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Published July 25, 2014
Governing Body to have 'work session,'
Governor, Byrd also hosting city events

Saturday will be a busy day in Rio Rancho politics, with events at all three levels of government.

Activities begin at 8 a.m. when the Rio Rancho Governing Body meets in a “work session” at Loma Colorado Library. The “work” seems to be more about how the council can a better get along with itself and others, with agenda items of “Improving Communication and Engagement Among Governing Body Members,” “Improving Communication and Engagement Among Governing Body and Staff,” “Identifying and Understanding Each Other’s Priorities for the Work of the Next Year,” and “Discussion About Moving Forward.”

The Governing Body’s ability to communicate with the public is the subject of a committee that has closed its meetings to the public and is subject to a complaint to the attorney general of a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

Saturday marks 100 days left until the November election, and Sandoval County Republicans and Gov. Susana Martinez are taking note with event at county Republican Headquarters, 3158 Southern Blvd. Martinez and state Rep. Paul Pacheco are scheduled to campaign in the neighborhood, then come back

Events conclude Saturday night with a fundraiser for Jeff Byrd, candidate for Congress in District 3. The multi-course meal is being prepared by David Macchia, an accomplished New Jersey chef.

The event begins at 6 p.m. at Café Bella, 2115 Golf Course, No. 102. Space is limited. To RSCP, call Julia Downs at (505) 503-9712.


Published July 24, 2014
Governing Body gets letter
alleging state OMA violations

Contradictory interpretations of the purpose of special committees, including the current one on communication that has closed its meetings to the public, continue to be offered.

Responding at Wednesday’s meeting of the Governing Body to an allegation of a violation of the state Open Meetings Act by the Committee, committee chair Cheryl Everett said, “We’re not formulating policy recommendations. We’re looking at options.”

That statement would seem to contradict official minutes of the May 28 Governing Body meeting when special committees were first discussed.

According to those minutes, “The purpose of a Special Committee is to formulate recommendations and/or draft proposals on a specific issue to be presented to the entire Governing Body.”

The official minutes later state, “The Special Committee shall provide at least two proposals or recommendations to the Governing Body or recommend that the Governing Body take no further action on a particular issue.”

The language in the official minutes would also seem to directly contradict the Open Meetings Act.  According to Section 10-15-1, Section B, of the OMA: “All meetings of a quorum of members of any board, commission, administrative adjudicatory body or other policymaking body of any state agency, any agency or authority of any county, municipality, district or any political subdivision, held for the purpose of formulating public policy, including the development of personnel policy, rules, regulations or ordinances, discussing public business or for the purpose of taking any action within the authority of or the delegated authority of any board, commission or other policymaking body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times, except as otherwise provided in the constitution of New Mexico or the Open Meetings Act. No public meeting once convened that is otherwise required to be open pursuant to the Open Meetings Act shall be closed or dissolved into small groups or committees for the purpose of permitting the closing of the meeting.”

(Emphasis added.)

The differences between the stated purpose in the official minutes of “formulate recommendations and/or draft proposals” and OMA language of “formulating public policy … rules, regulations or ordinances, discussing public business” would seem minimal, especially with the same root word describing action (“formulate” vs. “formulating”) used in both documents.

The formal complaint letter to the attorney general’s office was presented by Eric Maddy, publisher of
The letter also points out that during the May 28 discussion Councilor Chuck Wilkins said, “I’m sure they’re going to be off in a room somewhere, and they are going to be open to the public.” That statement was not contradicted by other councilors during the meeting.

The letter also states that since the membership of the entire committee had to be confirmed by the Governing Body under its new rules, the committee is not different than established boards and commissions that fall under the OMA because the committee “has been given quasi-legislative responsibilities as part of its charge.”

The letter also asserts that it is “illegal and discriminatory” to appoint two members of the public to the committee while banning other public members from observing the meeting.

In her remarks Everett also responded to the charge that the committee was attempting to hide something by having closed meetings.

“I’m hiding the fact that I know precious little about modern social media,” she said. “That’s what I’m hiding. That’s why I need a committee of staff and Governing Body members and citizens to work together to find new ideas and solutions.”

Everett did not respond directly to the OMA violation allegation or say why the committee had to be closed to the public. Lack of knowledge is not listed as a reason meetings can be closed under the Open Meetings Act.

Click here to see the full text of the letter to the attorney general.

Click here to see the public forum presentation and councilor’s response.

Everett’s response was the first time a councilor chose to respond to public comment under a new agenda item recently established by the Governing Body. Wilkins also spoke, agreeing with another public forum speaker, Congressional District 3 candidate Jeff Byrd on the importance of water-issues district wide.

The council also approved the District 2 nominee for the Utilities Commission. Councilor Dawnn Robinson had previously stated she would nominate a different individual to the Commission and did not state why she had changed her mind.

During the main body of the meeting the council gave final approval to the 2015 fiscal year budget by a 5-1 vote, with Wilkins dissenting after expressing concerns over the city’s reserve fund. The council also approved the capital improvement budget for 2015.

The Governing Body also agreed to deny a proposed zoning change when development department director Dolores Wood changed her recommendation from approval to denial. The zoning change may have conflicted with plans to eliminate area plans that currently set different standards for different areas of the city.

The council also approved the first reading of changes to laws pertaining to marijuana-related offenses.

Published July 21, 2014

Fire ban could be lifted
after recent rain storm

What some would call bad weather has brought some good news to area residents.

Sandoval County could lift its ban on opening burning in unincorporated areas on Aug. 15 thanks to recent rain and future weather forecasts.

The county announced Monday that fire chief James Maxon is considering the option in time for end-of-summer and Labor Day campers to enjoy a full campfire as part of their recreational outings.

“We have received some rain recently, but we will dry out again once we get high temperatures,
which are why we aren’t lifting the ban immediately,” Maxon said. “We are using scientific measurements such as fuel moisture content to make our decision. We expect that data to show us that it’s safe to lift the ban by August 15.

“However, we will reserve the right to extend the ban if conditions change before that date.”

Under the current ban, cooking and heating devices that use Kerosene, white gas or propane as fuel may be used, as long as there is fire protection nearby and a defensible space around the device. Fires no larger than two feet by two feet in established fire rings also are permitted.

Once the ban is lifted, county residents wishing to conduct open burns still will need to get a permit from the Fire Department. Permits can be obtained by calling 505-867-0245.

That same number can be used to report illegal burning.

A separate ban on fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county expired on July 9. But officials urge residents to remain careful with the use of any items that might spark a fire.

“I strongly encourage everyone to be vigilant about fire prevention so a catastrophic fire does not occur,” Maxon said.

Open burning restrictions are enforced by the Sandoval County Fire Marshal and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone found violating the open burn ban will be subject to arrest and
penalties up to and including a $300 fine and 90 days in jail.

For additional information, visit the Sandoval County Fire Department website.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority said Friday that new facilities constructed by the agency held up well during rains.

“It was interesting to see the flows,” Charles Thomas said. “There wasn’t any really heavy sustained rain, but some short, hard bursts.”

Thomas estimated the flows reached between 50 and 70 cubic feet per second (cfs) in the newly reconstructed Harvey Jones channel.




Published Thursday, July 17, 2014
What are they hiding?
Why are they hiding it?

Public banned from meeting of
city communications committee

Attorney General asked to investigate
possible Open Meetings Act violation


A special committee formed by the Rio Rancho Governing Body to formulate policy recommendations on how the city communicates with citizens is making those decisions behind closed doors.

The special committee was formed by the Governing Body at its July 9 meeting. Rules changes creating the special committee structure were approved May 28.

 At that time, Councilor Chuck Wilkins expressed concern that the committees might violate the state’s Open Meetings Act but clearly stated “The meetings will be open to the public.” That statement, on the public record, was never countermanded in discussion on the committees and in fact other councilors indicated they would encourage other members of the public to share their expertise on a given subject matter. was informed by e-mail late Tuesday night by city spokesman Peter Wells that the meeting would not be open to the public. He reiterated that position before the meeting Thursday afternoon, saying in the opinion of city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown the committee was not subject to the Open Meetings Act.

After being banned from the meeting Thursday afternoon, has sent a letter to Attorney General Gary King asking him to investigate whether the city has violated the OMA by closing the meetings.

So the question becomes: What is the committee hiding and why are they hiding it? What is being discussed behind closed doors that is so secretive or sensitive that it could not be discussed in public?

Committees are governing groups are not obligated to accept public comment on issues. The committee could operate like a city council work session, discussion issues and accepting expert testimony when it is solicited by the members, but the meetings are always held in public under the so-called Sunshine Law.

In addition to establishing policies and procedures for social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, the committee is expected to discuss the city’s RioVision program that broadcasts public meetings on the internet through the city’s web site. The current system operator, Edit House, is not expected to bid before the current contract expires Aug. 31.

The city is seeking to do an interim program once Edit House leaves. According to a letter to interested vendors from assistant city manager Laura Fitzpatrick that was obtained by, the city hopes to provide services for up to a year for $50,000 (excluding gross receipts taxes). Doing so allows the city to award the contract without a formal Request For Proposal and awarding of bids.

EditHouse’s budget has been reduced each year for the past several years and is currently $90,000 per year. But because the company works on other projects, it already has proper licenses (like ASCAP) that a new vendor might have to obtain.

In addition to city councilors Cheryl Everett and Dawnn Robinson, the committee includes Joshua Hernandez, who was Mayor Gregg Hull’s campaign manager; Kerry Adams, who worked on Robinson’s campaign, Fitzpatrick, Wells and Matt Geisel of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Published June 21, 2014
Stars clinch
playoff spot


The New Mexico Stars secured a playoff berth Saturday night with a 60-47 victory over Rio Grande Valley.

The Stars broke a 20-20 halftime tie with a big third quarter to earn the postseason bid. Two-time defending champion Amarillo, which entered the night a half-game behind the Stars, lost to San Angelo 74-59 and was eliminated.

The Stars finished their season at 7-5; Amarillo dropped to 5-6 with one game left to play next week.

The Stars will open the playoffs July 5 at San Angelo. The winner will play at Rio Grande Valley the following weekend for the championship.

The Stars trailed 20-13 late in the second quarter but scored seconds before the half to tie the game. New Mexico then scored on each of its first three offensive possessions of the second half, and added a fumble recovery and interception return for touchdowns, to blow out the league leaders.

New Mexico led at one point 54-33 but got conservative on offense in the final period in an attempt to milk the clock.

It almost backfired. After the Amarillo score came over the P.A., the Sol scored to pull within 60-47 with about two minutes left. The Stars ran the ball three times to make Rio Grande Valley use their timeouts, and on fourth down Stars quarterback Andrew McGlory was intercepted by Michael Benson in the front right corner of the end zone. Benson streaked down the sideline for an apparent touchdown that could have narrowed the margin to six points, but the score was called back on a RGV penalty and gave New Mexico a first down.

From there, the Stars wore out the clock to the delight of the 1,710 in attendance.

It is the second year the Stars finished third in the Lone Star Football League and made the playoffs. Last year New Mexico had a 6-6 record.

All three playoff teams are idle next week. Amarillo concludes the season at 1-10 West Texas.

Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Attorney General earns gubernatorial nomination,
to face incumbent Martinez in general election

Jesse James to Dem candidate for sheriff;
Garcia beats challengers for GOP assessor

Corrales' Freese ges Republican nod for CD-1;
Weh, Lujan, Eichenberg tops in statewide races

The race for New Mexico governor is down to a King vs. The Queen.

Attorney General Gary King dominated a field of five Democrats on Tuesday to capture his party’s nomination. He’s take on incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez, a darling of national Republicans and the first female Hispanic elected governor anywhere in the

In Sandoval County, incumbents fared well. One exception was the contest for sheriff in the Democratic party, where a former incumbent lost to an opponent with a name best known historically for breaking the law.

With all but one precinct reporting, King had 35.02 percent of the vote compared to 22.64 percent for retired Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber. Sandoval County native Lawrence Rael won his home territory but was third state-wide with 19.82 percent, followed by state senators Howie Morales (14.27 percent) and Linda Lopez (8.22 percent).

Martinez was unopposed in her primary.

Statewide the turnout was 20.17 percent, and it was less than that Sandoval County. A total of 10,965 Republicans and Democrats cast ballots in the county out of 69,390 eligible voters, a turnout of15.8 percent.

Jesse James Casaus pulled in more than 45 percent of the votes in the sheriff’s race, easily outdistancing former sheriff John Paul Trujillo (30.65 percent) and Steve Reynolds (23.52 percent). Casados will now meet incumbent Republican Doug Wood in the Nov. 4 general election. Wood was unopposed.

Casaus is the son of former Sandoval County assessor Rudy Casaus.

Otherwise, it was a good night for incumbents. Republican Tom Garcia got 42 percent of the vote to win his three-way race for county assessor, and Don Chapman got 60 percent of the vote to retain his county commission seat.

In what was a tight legislative race for much of the night, James R. Madalena got 54.5 percent of the vote to beat current county commissioner Orlando Lucero in House District 65.

Magistrate Richard Zanotti will retain his seat, beating challenger Daniel Tallon with 54 percent in Division I.

In Division II, Bill Mast of Bernalillo got 37.6 percent to beat three opponents and win the seat left open by the retirement of Ken Eichwald.
There is no Republican opponent.

In a 13th Judicial District Judge raced based in Valenaceia County, Joshua Sanchez got almost 69 percent of the vote to defeat Walter Hart. Sanchez is the son of Michael Sanchez, the Senate Majority Leader.

In the fall Sanchez will face Allen R. Smith, who got slightly more than 63 percent in his race. The district covers Sandoval, Valencia and Cibola counties.

There were few other races contested statewide.

Tim Eichenberg garnered 52.7 percent to beat John Wertheim for the Democratic nomination for treasurer.  Alan Weh got exactly 63 percent of the Republican vote statewide to win the nomination for the U.S. Senate.

In Congressional District 1, Mike Frese of Corrales got 63 percent of the vote to defeat Richard Priem for the Republican nomination. And incumbent Ben Ray Lujan collected 87.5 percent in CD-3 to beat Richard Blanch.

For all results, click here:

Published Saturday, May 31, 2014
Stars rally to beat San Angelo


In the fast-paced game of arena football, the result of a game—and a team’s entire season – can change in a matter of seconds.

For the New Mexico Stars, 22.2 seconds, to be exact.

New Mexico kept its Lone Star Football League playoff hopes alive Saturday night, scoring with all deuces left on the time clock to defeat the San Angelo Bandits 54-47. It was the only lead the Stars had all night and completed a comeback from a 20-point first-quarter deficit.

With the victory the Stars, 5-5, crept back into the LSFL playoff picture. Even with the loss, San Angelo (6-4) remained in second place. Two-time defending champion Amarillo (4-4) was idle this weekend.

Only the top three teams make the LSFL postseason. League-leading Rio Grande (6-2) played at West Texas (1-7) late Saturday.

The Stars’ comeback capped an improbable two weeks. Before playing Rio Grade at home on May 17,  New Mexico had a 4-3 record, was riding a three-game winning streak and playing a home game with a chance to move into a tie for first place in the five-team league.

But the Stars lost by 40 to the Sol, a meltdown both on and off the field with a player ejection and locker room arguments a part of the night. Coach Dominic Bramonte was called in by the league to discuss his sideline conduct, and the Stars followed up with a 44-33 loss at Amarillo last weekend.

On top of all of that adversity, they came into Saturday facing the hottest team in the league. San Angelo had scored 107, 77 and 89 points in its last three games. Quarterback Luck Collis threw 12 touchdown passes in his last outing Monday night in a lopsided victory over West Texas and had a streak of 30 touchdowns and zero interceptions in those three games.

But the Bandits had their own issues: a short prep week, long bus trip and playing at higher altitude. One other thing: the Bandits have not won on the road this season, something they looked like they would change for the longest time against the Stars.

Cole threw scoring passes against the Stars on each of his first four possessions. By contrast, the Stars scored twice but also gave up an interception and failed to convert once on downs, an San Angelo had a comfortable 26-12 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Stars slowed the momentum briefly when an interception by Jayson Serda set up a touchdown to narrow the margin to 26-20. But that just set up a back-and-forth tease for the next two-plus quarters where the Stars would pull within one score but always seemed a step, or a defensive stop, of pulling even.

After the Stars got within one possession for the first time with 5:43 to go, it appeared they might gain the momentum when the ensuing San Angelo kickoff return for a touchdown was called back on a holding penalty. But the Bandits, with the aid of a pass interference penalty, finished off the drive anyway.

But in a foreshadowing of the entire second half, New Mexico scored with just 6.3 seconds before the half to pull within 34-27.

The scoring tug of war continued in the second half. New Mexico drove to the goal line to start the second half in an attempt to tie, but McGlory was picked off at the goal line. That gave San Angelo a chance to extend its lead to two scores, and it did.

But amazingly the red-hot Bandit offense was cooled by the New Mexico defense. San Angelo scored only twice in the second half, and when Marcus Allen intercepted ollis to set up a Stars touchdown New Mexico had a chance to tie the game.

Even that possession ended with drama. Facing fourth and goal, Stars quarterback Andrew McGlory made a spectacular play, rolling left, back to his right, breaking out of sack and appearing to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone. Instead, Jerome McGee stretched into the stands and pulled the pass back in for a touchdown, leaving the Stars a point away from a tie.

But season-long issues with extra points rose again, as McGlory’s PAT kick was shanked wide right. It left the Stars behind 47-46 and seemingly out of miracles with less than two minutes left, once again close but no cigar.

But once more the Stars defense rose to the occasion. New Mexico regained possession on downs, forcing two completions and batting down two passes, to get the ball back to the offense with 1:21 left.

It took four consecutive completions from McGlory, but finally the Stars reached the top of the hill. The game-winner was from nine yards out to Josh Vaughn, who caught the ball a yard short of the goal line and spun out of the grasp of two tacklers for the score.

Even so, there still was time for the Bandits. San Angelo moved to the New Mexico 19 with three seconds left, but Collis’ pass into the right corner of the end zone to Johnny Thomas was over the boards and rule uncatchable by the officials, though there was contacted with New Mexico defenders.

For now, the Stars will have to sit and waid for the rest of the league to catch up in the number of games played. New Mexico is off next week and concludes its season with games at West Texas on June 14 before the home finale against Rio Grande on June 21.


Published Thursday, May 29, 2014
4-2 votes decide council issues



The ever-changing dynamic that is Rio Rancho government took a new twist Wednesday night as the three newest city councilors joined holdover Lonnie Clayton in deciding three major policy issues.

Whether those decisions – a shift on employee pay increases, creating a committee structure and more regular work sessions – or the coalition that created them will have a greater impact in the long run remains to be seen.

What casual observers might see as a lock-step consensus conservative Republican council is far, far from it. And it was never more apparent than at Wednesday’s meeting.

The division is nothing new; it just became more blatantly obvious. Mayor Gregg Hull had to break two ties in the three meetings since District 5 city councilor Shelby Smith completed the current membership after winning his runoff election on April 15. And there were several other less-than-unanimous votes in the meetings and budget hearings earlier this month.

There were no ties Wednesday, but Smith joined Clayton, Dawnn Robinson and Cheryl Everett on one side of the key votes, opposite Chuck Wilkins and Mark Scott. It was Wilkins and Scott who drove a large part of the council’s agenda the past two years.

That’s not to say that the lineup was the same on every vote. Just like most meetings under this Governing Body, things remained consistently inconsistent.

Scott (a motion to postpone) and Clayton (an amendment) found themselves the lone supporter of their proposals. And at one point Robinson voted for an amendment to her own plan on work sessions – an amendment that she initially argued against.

Perhaps the most telling sign of the divisions is that Penny Nips, a member of the Tea Party board of directors who said she represented the group, offered very critical comments on the committee structure proposal made by Robinson.

Robinson was president of the Tea Party two years ago when it first emerged as a force in local politics by helping get Wilkins, Scott and Clayton elected. Wilkins’ wife Renee is currently president of the Tea Party.
Evidence of a growing rift has been apparent from the outset. Everett and Robinson have been critical but cryptic in their comments of being left out of the loop in a sense, expressing concern that new information was being brought to light during meetings after being developed through independent inquiries by other councilors.

Wilkins, for one, sees his role in presenting alternatives and questioning recommendations as part of doing due diligence as a councilor.  And he expressed his concern that privately sharing information could lead to charges of rolling quorums in violation of the state’s open meetings law, which has dogged the Governing Body in the past.

The salary discussion was part of the final vote on the fiscal year 2015 budget. The good news for city employees is that they will be getting some sort of a raise – well, most of them, sort of, maybe.

City manager Keith Riesberg’s initial budget called for a two percent “across the board” pay raise for all employees. While that sounds like everybody’s paycheck is going to increase by two percent, that isn’t the case.

What it does is create a pool of money – in this case $696,230 – that must be divided up among employees in five different groups as represented by three unions (police, fire and other employees), the municipal court and non-represented employees. 

The unions have a large – but not total – say on how their share is split up. So, for example, the police union could say a sergeant with 10 years of experience gets a 10 percent pay increase but the beat cop with four years on the job gets nothing. And, in the same city under the same budget, the fire union could decide the 10-year captain gets no raise and the four-year firefighter gets the 10 percent hike.

Pitted against that potential inconsistency is a pay equity study the city commissioned two years ago and has been supported by Wilkins, Scott and Clayton. The idea is to establish appropriate pay grades and levels and bring all employees up to the appropriate levels.

During budget hearings earlier this month the council voted to take the money set aside for the two percent raises, add $197,991 and come close to bringing all city employees up to the minimum pay levels recommended by the study. But that meant somewhere between 44 percent and 56 percent of the employees (who were already at or above grade) would not be getting any raise at all this year.

Except … they already got a kind of a raise. Sort of.

In the budget, the council did include more than $300,000 more this year to increase the city’s contribution to the state retirement fund. That means the employee’s mandatory contribution will be less; thus more net in their paychecks, ergo a raise.

On Wednesday, the new coalition went back Riesberg’s initial proposal. Ironically, that method will save the city that nearly $200,000 that will be applied to the end fund balance (a.k.a. reserve fund), something Wilkins and Scott argued is too low and could leave the city in jeopardy of going below state requirements in future budgets. The council did not choose to apply the savings toward the pay inequities they all seemingly acknowledge still exist.

The other two issues – committees and work sessions – go directly back to the complaints about communication and some councilors not having access to the same information at the same time.

Robinson’s committee structure plan puts in writing a method of doing what the council already has the power to do anyway – create a committee, task force, working group or whatever title they choose – to research and make recommendations on specific issues. The plan would allow the Governing Body to create the committees of between three and seven members for up to three months to discuss specific issues. There could be no more than three members of the Governing Body on any one committee (so the quorum laws in the Open Meetings Act aren’t violated) and staff and the public would round out the membership.

Robinson argued the committees would allow for more staff-council interaction, allow for more public participation and create a structure to develop policy recommendations to the Governing Body as a whole.

Wilkins and Scott argued that the committees create an additional level of bureaucracy that would take more time and resources. They also argued that it might make it more difficult for individual councilors and citizens to oppose a recommendation established committee that has as many as three sitting councilors on it.

The argument got further convoluted when earlier in the meeting Hull changed the order of the agenda to consider the committee plan ahead of Robinson’s work session proposal. Wilkins and Scott have pushed for more work sessions since taking office more than two years ago but oppose having committee recommendations going to a work session for discussion before going to a regular council meeting for action, seeing it as another level of bureaucracy that might slow down the process and inhibit their ability to act independently and in front of the public.

The committee meetings and work sessions will be open to the public, and will be broadcast in some form. Scott was able to push through an amendment making sure the work sessions are recorder for broadcast; Robinson initially wanted the option not to tape or telecast because it might restrict the locations where meetings could be held. She pushed for a more collegial setting where participants could sit around a table and exchange ideas as opposed to the council chambers, which are wired for television and streaming broadcasts on the internet but would require councilors to sit on a dais that doesn’t readily allow for a more casual interaction.

That led to critical comments from various councilors that the meeting could be held everywhere from the middle of Southern Boulevard to a local bar. Veteran observers of Rio Rancho government found that ironic because many current councilors accused past councils of being of a different political philosophy and running the city from certain local establishments that sell liquor.

Robinson’s initial proposal called for two work sessions each month, on first and third Tuesdays at 3 p.m. (a day ahead of regular council meetings). There were sharp exchanges about public access and availability during working hours versus requiring city staff to potentially work overtime to attend evening sessions, among other debates.

That proposal was amended to one meeting on the fourth Tuesday of the month. Amendments leaving various options and or requirements for additional work sessions were shot down, so it appears for now the council will have one regularly-scheduled work session on the third Tuesday of each month at 3 p.m. (someplace) and has the option to schedule more.

Published Monday, May 19, 2014

MILLION DOLLAR VIEW:  An unidentified golfer putts close to the hole at Club Rio Rancho. Improved putting greens are among the many improvemnts noticible at the club since new owenrs took over May 1.
To see our photo essay, click here.

To vote or not to vote,
that is the question
Scott ponders participation on golf course issue


The city councilor who represents the district that contains Club Rio Rancho said Monday he may recuse himself from voting on a proposed agreement that includes a special water rate for the golf course.

District 4 councilor Mark Scott told that he had been advised by city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown that his participation might constitute a conflict of interest because he owns a home near the course and property values could increase if the club is successful.

“The City Charter is very clear,” Scott said. “I’m directly affected financially.

“We’ll see. The jury is still out on it. I haven’t decided anything. Nothing is definite.

“The city attorney’s job is to make sure I don’t put the city in jeopardy. It’s still up in the air.”

An argument could be made that in this case the City Charter is not clear.

Article VIII of the City Charter is titled “Conflict of Interest; Ethics.” Section 8.01 B (1) states “The mayor or any city councilor who has a financial interest in the outcome of any policy, decision, or determination before the Governing Body, shall disclose to the other members of the Governing Body the nature of the financial interest, and the disclosure shall be recorded by the Clerk as part of the minutes of the meeting at which the disclosure is made.”

Section B (2) states “No member of the Governing Body shall vote on any policy, decision or determination in which that Governing Body member has a financial interest.”

But earlier in the charter, Article VIIII, Section 8.01 A Definitions, Item 7 reads “‘Financial interest’ means an interest held by a person, that person’s spouse or minor children, which is: (a) any ownership interest in a business; or (b) any employment or prospective employment for which negotiations have already begun.”

Since Scott is not a partner in Club Rio Rancho and is not working for them, it appears he does not have a “financial interest” as defined by the charter.

In addition to Scott, talked to five former or current city officials who asked that their name not be used. All five said they did not think Scott should recuse himself.

Several pointed out a recusal could set a bad precedent, that any councilor would have to recuse himself or herself on any issue in their district because it could possibly improve their property values.

“What about when they vote on money to fix Southern Boulevard?” said a former member of the Governing Body. “Does that mean every councilor who has part of that road in their district will have to recuse themselves?
“If this becomes the standard, nothing will ever get done.”

Scott said he had not been contacted by constituents about the issue other than some who were confused about the meeting date and time. And he urged interested parties to contact other members of the governing body.

“You don’t have to contact me. I’m already in favor of it,” he said. “You need to talk to those who aren’t in favor of it.

“I’m one vote out of seven. There are seven votes on that city council.”

Scott’s vote is especially crucial on this issue because it will require four votes, or a 2/3 majority of councilors, for passage.

That in essence nullifies any potential vote by Mayor Gregg Hull. The mayor votes only in case of a tie; if Scott recues himself, only five councilors would be voting, leaving no chance of a tie (unless of the five abstains or recuses himself or herself). And even if there is a tie, a positive vote from Hull would not achieve the 2/3 majority.

The description on the agenda of for the special meeting is “Review and consideration of proposal submitted by Sweet Success, LCC, owner of ‘Club Rio Rancho’ (formerly Chamisa Hills Golf and Country Club) for a recycled/reuse water contract rate.” No attachment outlining the proposal has been included as part of the agenda on the city web site, but it is believed Club Rio Rancho is seeking a rate of 20 percent of the commercial potable irrigation rate.

The city’s Utilities Commission is recommending a 30 percent rate for all customers, but the council postponed action on that proposal last week.

Click here for Governing Body contact information.

Published Monday, May 19, 2014

CHS GRADUATION: The 2014 graduating class of Cleveland High School celebrates at the end of Monday's graduation ceremony. A total of 484 students received their diplomas. For more photos from the ceremony, click here.

Published Monday May 19,2014

Governing Body to meet twie on Tuesday on golf course

The Rio Rancho City Council must be full of old-time baseball fans, because they sure are into doubleheaders.

The Governing Body will meet twice on Tuesday, first in a work session that starts at 3 p.m. followed by a special meeting at 6 p.m. The subject for both is the re-use water rate for Club Rio Rancho.

Last Wednesday the council actually went one better, convening three times for two actual meetings. The Governing Body first had a hearing to discuss the 2015 budget, but couldn’t finish its discussion in the hour of allotted time. So they recessed the budget hearing to have their regular meeting, only to reconvene the budget hearing later.

In total, the meetings lasted 5 ½ hours.

This time, the two Governing Body meetings will be separated by a PID meeting in the council chambers from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Play ball!

Published Monday, May 19, 2014

TALKING POLITICS: Lawrence Rael, candidate for the Demotic Party nominee for governor, addresses supporters on Sturday.

Rael banking on his home county
in bid for Democratic nomination


Lawrence Rael is counting heavily on his home county making him the Democratic nominee for governor.

The Sile native and Bernalillo High graduate, and his “Rael Runner” converted yellow school bus, made four appearances in Sandoval County over the weekend – three fundraisers and a public outing at a Corrales park sharing the billing with Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and other candidates.

While all five candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor appeared at a debate at the Bernalillo transit station on May 9, Rael appears to be the only candidate to come back to the county.

None of the candidates – state senators Howie Morales and Linda Lopez, attorney general Gary King and businessman Alan Webber -- has attacked each other publicly, though private discussion of opponents’ foibles is great blood sport for some in all the campaigns.

Rael warned his supports Friday, at a campaign event at Perea’s Restaurtnt in Corrales, to be careful with their comments lest they be picked up by the opposition, including incumbent Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

“From time to time, we go to events we hold to raise dollars, get our message out and talk to folks,” he said. “And as with anything else we have in today’s modern society, and with the advent with all the little gadgets we all use, from time to time we have those who are watching what we are doing and videotaping what we are saying.

“This is about the future of New Mexico. We are going to have differences, and we certainly have policy differences with the governor and this administration. And we will talk about those policy differences.

“I want to make sure we keep this discussion about what it is, the policy differences and the issues, and not about the personalities and/or the personal feelings you may have toward other folks.

“We are now at a point in this campaign in this administration, her staff and her political operatives are paying close attention. There are folks who are coming into events like this that often times a candidate may not always be able to tell (who they are). And they’re listening to what we’re saying. And they’re listening to what my supporters are saying.

“We all have our personal thoughts about people, but let’s make sure all of us remember that this really about being governor and the issues that are important to New Mexico. Be mindful that this (personality attacks) never helps.”
Rael’s message has remained constant, focusing on what he wants to do and where he believes Martinez is lacking. He is critical of the governor for being “at the bottom of all the good lists and the top of all the bad lists,” including being “50th in child welfare, 50th in job creation and being one of the only states in America that is losing population because our young people are not able to find jobs.”

“It seems to me we have an administration that is focused on the politics of Washington and the opportunity it may bring to run for national office. As a result, they’ve lost their focus on New Mexico. This is the number one reason why leadership, and a change of leadership, is so important.”

Rael summed it up in “four issues we hear across the board” which he now calls the “Four E’s” – education, the economy, the environment (including water) and ethics.

Rael has the support of many Democratic leaders in the county. His campaign finance chairman is Don Leonard, former chairman of the Sandoval County Commission. Among those attending at least one of the weekend events is state Sen. John Sapien, current commission chairman Darryl Madalena, commissioner Orlando Lucero, former Rio Rancho mayor Mike Williams and former city councilors Tamara Gutierrez and Marilyn Salzman.

Published Sunday, May 18, 2014
Cleveland boys complete undefeated season in 5A track;
Rio Rancho girls need extra game, extra inning in softball

Click here for photos.

Rio Rancho’s two high schools each claimed a state championship late Saturday.

The Cleveland High boys took top honors at the Class 5A track meet with 102 points, easily outdistancing second place Volcano Vista. The Storm were tops in five different events, including a state record of 3 minutes, 16.72 seconds.
Volcano Vista was second with 56 team points, three ahead of third-place Rio Rancho High.

Nicole Pendley pitched Rio Rancho High to the state softball championship Saturday afternoon, only a few hours of setting a state record of 142 feet in the javelin on her final throw to defend her title.

After winning in the javelin, Pendley crossed University Boulevard to go from the track stadium to the UNM softball field. She pitched 14 innings – six in a 6-3 loss and all eight in a 9-4, eight inning victory over Onate in the double-elimination tournament finale.

Published Sunday, May 18, 2014
Senior center won't be a voting site on June 3


The Meadowlark Senior Center, traditionally the polling place that draws the biggest turnout for elections at all levels, will not be a voting location for the June 3 primary.

The senior center is being used for early voting through Saturday, May 31. But Sandoval County Clerk Eileen Garbagni has confirmed that Meadowlark will not be a voting location on the actual primary election day.

Instead, she said, an additional polling place will be located at the Esther Bone Memorial Library at 950 Pinetree Rd. S.E., next door to the main Rio Rancho post office.

The Rio Rancho city council gave final approval at its meeting on Wednesday for long-awaited repairs and repaving of the senior center parking lot. During discussion on that item Jay Hart, director of parks and recreation for the city, announced the paving project would begin Monday, June 2.

Questioned at that time by, Hart said the polling place would be moved to the Sabina Grande Recreation Center.

Informed of the council’s decision before Thursday’s meeting of the Sandoval County Commission, county officials were under the impression their contract with the city would allow a polling place at Meadowlark on Election Day. But Garbagni said Friday the contract was only for early voting and the traditional Meadowlark voting location would be moved to Esther Bone.

That apparently is news to many. Several candidates and/or campaign representatives interviewed by over the weekend were not aware that there will be no voting at Meadowlark on Election Day. One party activist suggested a claim could be made that moving the polls is a form of voter supression.

Among other things, this means candidates who have signs near Meadowlark now for early voters will probably relocate them closer to Esther Bone for Election Day.

The change creates other issues. County officials will have to move computer equipment already in place for early voting to Esther Bone. And prospective voters who aren’t aware of the change will be driving into a construction zone and may not be aware of alternate locations where they can vote.

Some campaigns expressed concern that the change has not been publicized. Many seniors live in the apartments near Meadowlark and make Election Day an outing, having lunch at the senior center and voting before or after their meal.

Also, apparently no plans have been made to provide transportation to another polling place by the city, county or campaigns for those seniors who live within walking distance but have no personal vehicle.

It was not immediately clear if any effort has been made to inform regular visitors to the center of the change.

One of the few constants in local elections has been Meadowlark Senior Center. It has hosted a polling place for federal, state, city and school board elections for years and usually attracts the most voters.

In the recent Rio Rancho municipal election, for instance, 1809 of the 4757 votes that were actually cast on Election Day were cast at Meadowlark (38.0 percent). The number was even higher for the city runoff, where 1,610 of 3,754 Election Day votes were cast at Meadowlark (42.9 percent).

Senior center activities will be moved to two schools during the paving project, which could take up to two months to complete.

Published Saturday, May 17, 2014

NEW MEXICO STARTS wider recevier Dexter Manley celebrates a secnd-uarter touchdown catch Saturday night. The Stars lost Rio Grande Valley 78-38.

Ejection, locker room argument part of lackluster effort


The New Mexico Stars had a chance to move into a tie for first place in the Lone Star Football League on Saturday night.

The Cubs have a chance to win the World Series, too. But at least so far the Cubs aren’t fighting among themselves.

Visiting Rio Grande Valley dominated New Mexico in every way, rolling to a 66-26 victory in a Lone Star Football League game that stated with a fumble and ended with rumbling coming from the Stars’ dressing room.

The Sol, 6-2, snapped New Mexico’s three game winning streak to stay atop the league standings. Amarillo (3-3) plays at 4-3 San Antonio on Monday. An Amarillo victory would leave the three teams tied for second place.
The top three teams make the Lone Star Football League playoffs.

The Stars night was defined early. New Mexico got a nice return on the opening kickoff but fumbled, leaving the Sol with the ball. Rio Grande Valley drove for a quick touchdown, with quarterback Nate Davis scoring from a yard out. The extra point kick failed, but the Sol led 6-0.

After intercepting New Mexico Andrew McGlory on his opening series, the Sol scored again, this time on a Davis pass of 16 yards to Damion Clark. The extra point was good this time, putting the Sol ahead 13-0.

New Mexico scored on its ensuing possession, with Roland Bruno collecting a 39 yard pass from McGlory. And when fan favorite Marcus Smith picked off Davis and scored  -- and McGlory kicked his second consecutive extra point --  the Stars had the lead 14-13, and apparently on the momentum.

Except …

On the scoring play New Mexico’s Victor Jacquez was ejected for the game for stepping on a Sol player – “stomped on him” was the exact phrase the back judge told photographers near the end zone.

“It was a selfish play,” said New Mexico coach Dominic Bramonte. “What makes it really super selfish is that it was 10 yards behind the play. It had nothing to do with the play. We had a touchdown.

“It didn’t cost us the game, but it definitely cost us a pass rush.”

Bramonte adjusted his roster to carry one less defensive lineman and one more defensive back for this game. The game plan was to have Adrian Cole and Roosevelt Falls to come off the edge on a pass rush, with A.J. Portee in relief of those two. With Jacques ejected, Portee had to go full time and there was no rest or backup players.

“It was the worst possible thing for our defense,” he said.

It was Jaquez’s second suspension and he will be suspended from next week’s game at Amarillo. He did not play last week after being ejected two weeks ago in Amarillo.
“He’s played only five quarters in three games,” Bramonte said. “You can’t have that. You just can’t it. It puts us in a bind.”

Asked if Jaquez might be cut from the team, Bramonte said only, “It will be rectified.”

After New Mexico took its only led of the night, Rio Grande Valley scored two times against the shorthanded New Mexico before the Stars could convert again. Then Rio Grande Valley scored twice more and held New Mexico scoreless, including stopping a Stars drive inside the Sol 10 in the final minute. Suddenly, quietly the Sol led 42-20.

RGV outscored the Stars 14-0 in the third period for a 54-20 lead. The fourth quarter was played for pride, which New Mexico showed very little of and Rio Grande Valley took advantage of by throwing deep, trying an onside kick and a two-point conversion despite the big led.

“It was a learning lesson,” Bramonte said. “If you want to talk about competing, climbing to the top of the mountain, you’ve got to learn to play at a different level. You’ve got to be able to answer the competitor.

“It’s a defining game. It’s always the losses that define the most successful seasons.

“I was trying to temper all of the ‘we’re in contention’ talk. Now the men know why I wanted to do that. Rio Grande gave us what they call an old fashioned ass kicking. Not only that, he was teaching us a lesson in the fourth quarter with onside kicks and vertical throws. He saw we were down and said, ‘Hey, if they want be down I’m going to take it.’

“I loved it. I loved it in the fact that it is going to be a defining loss for us. And the great thing about it is they are coming back here next month. So we’ll really be able to gage how much better we’ve gotten from this loss.

“We’re at ground zero right now. The only things that matter is the lessons learned from this game and that we’ve got Amarillo next. After a performance like this we don’t deserve to talk about playoffs. We’re not good enough. We have to take care of our business and make some changes. Just like every team, we have to try to get better.

“These guys are resilient. They’ll recover. We’ll bounce back.”

Bramonte was in the middle of answering a question about his quarterback play when he left to deal with lout voices from the locker room. waited 30 minutes but Bramonte never came back.

“We knew going into this game that with an offensive juggernaut like Nate Davis that you’re not going to stop them on defense,” Bramante said. “Arena ball is shot to shot. Our quarterback is not capable of doing it. He’s incapable of doing it shot to shot.

"Are they fighting in there?"

If so, it woul have been more fight than New Mexico put up in the final three quarters. But apparently no punches were thrown in the locker room.
About that point Bramante left, taking with him hopes of better times ahed.

Published Friday, May 16, 2014

THE BIRD MAN OF SSCAFCA?:  Donald Ruday, chairman of the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, holds a burrowing owl as part of a presentation at Friday's SSCAFCA board meeting. The agency continues to incorparte nature conservtion as part of its mission.

Published Friday, May 16, 2014
County detention center
has $1 millon deficit

Sandoval County taxpayers are subsidizing their detention center by more than $5.3 million this year, including $1.3 million to cover a budget deficit.

But they wouldn’t necessarily know that by attending Thursday’s county commission meeting.

According to an internal document sent by e-mail to county commissioners and brought up in a cursory manner as part ofa discussion about the 2015 budget, the detention center is projecting expenses of $9,411,300 in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

The same document shows the county has received $3,287,50.73 in revenues, mostly for housing prisoners from other jurisdictions, so far in the fiscal year. It is projecting to collect another $775,460 by the end of the fiscal year, according to the document.

The memo shows a transfer of $4,292.345, which was budgeted last year, from county’s reserve fund. But even with that transfer, the memo notes, “If budget is fully spent & all projected revenues are received, GF (general fund) need is ($1,055,644.27).”

The $1,055,655.27 figure is in parenthesis, the way an expense is delineated in a document, and highlighted in red – as is the $9,411,300 figure earlier in the document. Take the $1,055,64427 projected deficit and add it to the transfer figure of $4,292,345, and that means it costs $5,347,989 more to operate the detention center than it generates in revenue.

That $1.055 million deficit will have to come from somewhere, but it was not part of the discussion. Even a simple attempt during the meeting to get that figure out to the public was unsuccessful.

When the deficit number was not mentioned in the discussion between the commission and county manager Phil Rios, asked during public comment on the issue if the totals from the memo could be read into the public record. Rios declined to do so, saying the figures were already avail e on the county web site.

But further research shows Rios was incorrect. The deficit figures and the memorandum that provided them are not available on the county web site.

There was no other public comment on the detention center or the budget. obtained a printed copy of the memo from commissioner Glenn Walters, who questioned during the meeting (November 2013 and February 2014) why the memorandum showed no income from the Metropolitan Detention Center. Rios said it was because fees had been paid in advance and none needed to be collected in those months. 

How the county will cover the $1.0055 million deficit is unclear. It could be covered by additional revenue or budget cuts to other services.

In March 2013 commissioners voted unanimously to cut $436,962 from other programs and departments to cover a detention center deficit. The attachments covering the specifics of the cuts (agenda item 5-B-2) are not available with the minutes of the meeting on the county web site, but at the time detailed them this way: $216,717 from the general fund; $165,197 from Public Works; $2,020 from Community Health; $2,580 from DWI programs and $26,435 from Senior Programs.

A link to the county web site published at the time detailing the cuts,, has been disabled.

As a result of dipping into the reserve fund, the preliminary county budget projects less than $5 million in reserves.

The memo shows the county is expecting to collect another $444,000 from the Bernalillo County/Metropolitan Detention Center and $174,374 from local jurisdictions, such as Rio Rancho, for housing their prisoners.

The county is hoping to increase revenue in future budgets for by adding 56 beds and increasing fees it charges to house prisoners from other jurisdictions.

Financial problems for the detention center started in 2012 when federal inmates being housed there were pulled out when two prisoners died in the facility. The memo shows that 97 percent of the projected federal revenue for this year has already been collected; the biggest shortfalls come in anticipated revenue from Bernalillo County/MDC ($440,000 or 76 percent actually collected) “local prisoners ($174,374 or 71 percent) and “corrections fees” ($149,596.50 or 57 percent).

But the memo says even if all those fees are collected at 100 percent, assuming expenditures remain as projected, the facility will still have that $1.055 deficit.

Officials have been working to correct the issues that caused the federal government to remove its inmates, both by changing policy and spending money, including a new $1 million health care plan for prisoners earlier this year.

The jail currently has vacancy and could house additional prisoners, county spokesman Sidney Hill said Friday.
The county is required to keep at least 25 percent of its budget in the reserve fund, so it doesn’t appear it will be able to take much more from reserves to cover the deficit.

One possible hope is the announcement by county assessor Tom Garcia is that his office will report $40 million of new values to the state next month as part of the property tax reappraisal project. Garcia said $21 million is new construction and $19 million were existing values somehow not accounted for in previous records.
That $40 million in new values could generate more than $13 million were it assessed at the traditional 1/3 rate. But it will likely generate less income as some property owners could challenge the assessment and or claim waivers or rebates under various programs, including discounts for veterans and seniors.

In light of all those figures, the commission did pass a preliminary 2015 budget. Significant additions highlighted by Rios include:

*A 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for most employees.

*$200,000 for an economic development cooperative effort (matching the contribution from the city of Rio Rancho.)

*$125,000 in “discretionary” funds to be split among the five commissioners.

*$50,000  for the “Mission of Mercy” dental program for low income residents being conducted at the Santa Ana Star Center. Another $50,000 was approved earlier in the meeting to fund the program this year.

The 3 percent pay raise is the first for county employees in three years. The commission has covered increased employee costs in insurance and retirement in recent years in lieu of an actual paycheck increase.

Published Thursday, Mary 15, 2015

Council debates issues for over 5 hours


"No means yes."

That statement from Mayor Gregg Hull seems contradictory, but it comes as to describing Wednesday’s city council meetings.

Yes, meetings-- plural.

The Governing Body laughed, complained, argued, discussed and voted on a multitude of issues and budget items in 5½ hours. Just the list of what the council did and didn’t do, much less the rationale and debate behind each item, will take up more than most readers can handle in one sitting.

It was the type of night where almost every issue spawned a conversation that ended up with more dissenting votes than in recent memory. Hull, in only his second council meeting as president officers, had to break two ties and break up even more exchanges by using the power of the chair to call the question to end debate.

Few issues seemed routine and even fewer can be summarized in a one-sentence accounting of the vote. For instance, what would seem a rather pedestrian matter – the award of a $759,899 contract to Albuquerque Asphalt for paving of the Meadowlark Senior Center parking lot – becomes a major story when Parks and Recreation Director Jay Hart confirmed that the center will be closed starting June 2 for the paving.

That means not only will hundreds of seniors be partaking in activities in a different location (Martin Luther King Middle School or Rio Rancho Elementary School) for a couple of months, but voting in the June 3 primary election is being moved to a small building behind the Sabina Grande Recreation Center. Meadowlark traditionally has the largest voting turnout because, as all politicians know, seniors vote in Rio Rancho.

Hart said early voting, which starts Saturday and runs through May 17, will still be conducted at Meadowlark.

There was so much to do on Wednesday that it two separate meetings and three different bangs of the gavel to start them. Hull had called a special meeting for 5 p.m. to consider changes to city manager Keith Riesberg’s budget.

Despite switching the order of the agenda to move what was thought to be non-controversial (and quickly disposable) items to the front of the agenda, a discussion on the mayor’s proposed addition of $100,000 for economic development was just the first of a series of lengthy exchanges. In order to stick to protocol and change the video recording setup for the regular council meeting that was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., the budget meeting was recessed, only to resume after the regular meeting ended.

The council meeting itself was an emotional rollercoaster, starting with a moving presentation by the local chapter of the Honors Flight Network. The organization raises money and coordinates arrangements to transport World War II veterans in Washington, D.C., to see the World War II Memorial; 25 from New Mexico make the trip in June and return on June 6, the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The rest of the meeting was a type of war, too. There were successes (recognizing the budget department for the eight consecutive year of winning an award for excellence) and quick consensus victories ($1.8 million for water line replacements; confirmation of the hiring of Utah’s Dan Olsen as the new budget director; budget adjustments to pay for the city’s 75 percent PERA contribution for the rest of the year that was authorized by a council resolution on April 23; the acceptance of an early payment of $77,140 in cell phone tower revenue that will eventually be spent to make city parks compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act).

And then there was the hand-to-hand combat.

First came the nagging zoning ordinance on buffering requirements, outdoor sales displays and storage, and truck rental locations.

There were two major changes. The first sets different standards depending on if a building is more than 100 feet away from a street. A second changes eliminates proposed confusing compliance language that would have given existing businesses three years to conform to new rules. Instead, the language in place stays in effect.

It got so confusing at one point that council was voting on an amendment to an amendment to a substitute ordinance.

Next came a change to the sign ordinance. Controversy erupted this spring when it was discovered that a key section regarding temporary signs had been left out during the last revision last year. The omission led to Riesberg at one point ordering the code enforcement division not to enforce any of the ordinance, for fear of legal issues; that order came in the peak of the sign season, the middle of the city’s election campaign.

As part of the changes the council, on its first reading, reduced the time candidates could place signs in the public right of way from 90 days ahead of an election to 45. The debate boiled town to Constitution versus confusion, with councilors arguing for First Amendment free speech rights or the confusion voters had by overlapping elections (thinking they could vote for county sheriff in the city election, for instance).

In the end the vote was 3-3, with Councilor Lonnie Clayton, Dawnn Robinson and Cheryl Everett voting in favor of 90 days and Chuck Wilkins, Mark Scott and Shelby Smith voting for a 45-day period. Hull broke the tie in favor of the longer sign period.

Reuse water rates prompted a longer debate. Former city council candidate Todd Hathorne presented each member of the Governing Body with a dart, which he said was symbolic of the argument because the council was trying to decide a policy at random without full information. By the end of the night at times it looked like some councilors appeared ready to use the gift on one another, city staff or themselves.

The result of the proposal, which would set the recycled water rate at 30 percent of the potable commercial irrigation rate, was that the issue was withdrawn from consideration. It will be placed back on the agenda at a later date when councilors get more information, including acceptance by the state engineer of the city’s updated reuse water plan that will be submitted next month and after the Governing Body considers a rate proposal for Club Rio Rancho (see below).

Scott and Wilkins took the unusual step of leaving the councilor’s dais to address the Governing Body from the public podium during this issue. Scott talked briefly about next Tuesday’s special meeting, and Wilkins presented figures on recycled water as it pertained to return flow credits, reinjection and a recent meeting between city officials and the state engineer.

All of this was sandwiched between discussion and votes on proposed budget changes. In the end only one proposed general fund increase wasn’t financed, a proposal by Hull to spend $10,000 more on a initiative to encourage residents to shop locally went down by a 4-2 vote, with Everett and Robinson supporting the mayor.

But that didn’t mean individual councilors didn’t try to stop different increases.

It started when Clayton brought up his opposition to the mayor’s request for the extra economic development funding, saying he would prefer to wait until an actual organization was formed.

Clayton was the last to vote in the rotation; by the time his turn came five votes (guaranteeing acceptance) had already been cased, so he joined in to make the decision unanimous.

Wilkins was the lone dissenter on a $6,011 salary increase for two Municipal Court employees who have language translation skills. Wilkins said he wanted to treat all departments fairly and reward all employees with a pay increase (again, no is yes) but was outvoted 5-1.

A proposal by Everett to spend $38,0 00 for a half-time employee and software to track constituent issues moved forward on a tie-breaking vote by Hull. Wilkins, Scott and Smith voted against funding the new program.

On another issue, four councilors argued with Riesberg's proposal to budget  $3.25 million of money from the quarter-cent higher education gross receipts tax fund to build Broadmoor Ave. Wilkins and Scott voiced their opposition and sought to have the decision delayed when Hull produced a letter from Wynn Goering, chief executive officer of University of New Mexico West, supporting an expenditure after sending councilors an e-mail during recent budget hearings that seemingly expressed the opposite view.

Beth Miller, director of outreach for UNM West, stayed late into the night to say the institution supported the Broadmoor expenditure. The vote was 5-1 against tabling the vote, with Scott in the minority. The final vote on the project was 6-0, with Scott joining the majority when, like Clayton previously, the issue had been decided before he cold cast the last vote.

It was that issue, where councilors had to vote “no” to keep the money in the budget, that prompted Hull’s “No is yes” comment in his attempt to clarify the issue.

Wilkins and Scott also voted against a proposal to fund two and additional ambulance and crew at the tune of $152,256. Again, the councilors said they weren’t against the expenditure; they just opposed it right now.

One of the concerns all of the councilors expressed at different times was where the city’s reserve fund would end up. With only the one cut, the council spent $631,729 more than Riesberg represented, leaving the end fund balance at about 13.1 percent.

With most of the items a reoccurring cost next year, and the city slated to fund part of the Southern Boulevard reconstruction project in the 2016 budget, that reserve fund is projected to dip to about 12 percent. The city has a stated goal of a 15 percent reserve fund.

That balance is also up against the damages the city faces in the impact fee lawsuit with Curb Inc. and possible costs of lawsuits over zoning.

At one point Wilkins criticized some councilors for campaigning as conservatives but spending more than many previous Governing Bodies. That drew a sharp rebuke from Everett, who said she did not adhere to any political label. Robinson pointed out that Wilkins proposed $434,000 in additional spending; Wilkins countered that by cutting a proposed $202,590 payment insurance into the city’s self-insurance pool and pushing a different salary structure he was saving the city money.

Those and similar sharp exchanges were part of a quiet undertone to the meeting. Everett actually expressed part of it, saying she was frustrated that some councilors had inside or advance knowledge on certain issues, like water (Wilkins) or a golf course development deal (Scott). They both defending themselves, saying in essence they had been on the council for two years (as opposed to Everett, who was elected March 4) and had already been working on the issues.

Scott also was visibly upset at Riesberg, when the city manager characterized the Broadmoor decision as being for or against construction of the Road. Scott said he was not against building the road; he just didn’t want to fund it using the higher education tax money.
Remember, no means yes.

Wilkins and Scott did win out on the salary and compensation issue, getting Clayton and Smith to join them to provide funding to bring most employees up to the pay grade suggested by a city compensation study as opposed to simply applying a 2 percent across-the-board pay raise recommended by Riesberg.
But even that issue isn’t cut and dried. Employees represented by three different labor unions will have a say on where compensation is placed during contract negotiations.

Councilors did unanimously agree to budget a water rate increase of “only” 7.8 percent. Riesberg’s budget called for a 9.8 percent increase; alternatives of 8.8 percent and no increase at all were never discussed Wednesday.

Published Wednesday, May 14, 2013
Scott calls special meeting on
Club Rio Rancho water rates

City councilor Mark Scott is calling for a special meeting of the Governing Body to consider reuse water rates for Club Rio Rancho.

In an e-mail sent to constituents late Wednesday morning, Scott wrote, “It is expected that very shortly an updated proposal requesting a reduced recycled water rate for a specific period of time will be submitted to the city by the new owner of Chamisa Hills, recently renamed Club Rio Rancho.
“It is my intent to call a special meeting, which would be open to the public, of the Governing Body for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20 at City Hall to review and consider the submitted proposal that pertains to Club Rio Rancho only.
“Per city resolution, a special meeting of the Governing Body can be called by three or more City Councilors upon three-day notice. I have already secured the support of Councilors (Chuck) Wilkins and (Shelby) Smith to call this meeting. I will keep you posted.

“This is very important and I do not want to delay a decision if at all possible.”
Tonight’s city council meeting has an agenda item for recycled water rates city-wide. It would set the rate at 30 percent of the potable water rate for commercial irrigation.

In a brief telephone interview, Scott said the final proposal has not been submitted by Club Rio Rancho owner Jhett Browne. Scott said he expects the proposal will be for a 20 percent rate that has been suggested as part of a development agreement with the city.

“I hope to convince my fellow councilors to go with that,” Scott said. “My intent is to give the new owners a head start so that they have two growing seasons.

“I’ve lived on the golf course for more than 20 years and want to see it restored to where it was once. This is too important to wait.”

The Governing Body will have a special meeting today at 5 p.m to consider changes to city manager Keith Riesberg's proposed 2015 budget. The regular council meeting begins at 6 p.m.

Published Tuesday, May 14, 2011
AIMS to Rio Rancho:
we're still coming


The director of AIMS has a message to Rio Rancho – the school is still planning to come to the City of Vision.

In her first public comments since Friday’s meeting of the state Public Education Commission, Kathy Sandoval-Snider said the charter school has already requested a waiver from Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera and expects to have two sixth-grade classes on the UNM Wet campus in Rio Rancho this fall. 
The interview was conducted Tuesday on the AIMS campus in Albuquerque.

“What I pledge to the families and the city council of Rio Rancho is that I will put everything I can into it. I will not quit. I will not stop,” Sandoval-Snider said. “I will dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t.’ I’m not going to give up.

“I can’t foresee the future. All I know is I’m going to work my butt off to try to make this happen. We’re not going away.

“I’ve got 40 kids and families that want to be there, and I don’t want to want to let them down. I don’t want to turn my back on them, and I’m not going to. So I’ll go ahead and jump through every hoop.”

On Friday the PEC issued a statement “clarifying” its position on AIMS West, saying the charter school did not have the authorization to move into Rio Rancho and would need a waiver from Skandera to expand. Sandoval-Snider still believes the school had permission when the PEC made amendments to her charter in February 2013, but personnel at both the PEC and Public Education Department (PED) have led to changing interpretations of law and regulations.

“In looking at the contract that I have with the PEC, it doesn’t say anything about facilities, that I have to have one, two or three amendments,” Sandoval-Snider said. “It says I have to let them know where I’m going. I have to make sure that the fire code is met. And if you look back at PEC transcripts, you will see many, many people who have moved.

“I believe we did this transparently. I believe we did it legally. I believe permission was given and they were very clear about where we were going to.”

The Rio Rancho Public Schools and superintendent Sue Cleveland oppose the expansion, saying they believe AIMS did not follow procedures and state law. After Monday’s school board meeting, Cleveland said the district would not comment further on the situation.

“I’m not making any comment on that,” she said. “I think the result spoke for itself. We had said that we didn’t believe what was happening was legal. We asked for a clarification and they gave that clarification. So now we just have to wait and see if any sort of waiver comes down.”

The PEC is an advisory body to the PED. The whole matter can, and likely will, be resolved with a waiver from Skandera.

Her boss, Gov. Susana Martinez, told on May 1 she strongly supported AINS and she anticipates “no problem” from the state with AIMS West.

“I know that as far as she (Martinez) is able, she and the Secretary of Education will do what they can,” Sandoval-Snider said. “I know that my parents have turned to the Secretary of Education.

“But they also turned to the PEC.”

Sandoval-Snider said AIMS will also be back on the PEC agenda with an updated application that she hopes will satisfy the commission. And she was highly critical of Cleveland and the Rio Rancho district for opposing AIMS over what she thinks was a technicality.

“It’s not my intent to fight with the PEC,” Sandoval-Snider said. “But this did not become an issue until Sue started squawking.

“And what I have to say to that school board out there is that I’m not going away. (Former Albuquerque mayor) Marty Chavez once said there was no bigger pain in the rear end than me if you are on the other side of an issue. And I see they are on the other side of the issue.

“They’re talking about administrative rules that are ever changing and they’re telling me I broke the law. But the reality is I’m talking about kids, and they’re talking about (losing) 40 children. That’s going to devastate the school district?

“That district takes 572 kids from surrounding districts like Jemez, with a total population of 450, and Bernalillo. And they’re going to say that it’s not okay for me to come in and start a program that their parents say they need, but it’s okay for them to poach off of other districts?

“I’ve got a problem with that. That’s hypocritical.”

Sandoval-Snider was also critical of the UNM West Advisory Council, of which Cleveland is a member.

In a separate meeting on Friday, members of the Council spoke against AIMS West at a UNM Board of Regents meeting. The Regents passed a motion allowing AIMS to expand its current campus or to UNM West, with the proviso that Sandoval-Snider work with UNM President Bob Frank to resolve any legal issues.

Sandoval-Snider did not attend the Regents meeting, but said, “My understand is that there was a man named Kim Johnson, and there were a couple of other people from the West Side Advisory (Council), Mr. (Don) Schlichte (vice president of the Rio Rancho School Board) and (board member) Catherine Cullen. And during the open forum there was a discussion about pursuing a legal remedy if the Regents allowed me in. They were going to sue us.

“Here’s where I have a problem with that. I have been to 25 open meetings, more than anybody has ever had to do with any kind of amendment. And I have 52 families, and they believe they know what’s best for their children.

“I’m appalled that the Advisory Council believes they know more than the parents. Some of the advisory members don’t even live in Rio Rancho, and they know better? Are they going to be there in 20 years to take responsibility for what they say they knew?

“I’m appalled that people that were given that kind of charge would then step in and use that kind authority and tell parents they don’t know what they want – that instead of saving yourselves $3,000 or $8,000 or $10,000 in college costs (for dual credit classes), we don’t want you to have that because we want to have all the power and all the money.
The arrogance of that organization to say ‘I know better than you do’ just give me fits.

“The Regents were like ‘whoa, we don’t want to get in the crosshairs of the PEC.’ But what I heard was ‘we still support you. We support you expanding here. We support you expanding out there. But you’ve got to get a vote of confidence from the PEC.’

“There are only three entities – all of which Sue Cleveland has a hand in – that don’t want me out there: The (UNM West) Advisory Council, the school board and herself. Everybody else thinks it would be great.

“And if she thinks I’m going to go away, she doesn’t know me, and she probably should have had a clue about that to begin with. I will continue to pursue everything I need to.”
The Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science is affiliated with the University of New Mexico. It is located on the UNM South Campus across the street from University Arena and by its charter must have part of its classrooms at a UNM facility.

AIMS currently has 360 students jammed into converted office space that once housed the Social Security Administration. And when it wanted to expand, AIMS had the option of going to one of three other UNM locations. In conjunction with the Regents it chose UNM West.

AIMS is proposing to have 40 students start classes at UNM West in the fall, of which 39 are from Rio Rancho.

Though AIMS will probably get ta waiver, Sandoval-Snider the two Friday meetings left her in a non-win situation. In its clarification, the PEC said AIMS must follow a two-step process: notifying the PEC it intends to move, then come back to a second meeting to inform PEC of the new actual physical location.

“So now the PEC says there rule is you can’t get an amendment for a location until you actually in the location.  So I can’t make the PEC happy until I am in a location. The Regents are worried about giving me space unless the PEC is happy.

“The issue is not location as far as the geographic location. The issue is if you are in a different building. In the past when you went into a different building you just informed them, you had inspections and off you go. In fact, you would just turn that in to whoever the director of CSD (the Charter School Division of the Public Education Department) was.

“So now apparently there has been a change in procedure, but that change has been fairly recent. And now we have this threat, and this threat turns into a Catch-22. That’s where I am right now.”

Most charter schools are “district charters,” meaning they operate within the boundaries of one school district and have to go through special procedures involving the local school board before opening. AIMS is a “state charter school” and falls under the regulation of the PEC and ultimately the PED.

Because Albuquerque-based AIMS is attempting to open a campus in a different school district, RRPS opposes the move and believes AIMS did not follow proper procedures. The PEC did not specifically address the cross-district issue on Friday, but ruled in this case that AIMS did not follow the proper application process to create a campus in Rio Rancho.

“I am interested that they didn’t even touch the statute about the different districts,” Sandoval-Snider said. “And I think the reason was it is very ambiguous. What they are citing is how to deal with those multiple sites financially, and I’ll be the first to say that there were a lot of drunken monkeys with charter schools out there for a while.

“Running a charter school is hard, and there’s nobody to blame but yourself if it doesn’t go right.”

This is the first time a state charter school has attempted to open a branch campus in a different school district, and other school districts and state charter schools have been watching this issue as a test case.

“This is the first time this had ever happened, and I had been warned that this is new ground,” Sandoval-Snider said.

As the case has played out in the media, Sandoval-Snyder said it has been unfair to the parents of the 40 children who want to take AIMS classes in Rio Rancho.
“I cringe every time I get an e-mail or call from one of them,” said. “They want to know if this is going to happen. A lot of them are moving to Rio Rancho or saving money (for transportation costs to AIMS.)
“My parents read about this in the newspaper and it’s heartbreaking. They’re making financial decisions on this. They’re buying houses in Rio Rancho so they can be closer.

“I get e-mails that say ‘I told my little boy we were going to have this. Is it going to happen?’ To put them through this is horrible. That’s not what I went into education for, and it’s really hard for me to watch somebody who is an educational leader or has an educational import violate that trust.”
Sandoval-Snyder said it would have been easier to establish a new charter school in Rio Rancho rather than creating a branch campus.

“If you go to the PEC to get a new charter you get one open meeting. That’s it. This is at 25 meetings now,” she said. “I didn’t do this to try to make money. I could have started another new charter with a new board. But I wanted the same climate, the some continuity.

“So I said I was going to go back and forth (between the two branches). I was going to take on that task. It was going to be a pain for me to do it. But it was going to be in their community, though it is going to be taxing for me.

“If I have find room on this campus and welcome those 40 parents here, I will. But I think it would be an absolute crying shame that they have to drive 40 miles once a day.”

The state Legislature’s interim education committee is looking at changing charter school rules, something Sandoval-Snider and Cleveland actually agree on.

“The charter school division of the PED tends to get new rules every time they got another administrator, and there would be a different interpretation,” Sandoval-Snider said. “Sometimes the PED and the PEC are at crosshairs with each other

“It changes constantly. The place has been a revolving door. You can’t operate like that.

“I think they (the Legislature) need so get some administrative rules down. They don’t need to go crazy about it, but we need some consistency.”

The Rio Rancho school district stands to lose about $350,000 in state funding if it loses the 40 students. And Sandoval-Snider says that is the motivation behind the district’s push against AIMS.

“Don’t tell me it isn’t about the money. It’s about the money,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer. It would be one thing if I was going to go in and not add value to the community. But I am.

“And if it doesn’t happen, holy cow. Buckle up, baby. Those parents and that community is going to go nuts.”

Sandoval-Snider said that UNM is hoping to find space on its Albuquerque campus to let AINS expand there, too.

“UNM has been wonderful, and I think they feel kind of bad for me,” she said.  “UNM is working hard to find some extra space for me. So the Rio Rancho district is still going to lose those students.

“We’re looking at other space out there as well. CNM’s very supportive. New Mexico Highlands is very supportive.”

As AIMS West grows and adds grades, it would likely keep a small presence in the UNM West Building and relocate the other grades elsewhere. AIMS is looking at possibly leasing some of the vacant space in the Hewlett-Packard building if security and access issues can be worked out.

Sandoval-Snider said she hopes to get a waiver soon.

“She’s a pretty smart lady. I think she’s aware of time limitations,” she said of Skandera. “I should be out there now to start getting stuff together.

“But I can still do it. I’ve done it before.”

Published Monday, May 13, 2011
RRPS board adopts
new math materials


The Rio Rancho school board adopted math materials for middle and high school students Monday night, meaning the district’s math curriculum will be using the same company at all grade levels for the first time.

By doing what used to be called “textbook adoption,” a process that has greatly changed as more materials become available online, the board accepted the district’s recommendation. A committee made up mostly of middle school math teachers had voted 10-8 for a different program.

LaJuana Coleman, the district’s executive director for secondary curriculum and instruction, led the three presenters to the board. She said the committee vote was largely because one school (Rio Rancho Middle) “rallied their troops” to get more members on the volunteer group and to get them to vote as a block for Pearson Digits instead of Eureka, the eventual winner. She said another school strongly backed Eureka and the other two middle schools were split in their support.

Coleman said one reason the district, including herself and associate superintendent Carl Leppelman, support Eureka is because it would align the curriculum. The board adopted Eureka as it’s kindergarten through sixth grade math program last month, and high school teachers voted 14-2 in favor of Eureka as part of Monday’s adoption package.

Five of the eight middle school committee members who voted for Eureka submitted a “minority report” asking the board nullify the teacher vote and to support Eureka. No teacher for either side was at the meeting and the minority report was not readily available.
Coleman said math coaches and middle school principals unanimously recommended Eureka as well.

Coleman said training for teachers using the new materials will begin later this month. She said 17 teachers had signed up for training in May and 14 more in August.

“They are jumping on,” she said.

One concern for the board is that all of the materials for upper-level high school math courses have not been developed. Coleman said everything through Algebra I had been completed, and the district had access to draft materials for geometry and Algebra II that it will use for the May training. She also said Eureka is obligated materials for higher level courses, such as calculus, will be ready in time for the next school year as part of a previous contract with the state of New York.

Eureka’s materials have been developed specifically to support the national “Common Core” standards that RRPS has adopted, a major selling point.

Melissa Hayes, a middle school math instructional coach and member of the district’s curriculum advisory team, said the Pearson program was somewhat being modified to fit Common Core and is geared for districts that have a one-to-one match of students and computers.

“Why Eureka? Simply the rigor,” Hayes said. “The other program was a one-for-one technology-driven curriculum. You could literally hit play, sit down and let the program do the work. We just didn’t feel that was appropriate.”

Nicole Erdelyi, a high school math coach and member fo the district’s curriculum team, also spoke in favor of Eureka.

“We’re really excited to be aligned K-12 throughout the district for the first time,” she said. “Part of the Common Core in mathematics is a major shift in six major points of rigor. Eureka will enable us to easily make those shifts. That’s something Melissa and I have seen our teachers struggling with in the classroom.”

Erdelyi said Eureka is “making all materials available upfront to all learners,” making it easier for interventions with students that may be struggling.

Colman said some teachers were “excited” that the Pearson program would allow teachers to assign homework on the computer, which would then grade it and submit results to the Pearson gradebook program the district uses.

“There was a lot of talk about what was better for the teacher," Coleman said, which is understandable because “teachers worked so had this year without being completely aligned that they’re looking for something that isn’t as hard.

“We don’t think it’s a silver bullet, but we’re really excited about the opportunity to try this program.”

Coleman said the Eureka tests were more “open ended” where students will have to come up with answers rather than answering multiple-choice questions. She also said it aligns with the PARK standardized test the district uses and is strongly supported by Advanced Placement teachers.

Technology is playing an increasing role in providing classroom materials – even in the adoption process. Coleman said one company didn’t even send sales representatives to make their pitch to the committees, choosing to make their pitches online in a webinar.

“We’re refining the way we look at the whole process. We’re having to re-do a lot of our thinking on this,” she said. “Textbooks are going the way of the dodo bird.”

In response to a question from board vice president Don Schlicte, Coleman said the middle school vote was “democracy in action. It was messy. It really wasn’t clear. Passions run rampant. The norms of behavior were – how shall I say it – there were personalities that began to emerge. It’s just people, working with people. It’s politics.

“We could probably go with Pearson and it would probably be fine. But in the minority report that group said that if we really are going to make that shift to Common Core this will really do it.

“In our last meeting way over the majority of people said they thought both great. ”

In other business, the board:

*Approved an application for approval and procedures for the IDEA program for special education students that brings about $3 million of federal money into the district.

*Approved a contract for services and maintenance for elevators in the district. Al Sena, the district’s director of facilities, is about $4,500 less than the $33,000 contract the district currently has.

Published Saturday, My 10, , 2014
Council to meet early to consider budget change


The Rio Rancho Governing Body will meet an hour earlier than usual Wednesday night to consider proposals to amend city manager Keith Riesberg’s 2015 budget.

The original plan was to vote on the amendments at the end of three budget hearings last Wednesday , but councilors and Mayor Gregg Hull asked for more time to consider the consequences of the changes. Riesberg and city staff compiled a 10-page list of the changes, and an analysis on some of the higher-impact decisions, which they released Friday afternoon.

Part of document includes a two-page cover memorandum that announced that Hull had called a special meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss and vote on the proposals.

A one-paragraph statement announcing the meeting is on the city web site and the agenda, including a link to the full memorandum, has also been posted under the heading
“Budget Hearing No. 4/Special Meeting.”

Public comment on the budget will still be solicited as part of the regular meeting agenda that starts at 6 p.m. The council will make a final vote on the budget at its regular meeting on May 28 and still could make final changes, if necessary, at that time.

At the end of the budget hearings, Riesberg said the changes could possibly be voted on during the later city council meeting on May 28. But in his memo to the council on Friday, the city manager pointed out that several of the budget changes (if approved) would require individual salary line items to be changed as well.

The preliminary budget is due to the state June 1, and it would be virtually impossible to make all of the changes in those individual line items in time to meet that deadline. Under state law the city could face repercussions for filing a late budget, including a possible audit finding from the state.

Initially Riesberg said at the end of Thursday’s budget hearing that the council would have 19 votes to consider. That number has been revised downward to 14 as some of the items are different options on the same proposal that the Governing Body can choose from.

One example is the item that would impact the most people. The proposed budget calls for a 9.8 percent rate increase in fees paid to the city-operated Water Utility, but that could be lowered by one of three options.

First, some background: The governing body passed a five-year rate increase structure that went into effect last February that called for costs to escalate 8.8 percent each year. When the state Legislature appropriated $1 million for line replacement later in the year, the council lowered the increase to 7.8 percent, but just for the first year. At the time of the rate discussion, councilors were told each percentage of the increase equated to about $1 million in revenue.

Councilor Chuck Wilkins is proposing that the increases be lowered from Riesberg’s proposed 9.8 percent to either 8.8 or 7.8 percent, and he wants the changes to be in effect for the remainder of the rate change plan. In offering two alternatives, he asked the city to provide figures showing the financial impact it would have on the Water Utilities reserve fund.

Councilor Mark Scott took it a step further, asking for figures on what the hit would be if there was no increase at all.

The answers?  According to the memo, a decrease to 8.8 percent would generate $363,080 less revenue; a 7.8 percent price hike would bring in $691,645 less than the initial proposed budget. No increase would be a hit of $3,254,445 to the utilities’ reserve fund.
In addition, there are three other budget changes that could impact the Water Utility. Councilor Dawnn Robinson has proposed hiring a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for $40,000. And Wilkins wants another $200,000 added to a city rebate program for citizens who convert to low-flow washing machines. Wilkins would have the program expanded to provide rebates to property owners who switch to xeriscaped landscaping in an attempt to conserve water.

And the impact of a resolution the council passed at its April 23 meeting after the preliminary budget was published will be discussed, Hull said Saturday. Under that resolution, the city will pay 75 percent of the required contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Association.

Since the resolution has already been approved by the council it does not require another vote, Hull said. The memorandum states it will have a.n impact of $318,413 on all funds city-wide.

That possible $3.25 million figure, ironically, is the amount of another proposed expenditure that Wilkins and Scoot indicated during previous hearings that they would like to cut. Riesberg proposes spending $3.25 million from the quarter-cent gross receipts tax fund for higher education on Broadmoor Drive; Wilkins and Scott said they would prefer leaving the money in the fund for the University of New Mexico, or other four-year institutions of higher learning, to spend on future buildings.

Three other councilors – Robinson, Cheryl Everett and Lonnie Clayton – suggested by their comments they would like to spend the money. Robinson said she was undecided at first but indicated she would probably support the expenditure when it came out that the fund would still have $3.1 million even after road construction expenses would be deducted.

District 5 city councilor Shelby Smith said Saturday he is still not sure of how he will vote. But it might not matter, as Hull indicated in his comments and again on Saturday he would support the expenditure, and the mayor would have the tie-breaking vote.

Wilkins said he has seen conflicting legal opinions on whether spending money on Broadmoor, a road leading into the downtown area where UNM West is located, is appropriate. Hull believes the legal opinion allowing for the expenditure is valid and suggested that fixing the road could lead to economic development in the downtown area and increases public safety by providing quicker access to the UNM-Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

All of the other proposed changes would impact the city’s general operating budget. If the changes are adopted at the maximum levels, according to the memo, it would take $641,729 to fund and reduce the reserve fund from 13.4 percent proposed by Riesberg to 13.1 percent. Since most of the costs would be reoccurring in future budgets, projections show the city could reach its goal of having a reserve fund of at least 15 percent in 2018, two years later than hoped.

The other votes the Governing Body must make:

*Implementing Phase 2 of the city salary equity study instead of Riesberg’s proposed 2 percent across-the-board pay raise for most employees. Adding the equity pay option, as suggested by Wilkins, seems to have support of the majority of councilors but would cost $894,221 compared to $696,230 for the 2 percent raise.

Wilkins is also proposint hte elimination of Eliminating Riesberg’s proposed $214,000 line item as part of the city’s self-insurance. Wilkins said during the hearing that city fund is performing in such a way that the Riesberg’s suggested reserve fund is not needed.

Wilkins pointed out the dropping hte halth insuance payment would pretty much pay for the additional payments of his compensation option. 

Riesberg’s cover memo points out any projected increases could only be applied to the 128 “non-represented employees” who are not a part of a union. Increases for the 503 employees represented by one of three unions -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCE) for city employees, or separate unions for police and fire departments – would have to be part of a negotiated labor contract.

*Proposals to fund Hull’s suggested increase of $100,000, to $200,000 total, for economic development, most if not all would go toward a cooperative agency with the county and other entities. The Sandoval County preliminary budget calls for a $200,000 contribution.

*An additional $15,000 to the mayor’s budget for travel,  memberships, subscriptions and a “Buy Rio Rancho” campaign. Hull had requested a $30,000 increase for the three items.

*$38,000 for what Everett calls a “citizen service hotline and tracking system,” including software and perhaps a half-time employee to monitor the service.

*$6,011 for 10 percent salary increase for two Spanish-language interpreters for Municipal Court, as proposed by Judge Robert Cook and requested by Scott.

*$152,256 for an additional ambulance and crew to operate during peak times during the week. The proposal by Robinson comes in response to one of the primary recommendations made in the of a fire department staffing study recently completed by a private company and commissioned by the city.

*$29,700 for a police “bait car” proposed by Wilkins. This is the only general fund vote that would not be a recurring cost.


Published May 8, 2014

MAKING A POINT: Lawrence Rael addresses the audience at the gubernatorial campaign forum hosted by the Sandoval County Democratic Club in Bernalillo on Friday night. Waiting their turns to speak (left to right) are Alan Webberr, Gary King, Linda Lopez and Howie Morales.

Democratic candidates not
giving up on Rio Rancho

The SCORE-info

The five Democratic candidates for governor have similar messages for Rio Rancho voters in the June 3 primary – we’re not giving up on you.

In a city that has an all-Republican city council, a Republican mayor and is represented in the state Legislature mostly by Republicans, it might seem that Democrats aren’t paying much attention to the state’s third largest city. None of the candidates has made a public campaign stop in the city, while incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez has been in Rio Rancho three times in the past two months.

But the five Democratic candidates – Howie Morales, Alan Webber, Lawrence Rael, Gary King and Linda Lopez – told in brief private interviews, either before or after Friday’s forum in Bernalillo, that they are aware of the problems the City of Vision faces and made their chase why their election would be best for the city and the state.

As to not appear to play favorites, the candidate’s responses are listed in the order and the way they appear on the ballot.

*Howie C. Morales, state senator from Silver City and former educator: “We’ve been in Sandoval County – I believe it’s our fourth tine, including Rio Rancho some and Santa Ana just this week.

“When you see what’s taken place and what benefits the people of the state – whether it’s education, infrastructure or water needs – I believe that having a candidate who understands what’s needed in New Mexico is really important.

“When we talk about job creation, we use Rio Rancho as a good example of the possibilities of what we can do to grow from the inside out. That’s going to be key because trying to build on what we have, and what we see right here in Sandoval County alone, it really is a city of vision. It can be that same way for the state.”

Alan M. Webber, businessman and former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review: “My message to the voters of Rio Rancho is the same one to voters across New Mexico: This election is so important that the future of New Mexico is at stake in it. We all need to get together and work collaboratively to come up with solutions that create a better future.

“Rio Rancho has a huge stake in the future. Rio Rancho is a big part of that future. Fundamentally, we’re all in it together and we all know when Democrats vote, Democrats win.

“We can take governor’s office back if we all work together.”

*Lawrence D. Rael, Sandoval County native and former Albuquerque city manager and executive director of the Mid-Regional Council of Governments: “First and foremost, I did have a chance to meet with the new mayor (Gregg Hull). I had a conversation with him just within this past week, so I understand who the new mayor is and I’ve known some of the councilors in the past. My work in Albuquerque gives me a much stronger knowledge of Rio Rancho than most other folks.

“The important part is that Rio Rancho, just like any other community in New Mexico, has infrastructure issues, challenges that need to be rectified, whether it was by poor planning or by developers that came in and didn’t follow the process. We need to make sure that those citizens, who are taxpaying citizens of New Mexico, have the opportunity to have some of those issues rectified.

“It’s a travesty when rain storms come in that roads are completely washed away. People there deserve to have a government and a governor who’s going to be focused on the local issues.

“No. 2, they are in need of jobs, must like any other community in the state. I have made the point that jobs is what is going to move New Mexico’s economy by looking for opportunities to bring more jobs to Rio Rancho and grow New Mexico’s economy.

“It’s really important because a lot of those people today are getting on the Rail Runner and going to Santa Fe to work. We need to make sure we bring more jobs to Rio Rancho – and to the West Side, quite frankly – because we’ve got to make sure our commute patterns start to shift. That’s why (U.S. Highway) 550 is such a challenge.

“We need to create opportunities for people to live there, work there and grow their families there. This is really about investing in all of New Mexico, and I would tell Rio Rancho folks that Tea Party or no Tea Party, this is about New Mexicans stepping up and realizing that it is all of our best interests that we focus on the growth and development of New Mexico. We all live here, regardless of political affiliation.” 

*Gary K King, former state legislator and current Attorney General: “I have been in Rio Rancho. The last thing I was at was a family day they had to prevent school violence and family violence. Of course that’s an issue for the AG’s office, too, but I was there recently for that.

“Our family has had a long-standing relationship with Rio Rancho. I tell people I was there the day they cut the ribbon on the first four model homes in Rio Rancho, so I’ve seen it grow from four homes to the third largest city in the state.

“I suspect in the primary that there are precincts around the state that are likely to turn out a heavier primary vote. I do understand a lot of the focus is on the precincts that have maybe 75 or 80 percent of Democrat performance as opposed to 50-50 or something like that. But particularly in the general election, Sandoval County and Rio Rancho are really important players. So I think you’ll see a lot of activity for the general election.

“I intend to continue my connections. Former mayor (Tom) Swisstack was in the legislative delegation (with King) and I am friends with former representative Pauline Eisenstadt. And I have a good friend, Gary Hosevar, who used to represent the area who worked hard to get access across the Rio Grande for the West Side. That was a huge issue.

“I would think that any of us who could promise the folks in Rio Rancho that we can improve access to the metro area, that would be a popular position to take.

“My dad (former Gov. Bruce King) was instrumental in bringing Intel to New Mexico. But I think for our economy to get better, we have to have better infrastructure. Not just roads, but better internet access, water, electricity – all of those things.

“Rio Rancho will be a major player in the economic renaissance of New Mexico because there’s still a fair amount of area within the city that’s available for industrial development and things like that.

“The other thing that my office was involved in had to do with public improvement districts at Mariposa. We worked with the Legislature to try to develop something to ensure that cities don’t get into a situation where their residents get handed a huge tax bill. That all by itself probably caused some significant problems with people looking to grow in those new areas, because suddenly they became concerned about ‘What’s going to happen to my property?’ So certainly, in the sort of edge areas of Rio Rancho, those are really important issues.

“We want to make sure we work with the city council and with the county commissioners in Sandoval County to address those issues in way that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the community and on the development of the community. Partly because it’s a young city Rio Rancho is a modern city, and that’s good, but they have a lot of problems caused by growth because they are one of the fastest growing places in New Mexico.”

*Linda M. Lopez, state senator from Albuquerque: “It’s our utmost right we have and we should be participating in democracy. So our Democrats in Rio Rancho should get out. We never will give up on Rio Rancho.

“But what we need to do is to make sure this that during this whole process that we have to work with, find and bring along our other Democrats who are with us and let them know it’s not hopeless. All is not lost.

“I’ve seen that in many different places across the state. There are communities that feel they are forgotten. But we cannot do that.

“And I think that with the five of us running for governor are talking about. We have to stay united and continue to focus all we can to defeat the Republicans.” 

During the forum, candidates were allowed to elaborate at length on three topics – economic development, education, and the treatment of special needs individuals and the mentally ill, and SWAT teams, as it relates to the Albuquerque Police Department issue. We will report on those responses separately as time permits.

Because of the length of those responses, questions from the audience were limited to one: Would each candidate commit to supporting the winner of the five-way primary?

To this question, each candidate answered in two words or less, in this speaking order used for the entire forum:

Morales: “I do.”

Rael: “Yes.”

Lopez: “Yes.”

King: “Of course.”

Webber: “Absolutely.”

Tomorrow: The candidates talk about economic development and jobs..

Published May 8, 2014

County budget ‘public hearing’ offers
no documents, chance for citizens to speak



Sandoval County commissioners conducted a “public hearing” on its fiscal year 2015 budget Thursday night, but never specifically called for public comment or offered access to documents that could lead to knowledgeable citizen inquiry.

Commissioners themselves were given the massive budget document only a short time before the meeting, prompting Commissioner Don Chapman to say that he could not properly review the information in time to ask appropriate questions.

“It makes it hard to do my job as a commissioner,” Chapman said. “I can’t just look at it for a few minutes. It’s impossible. I  can’t digest this document in just a couple of minutes. It will take me a week just to read it.”

But that’s more time than the public will get before it is expected to comment on the budget. County manager Phil Rios said the proposed budget would be put online Monday, allowing to meet the 72-hour open meetings requirement of posting an agenda in advance of its meeting next Thursday.

“My obligation is to present the commission a balanced budget,” Rios testified.

Rios and finance director Cassandra Herrera are responsible for developing the county budget.

By contrast, the city of Rio Rancho posted its proposed budget from city manager Keith Riesberg and his staff on April 14. The public’s first chance to comment on the city budget will be May 14, a month after the numbers were published, instead of the three days the county is giving the public access to the budget.

After the meeting, Rios, Chapman and Commissioner Glenn Walters contended that commission chairman Darryl Madalena’s general statement soliciting questions served as an attempt to generate public response. But there was no sign-in sheet for public comment – there wasn’t even a printed agenda, just a notice of the meeting – and no specific call for public comment, usually a separate agenda item toward the end of commission meetings.

In fact the only published budget document is titled “Notice of Special Meeting.” Part of the body of the three-sentence notice says the commissioners “will convene a public hearing” to discuss the budget.

Commissioners have had other public meetings on the budget, but they were more like work sessions were ideas for programs were discussed. Thursday was the first time commissioners actually saw real numbers from the county administration, and under questioning it became apparent the latest document does not include any updated revenue or expense projections for FY 2014.

In contrast, Rio Rancho concluded three meetings actually labeled as “budget hearings” on Wednesday. The city meetings had full agendas that were published on the city web site in advance.  Those agendas listed what items would be discussed on what nights that were published in advance on the city web site.

The city also made it known, both as part of the agendas and in news releases about the meetings, that no public comment would be allowed at the hearings and that the first chance for public comment would be at the regular Governing Body meeting on May 14.
Traditionally a county budget summary showing major fund revenues and expenses has been made available to the media at the beginning of the budget process, but not this year. Reporters had to rely on a purely audio presentation, and the sound quality was such that when Herrera spoke it was barely audible to the audience. For example, it took several mentions for reporters to figure out that the county’s contribution to the Public Employee Retirement Board before reporters is being increased to four percent.. (By contrast, Rio Rancho is picking up 75 percent of  PERA for the next two years).

City meetings are actually streamed live on the city’s web site and shown on cable television. Broadcasts are repeated periodically and are archived on the web site so the public can view the meeting at any time.

The county has neither outlet for the public.

Rios said after the meeting he didn’t think it made sense to publish the preliminary budget because the figures would likely change. And he said during his tenure as city manager of Los Rios only final budget numbers were made public.

But budgets drive policy, and policy drives budgets. A look a preliminary numbers, especially when compared to previous years, could give the public an opportunity to properly prepare questions and alternatives, and perhaps get answers from their elected officials in advance of a public meeting.

Chapman seemed displeased that the budget document did not have pages consecutively numbered for easier access. And if he remains concerned at having to ask budget questions on the same day he received the budget document and now has a week to review it before trying again, that could be contrasted with the public having just three days before it is called on to respond.
That timeline would seem not to be seriously engaging citizen participation.

With multiple figures being tossed around verbally and no specific documents to back them up, specific numbers are hard to report at this time. A few did come out and were confirmed after the meeting, but more often than not the discussion included terms like “around” or “about” a certain dollar figure or were announced in such a manner that they appeared to be rounded  off.

One number that could be discerned seems positive for employees. In addition to the PERRA proposal, the preliminary budget calls for a three percent pay raise for most employees.

After some discussion, it appears likely the next draft of the budget will be amended to include $25,000 for each commissioner to spend on projects, mostly at his or her discretion.  The county cannot directly support non-profit agencies in its budget; rather, it can develop a Request For Proposal (RFP) that groups can respond to if they offer a service the county wants.

One such program commissioners and Rios agreed to support is adding  $50,000 in support of care for low income dental patients, likely a payment for services to the New Mexico Mission of Mercy  program that has conducted a weekend clinic in the past.

On nagging problem continues to be the county detention center, which Rios projects will operated at nearly a $1 million loss again this year. Since the county cannot show a program at a deficit in the budget (except for grant-funded programs that will be receiving reimbursements later), the loss will most likely be covered from reserve funds.

But as Chapman pointed out in questioning, that actual number was not included in the budget document. Rios said the final number would not be available until the fiscal year closes on June 30 and that he did not have an updated forecast from numbers presented last month.
Overall, Walters said during the meeting that the budget document show an increase in the general fund budget of 3.5 percent to slightly more than $18.1 million, about $657,300 more.

The proposed budget also shows large increases in two areas, Rios said. He is proposing the county spend an additional $200,000 for an economic development corporation, matching what the city of Rio Rancho is kicking in, and another $82,000 on elections.

The county also will be able to purchase and equip at least 12 new vehicles for the sheriff’s department and is looking to spend $200,000 to change its telephone system, Rios said.

Personnel changes are mostly position upgrades and not new positions, Rios testified.

The county may have a better picture on its revenues next week. Semi-annual property tax payments must be submitted online or postmarked by Saturday, and the assessor’s office will be open 30 minutes earlier and later today to handle any last-minute rush.

Assessor Tom Garcia said the county has less than 100 property tax protests so far, but representatives of interests with multiple claims tend to file their objections at the last minute.  

Published May 7, 2014
Governing Body postpones vote on possible changes in budget
Council wants more time to consider 19 proposals; vote likely to be part of May 28 city council agenda


The Rio Rancho finished it’s department by department, fund byy fund budget review Wednesday night but probably won’t vote on the changes it wants until the end of the month.

Individual councilors recommended 19 changes they would like to see to city manager Keith Riesberg’s proposed budget during budget hearings on Thursday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Whether or not they have majority support from fellow members of the Governing Body for those individual proposals was on the agenda for Wednesday, but the councilors and Mayor Gregg Hull reached a consensus that they wanted more time to consider the impact the changes might have on the overall budget and reserve funds.

Originally the vote was scheduled for the regular Governing Body meeting on May 14 after the public had a chance to comment on the budget. But since the budget is adopted by resolution and only requires one vote, Riesberg said he would recommend the council follow the same format it did last year and implement and changes at the May 28 meeting, two weeks after hearing public comment.

Part of the problem with scheduling the vote is a lack of institutional memory. Having been elected outright in the 2012 city election, council member Chuck Wilkins is the senior member of the seven-member Governing Body with slightly more than two years of experience. Riesberg, acting finance director Marta Ortiz and city attorney Jennifer Vega-Brown all have been in their roles for less time than that. In fact, it was city clerk Steve Ruger, who took over in August 2012, who researched minutes of last year’s budget process and informed Riesberg moments after the hearing adjourned.

With the new faces comes some learning, a lot of discussion and uncertainty on certain issues. Some of the proposals that came up in more than nine hours of discussion seemed to have universal support, like honoring Hull’s request to increase money for economic development from $100,000 to $200,000.  Others, such as Councilor Cheryl Everett’s call for restructured constituent services and public access, and Councilor Dawnn Robinson’s call for an additional crew in the Public Works Department to concentrate on fixing older streets, are ideas that were offered but more likely will be implemented if future budgets allow.

And other items may get more discussion and a divided vote. The proposed expenditure of $3.25 million on Broadmoor Drive leading into the downtown area appears to have two distinct sides. Wilkins and Mark Scott expressed their preference that the money that would be spent, which is generated by the quarter-cent gross receipts tax for higher education facilities, be left for the construction of more buildings on the UNM West campus. Robinson, Everett and Councilor Lonnie Clayton seem to favor spending the money on the road, and Councilor Shelby Smith asked if both saving and building could be accomplished.

If that vote ends up tied, Hull said he favors using the money on the road because it will increase public safety by providing easier access to the UNM-Sandoval Hospital and offer more chances for economic development.

The 19 proposed changes do not include any modifications in the city’s capital improvement’s plan, which serves the dual purpose of showing how money will be spent and identifying infrastructure and equipment needs. In this document A Park Above once again took a bit of a hit, with councilors wanting its priority status lowered in favor of retrofitting existing parks to be more compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.

Wednesday’s discussion also included a relatively brief exchange on water rights, coming on the heels of a meeting several city officials had with the state engineer earlier in the day. Without much discussion on the specific dollar amount, most of the council individually spoke in favor of the city aggressively trying to acquire more water right now, when costs are significantly lower than in past years, even if it has to take out multi-million dollar loans to do so.

Riesberg said he would distribute a list of the proposed changes to the council but they likely would not be published on the city web site because it would be difficult to create a format outlining exactly where they would be implemented in the nearly 300-page budget document. He did indicate the changes would be released through the media upon request and plans a series of stories explaining the changes and the rationale behind them when the list is made available.

Published May 6, 2014
Budget review by council to conclude Wednesday

The Rio Rancho Governing Body will vote on proposed changes to the city manager’s budget tonight after a third and final review hearing.

The city council and Mayor Gregg Hull met for almost three hours on both Thursday and Tuesday to go over much of the 298-page document submitted by city manager Keith Riesberg on April 14, a day before Hull and District 5 city councilor Shelby Smith were elected in a runoff election. As required by charter, the mayor offered his written comments by letter on April 25, only four days after he was sworn in.

On the agenda Wednesday night is the Public Works Department, including city’s water and wastewater utility funding, before councilors get to vote on changes they would like to see. There will also be a presentation from of the city’s capital improvement plan.

Wednesday’s discussion about water finances may give an indication on what kind if feedback city officials get from the state engineer, who is scheduled to meet privately in Albuquerque with Riesberg, councilor Chuck Wilkins and others.

The three budget hearings are similar to work sessions in that no public comment has been allowed. The public will get a chance to have their say at two regular city council meetings on May 14 and May 28. Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for May 28 so it can be reviewed by the state before it becomes effective July 1.

The city’s manager’s proposed budget and the mayor’s response are both available on the city web site, as is video of the first two hearings. Wednesday’s hearing will also be streamed live on the city’s web site. will begin a series of stories on the city budget after the Governing Body makes its changes on Wednesday night.


Pubished May 5, 2014

20 YEARS: Dr. Sue Cleveland (white sweater), superintendent of the Rio Rancho Public Schools, receives congratulations from school board president Carl Harper (left), member Catherine Cullen and board vice president Don Schlichte at Monday's district recognition banquet. A total of 104 employees have worked for the district since it opened 20 years ago.

School district marks 20th year
at annual recognition banquet

The Rio Rancho Public Schools celebrated the end of the school year and the beginning of a celebration at its annual recognition banquet Monday night.

In addition to yearly awards, the district acknowledged 104 employees who have been with the district since its inception 20 years ago, including superintendent Sue Cleveland, CEO Richard Bruce, associate superintendent Carl Leppleman and RIo Rancho High School principal Richard Von  Ancken.

A committee is planning several other activities over the coming year to mark the anniversary of the school district’s founding.

The district also recognized 39 employees who are retiring, volunteers, substitute teachers and three teachers – Emily Bass Ghiurcan (Rio Rancho High), Leslie Keeney (Rio Rancho High) and Roma Marie Marquez (Ernie Stapleton Elementary) – who received national board certification.

The outstanding substitute teachers are Judy Terrell (elementary), Michele Ringenberg (middle schools) and Susan Pearson (high schools).

Recognized as top volunteers were Chris Espinosa (elementary schools,  Puesta del Sol), Teri Thoriill, middle schools, Eagle Ridge) and Abby Lucero (high schools, Rio Rancho High). The top volunteer in the district is Julie Monroy of Ernie Stapleton Elementary.

Employees with 10 years of service were also acknowledged at the banquet at Cleveland High School.

Published May 2, 2014
Tuesday is last day to register for primary

The 2012 state primary election is a month away, but Sandoval County voters can start voting on Thursday.

Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote for the June 3 primary election for federal, state and county offices. To make sure you are registered, it is best to do it in person at the Sandoval County Bureau of Elections, 1500 Idalia Road, Building D (the county administration building).

Applications for absentee voting can be obtained starting two days later, on Thursday, at the County Transit Center, which is in the same complex but is located in Building C, just north of the administration building.

Absentee in-person voting also starts on Thursday at the Transit Center. Election officials will be available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for absentee voting until Friday, May 30. It will also be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 31.

On Saturday, May 17, six other early voting convenience centers open. They will be in operation from Monday through Saturday (except for Memorial Day) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Saturday, May 31.

Eight early voting locations at different pueblos will be open for one or two days.

After that, voters will have to wait for Election Day on June 3, when the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be 19 voter convenience centers and 35 traditional rural precincts on Election Day.

For a list of early voting and Election Day polling places, click here.

Voters who want to cast their ballot in the traditional absentee manner can get an application in one of three ways:

*By going in person to the Bureau of Elections Office on the first floor of the County Administration

*By calling the Bureau of Elections at (505) 867-7577.

*Or by mailing a request to the Sandoval County Bureau of Elections, 1500 Idalia Road, Building D, Bernalillo, N.M. 87004.

The deadline to request a mail-in absentee ballot application is May 31 at 5 p.m. Mail-in absentee ballots must be returned to the Bureau of Elections before 7 p.m. on Election Day, June 3.

It all may sound a bit confusing – how can a voting location open ahead of Election Day not be called early voting? Simply because absentee and early voting have different timelines and require different polling locations for accounting purposes if nothing else.

Traditionally, absentee voters knew they wouldn’t be available on Election Day, so they would request an application, get a ballot, and usually mail it in. Though few ever did it, under that process voters could turn in an application, get a ballot, mark their preferences and turn it in to the Bureau of Elections in person before Election Day.

That process is still available, except now it is being done at a separate absentee voting location.

With the creation of early voting, distinct vote totals are required. So separate absentee and early voting places were created and separate machines are used.

The early voting process is very similar to absentee. In early voting the application is actually an affidavit that must be signed instead of the traditional voter book, and the ballot is cast in person instead of possibly being returned at a later time.

Published May 1, 2014

READERS CAFE: Gov. Susana Martinez listens as Rio Rancho first grader Devin Nevins on Thursday.
Governor, UNM Regents
back AIMS in Rio Rancho


Gov. Susana Martinez and the UNM Board of Regents affirmed their support for the AIMS charter school opening a campus in Rio Rancho, with Martinez saying she anticipates “no problems” in getting state approval for the expansion.

Speaking after a “Reader’s Café” event for first graders Thursday morning at Cielo Azul Elementary School, Martinez gave high praise to the Albuquerque Institute of Math and Science, which is planning to start with 40 sixth-grade students taking classes at the University of New Mexico West campus next fall. Eventually the school will expand to grades 6-12.

“AIIMS is an amazing school,” Martinez said. “When you have a 95 percent graduation rate, and 96 or 97 percent going to college – the leadership in that school, the teachers in that school, the commitment of the kids – I wish I could replicate that school all over this state.

“They are phenomenal. And if we can take their best practices and start implementing them in our schools, we’re going to have AIMS all over. 

“It’s up to AIMS and where they can find a facility, and that sort of thing, because it’s a charter school. I’m sure there will be no problems in actually approving it because they’re so successful. They’re amazing.”

Later in the afternoon, the UNM Regents unanimously supported a motion supporting AIMS efforts in Rio Rancho, including allowing the charter school to conduct classes on the UNM West campus.

Dr. Sue Cleveland, superintendent of the Rio Rancho Public Schools, opposes AIMS coming to Rio Rancho. She says the charter school is not following state law because it is expanding outside of its home district (Albuquerque). As such, Cleveland believes AIMS should have to follow the same rules any start-up charter school has to follow, including consultation with the home public school district.

AIMS, meanwhile, says because it is a state charter school instead of a district charter school, it should be allowed to expand outside of Albuquerque as long as it has approval of the Public Education Committee, an advisory body to the Public Education Department, and the PED itself. AIMS officials claim that it received approval from the PEC; Cleveland says it did not.

School district spokesperson Kim Vesely said RRPS would not have a comment on Thursday’s developments.


A PICTURE'S WORTH A HALF-MILLOION BUCKS: club Rio Rancho owner JJett Browne displays a check for half the $1 million purchase price he paid yesterday for the Chamisa Hills Country Club. Renovations on the new Club Rio Rancho egin immediately.

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