By ERIC MADDY
It was a special meeting that wasn’t so special after all.
The Rio Rancho Utilities Commission deadlocked on a vote to set a new rate for recycled water and will revisit the issue next week.
City staff is recommending the rate be 30 percent of the potable water rate. That’s 10 percent more than proposed buyers of the Chamisa Hills Country Club offered at the last Utilities Commission meeting.
Commission chairman Ron Hensley called the special meeting one week ahead of the regular March 18 meeting. It was initially thought the commission might take action so their recommendation could be considered by the city council, which has the final say, at its meeting on Wednesday.
But no water rate item is on the council’s agenda, meaning the Utilities Commission – and now will – have further discussion at its regular meeting. From there it could be on the council agenda on March 27 at the earliest.
The city manager sets the council agenda.
Tuesday’s election results may have slowed the process as well. Depending on how the results fell, it was possible that a majority of the Governing Body known to favor lowering water rates would have been in place for at least three more meetings while runoff elections loomed.
But with new councilors Dawnn Robinson and Cheryl Everett sworn in an hour before the Utilities Commission started, that coalition favoring lower rates disappeared.
Robinson will have an impact on the discussion in yet another way. The reason the Utilities Commission was deadlocked was because of a vacancy in District 2, where Robinson will nominate a replacement subject to confirmation of the full Governing Body. But since she just took office Monday, no nomination is on the Wednesday council agenda, meaning the District 2 seat on the Utilities Commission will remain vacant for the next meeting.
Hensley attempted to keep the discussion specifically about the rate, but three commissioners-- Stepan vanHorn (District 4), Don Dulac (District 1) and Moses Winston (District 6) – wanted to expand the discussion to include how reuse water is used to meet the city’s obligation
It took three votes, but the commission eventually agreed to table the issue to its next regular meeting next week.
On the first vote, vanHorn’s motion to table the item ended in a 3-3 tie, with vanHorn, Dulac and Winston voting in favor and Hensley (District 4) Robert Bajek (Dsitrict 5) and Garry Lally (at-large) voting against. Perhaps not coincidentally, the three no votes were appointed by three members who will be leaving the Governing Body – city councilors Tamara Gutierrez and Tim Crum, and Mayor Tom Swisstack.
A second motion to approved the staff recommendation also ended up tied, with the yes votes on the first motion voting no and vice versa.
At that point Hensley signaled that the discussion would go no further by making vanHorn’s motion to table again. This time, it passed 6-0.
It also sets up a potential confrontation between city councilor Chuck Wilkins and Public Works Director Scott Sensenbrenner the next time the issue is discussed before the Governing Body. Sensenbrenner produced a graphic that he said showed the city is more than meeting its requirements to put water back into the Rio Grande, while Wilkins has said the city is not meeting it contract and if it used more reuse water for its state obligation could actually save money in the long run by buying fewer water rates.
While he tried to stay on the topic at hand, Sensenbrenner did say his staff recommendation would for the city to continue to purchase more water rates.
Wilkinds attended the meeting and didn't speak publicly, but did indicate after the meeting he would question Sensenbrenner when the topic came up agains before the council.
Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014
Stars win exhibition game,
open season Friday at hone
By ERIC MADDY
Now the work really begins for the New Mexico Stars, both on and off the field.
Rio Rancho’s indoor football team opened its season Sunday with a 50-20 victory over the Metro Stars, a team of area police and firemen who temporarily consolidated and normally play each other or perhaps a military team.
Immediately after the game, head coach Dominic Bramonte began the painful chore of trimming his roster of 35 players who started training camp in Glorieta down to the league-mandated 23 in time for Friday’s home opener against two-time defending champion Amarillo.
“Now the climb begins,” Bramonte said. “We’re very, very fortunate that the Metro Stars wanted to play us. It doesn’t help the players that much, but it helps the coaches. We see what we have to clean up and where we have to get better. And we will make the necessary changes to get better,”
Those changes include players cuts that stated Sunday night and some new talent coning in Monday.
“That’s always a tough thing, calling the guys in (to tell them they are being cut from the team.) That’s the part that stinks,” Bramonte said. “You always feel for the young men. You tell them to keep grinding. There’re a couple of people that we’re going to cut that will definitely go somewhere else to play, without a doubt.
“Today we really kind of break came and go into game-week. When you break camp and make the cuts, that night stinks.
But tomorrow morning the sun will come over the mountain and it’s get-to-work time.”
Just who will be cut – and who played – will come and go as a bit of a mystery. Neither team provided a roster, so game details and meaningful Onkeep. The “game” was a game on the more of a dry run for game management.
One of the players Bramonte lined up at defensive end for the Metro Stars. The coach knows a lot about him ---NFL and Arena Football League background, player on two Arena Cup championships with the San Jose Saber Cats. The one thing he didn’t know was his name.
“I would sign him in a second.. He’s a player,” Bramonte said. “If he played (in the league) now he would dominate still. And he dominated when he played today.
“It was a great challenge for us. We knew coming into the game he was going to be a problem. His motor just kept on coming and coming to the point where I had to keep my fullback in the backfield and we had to go to a slide protection just to stop him. That’s when we were abler to start to get into a little bit of offensive rhythm.
“It’s a real credit to him that he literally shut down our offense for more than a quarter. We knew going in the strength of their defense was against the weakness of our offense. We have to get better with protection, and we will.
That defensive end was a one-man wrecking crew who changed the whole complexion of how we had to play offense. He created so much havoc. It was good for us. It was a positive.”
Throughout his postgame interview, Bramonte kept going back to his opponents.
“I was honored to be on the field with those guys. They played hard,” he said. “I was thrilled with the effort the Metro Stars made. I can’t get over those guys who don’t practice every day. Yet they had a strong mind and a strong will.
“Man, you could see what makes them first responders.”
After a scoreless third quarter, the Metro Stars scored early in the fourth to narrow their deficit to 24-20. From there, the semiprofessionals took over.
“We only played our ones (first-teamers) tor a quarter-and-a-half,” Bramonte said. “After that we played all of the rookies because we needed to get a clear evaluation of what we were doing.
“I was never concerned about losing the game; when you have a game like this and you get a little bit of rhythm you take your starters out.”
Bramonte saw a lot of other positives.
“We got out healthy. It was all positive,” he said. “We didn’t get hurt, our starters got some good reps, we got a ton of film on the rookie.
“The great thing about an exhibition game is you get to the stuff we did out there. You get to see what we need to improve on,” he said. “We saw things we need to work on, personnel we need to improve. It was all good.”
The coach said he still hasn’t decided on a starting quarterback. Donovan Porterie, who played at the University of New Mexico, is battling Andrew McGlory to be the starter. McGlory’s resume shows experience at Prairie View A&M.
“We’ll see,” Bramonte said.
“Donovan is a good veteran and a talented young man.
“But so is McGlory. He’s a young kid, a talented, talented kid. He throws the ball through a wall. He’s got all the tools.
“He just needs the experience. He’s transitioning from the outdoor game to the indoor game. You saw a lot of his balls -- he was throwing rockets. In this game, you need to have more touch. That’s the transition.
“We’re very fortunate to have two talented kids. “
Another ex-UNM players likely to make the team is kicker Greg Rivera, who had a tough day with several blocked kicks and misses. But Bramonte remained high on the former Lobo.
“It was first time Greg kicked (in an indoor game). When you kick for the first time in a game situation, at goal posts that are not very far apart, and with the defense rushing you, that’s tough,” Bramonte said.
“Some of the snaps were too high, and they naps were reusing too many people. The officials really respected the Metro Stars and let them play, because they don’t practice every day, but you’re only allowed to rush four on extra points, and they would rush five or six. You’d see those guys coming from off the edge, and they were illegal rushers.
“When the snaps are high, the holder has to go up, get it and pin it down, it can throw his rhythm off,” Bramonte said.
“Greg will be fine. He’s got a strong, strong leg.”
Defensively, Bramonte was satisfied.
“What we were looking for was alignment and assignment, just to make sure the guys were aligned properly and following through on their assignments,” he said. “We had one broken coverage where the corner bit and the safety didn’t shut down coverage. That was really the only bad play we had.
“The Metro Stars made us work. They taught the rookies that it’s not going to be easy – ‘If the Metro Stars play like that, can you imagine what teams are going to do?’ “
But Bramonte knows with the two-time defending league champion coming to town, there is still a lot left to be done.
“We’ve got to clean up our game or … we’ve just got to get better,” he said. “They’re going to come in loaded.”
Off the field, the Stars have a lot of things to do, too. No roster was available or statistics kept, making it impossible to report any specific game details. On the team’s web site, only one player has been assigned a number, and it’s unlikely that an lineman would end up donning No. 18.
A field microphone didn’t work at first, but the situation was corrected in time for the singer of the National Anthem.
The team’s web site is far from complete, with profiles and pictures of players and coaches not yet posted.
All of which has to do with promotion and drawing a crowd, which didn’t happen Saturday. A charitable estimate of attendance would be 500.
The biggest concern has to be the playing surface, which was put down Sunday morning after an event at the Star Center on Saturday night. There were several uneven spots where the carpet had not been made even and small gaps between sections of turf.
Bramonte said the surface should be put down two or three days in advance of a game to be given a chance to smooth out. But that won’t happen this week, with state high school basketball tournament games scheduled through Thursday.
The Stars will play in the five-team Lone Star Football League against teams representing Amarillo, San Angelo, West Texas (based in Odessa) and Rio Grande Valley (Hidago). That’s the Venom, Bandits, Wildcatters and Sol for anyone at home wanting to start making opponents’ signs.
Teams play in venues similar to the Santa Ana Star Center, places fans familiar of the New Mexico Scorpions hockey team might remember.
METRO STARS 7 7 0 6 _ 20
N.M. STARS 6 18 0 26 -- 40
To see the Stars’ schedule, click here …
In addition to normal concessions, Pizza 9, Blake’s Lot-a-burger and Star Sweets will offer their fare at games. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are also sold, but there are no vendors working in the stands.
Posted Sunday, March 9,2014
Democrats nominate three for governor,
but two more may qualify with signatures
Sandoval County native Rael squeaks by
By ERIC MADDY
It’s a good thing Lawrence Rael shaves. He needed all of the hair on his chinny-chin chin for something else Saturday.
The Sandoval County native got 20.13 percent of delegate votes at the New Mexico Democratic Pre-Primary Convention to earn his spot on the June 3 primary ballot as a nominee for governor.
Rael, a long-time government administrator, was born in Sile, a tiny just north of Santa Domingo.
A total of 1,455 votes were cast in the five-way race for governor, and Rael got 293. Exactly 20 percent of 1,455 is 291, meaning if Rael had received three less votes he would have a whole lot more work to do today.
With five people vying for a spot and a 20 percent delegate threshold, there figured to be one or two odd men (or women) out. In this case it was Linda Lopez and attorney general Gary King, who got 18.46 percent and 10.51 percent of the delegate vote.
But maybe not. Candidates can also quality for the ballot with enough voter signatures, and King’s camp says they have them.
King’s nominating speaker, New Mexico Highlands student Juan Sanchez, said in his speech that his candidate had already obtained 10,315 signatures and claimed it was significantly more than anyone else. His web site claimed the number was up to 10,361 early Sunday morning, well above the required number.
According to the Secretary of State’s web site, Lopez submitted 4,098 signatures to qualify for the convention initially. All statewide Democratic candidates needed 2,186 to qualify for the convention and 4,373 overall to get on the ballot that way, meaning Lopez would be about 275 short if she had not received any more since the February report.
That’s assuming all the signatures are valid.
State Sen. Howie Morales emerged as the frontrunner with 426 votes, or 29.28 percent. He was followed by businessman Alan Webber (314, 21.53 percent), Rael, Lopez (269 votes) and King (153).
That means Webber was 23 delegates over the margin and Lopez was 22 short.
Perhaps the happiest person with the results is Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who must be thrilled that the Democrats leave their convention far from unified and candidates knowing they’ll hae to expend large resources ust to win the nomination. Meanwhile, Martinez has the power of incumbency (translated: ability to raise money) and is unopposed in her primary.
To qualify for the convention, the candidates had to get two percent of the total number of Democrats who voted in the last gubernatorial primary in 2010. That number was 2,186.
To make the ballot after the convention, a candidate who did not get the 20 percent of delegate votes must instead get signatures from four percent of the 2010 Democratic primary gubernatorial total. That number, again, is 4,373, which King says he has surpassed and Lopez is very close to if not over.
By law, final signature petitions must be filed on the 10th day after the convention, which would be Tuesday, March 18.
While all five candidates may qualify for the ballot, either by convention nomination or signatures, it is difficult for a candidate to go the second route. The main reason isn’t numbers but support – those who are delegates are more likely to volunteer time and give money, the lifeblood of a campaign.
Unlike the Republican convention last week, the Democratic gathering had more of a feel of a national convention, complete with videos, music and card-waiving supporters in campaign t-shirts behind many candidates during their speeches. The venue afforded the possibility; Democrats met at the Route 66 Casino theatre, complete with an elevated state, while Republicans gathered in a large meeting room at the Albuquerque Marriott that had a stage only slightly elevated on risers.
But like the Republicans, Democrats had only a few contested as well. Besides governor, the offices that have more than one candidate are Congressional District 2 (Leslie Endean-Singh, 59 votes or 14.8 percent; Roxanne “Roxie” Lara, 339 votes, 85.2 percent), Congresional District 3 (incumbent Ben Ray Lujan and Robert Blanch) and state treasurer (Tim Eichenberg, 757, 52.8; Patrick Padilla, 103, 7.2; and John Wertheim, 575 votes, 40.0 percent).
Lujan is the incumbent in CD 3, which represents most of Rio Rancho,. And he was obviously the party favorite, receiving 566 votes (98.4 percent) overwhelming applause and even a nod from convention chairman Jim Bubhag, who introduced him as “my congressman.”
Even though Blanch picked up only nine delegates (1.6 percent), he told Th-SCORE.info ahead of voting and speaking that he plans to stick with the campaign. He said he had more than 2,200 signatures collected, and the threshold for his race is 1,873.
As of the initial filing day Blanch submitted 1,661 signatures.
Speakers in races that had no opposition and were nominated unanimously were Sen. Tom Udall, Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grissom (CD-1), Deb Haaland (lieutenant governor), Hector Balderas (attorney general), Maggie Toulouse Oliver (secretary of state), Tim Keller (auditor) Ray Powell (public lands commissioner) and Kerry Kiernan (court of appeals). They all were nominated by unanimous voice vote.
At least two-thirds of the delegates left the day-long convention after hearing the gubernatorial candidates speak and voting for them. That means many of the speakers down on the ballot, including the three-way treasurer’s race, ended up addressing a mostly-empty auditorium.
But because voting didn’t close until 10 minutes after the last speaker finished, it was well into the evening before results were announced.
A total of 1,247 delegates attended the convention, according to the credentials report. That means at least 208 proxy votes were cast.
The convention began 30 minutes after the scheduled 10 a.m. start, but it took less than two minutes for the first criticism of Gov. Martinez in a video by Lopez. Martinez, Republican Congressman Steve Pearce and the Tea Party were favorite targets of speakers throughout the day.
Another reason the convention ran late was that despite announcements to the contrary, the main speakers far exceeded their 10-minute time limit for a nominating speech, a seconding speech, the actual candidate speech and demonstration by supporters.
Among the gubernatorial candidates King went first, and seemingly rushed through his speech to get done in 11 minutes.
After that, the trend was to go even longer, with Lopez gong 14 minutes, Morales 16 and Real 18 before Webber finished at 15. Those totals do not include about five minutes between each speaker to clear the stage.
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2014
Cleveland boys heading to The Pit after holding off Carlsbad;
Rams falter in fourth quarter, end season with loss at Sandia
By ERIC MADY
Sixth-ranked Cleveland started and finished the second half strong to hold off Carlsbad 72-66 Saturday night and advance to the quarterfinals of the state high school basketball tournament.
The Storm (22-8) will play either Atrisco Heritage Academy at University Arena at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. No. 3 Atrisco eliminated Alamogordo 79-66 later Saturday night.
No. 15 Rio Rancho, meanwhile, hung in with No. 2 Sandia for three quarters before getting blown out in the final period 59-45.
The Rams end their season 12-17, including a victory over the Matadors in January. Brady Patterson led Rio Rancho with 25 points in a losing effort.
At Cleveland, the Storm led just 31-29 at halftime but scored the first eight points after intermission to go up 10. The margin stayed between five and 10 points, even with Carlsbad’s Shakur Smith making three straight three-points to more than match three two-pointers by the Storm.
But Smith’s bombs signaled a temporary momentum shift. The Cavemen (19-11) still trailed by seven after Smith’s final trey, but it started an 11-0 Carlsbad run that resulted in the Cavemen’s only lead of the second half.
They took a two point-lead on a basket by Micah Calderon, who led Carlsbad with 18 points, with just under four minutes left. But the Storm responded, by scoring 13 of the next 14 points to open up a 10-point lead with 32.8 seconds left to seal the deal.
And it was mostly the Storm guards who did it. Josiah Mahboub hit a three-pointer to give Cleveland for good, and Ryan Jones followed with a driving layup and two free throws on consecutive possessions. Mahboub sank a free throw and when Marcus Williams scored, momentum had changed again and for all intents and purposes was over.
So what did Cleveland head coach Brian Smith tell his team at halftime to inspire such a strong start?
“I honestly don’t remember. That’s how good it worked,” Smith joked.
“We didn’t go in there and emphasize anything. We just told them some simple things about making adjustments. When we were in our zone (in the first half) they got to the high post quite a bit and knocked some shots down. We just told them they had six or seven guys score in that first half that they haven’t had in other games and so we’ve got to contest every shot.
“The way we came out in the third quarter set a tone for the rest of the game. I know that they fought back and took the lead but our guys are very resilient.
After struggling in recent games from the free throw line, Cleveland shot 16-of-26 overall, including 12-of-17 in the fourth quarter.
“I’ll take that. I’ll take that all day long,” Smith said.
Playing his first full game in two weeks after suffering from illness that left him with severe headaches and nausea, Williams led the Storm with 20 points. Jones had 19 and Desmond Branch 13 for Cleveland.
Calderon led Carlsbad (19-11) with 18 points. Smith and Trevin Ramirez had 12 each.
“Having Marcus Williams back was huge. He’s obviously a factor for us,” Coach Smith said. “Missing him in those other games was rough. We went 2-2 in those games, but having him back makes us more dangerous.”
Williams’ quickness in isolation also makes a spread offense Cleveland employed late in the game more effective. It was something they displayed a little of in district tournament games against Rio Rancho and Volcano Vista and are being to use more at the end or games.
“Our whole thing for spreading it isn’t necessarily to run some time off. The spread gives us some good opportunities to score,” Smith said. “We still haven’t perfected that yet. You could see there were a lot of rough edges out there. I’m proud of the guys’ effort doing that.”
So now it’s on to the world renowned University, a.k.a. The Pit.
“It’s been our goal. We’re going to be there. The thing we can’t do is make The Pit bigger than the game. The guys are really excited but they’re not going crazy. We know we still have work to do and we still have to focus on the next game.”
Posted Friday, March 7, 2014
Storm, Rams open state play at 5 p.m.;
Rio Rancho girls eliminated by Hobbs
For Rio Rancho basketball fans, as Alan Jackson used to sing, it’s five o’clock somewhere.
The Cleveland Storm and Rio Rancho Rams hope to make it happy hour today with opening games in the state tournament that start at 5 p.m.
Sixth-seeded Cleveland (21-8) will play host to No. 11 Carlsbad (19-10) while, at the same time, No. 15 Rio Rancho (12-16) plays at second-seeded Sandia (19-6). It will be the first time the Storm and Cavemen meet this year, while the Rams handed Sandia one of its losses this season, 61-55, on Jan. 28.
The Rio Rancho girls, meanwhile, lost at Hobbs 63-39 Friday night to finish their season 13-16,
For the Storm, getting inside player Marcus Williams back into the flow of things will be important. The sophomore saw his first action in more than a week in Cleveland’s 60-49 loss in the District 1-5A championship game last Saturday, where he played well at times and looked lost at others.
“Getting him back is going to be huge,” Cleveland coach Brian Smith said. “He’s going to be key for us. Not playing until Saturday gives us an extra day back to get him in shape a little bit
“It’s playoff time. He’s going to have to be ready.”
Sophomore Justin Davis was among the players who had to fill in or play extra minutes in Williams’ absence. While Cleveland struggled, especially on offense, with Williams gone, it did help the Storm build one thing – depth.
“It makes us more dangerous as far as having a deeper bench,” Smith said. “We’ve had to play with guys in foul trouble and had to go to our bench, and those guys have had to step up. That’s why it’s a team game and we chose the guys that we kept on varsity, so they could have this opportunity.
“Our jobs as coaches is to put them into position to be successful.”
The key player for the Rams, just as he has been all year, is junior guard Brady Patterson, who leads the state by averaging 23.0 points per game and led the Rams in scoring ever game except for their last contest, a loss to Cleveland in the district tournament.
“He’s been consistent all year,” Rio Rancho head coach Wally Salata said. “He led us for 27 straight games until the loss against Cleveland. My son (Walter Salata) had 15 and he had 14.
“We definitely need other players to step up. If we can get scoring from other people it’s hard to guard us. But if nobody else is scoring but Brady, you can send three guys on him and it makes it difficult.
“He’s been doing it consistently all year while being doubled teamed, shadowing, you name it we’ve seen it. It’s not like it’s going to be anything new if Sandia does play that type of defense. We’ll be prepared. We’ve seen it all year.”
In the only game Patterson did not lead the team in scoring he did something else remarkable by holding Cleveland sharpshooter Ryan Jones to just one point.
“We hadn’t played that defense all year,” Salata said. “We talked Wednesday prior to the game. Jones had 35, 31 and 18 in the prior three games. He was averaging 27 against us. You have to try something different, and we decided to go with it.
“To have your leading scorer volunteer to take him, that says a lot about Brady. I’m not going to say it took away from his game, he had 14, but he didn’t shoot the ball very well. He was 2-of-13 from the field, but he was 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
“That was an accomplishment there, but again that’s where the other players come in.
“We shot 19-of-19 from the free throw line. When you hold their leading scorer to one, and you shoot 19-of-19 from the free throw line, you would think you have a good chance to win. We just caught a team that had their other players step up that night. That’s what you have to do, have other players step up when your best player doesn’t have a good game.”
Tonight’s winners advance to quarterfinal matchups at University Arena on Wednesday. If Rio Rancho upsets the Matadors, they will play the Eldorado-Las Cruces winner at 9:45 a.m. A victory by the Storm gets them a matchup with the Atrisco Heritage-Alamogordo winner at 4:45 p.m.
Posted Friday, March 7, 2014
City election results certified;
recount set for Thursday
By ERIC MADDY
The unofficial results of the Rio Rancho election were made official with one minor change Friday. Now it’s on to the recount next Thursday.
“One conditional ballot that came in” is now a part of the official canvas, city clerk Steve Ruger said.
The recount, requested by incumbent city councilor Tamara Gutierrez in her District 3 race, will begin at 10 a.m. on March 13.
Since Gutierrez had filed her two-sentence request ahead of the actual canvass, Ruger was able to issue summons to all the “precinct board” made up of all poll workers on Friday.
That includes poll workers at the four public locations in Tuesday’s voting plus the early voting location and those who processed absentee ballots.
Gutierrez had to pay a $300 deposit for the cost of the recount and by law is responsible for all costs if the results do not change. Ruger said he did not have an estimate of that cost because mileage incurred by sheriff’s deputies who are required by law to deliver the summons is included.
It will be the first recount for Ruger, who became city clerk in August 2012, or any of his staff. The last recount in a Rio Rancho election since 2004 when Marilyn Salzman defeated Todd Hathorne by one vote. That was for a District 6 city council race; ironically, with redistricting, some of the same area (Enchanted Hills) is represented by the councilor from the district being recounted.
Ruger said there wree no reports of any trouble with machines during the process.
There were 26 “under-votes” in the District 3 race where ballots were cast with a vote for mayor but not the city council race.
Ruger was not able to compare that number to under-votes in other districts or previous elections.
“I can tell you this – the under-votes were spread out almost evenly between the different machines,” he said. “There definitely wasn’t one machine that had a high number of under-votes compared to the other ones.”
Challenger Cheryl Everett defeated Gutierrez by 11 votes in Tuesday’s unofficial results.
District 5 incumbent councilor Tim Crumm was edged out of a runoff by eight votes, but Ruger said he has not filed for a recount.
Posted Friday, March 7, 2014
Assessor, fire chief grilled
by county commissioners
By ERIC MADDY
Sandoval County commissioners were in a questioning mood Thursday night, going at the assessor and fire chief before voting unanimously to support their requests.
Assessor Tom Garcia and his staff defending efforts in implementing a countywide reappraisal plan of all properties, while fire chief James Maxon had to explain why the county should extend its emergency communications/EMS tax to rural residents and why it should sell its old Santa Ana fire station for only $75,000.
Both Garcia and Maxon were put on the spot, trying to explain actions set in motion by officials and county commissioners who were in control long before they assumed the job. And though there were only three four items on the agenda, including one procedural – the meeting lasted for the better part of two hours.
Commissioners seemed almost as concerned at how the public was informed about the two issues as the issues themselves, a reminder that all actions being conducted from now to November are being done so under the prism of election-year politics.
Garcia came under scrutiny from commissioners Glenn Walters, Darryl Madalena and Nora Scherzinger for his proposal to spend funds from what is commonly called the “one-percent fund” to finish reevaluating all properties in the county.
When the commission approved plans for the reassessment almost two years ago, staff from the assessor’s office suggested it would take about two years to complete the project, though Garcia, relatively new to the position at the time, suggested he thought that goal was optimistic.
“Turns out I was right,” he told the commission Thursday.
The assessor’s office continues to face the monumental task of setting property values for commercial, residential and vacant properties countywide.
Part of the problem the assessor’s office faces is having to merge information from paper records and four different computer systems into a new system, matching those records with field inspections and entering updated data into the new computer system.
Garcia reported about 60 percent of the work has been done. For commissioners who expected the project to be finished by now, that figure got their attention.
“I am concerned,” Walters said.
The good news is that many of the biggest hurdles had been cleared. Most of the work left to be done is in the Placitas and Rio Rancho areas, closer to county offices and thus requiring less travel time for starters.
Many of the properties left in Rio Rancho are so-called “cookie-cutter” houses in Rio Rancho put up by AMREP to the same specifications of livable space, so Garcia and his chief assistant, Christie Humphrey, expect the process to move faster.
The Placitas area, however, will be slow going due to the large number of custom homes in the area that require individual measurements.
The plan all along was to continue the same property tax valuations until the reassessment was finished so that one area that happened to be evaluated first wouldn’t pay potentially higher taxes for a longer period than those whose values had not been changed. Now, because of the time length of the project, Garcia’s office once to begin using the new figures on those properties already revaluated now.
Madalena, a former employee in the assessor’s office, questioned why Garcia didn’t start with more populated areas like Rio Rancho first, which would have raised more money for the county.
“Rio Rancho was always the one getting looked at first and taking the hit,” Garcia said. “When I came into office, I asked which properties hadn’t been evaluated or the longest period of time, and we started with them first.”
Garcia agreed that implementing the plan of using updated assessments for some property owners might have been unfair in the past, but said not so now. The county is required to set a valuation yearly, whether it is based on facts on an actual field visit or established information, and has in the past often simply applied a three percent increase (the maximum allowed under state law).
The only time a property value can be changed is when it is inspected, sold or subject to the annual reevaluation. Garcia said the number of valuation protests is down from a high of more than 15,000 a few years ago to about 2,200 last year, allowing staff to spend less time on the protests and more time in the field doing actual evaluations.
Garcia said he found upon taking office that some properties had not been reevaluated in 12 years , the obvious inference that others (such as Rio Rancho) had been revalued two or three times if not more.
The one-percent fund comes from taxes on all property sold in the state. When the state collects taxes on the sale of property, it collects and sets aside one percent of the income for counties to use to manage its property valuation system.
Full time salaried employees have 60 percent of their compensation paid from the general fund and 40 percent from the one-percent fund. In launching his program, Garcia had to turn to part-time employees who have all of their salary paid from the one-percent fund.
Using part-time employees has been a problem too. Neighboring counties Santa Fe (to the north) and Bernalillo (to the south) launched their own valuation programs after Sandoval County did, and with a bigger population and bigger general fund was able to hire Sandoval’s part-timers and make them full time, costing Sandoval in lost time and resources used for training.
Part of the plan to use one-percent funds that commissioners approved Wednesday will pay for a full-time coordinator of the assessment program with the additional duties of supervising training programs.
Garcia said all business property in the county has been reevaluation, but that vacant lots are still a problem. Part of the reason is the economy – land values have decreased, and thus fewer properties are being sold (brining in less money to the one-percent fund and taking away one opportunity for property values to be changed).
Commissioners attempted to press Garcia on how much additional revenue was being brought into the county, a concern during tight fiscal times as work on the budget begins. Garcia couldn’t say, noting incomplete data entry and that the system doesn’t have the capability to adjust the county’s total values as some properties come back higher in values and others lower, an unanticipated problem.
“We would have to do that by hand,” Garcia said. “We will have those numbers as part of the annual valuation, and I will be glad to come back and tell you then. I should be able to have a report on my desk every morning with that information, but we can’t do that right now. We’re working on it.”
Approving the usage plan for the one-percent fund is an annual exercise required under law. The plan approved Wednesday outlines how the assessor would like to spend the money for the next two years while it completes the project, though Garcia said it no way binds a possible new assessor to it.
Garcia is seeking reelection in November, as is commissioner Don Chapman, who staunchly defended the program.
“Carry on,” Chapman said. “I am looking next door at counties that are a lot older than us that are still having issues on their tax rolls. We see them on the evening news where properties are claiming an agricultural exemption and they don’t grow at thing but have a 10,000-square foot house on it.
“We don’t want to be on the news. As I understand it, the purpose is to level the playing field for everyone. And that’s the right thing to do. We need to be the Class A county that we are.”
Chapman’s latter reference was not just a label, but an actual status based largely on population that qualifies Sandoval County for certain benefits but also requires certain services. Bernalillo County, home of most of Albuquerque, is the only other Class A county in the state.
Garcia said his office has reviewed all properties claiming agricultural and other exemptions to make sure proper documentation is in place.
Once the valuation project is done, the assessor’s office plans on inspecting one-fourth of county properties yearly, meaning no property will go longer than four years without a physical inspection. All of it is part of a plan to make the office “more proactive and not reactive,” Humphrey said.
About 18,000 properties of the approximately 46,000 properties in the county still need to be inspected. Of those, about 15,000 are in Rio Rancho, Humphrey told The-SCORE.info after the meeting.
One resident complained about the lack of progress on the project during the meeting, but one thing that did not come up was safety. When the program was implemented commissioners expressed concern that employees be properly identifiable and also protected against possible irate property owners who did not want strangers on their land. But Garcia told The-SCORE.info before the meeting there had been only one incident in nearly two years of the project.
Garcia and Humphrey got on the hot seat after Maxon got off.
The warm-up act, so to speak, was questions over the selling of the temporary fire station at Santa Ana for $75,000. The 40 x 60 building with double garage doors and one regular door became expendable when the county opened a permanent station nearby in 2012. The temporary structure, which cost $130,000 to build, served the county for about four years.
The hard questions came over the extension of the county’s quarter-cent sales tax to fund emergency communications and emergency medical services.
The tax is due to expire June 1 under a 10-year “sunset clause” approved by voters. Officials at the time wanted to create their own permanent fire department to have some paid professional staff and coordinate the efforts of many volunteer departments in less populated areas of the county.
The matter got complicated when the state Legislature passed a law removing such clauses from future tax legislation only months after Sandoval County voters approved a tax with a sunset provision but before the tax was actually implemented. Since it did not affect collection of the taxes, the county had not had to deal with the issue until now as the tax is prepared to expire.
Under the state law passed after the Sandoval County EMS tax, the county commission has the authority to extend the tax without going back to the voters. But Walters and Chapman were uncomfortable with extending the tax without voter approval, fearing the charge of “taxation without representation” even though they were elected to represent voters.
The commission almost had to act at Wednesday’s meeting as the county is required to certify its tax rate to the state Taxation and Revenue department by the end of the month. The state agency updates tax rates twice a year so local businesses know what to collect on goods and services and the department can make adjustments to make sure it knows how much to collect – and return to the counties.
The county is required to set a rate of at least five percent, all of which goes to the state. With local options, the rate in Sandoval County is 6.225 percent. By comparison, Rio Rancho (with local options) is at 7.4375 percent.
The tax is on unincorporated areas only, so it is not part of the Rio Rancho tax rate. Only residents in the unincorporated areas would vote on imposing the tax if it was put on the November ballot.
Had the commission voted to let the tax expire, the department stood to lose what was about $711,000 in revenue last year and has been as much as $1.3 million in the past.
So far this year, the tax has raised $394,000 through January. Tax collection figures and the county budget are based on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30.
Tax money can be used to fund both equipment and salaries. The current county budget for benefits is about $1.3 million.
Had the commission not extended the tax, it would have had to make up the shortfall from the general fund, which gets most of its money from property taxes applied countywide. The county voted last month to publish a proposed ordinance extending the tax rate, and Wednesday actually took that step.
Since the actual extension doesn’t begin until July, Walters and Chapman said they want the matter studied further for possible placement on the November ballot. Until then, or until voters are possibly given the option to choose otherwise, the tax stays in place.
Posted Thursday, Mach 6, 2014
Gutierrez confirms she's filed for a ballot recount
By ERIC MADDY
City councilor Tamara Gutierrez confirmed today she has filed for a recount of ballots in her race in Tuesday’s election.
Challenger Cheryl Everett received 507 votes, or 50.5 percent, compared to 496 votes (49.5) percent for Gutierrez.
Gutierrez said she told the city clerk she does not suspect any particular error on their part.
“Just because it’s 2014 and they have a machine that reads ballots, doesn’t mean that every ballot that gets inserted gets read,” she said. “With the final results at less than a one percent margin, it’s just something I felt had to be done.
“If it would have been any other way I think my opponent would have considered doing the same thing. I think any other candidate with that margin would be considering the same thing.”
Including the District 3 race, conservatives have gone 5-for-5 in city council races the past two years and could win a sixth in a District 5 runoff. But Gutierrez said her challenge was not being backed by the Democratic Party or other outside influence.
“I did this on my own,” she said. “It wasn’t filed by the Democratic Party. It wasn’t filed by anyone but me.”
It is the first recount since 2004, when Marilyn Salzman defeated Todd Hathorne by one vote. Ironically, that was for what was then the District 6 city council seat that is now a part of District 3 after redistricting in 2010.
“I did read comments about 2004 it being one vote, and this is 11,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a one percent margin and this isn’t 2004, it’s 2014. And there’s no reason I can’t do what I want to do. “
One area of concern, Gutierrez said, is 27 under-votes, “which is amazing,” she said. An under-vote, in this case, is where a voter has chosen candidates in other races, like mayor and/or municipal judge, but apparently decided not to vote in the council race.
Councilor Tim Crum, who missed out on a runoff in District 5 by eight votes, said he doesn’t plan to seek a recount at this time.
Contacted by phone at his job in Santa Fe, Crum said, “I haven’t looked into it.”
Gutierrez’s opponent said she was not concerned about the recount.
“I totally support the right of every citizen to exercise their rights of due process,” Everett said. “I’ll await the outcome, but I’m confident that the results of the election will be upheld.
“I have confidence in the city clerk and his staff.”
Asked if she was concerned by the under-vote, Everett said, “No.”
City clerk Steve Ruger was not available for comment.
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Owen, Braden won't endorse
a candidate in mayoral runoff
Report: Recount considered in District 3l; District 5 survivors 'recoup and regroup'
By ERIC MADDY
Voters who supported defeated mayoral candidates Morgan Braden and Jim Owen will have to make up their own mind who to vote for in the runoff election.
After consulting with each other Wednesday, both Braden and Owen told The-SCORE.info they would not endorse either Gregg Hull or Mike Williams.
Both candidates had little to say when posed the question. Braden declined to elaborate; Owen simply pointed out that even though the race is technically non-partisan, “there is clearly one Republican and one Democrat running.”
Owen’s disagreements with Williams are legendry in Rio Rancho politics and date back more than 10 years to a time when Owen was mayor and Williams a city councilor.
But Owen was quite critical of Hull during this election cycle, questioning:
*his motivation for moving into the city last July and registering to vote Aug. 2.
*his campaign literature that claimed Hull was “the only conservative” candidate.
*his literature and web site claims that he and his wife raised their family in the Rio Rancho area over the past 20 years. Owen believes that claim is misleading, since Hull readily admits he lived in the Ventana Ranch are of Albuquerque for several years before moving back to Rio Rancho last summer. Hull has defended that statement, pointing out that he has lived in three other Rio Rancho homes before moving just across the city line when a better home came available, and he has continued to serve his Rio Rancho church during the entire time period.
Braden called into question Hull’s character a week before Election Day with his claim that he had personally counted Hull signs with approval stickers issued by the city’s development department, 26 more than allowed by ordinance. That led to the revelation that the city was not enforcing its own sign law under orders from city manager Keith Riesberg, a stance he later modified to enforce part of the law. Hull disputed the claim.
Williams had hoped Owen and/or Braden would endorse his candidacy, especially Owen with comments that compared Hull with former mayor Kevin Jackson. In 2006, Jackson defeated both Owen and Williams, but had to resign in disgrace months later for illegally using a city credit card. Both Jackson and Hull were political unknowns running against more-established candidates.
And Jackson and Hull both expressed their sense of faith during thecampaign, a comparison that Hull has said he finds outrageous but surfaced again in Williams’ post-election comments late Tuesday night.
While Braden didn’t have any comments on the record, he did take to a Facebook page for Sandoval County Republicans to thank his supporters and hint at his future and offer his evaluation of the campaign.
“As last time, while I am disappointed that I did not win, I am glad that I at least tried,” Braden wrote. “I spent the last seven months working hard, meeting some really great people and even made a few new friends.
“I got to experience some of the dirty side of politics this time with some incorrect stuff toward the end that was politically motivated and was meant to not only embarrass me, but also hurt me in several ways. Having said that, I believe this will be my swan song for the political arena for me.”
Braden also ran for the state Senate in 2010 but was defeated by Craig Brandt in the primary.
Meanwhile, defeated District 3 city council incumbent Tamara Gutierrez did not return phone and text messages seeking comment on reports she would seek a recount. Cheryl Everett defeated Gutierrez by 11 votes in totals released Tuesday.
Much of Rio Rancho’s elections are governed under the state’s municipal code, which was proven inconsistent in 2004 when Todd Hathorne lost to Marilyn Salzman for city council by one vote and subsequently lost in court as well. Ironically, both races are for the city council seat that represents the Enchanted Hills area in northern Rio Rancho, though boundaries were shifted in 2010 redistricting to include different areas.
According to state elections law 3-8-69 that governs municipal elections, "Immediately after filing of the application for recount or recheck, the municipal clerk shall issue a summons directed to the precinct board of each precinct or consolidated precinct specified
in the application commanding it to appear at the office of the municipal clerk on a day fixed in the summons, which date shall not be more than ten days after the filing of the application for recountor recheck. A copy of the summons shall be forwarded to the county clerk of the concerned county.
"The municipal clerk shall deliver the summons to a sheriff or state police officer who shall
forthwith personally serve it upon each of the precinct board members. The municipal clerk shall send notices by registered mail of the date, time and place fixed for recount or recheck to the district judge and county clerk.
"The precinct board, district judge or the district court judge’s designee, county clerk and the
municipal clerk shall meet on the date, time and place fixed for the recount or recheck, and the ballot boxes or voting machines of the precinct or consolidated precinct involved in the recount or recheck shall be opened. The precinct boards shall recount and retally the ballots or recheck the votes cast on the voting machine, as the case may be, and recount and retally the absentee ballots for the office in question in the presence of the municipal clerk, the county clerk, district judge or person designated to act for the judge and any other person who may desire to be present.
"During the recount or recheck, the precinct board of a precinct or consolidated precinct where paper ballots used in lieu of voting machines or absentee ballots were used shall recount and retally only the ballots that the election judge accepted and placed in the ballot box at the time they were cast or received, as the case may be.
"After completion of the recount or recheck, the precinct board shall replace the ballots or
absentee ballots in the ballot box and lock it, or the voting machines shall be locked and resealed, and the precinct board shall certify to the municipal clerk the results of the recount or recheck. The district judge or the person designated to act for the judge, the county clerk and the municipal clerk shall also certify that the recount or recheck was made in their presence."
And, according to state law 3-8-68:
“Whenever any candidate for any office for which the municipal clerk issues a certificate of election believes that any error or fraud has been committed by any precinct board in counting or tallying the ballots or absentee ballots, in the verification of the votes cast on the voting machines or in the certifying of the results of any election whereby the results of the election in the precinct have not been correctly determined, declared or certified, the candidate, within six days after completion of the canvass by the municipal canvassing board, may have a recount of the ballots or absentee ballots, or a recheck of the voting machine and the voting machine cartridge or memory card that contains the number of total votes that were cast in the precinct.
“In the case of any office for which the municipal clerk issues a certificate of election, application for recount or recheck shall be filed with the municipal clerk.
“Any applicant for a recount shall deposit with the municipal clerk fifty dollars ($50) in
cash or a sufficient surety bond in an amount equal to fifty dollars ($50) for each precinct or consolidated precinct for which a recount is demanded. Any applicant for a recheck shall deposit with the municipal clerk ten dollars ($10) in cash or a sufficient surety bond in an amount equal to ten dollars ($10) for each voting machine to be rechecked.
“The deposit or surety bond shall be security for the payment of the costs and expenses of
the recount or recheck in case the results of the recount or recheck are not sufficient to change the results of the election.
“If it appears that error or fraud sufficient to change the winner of the election has been committed, the costs and expenses of the recount or recheck shall be paid by the municipality upon warrant of the municipal clerk from the general fund of the municipality.
“If no error or fraud appears to be sufficient to change the winner, the costs and expenses
for the recount or recheck shall be paid by the applicant. Costs shall consist of any docket fees, mileage of a sheriff or state police officer in serving summons and fees and mileage of precinct board members, at the same rates allowed witnesses in civil actions. If fraud has been committed by a precinct board, it shall not be entitled to such mileage or fees.”
With all of that going on, the two candidates in the overlooked District 5 runoff face spent the day catching their breath and preparing for their next round.
Shelby Smith emerged as the top vote-getter Tuesday with 370, or 33.1 percent of the total. Tom Buckner edged out incumbent Tim Crum by eight votes, 286-280, with Buckner getting 25.6 percent of the vote. Paul Howell was fourth with 182 votes.
Combining Crum’s and Howell’s totals leaves 461 voters, or 41.3 percent, who now have to go with their second choice. Both candidates urged those voters to look closely at their background and experience before the runoff, which will likely be April 15.
“I would ask them to look at my education and my 54 years of professional experience in dealing with very difficult issues,” Buckner said. “I’m offering myself as an employee of the citizens, and I’m offering a lot of experience.”
Smith’s appeal to those voters: “Take a final look at what I stand for. If you have any questions, here’s my phone number: 400-3688. I will always take the time to talk about any issues or concerns you may have with respect to the differences of why you voted for your candidate instead of me.”
Both candidates spent the day “recouping and regrouping,” as Buckner called it.
Buckner, who has been walking neighborhoods with a foot injury, looked at updating his literature, while Smith said he went out and tried to salvage some signs for the next round and “looking over numbers and figuring out the game plan for the next five or six weeks.”
Both candidates said they expected a runoff, which will likely be April 15.
“I’m not surprised that there is a runoff, and I’m not surprised it was Shelby,” Buckner said. “He has worked very hard in the campaign.
“I haven’t really thought about the margin. I was just working to get in the runoff. I would have liked to won outright, but being in the runoff is good. I’m in there where I need to be.
“I plan on sitting on the city council in a month or so.”
Smith said he a bit surprised by his margin of victory and who he will face in the runoff.
“Surprised? Yes. But when you look at the work put in, in relation to the results, no,” he said. “I have made a sincere effort to go to every door in the district personally and apparently that paid off.
“I’ve been gearing for a runoff the whole time. I expected as much,” Smith said. “ I figured, honestly, it was either going to be between me and Crum or me and Howell. But you don’t know the sphere of influence of those running in an election until last night.”
Even with the advantage he had at the polls Tuesday, Smith said he is far from confident. “The most I allow myself is cautiously optimistic,” he said.
With three conservatives winning council seats in 2012 and two more Tuesday, what’s the secret to a possible Buckner victory?
“I’ll tell you just as soon as I do it,” Buckner said.
Smith thinks economics has the key factor in the change from an all-liberal council to a chance at an all-conservative council in just four years.
“We’ve seen the direction that prior councils have taken the city,” he said. “In a lot of respects it’s been great, but it’s pretty self-evident with the national issues with the economy, what they were doing prior doesn’t work.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in areas that aren’t going to produce the economic necessity that Rio Rancho needs. A conservative council, as you label it, will look at fiscal responsibility in a different way than a more liberal council would have.”
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Chamisa Hills buyers aren't worried
election results will hurt their deal
Utilities Commission to have special meeting Monday
By ERIC MADDY
The proposed buyers of the Chamisa Hills Country Club say Tuesday’s election results will not have an impact on their efforts.
Jhett Browne and Bob Gallagher have said one potential snag in their attempt to buy the struggling club and golf course would be the cost of re-use water rates.
With two more conservative candidates elected Tuesday, it would seem more likely than ever that a nearly 700 percent rate increase to $3.28 per thousand gallons would stay in place. The current 47 cents per thousand deal the country club gets expires July 1.
City government is in the process of reviewing the rates, starting with a special meeting of the Utilities Commission at 7 p.m. Monday. That meeting in City Council chambers, ironically, will be in the same room where new councilors Cheryl Everett and Dawnn Robinson are scheduled to be 1sworn in an hour earlier.
“We are businessmen and we will continue to do a business deal. That is what we do,” Gallagher said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Politicians do politics. That is what they do. If the two should happen to meet somewhere, great.”
Robinson and Everett have said the right things during the campaign, that they would be willing to take a look at the recycled water rate. The existing council has said in each of its last two meetings, first by ordinance and then by a consensus, that they would be willing to look at the rate structure.
The two new councilors replace two councilors who are on the record as supporting the golf course, Tamara Gutierrez (who lost to Everett) and Patty Thomas (who is retiring and will be replaced by Robinson).
The bottom line of the election results is that if they stay together, the conservative council will have the final say. Had Gutierrez won and the Robinson race gone to a runoff, leaving Thomas in place for three more meeting, that pair could have aligned with golf course supporter Tim Crum and Mayor Tom Swisstack to form a majority to change the rates.
That option is out the window now, and with Crum in a lame-duck status for three meetings while he awaits his successor to emerge from a runoff, the pro-rate increase side could potentially get stronger.
And to further complicate matters, two sources have told The-SCORE.info that a second group has emerged that is interested in purchasing the club. One of those sources said city staff actually prefers the second group because “it is a bunch of professional businessmen who have run golf courses before.”
Browne’s background is in the agriculture business as the owner of the successful Farmer’s Market chain. His partner Gallagher was the former city manager in Hobbs and executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. He now operates his own private consulting business which, in part, has him serving currently as the acting city manager for the town of Jal in the southeastern part of the state.
Gallagher said Wednesday he has no interest in the permanent job in Jal.
Gallagher also said he was not aware of a second group interested in the club, and even if there is it does not matter. Gallagher said the purchase agreement he and Browne have with current country club owner Harry Apodaca calls for exclusive first rights of negotiation, and anyone breaking that agreement would be in violation of the law.
CLICK HERE FOR UNOFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS.
Posted Tuesday, March 4, 2014
in Rio Rancho election
Everett, Robinson win city council seats;
Cook gets top percentage to stay as judge
Hull to meet Williams in mayoral runoff;
Smith, Buckner to square off in District 5
Turnout slightly above 12 percent overall
By ERIC MADDY
and JEFFREY COTTRELL
Conservatives continued to dominate Rio Rancho electoral politics Tuesday nights, winning two city council races, retaining a judgeship and having two more candidates get the most votes in qualifying for a runoff.
Cheryl Everett ousted incumbent councilor Tamara Gutierrez by 11 votes in District 3, and former Tea Party president Dawnn Robinson defeated two other candidates with 54.1 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
Judge Robert Cook won by the biggest margin of the night, 59.8 percent over two other candidates.
Gregg Hull got 43.5 percent of the vote and will meet former Mayor Mike Williams (29.7 percent) in a four-man race where the two defeated opponents are also conservative. It's a similar scenario in District 5, where Shelby Smith got 33.1 percent of the vote and will meet Tom Buckner in a runoff. Incumbent Tim Crum finished third, only eight votes behind Buckner.
Three conservative candidates, including two Tea Party members, won city council seats in 2010, effecting a philosophical change on the Governing Body on most issues that eventually cost James Jimenez his job as city manager. Now, with at least two more conservative votes on the council, that direction seems set for at least two more years, no matter who is elected mayor.
Though technically a non-partisan election, the results leave two Republicans (Hull and Smith) against two Democrats (Williams and Buckner). With the other five members of the council now Republicans, the results would seem to bode well for Sandoval County, state legislative and even some state-wide Republican candidates in the general election this November.
For Cook, Everett and Robinson, it was the thrill of victory with the relief of no runoff.
“I’m just glad I’m not in a runoff,” Cook said. “Now I can go back to work again, like normal, and take care of the people’s business.”
Robinson said she was “very grateful” to avoid the runoff.
“A little bit surprised, but very grateful,” she said. “I want to thank all my supports and everyone who voted for me.”
Tonight I am so grateful for everyone who voted for me and worked for me. Tonight is for celebrating with them and my family and friends."
Cheryl: I said it was going to be close, but it was. Remember, Marilyn Salzman won in 2004 by one vote. This vote was a landslide.
I don’t want to politicize it that way. I think it was an overwhelming vote for honest, open government. That’s the majority now – honest, open government.”
For Hull and Williams, it was kind of like the NCAA basketball tournament – survive and advance.
“Obviously, we would have liked to have had the 50 percent,” Hull said. “But we didn’t go into this thinking that there wouldn’t be a runoff. We actually planned for it. So now we just need to look at our plan, execute it and move forward.”
Though he didn’t have a lot of time to analyze the results, Hull said he thought voters sent a message on Tuesday.
“I think voters showed that they have a positive attitude toward the direction that the city is moving,” he said. “And I think they want to see where it can move in a further positive situation.
“I’m happy for the candidates that won outright because they get to move on, but I really haven’t put a lot of philosophical though into the actual results and what the voters were saying when they did this.”
Hull said he was pleased with the results, not only to win but his margin of victory.
“We feel confident because we’re going into the runoff with a 13-point lead. That’s always a very reassuring position to be in,” he said.
“We just want to continue to communicate our message of economic development for Rio Rancho for the next 45 days. And we feel confident we can win this election.”
Williams capped his night by firing the opening salvos of the runoff.
“I think it’s time for the city of Rio Rancho to get out and vote for somebody who cares about this city,” he said. “What was said to me tonight that this resembles the election of Kevin Jackson. Hopefully the people will understand.”
Jackson, a political unknown, beat Williams and Jim Owen in the 2006 mayoral election, but later was forced to resign over illegal use of city credit cards.
Williams had hoped his three Republican opponents would split the vote and he could finish first and perhaps win outright, so he was surprised by Hull’s margin of victory. But Williams said he thinks he can pull in supporters of defeated mayoral candidates Owen and Braden, who were both critical of Hull during the campaign.
“Jim Owen and Morgan Braden believe that their heart’s in the city. I think they understand that my heart’s in the city,” Williams said. “Hopefully they’ll support me after the outcome of this election as opposed to having someone from the outside come in.”
A total of 6,959 voters ballots were cast out of 57,601 eligible voters, making it a 12.08 percent turnout.