River Curves

The big westward curve of the river - the top of the Valley. That's where the big floods used to start. The Camino Arroyo, named for the road up to the mountain, swept into the valley up there from time to time, depositing muddy water and trees and boulders too sometimes. They "tamed it," along with all the other arroyos and the Rio itself. A87F3A5C-6858-41C8-9714-8B79C0FFE1DD

Some of the cottonwoods have a curve like the river. 

Up there's also where Edward Abbey began the tale of The Brave Cowboy, later made into the movie Lonely Are the Brave.  When Kirk Douglas rides his Palamino mare Whiskey into town, he crosses both the Rio and Second Street. The Big Chief Truck Stop is in the background along with decent sized clusters of cottonwoods. 

These twisted trees were probably stomped on as seedlings. This place was a park. And a dump. We thought it all belonged to us as kids. It magically morphed into private hands after construction of the drainage canals and ditches and began sprouting houses after that. 

In at least one 60s neighborhood, free-range children roamed widely and climbed the biggest trees. They urged each other on, nailing up short pieces of scrap lumber as footholds for the scariest straight parts. High trees seemed to go on forever like our high hopes. In some places you can still see steps in the tall trees. 



Log March 25


Cried at the blue-green beauty of the weather map and the forecast description:

Tonight will be calm and quiet for much of the state. ...

Wore huge-heel new shiny Doc Marten boots to walk the dog along the ditch road very slowly, like Frankenstein’s monster. The dog and I are both very gray-haired now. Thinking of formal-wear tomorrow.

Watched a video of a guy carefully cleaning groceries he’d brought home, wiping each can and soaking oranges. I didn’t do any of that. 

Stared at everything in the pantry and fridge dubiously. Appetite’s gone. Beer cans are easy to clean.

Edward Abbey -The Brave Cowboy

"There is a valley in the West where phantoms come to brood and mourn, pale phantoms dying of nostalgia and bitterness."


Published in 1956, sixty years ago, favorite book was about Albuquerque and a few other things.

Favorite movie, Lonely Are the Brave, was filmed on location. Kirk Douglas crossed Second Street on spooky palomino mare, Whiskey, where Murphy's Mule Barn is today. In the yelp comments a visitor says it could be a truck stop from 1959. But it's probably a decade older from when the big Alameda Drain was dug and Second Street was paved around 1949. 

That Big Chief truck stop sign is now out on US 550 on Zia land, I'm pretty sure.

Brooding and mourning  in the valley? Not enough of it. But then I'm practically dying of nostalgia and bitterness. And pretty pale.

It Waits

They used to say the valley was haunted. Ghosts edge the pasture and she could see them, dark shapes against the ditch bank and smokey shadows along the fence line. Even before she heard the other stories about floods and sieges she knew. That ride up the arroyo before it was concrete when her horse spooked and jumped sideways and dumped her hard and unconscious. She woke up talking nonsense.  Her sister said she always talked nonsense but she was just being mean.

How do you know your ghosts aren’t just poor mental health?

The flood killed people and destroyed villages but no one is alive that remembered that. They put a statue in the park of two people saving the church bell. No one was saved by the bell. No one is alive that remembered where the church was either. So when they put in the sewer line they started finding bones everywhere and everyone seemed surprised.  The church is under a convenience store now.

Even monumental events don't get statues or monuments if it isn't good history that fits and doesn't make anyone squirm. Like there'll probably never be a monument to Alonzo McMillan - the lawyer who took tens of thousands of acres of the village’s communal lands. He initiated court action for "partition" of the old Spanish land grant and ended up very rich. The City of Rio Rancho is on part of that old land grant now.

The earliest recorded horror - also largely forgotten - was the “war” between the Spanish explorer Coronado and the Pueblo people of this valley.  Scars of siege and massacre shape our ghosts whether we remember to see them or not. Memories fade but great wrongs are retained like an invisible lingering clinging electric charge. Sad static. Here a dead man found tangled and frozen in the fence. There a boy pulled under sudden swirling arroyo water.

Paseo del Volcanonono

Paseo del Volcan is a project on the far west side of anything metropolitan about Rio Rancho and Albuquerque. Promoters have gone largely unchallenged in presenting it as a critical "regional need" and have corralled over $8 million for land.  Well-worn patterns of using public infrastructure funds for land speculation in New Mexico should give us pause. But promoters seem particularly intent on ignoring this history.

They are aided in creating an illusion of selfless vision and foresight by a near absence of transparency. Most significantly, we don't know who the land owners are. New Mexico is one of only two states (Wyoming?) that allows owners of limited liability corporations to remain completely anonymous.  As stated on 60 Minutes last night, in some states its easier to create a business than to get a library card. New Mexico is one of those.

Who is Western Albuquerque Land Holdings anyway?

 The rational argument for spending New Mexico’s scarce dollars on right-of-way is that the State needs to purchase land "before development drives the values up." This hasn't been weighed with a counter-argument based on the very real possibility that land prices will go down. It's not like the economy is going gang-busters.  The State is more likely to pay way too much. And using land values to establish a funding priority is pretty skanky shaky.


Railroading Paseo del Volcan

The inaptly named Paseo del Volcan project is all set to dole-out $8 million public dollars to big private landowners and that’s just the start. Rest uneasy, the total cost of the project is estimated at $70 million, not including another $8 million needed for more right of way before that starts.

Proponents are not dissuaded and have attempted to put road corridor money on level funding ground with projects that have been on the local road plans for decades. (Here's that rabbit hole: MRCOG MTP) Normalizing the project by comparing it to other interchange projects is also highly popular but misleading.  It was compared to Rio Bravo and I-25 where new jobs are anticipated. "It works!," someone in the hearing trumpeted, for goodness sake.*
Tom Church, Secretary of Department Transportation, told a New Mexico Senate committee about the Volcan project this week. He said there’s $2.5 million in “regular” STP dollars plus an “old federal earmark” of $4 million set to expire that was obligated for Atrisco Vista.  That's the road that used to be called Paseo del Volcan. We are left to assume that Atrisco Vista is now fully built and perfect.

Remember when Marty Chavez was Mayor of Albuquerque and there was much fuss and rush over economic development at the Double Eagle Airport? It is located on this road now called Atrisco Vista. Public funding was critical now for this forward thinking project that would bring orderly development. So we paid for water and sewer and storm drains so that Eclipse Aviation could move out there. Land use policies were tossed out the window.  A certain county commissioner flipped some mattress land. 

I’d love to see the estimated public dollars that went into all that.  And how'd that work out? Might that experience inform this request?

Ho Hum. Different project. Doesn’t matter. The guys that want this don’t own that.


*Land in the vicinity of Rio Bravo has rail access, airport access, freeway access and access to an existing labor force. It has been zoned for manufacturing since the county had a code. 

Casita de Coco

I took down my Airbnb listing this morning. No ceremony. No regrets.

Santa Fe is subjecting hosts to more scrutiny, fees and taxes and it's a matter of time before Albuquerque sees this as a missed source of tax revenue as well. 

The idea is good and I thoroughly enjoyed all of my guests. I got no complaints from neighbors and had a five-star rating. I especially loved sharing Albuquerque with newcomers as all of my guests were.

The problem is threefold: 1) I can't feel comfortable breaking zoning laws I used to administer, even if they're stupid laws. 2) The federal tax thing at this tiny scale is burdensome, nevermind any potential State and local taxes. 3) Homeowner insurance was a question I didn't even ask because I already pay a stupid amount for living in a mobile home.

Zoning here in this unincorporated county says renting a room in your house is a Bed and Breakfast. That's the definition in the ordinance and to do it legally would require a Conditional Use permit involving a fee, site plan, inspection, notice to all my neighbors, and a hearing where I might get told "no." My familiarity with this process and those who administer it offers just the opposite of preferential treatment. No.

Federal tax info is already submitted to the feds by Airbnb. So I'll be paying federal and state tax on the measly amount I earned. My understanding is that if I rent more than two weeks a year it is considered a business and I need to start itemizing for toilet paper and cocoa. I'm really not into dancing around federal tax law or paying an accountant to do it for me. No.   

Homeowner insurance companies already charge mobile home owners more for the privilege of  living in a piece of shit. My modern modular is far from a piece of shit, but that's how they classify it and I pay more to insure 900 square feet than I did for my former 2000 square foot house. I'm completely unmotivated to ask for a quote on a home business. No.

No regrets.



Christmas Tree Capital Planning *

Planning does what it's supposed to do when it’s part of a generally trusted process that goes beyond any one politician's term. That's both why it makes sense and why it doesn’t happen. 

Planning should be required for public funding. But for a variety of reasons planning as a practical government function has become nearly invisible over about the last thirty years. As a consequence, the New Mexico Legislature's apportionment of capital money is a senseless special interest wrestling match. Think New Mexico's recommendations for creation of a capital planning board and comprehensive (capital) plan are great. But they're also complete reinvention of a wheel that should have been rolling all along. How this recommended state level planning work is integrated locally may determine it's acceptance and success.

It's got to be better than no planning at all.

Comprehensive planning should take place within a web of interconnected plans that look at different things on an ongoing basis. Plans identify issues, explore alternatives, recommend policies and set priorities at varying levels of detail - the Comp Plan for a city or region being the broadest.

I didn’t make this stuff up. (Pauses to glance angrily at trolls.) But democratic city planning ideals are relatively recent. Regional planning as it was applied in this country sort of came of age in the thirties in New York State. It was fought then by Catskill developers who saw it as the potential constraint to profiteering it was. Most cities we consider “planned” cities were designed by architects or urban designers and built by an emperor, king or single rich guy.

New Mexico's uniquely invisible and toothless planning was shaped by a long rich history of exploiting people for land. That meshed nicely with national trends favoring a go, go, go housing market. The near mythical pursuit of "highest and best use" has kneecapped all but the flawed dull duo: subdivision and zoning ordinances.** At this point in our limited civil civic discourse we don't really even know what planning is supposed to do. The planning profession largely serves to either administer those development ordinances for public entities or wiggle around them for the private ones. 

Connected reasons promote not planning or anti-planning views. One is a simple lack of data. Limited truths and half-truths are easily exploited without information. Development of land has huge attendant public costs that are seldom accurately assessed. The overarching assumption is that growth pays for itself regardless of location and characteristics. Logic says the land itself is the correct determinant of public cost share,  not who owns it and the depth of their pocket.

Planning has also been a little unpopular with the civic boosters for the usual inclusion of a "no-growth" scenario in the alternatives framework some plans use. Talking no growth what-ifs just doesn't sit well with the mainstream. So never imagine that's been thought through with any public bond financing either.

"Growth management" planning efforts in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County in the 1980s and 1990s were a threat to the real estate golden goose egg and everyone who sucked on it.  Work to quantify infrastructure needs and set priorities in plans was routinely constrained or ignored by important allies of developers in government. Sympathetic elected officials insisted that existing methods of apportioning costs were fair before the Planned Growth Strategy, including determination of those costs, even began.

Lastly and importantly, planning is constrained by the wild card of capital infrastructure project funding from the New Mexico State Legislature. Legislators are unburdened by any required connection to local plans and policies. Planning without a capital component is meaningless, enabling detractors to sideline the planning process completely.




*What I would have said at the panel thingy only I would have gotten sweaty. So read this like you're me, sweaty. 

**Even so, NM didn't even have state subdivision law until the 1980s. Governor King, not coincidentally a huge landowner, vetoed the legislation a couple of times.


I remember Dad saying we shouldn't ever run a Bed and Breakfast inn or hotel because we'd always be changing  sheets and cleaning toilets.  But Mom did that anyway. And she didn't get paid.

The experience has been good so far - insurance, zoning and tax implications aside. I've met interesting people and my guest unit and house are cleaner than they've ever been. 

Undoubtedly the most frustrating aspect of this little edge of hoteliery is not sheets and toilet cleaning or even insurance, zoning and taxes.  It is hair. It is the capture and containment of this ubiquitous human waste. Hair - so lovely and esteemed when attached, immediately morphs into reviled waste product once separated from its host.

 Two words: lint roller.

Santolina - Wayne's World

Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson writes of his support for Santolina Master Plan in the Albuquerque Journal  dismissing opposition, throwing around rotten red herrings and concluding:

Passion and an intense desire to stop new development in Bernalillo County simply aren’t enough for the commission to deny a property owner his or her property rights. 

Aside from hyperbole, this indicates he misses the public benefit part of planning. Changing or denying Santolina wouldn't constitute infringement on property rights. But approving a plan without apparent public benefit and protections has big consequences for County residents. It also makes the Commissioners look like tools.

Continue reading "Santolina - Wayne's World" »