jeff Merkley, Richard Blumenthal and Dianne Feinstein. It is sponsored by Representative Deb Haaland in the House.
“Just over 50 years ago, my father, Stewart Udall, sounded the alarm about the quiet loss of nature,” Senator Tom Udall said in introducing the resolution. “Back then in just a few short years, our nation drastically deepened its commitment to the land and waters that sustain us by creating some of our most successful conservation programs.
“But today, the crisis is even more dire, and we need to meet it with the urgency it requires.” Udall emphasized that “humans are destroying nature at a devastating rate. Only reversing the Trump Administration’s wreckage would be like applying a band-aid to a life-threatening wound. We must write a new playbook to address the climate and nature crises.”
The wide-ranging document sets out policies including “increasing public incentives for private landowners to voluntarily conserve and protect areas of demonstrated conservation value and with a high capacity to sequester carbon and greenhouse gas emissions,” as well as “preventing extinction by recovering and restoring animal and plant species.”
Udall participated in an online panel discussion with the Aspen Institute and The Wilderness Society July 29 on the topic “Connecting the Continent: conservation that unites people, lands and wildlife.” He was joined by Zuni conservationist Jim Enote, president of the Colorado Plateau Foundation; Jodi Hilty, chief scientist for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; Rae Wynn-Grant, ecologist with the National Geographic Society; and Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society.
Corrales is almost a second hometown for Senator Udall; more often than not, he has joined Corrales’ Fourth of July Parade over several decades. To explain the need for the “30 by 30” campaign, Udall notes that “from 2001 to 2017, a quantity of natural areas equal to the size of a football field disappeared to development every 30 seconds in the United States, constituting more than 1,500,000 acres per year; “A finding, published in the journal Science, that the United States and Canada have lost 2,900,000,000 birds since 1970, representing a decline of 29 percent;
“The identification by State fish and game agencies of approximately 12,000 animal and plant species in the United States that require proactive conservation efforts to avoid extinction, of which approximately one-third will be lost in the next decades; “A finding by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that the United States has lost more than one-half of all freshwater and saltwater wetlands in the contiguous 48 states; and “The 2019 findings by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services [reveal] that—
• human activities are damaging 2⁄3 of ocean areas;
• only 3 percent of ocean areas remain pristine;
• 15 percent of mangroves remain;
• 50 percent of coral reefs remain; and
• at the current rate of losses, less than 10 percent of the Earth will be free of substantial human impact by 2050….”
Udal pointed out that the Third National Climate Assessment found that climate change:
• is reducing the ability of ecosystems to provide clean water and regulate water flows;
• is limiting the ability of nature to buffer communities against disasters such as fires, storms and floods, which disproportionately impacts communities of color and indigenous populations; and
• is having far-reaching effects on marine and terrestrial wildlife, including by altering habitats, forcing changes to migratory patterns, and altering the timing of biological events….”
Earlier this month, the World Wildlife Fund documented that the world has lost two-thirds of global animal, bird and fish populations over the past 50 years. Udall highlighted that assessment when he issued the following statement to renew his call for bold action to protect 30 percent of our land and waters by 2030. “This new report brings the consequences of habitat destruction and species exploitation into stark relief: human actions have accelerated the loss of two-thirds of our planet’s wildlife in the blink of an evolutionary eye. This is an unsustainable and self-destructive crisis for humanity.
“Our collective survival depends on the global ecosystems of plants, animals, birds and fish that sustain the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We must urgently prioritize policies that repair our planet’s life support system, which is why I have introduced the ‘30x30 Resolution to Save Nature’ to set a national goal of conserving 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.
“We must also change our pattern of unsustainable consumption and waste that wreaks havoc on land and marine ecosystems if we want to pass a livable planet on to our children and grandchildren. We need to look no further than our streets and streams littered with plastic trash and marine life tangled in plastic waste, which are only the most visible parts of an avalanche of plastic pollution that is harming humans and wildlife at the most microscopic level and disrupting natural food patterns. The senate should pass the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to finally make corporations pay their fair share of cleanup costs.
“Today’s report marks an urgent call to action for every one of us. While we confront the intersecting crises of the current pandemic and economic recession, we must chart a sustainable path forward that seizes the economic and public health benefits of nature protection and climate action. The rapid loss of nature and unchecked global warming make each crisis worse —but action on climate and conservation reinforce each other and are both necessary to ensure the prosperity of future generations. The American people are calling out for action and we have the power to help the natural world recover. We have no more time to waste to save our planet, and ourselves.”
The “30 by 30 Resolution” states that “the decline of natural areas and wildlife in the United States follows global patterns, as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that approximately 1,000,000 plant and animal species are threatened by extinction over the coming decades as a result of land conversion, development, climate change, invasive species, pollution and other stressors…. “Nature, like the climate, is nearing a tipping point where the continued loss and degradation of the natural environment will:
(1) push many ecosystems and wildlife species past the point of no return;
(2) threaten the health and economic prosperity of the United States; and
(3) increase the costs of natural disasters, for which the Federal Government spent about $91,000,000,000 in 2018.”
Udall pointed out that “the federal government, the private sector, civil society, farmers, ranchers, fishing communities and sportsmen have a history of working together to conserve the land and ocean of the United States.” The policies emphasize protection of “private property rights and traditional land uses, and enable landowners to pass down the working land of those landowners to the next generations because private land accounts for approximately 60 percent of the land area in the contiguous states.”
Udall said July 5 he was pleased that his resolution has been incorporated into the U.S. House of Representatives’ Climate Crisis Action Plan which calls for the United States to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050. In its Summer 2020 newsletter, the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands director, Randi Spivak, noted that “We’re at a crossroads. We can preserve and restore our lands and waters, and prevent mass extinction, or see the ecosystems of our planet unravel past a point of no return.”
His article advocated the “30 by 30” campaign, warning that “wildlife populations are crashing around the world. Scientists predict that more than one million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades.” Spivak wrote that “Achieving 30x30 will take local, state and tribal government actions, too, but Congress and the next president will need to do the heavy lifting.”
Corrales Fire Department sent one brush truck with four personnel to help battle wildfires in California recently, according to Commander Tanya Lattin. They returned safely. “One person is paid fire department staff, and the other three are volunteers,” Lattin said. They are on duty through September 4, but that could be extended. All expenses incurred by the department will be reimbursed. Assigned first to the Moc fire in Tuolumne County, the Corrales crew was demobilized from that at 79 percent containment, and then on the CZU Complex fire outside of Santa Cruz. This fire, which began via lightning August 16, had consumed over 83,000 acres in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, as of August 29.
Forty-five thousand people had been evacuated by then, and hot conditions were expected in upcoming days. Should you wish to follow this particular fire in which Corrales firefighters were engaged, visit http://www.facebook.com/CALFIRECZUSanMateoSantaCruz.
You’d think that everyone running for office is a dim-witted scoundrel —or worse. But you’re probably not swayed by all the negative TV commercials because… well, you’ve likely already made up your mind. In the 2016 elections, 65 percent of voters in New Mexico cast their ballots before election day.
This year, even more citizens voting early are expected, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Whether voting by mail or in person, early voting begins October 6.
To vote early in Sandoval County, you can do so from October 6 to October 31, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 to 7, at the Sandoval County Administration Building D, 1500 Idalia Road, just west of Highway 528. You can vote early right here in Corrales from October 17 to October 31, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Corrales Community Center, 4326 Corrales Road, east of the Corrales Road-East La Entrada intersection behind the Senior Center.
Application forms for absentee ballots were mailed to all Corrales residents in early September by the Center for Voter Information, a 501(c)4 non-profit organization. An absentee ballot can be requested online.
Below is a quick review of who’s running in local elections. As usual, this newspaper will publish candidate profiles in October.
• Vying for the presidency, of course, are Republican incumbent Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden and Libertarian Jo Jorgenson.
• U.S. Senate: Democrat Ben Ray Lujan and Republican Mark Ronchetti.
• U.S. Representative: Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes and Democrat Deb Haaland
• 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
• N.M. Supreme Court Justice, Position 1: Republican Ned Fuller and Democrat Shannon Bacon
• N.M. Supreme Court Justice Position 2: Democrat David Thomson and Republican Kerry Morris
• N.M. Court of Appeals: Zach Ives (D), Barbara Johnson (R), Shammara Henderson (D); Gertrude Lee (R), Stephen Curtis (L); Jane Yohalem (D)
• District Judge, 13th Judicial District (retention): George Eichwald
• N.M. Public Regulation Commission: Republican Janice Arnold Jones and Democrat Cynthia Hall
• 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
Candidate profiles for most of these can be found in the May 23, 2020 issue of Corrales Comment which reported on the June party primary elections.
Judges seeking reelection in the Thirteen Judicial District have been deemed worthy of retention by the N.M. Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. Those are George Eichwald, Cheryl Johnston, Cindy Mercer, James Lawrence Sanchez and Allen Smith.
It’s been more than five years since any complaint has been filed about a Corrales police officer using excessive force. Police Chief Vic Mangiacapra told Corrales Comment September 10 that his officers have worn lapel cameras since July 2015; “all patrol personnel are required to wear and operate them in accordance with department policy.” That policy received scrutiny from the mayor and Village Council at the September 8 meeting when revisions were enacted, primarily regarding the length of time such video recording should be retained.
“The body-worn camera recordings are used for prosecutions, field and internal investigations, officer evaluation and training and providing accurate documentation of police-public contacts in general,” Mangiacapra explained. “The main revision from the former policy is the addition of the requirement to retain all body-worn camera recordings for a minimum 120-day period in order to comply with the mandates set forth in Senate Bill 8. Previously, we only retained recordings which were deemed to possess evidentiary value.”
He said the last excessive force complaint received by the Corrales Police Department concerned an incident which took place on June 23, 2015. The chief said the incident “involved no injury to any involved parties and the investigation resulted in a finding of ‘not sustained.’
“I don’t recall any instances during which a CPD member has been disciplined for the use of excessive force, nor was I able to locate any such records in our internal affairs files.” But the Police Department has been embroiled in a lawsuit filed by a former Corrales officer regarding a disciplinary action. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.10 August 8, 2020 “Ex-Corrales Cop Sues When He’s Investigated.”)
The mayor and council held a closed session at the end of the September 8 meeting to discuss the lawsuit. Former Corrales Officer Daniel Parsons sued the Village and former Village Clerk Fresquez over an alleged violation of a request for inspection of public records. His attorney, Tom Grover, contacted Corrales Comment by email July 22 implying that the newspaper was remiss in not reporting on the police officer’s complaint. “Silent from the June 6, 2020 article is any reference to the fact that Ms. Fresquez and the Village are being sued by a former Corrales police officer concerning a public records request violation. That’s odd given the circumstances.”
The attorney cited the lawsuit D-1329-CV-2019-01756, Parsons v Village of Corrales and Shannon Fresquez. Corrales Comment was not aware of that court action and explained that to attorney Grover, asking for a copy of his filing and an opportunity to interview his client. Grover replied August 3, forwarding a copy of his suit filed in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court.
In that email, the attorney added he would soon file a “whistleblower’s” suit on behalf of the former officer. “Daniel Parsons has a whistleblower suit that is probably about a month out from filing,” Grover wrote. That second lawsuit had not been received at Corrales Comment by press time for this issue. The attorney’s first lawsuit clarifies that Fresquez is named as defendant because she was the statutory custodian of the Village’s official documents and responsible for responding to requests for inspection of public records.
The court filing partially explains that Parsons wants to know what is in an investigator’s report ordered by the Village. A key clause in the suit reads: “A copy of the Robert Caswell Investigations (“RCI”) report concerning Village of Corrales employee Daniel Parsons, including, but not limited to: exhibits, summaries, synopsis, exhibits, audio and video recordings, table of contents and conclusions.”
Later in the suit, Grover noted that Parsons was apparently under investigation while he was “facing disciplinary action upon him by Village of Corrales Chief Mangiacapra.” Contacted by Corrales Comment, Mayor Roake said she could not comment on the matter. “It’s ongoing, so the Village can’t comment. The Village always strives to comply with Inspection of Public Records Act requests.”
In a Corrales police activity report September 1, officers here made 231 traffic stops during the previous month and responded to two incidents of shots fired. The report said police had responded to one attempted suicide and 37 welfare checks, as well as 28 reports of suspicious activity and one stolen vehicle. Among other responses were four neighbor disputes, three noise complaints, two vehicle accidents with injury, ten speeding or reckless driving, eight threats or harassment, 18 calls for public assistance and 13 public nuisance calls.
Corrales businesses can apply for grants of up to $10,000 in help to recover from losses due to COVID-19. The Village of Corrales was awarded $255,600 to help local businesses with funds from the federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act). Applications will be accepted from September 21 to October 30, or until all funds are disbursed. The application form will be posted at the Village website, under COVID-19 Resources. Non-profit organizations are also eligible. “I am hoping that small businesses in Corrales will take advantage of this grant funding to help keep our business climate vibrant,” said Mayor Jo Anne Roake. Grant funds can only be used by pandemic-impacted businesses for eligible expenses that fall into two categories:
• Business Continuity (such as non-owner payroll; rent or mortgage; insurance, utilities, marketing) and
• Business Redesign (such as installing Plexiglas barriers, temporary structures and physical space reconfiguration to mitigate the spread of the virus; purchases of personal protective equipment and web-conferencing technology).
The program allows qualifying small businesses, non-profits and 1099 contract employees who are residents of Corrales to apply for a one-time grant for up to $10,000.00 to cover costs such as non-owner/employee wages, vendor bills and rent caused by required closures.
Funds can only be used to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures provided those costs are not paid by insurance or by another federal, state, or local program between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.
• Maximum of $10,000 for qualifying small organizations with a physical location in Village of Corrales (no more than 50 full-time employees, or equivalent part-time employees, including the owner).
• Priority will be given to organizations that did not receive Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds from the Small Business Administration, or small business assistance funds from the State of New Mexico or another county/municipality.
• Restaurants, bars, short-term lodging, and other non-essential organizations impacted by the local or state safer-at-home orders are eligible.
• Village of Corrales residents who engage in 1099 (consultants/contract employment) are eligible.
• A physical place of business located within the municipal boundaries of the Village of Corrales, Sandoval County, New Mexico is required, including for mobile vendors.
• Organizations must receive no more than $2 million in taxable receipts per annum.
Businesses applying for the grant can start preparing for the application to open by gathering required documents: W-9 Form, Active State Organization Registration (Articles of Incorporation), Secretary of State Certificate of Good Standing, organization financials (applicable 2018 or 2019 tax return or equivalent), staffing documentation for 2019 or 2018 (W-3 Summary, 1096 OR 2019 or 2018 IRS Form 941), updated and current property tax receipt, if applicable or copy of current lease, New Mexico Taxation and Revenue CRS documentation, current Village of Corrales Business License.
Businesses awarded grants will enter into a grant agreement with the Village of Corrales and funds will be disbursed after suppling receipts of incurred expenses or proof of upcoming expenses the funding will cover. Proof of payment will be required. Businesses will also be required to submit compliance reports at 90, 180 and 365 days after disbursement.
For businesses across Sandoval County, the CARES Act distributions total $965,000 for small business grants. The City of Rio Rancho was authorized for $465,733, while the Town of Bernalillo got $1,128,900 and Cuba was awarded $32,802.
The chairman of the Tree Preservation Advisory Committee, John Thompson, is concerned about the decline in the Corrales tree canopy. In a presentation to the Village Council August 18 Thompson laid out an approach to tree care for the council, asking “Is there a problem with Corrales trees?”
He and his committee think so: he touched on the effects of drought on tree health, trees’ increasing susceptibility to disease and pests, the loss of trees along the acequias, even the increased number of cottonwoods with mistletoe in their branches. Infestations of mistletoe often indicate a stressed or unhealthy tree.
The Village of Corrales is certified by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree City USA with the goal of securing a healthier tree canopy. The Tree Preservation Advisory Board (TPAC) has been serving as a de facto Tree Board for five years to assist the Village in maintaining that certification, but without a mission defined by ordinance or a budget to achieve the desired goals and benefits of proactive tree care.
The committee’s additional concerns include the lack of tree species diversity, the dying and dead cottonwoods in the sandhills, and an increase in invasive species such as the ubiquitous Siberian elms, tamarisks, Russian olives, and Ailanthus altissima, or trees of heaven. Tamarisks, for example, though plentiful with pink blossoms, achieve that beauty by grabbing up light, water and nutrients from native plants. Native to Eurasia, tamarisk were brought to North America in the 1800s to shore up riverbanks. Their love of alkaline soil, common to the Southwest, has ginned up even more salty soils, which this plant is able to produce.
The committee, which includes Fred Hashimoto, Don Welsh, Carol Conoboy and Ian Daitz, asserts that Corrales hosts fewer healthy orchards as well. It thinks that the establishment of a Tree Board, in place of TPAC, will insure the Village acknowledges that “trees make major contributions to public health and safety, economic and spiritual value, local food security, wildlife and climate change resiliency.” And it will demonstrate the Village’s “dedication to the enhancement and protection of the community forest, landmark trees, and public green spaces.”
The board itself is prepared to take on a bundle: “Increase public awareness of health, environment, economic benefits of tree canopy; educate in tree selection, planting, and care; train Public Works, Parks & Rec, Fire Departments; update the tree ordinance; obtain alternate sources of funding for tree planting, care; promote climate-adapted species and age diversity; and provide a ‘tree care plan’ to provide better maintenance for existing public trees, reduce the number of hazardous trees, and create new tree planting goals.”
According to Thompson, “The plan aims to be the key document for managing, maintaining, protecting, preserving and planting trees within the Village of Corrales. This plan details specific goals and objectives for tree inventories, tree risk management, tree protection and tree pruning standards. “This is intended to be a living document that is updated yearly to provide schedules for community education, tree planting programs, and updates to relevant information on tree selection and planting, best management practices, and progress in stakeholder involvement in tree care.”
Creating a “tree care plan” will take much effort as the board wrestles with the fact of climate change on trees, hotter summers, and possible lower temperatures in winter. Local Cottonwoods are high water users, which do not easily reproduce outside of flood plains, the latter almost gone from Corrales. Planners must deal with drought stress, soil compaction, lack of diversity, even concrete acequias which cut off moisture to trees along its banks.
As well as disease and pests. Did we know the emerald ash borer was coming? Smaller than a dime, it’s a green beetle from Asia gifted at leveling tall stands of trees. Ash trees, thus far primarily in the Midwest and east, but, increasingly planted in New Mexico. Among them the velvet ash and associated cultivars, including the Modesto ash, green and white ash, Raywood ash, fragrant ash and others.
So what is the true value of a community forest? And what exactly is tree canopy? Ian Leahy, director of Urban Forest Programs at American Forests, writes that “tree canopy is any area covered by the branches of trees.” And, “tree canopy is the only type of infrastructure that increases in value after you install it.” American Forests, established in 1875, is the oldest national conservation organization in the country.
The Corrales Bosque Preserve comprises one square mile of riparian forest, co-managed by Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Village. 10,000 trees, providing 50 percent canopy. The greenbelt area is five square miles of irrigated agricultural fields, orchards, mature cottonwoods and elms. That’s 10,000 trees, with 14 percent canopy. The sandhills are five square miles, with 2,000 developed lots. It includes sparse plantings of fruit, shade, ornamental trees and native shrubs. So 4,000 trees, with two percent canopy.
The size of the tree canopy is a means of measuring the health and potential benefits of the community forest. An initial estimate of the Corrales tree canopy using i-Tree, a software tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows that Corrales has an average tree canopy of about 12 percent. In comparison, the tree canopy in Albuquerque is about ten percent and is known to have been in decline over the last few decades. What are these 24,000 Corrales trees worth? According to the USDA, U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Corporation, the answer is $75,000,000.
They remove CO2 and air pollutants. They catch rainwater and reduce stormwater runoff. Tree-filled communities may be safer, less stress-filled. Trees cut down on wind, and reduce temperatures. Shaded buildings benefit from energy savings. Businesses do better on tree-lined streets, and property values increase by ten percent due to the aesthetic value of trees.
The tree plan has many goals, including tree surveys and educational outreach. Estimated cost of the plan in the first year is $39,000, which includes Village personnel hours, tree purchases, contracted International Society of Arboriculture or ISA-certified arborists, and trained volunteers.That amount is offset by an estimated $20,000 in donations and volunteer hours. (This budget exceeds the Tree City USA guideline of $2 per capita.)
Perhaps no goal in the plan, however, is more compelling than this: to plant a tree for every child in Corrales, so about 1,500 over the next ten years.
New rules for short-term rentals, such as Airbnb operations, are proposed for Corrales. The Village Council will discuss and take public comment on the proposed Ordinance 20-005 at its Tuesday, September 8 session via Zoom. The Zoom meeting ID number is 815 7416 9208, with password 697376. Full text of the draft ordinance can be found at the Village of Corrales website: http://www.corrales-nm.org under the tab “Latest News.” Much of the proposed law’s text is published below.
As the popularity of short-term rentals, also referred to as “vacation rentals” has increased over the past decade, complaints from neighboring residents have become common in Corrales as elsewhere. Loud parties, unathourized parking on adjacent private property, and even guests’ trespass golf ball drives have been reported. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXIX No.2 March 7, 2020 “Mayor Needs Applications for Short-Term Rentals.”.)
Corrales is thought to have as many as 100 short-term rentals advertised, mainly on the internet. In past years, typically this community has been a desirable stay for hot air balloon enthusiasts. Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission heard a request for site development plan approval for a two-unit short-term rental and related office and laundry facility on an already commercially-zoned property at 4036 Corrales Road, between Priestley and Coroval Roads.
The proposed Ordinance 20-005 would set a limit of six guest rooms and no more than two occupants per bedroom. At least one parking space must be provided for each bedroom. No such short-term rental uses will be allowed in Corrales without a permit and valid N.M. gross receipts tax number.
A partial text of the proposed law follows.
The Ordinance shall be filed with the Village Clerk, and shall be considered by the City Council at a regular meeting of the Village Council on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., or as soon thereafter as the matter may be heard telephonically through Zoom (Meeting ID: 815 7416 9208, Password: 697376) Section 4. If any section, paragraph, clause or provision of this Resolution shall for any reason be held invalid or unenforceable, the invalidity or unenforceability of such section, paragraph, clause or provision shall not affect any of the remaining provisions of this Resolution. 3 Section 5. All acts, orders and resolutions of the Village Council, and parts thereof, inconsistent with this Resolution be, and the same hereby are, repealed to the extent only of such inconsistency. This repealer shall not be construed to revive any act, order or resolution, or part thereof, heretofore repealed. Section 6. This Resolution shall be in full force and effect upon its passage and approval.…
Description of ordinance
Section 1. Amendment to Section 5 (2) of Ordinance 19-006. Section 5 of Ordinance 19-006 is hereby amended to read as follows; (2) Application and Fee. Anyone wishing to engage in short-term rentals must submit a completed application. The application shall be returned to the Administrator accompanied by the appropriate application fee and must show, at a minimum: (a) The maximum number of occupants and vehicles that the dwelling unit and any accessory structures can accommodate. There can be no more than six guest rooms on a residential short-term rental property and no more than two total occupants per bedroom being used as a short term rental. (b) A Google map or similar map showing the entire property, all roads which abut the property and at least 25 feet of adjacent properties, showing on-site parking and areas subject to the short-term rental business. (c) Floorplan showing all bedrooms within the dwelling unit and any accessory structure(s) on the property. (d) Off-street parking as required by Section 18-39 (3) Short term rental lodging establishments. Off-street parking required, with at least one parking space per bedroom on the property. (e) A valid septic permit for the property, showing the number of bedrooms (e) A valid septic permit for the property, showing the number of bedrooms permitted by the State to the septic system on the property. (f) The name, mailing address, email address, and contact phone numbers (including 24- hour emergency contact numbers) of the owner of the property for which the permit will be issued. (g) The name, mailing address, email address, and contact phone numbers (including 24- hour emergency contact numbers) of the operator and the local contact person for the owner of the residential rental. (h) A valid New Mexico gross receipts tax number for the operator. (i) Short-term rental permit application fee. Section 2. Amendment to Section 5 (6) of Ordinance 19-006, Appeal Process.
Section 5 (6) is hereby amended to read: (6) Appeal Process. An applicant or person who is aggrieved by the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission may appeal the decision to the Governing Body by written notice to the Village Clerk of such appeal, to be made within ten (10) days of the date of the decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The matter shall be referred to the Governing Body for hearing at a regular or special meeting in the usual course of business. The decision of the Governing Body made thereof shall be expressed in writing; and the action of the Governing Body shall be deemed final. Section 3. Amendment to Section 5 (7) of Ordinance 19-006, Penalties for violation of requirements of subsection (g) of Section 18-45. Section 5 (7) is hereby amended to add (e): (a) Any person who violates any provision of subsection (g) of Section 18-45 shall, upon a first conviction, be subject to a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $500, or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both such fine and imprisonment. (b) Any person who violates any provision of subsection (g) of Section 18-45 shall, upon a second or subsequent conviction, be subject to a fine of $500 or imprisonment of not more than 90 days, or both such fine and imprisonment. (c) Each day that a violation occurs constitutes a separate violation of Village of Corrales Municipal Code as provided for in this subsection. (d) The Village Code Enforcement Officer or other designated Village employee shall take action to correct the violation as provided for in the Code. (e) Possible Revocation of short term rental permit.
Corrales now has at least five registered “Little Free Library” installations along roadways and byways. Among them are a new one at the northwest corner of Carey Road and Kepler Court, and others at 104 Laura Lane and 104 Andrews Lane. The idea of offering books to passersby began several years ago elsewhere but has caught on here.
Anyone is welcome to take a look at what’s offered and take a title home to read. Users are encouraged to return them when finished and/or to bring back a different book for others to pick up. A Little Free Library map can be found at https://littlefreelibrary.org.