Powers and Jaramillo ‘a tag team act’
It was with some interest that I read the letters to the editor in last week’s Independent. One came from Edgewood Town Councilor Audrey Jaramillo (“Against Edgewood taking over EPCOR water system, June 5-11) and the other from Jerry Powers (“Problems with Edgewood include latest audit,” June 5-11) of CORE. These two have become something of a tag team act in Edgewood politics. During our Town Council meetings Powers often takes the floor during public comment where he lays out the “issue” for that evening’s discussion. Once he’s done setting the scene, he retires from the podium. After a suitable pause, Jaramillo speaks up from the Council side of the dais and favors the audience with a graceful off-the-cuff speech suggested by Powers’ topic of the day.
In last week’s letters, their chosen topics were the Town of Edgewood’s investigation of a possible purchase of the local EPCOR water affiliate as well as the Town’s annual financial audit.
Jaramillo goes first on the EPCOR matter and begins with a statement which is, as she is fully aware, inconsistent with known facts. She alleges that I acted alone in my capacity as Mayor of Edgewood to undertake a possible purchase of EPCOR. When the matter was first discussed, all five members on the Governing Body including Sherry Abraham gave their consent to look into a possible purchase. Two things have changed since then. First, Abraham has turned 180 degrees from her previous position. Second, Jaramillo has recently joined the council. Since her arrival, she has treated the proposal as something she can exploit to further her political career instead of examining its merits.
Jaramillo’s letter continues with many other statements which reveal exactly how little she understands the reasons why the previous Council and I decided to explore the possibility of acquiring the water company. Is she representing all the citizens of Edgewood by taking a hard position on this important issue before we know the facts?
For his part, Jerry Powers uses the Town’s latest audit as his springboard to go off on a litany of issues he scrapes from CORE’s wretched social media sites. Like Jaramillo before him, he offers a fictional version about the reasons for a possible purchase of EPCOR. Next, he writes about millions wasted on an “unwanted” residential sewer line on my family’s property. This is another fiction that has been exposed everywhere except in CORE’s own social media echo chamber.
Next, Powers complains about the Town’s decision back in December of 2018 to opt into the new Local Election Act. A recent opinion from the New Mexico Secretary of State reaffirms what we already knew. The Town of Edgewood opted into the new system correctly and followed the letter of the law in doing so. Jaramillo in fact voted in favor of the change. Sherry Abraham got up and walked out of the meeting before the vote.
He tries to argue both sides of the question about our recent audit. First, he (incorrectly) alleges that our financial situation is in dire straits. Then, he complains that the Town won’t maintain Santa Fe County’s equestrian center. He says we’re broke on one hand but on the other he says Edgewood needs to give money to an equestrian center wholly owned and operated by Santa Fe County? Does he really think we are that stupid?
Jaramillo and Powers, Powers and Jaramillo, doing everything they can to disparage and discredit the Town, my administration, the Town’s staff of hardworking employees and anything or anybody else who get in their way. Like stage magicians, they wave a series of shiny objects to divert attention first here, then over there. They invite us to look anywhere but at the facts.
I believe their twin letters in last week’s paper were a frightened, reflexive response to the fact that the Secretary of State’s office finally spoke up and revealed the lie of a quick election for new Commissioners this November if the Special Election set for August changes of our form of government. Always remember folks, the people who signed their petition were misled by CORE into doing so!
For anybody thinking about voting for a change in our Town’s style of government come August, I suggest you take a very hard look at both the words and actions of these two and their cohorts. Ask yourselves, if they couldn’t bother to find out how the election law works before getting signatures on their petition, what else have they gotten wrong? Take it from me, someone who has lived in Edgewood my whole life and attended most Town Council meetings since 1999, this is not the type of change we want or need.
Mayor, Town of Edgewood
Partnership is the best solution for Edgewood
Hats off to Councilor Audrey Jaramillo for a productive proposal for a water public-private partnership (P3) that would benefit residents of Edgewood for decades to come. EPCOR has long provided safe and reliable water service, meeting all state and federal water quality standards, and the excellent customer service that Edgewood area residents enjoy. We all know that the aquifer holds high mineral content that results in hard water. While EPCOR certainly has the technical and financial capability to provide a centralized solution, the cost would push water bills higher.
A survey of area water customers told us that the majority of folks in the Edgewood community are not interested in higher bills for central water softening, and instead favored in-home treatment solutions. Avoiding higher bills and higher taxes, along with other reasons, is also why the overwhelming majority of Edgewood residents are against a hostile takeover of a well-run water company.
Instead, Councilor Jaramillo proposes another option—the sensible idea of a P3 for a water treatment plant. Nobody will give the Town free money for a hostile takeover, but they might for a central water softening facility that serves the greater good. Rather than put the community deep in debt condemning EPCOR, a better and more productive solution would be to work together for the benefit of the citizens. If the Town can access grants for water treatment, this sets up a logical P3 with EPCOR, a proven expert that does more water and wastewater P3s than any other company in North America. Joining forces for the community’s benefit, the Town contributes grant funding and EPCOR both invests capital to ready its system for treated water and operates the system to make sure the community continues to receive safe and reliable water service.
EPCOR has been a part of Edgewood for many years, and our water system will continue to support the Town’s growth in the future. We’ve got the expertise, the facilities, the water rights, and the financial strength. Condemnation makes no sense, but working together on a P3 does. We’re not going anywhere, so let’s work together for the community.
Daniel Bailet, VP/GM EPCOR New Mexico
Council-mayor format is better for Edgewood
How is commission-manager different from mayor-council government?
The citizens would no longer vote directly for the person who runs the meetings and represents Edgewood on formal occasions. Instead, the five Commissioners would select one from among their number to fill this role.
If the change is approved, the process of forming districts will begin immediately in order to have them ready in time for the next election. This means that at the next municipal election in November 2021, citizens of Edgewood would be able to choose only from among candidates in their newly-created home district and have one vote to elect that candidate. Under the current Mayor-Council structure, voters have the opportunity to vote for their top two candidates to represent them on the Council. (Council elections are staggered with two of the four positions appearing on the ballot in each municipal election.) Under the Commission-Manager form of government, they would only get to vote for one elected official running in their district. There may not even be any opposition.
There have been a number of elections where candidates for Council have run unopposed, meaning there were two candidates running for two vacancies. Will there be enough individuals interested in running for a seat on the Commission that voters will have a choice? Can you envision a slate of 10 candidates, two from each district, so that there would be competition in each of the five districts?
Elected officials will no longer be directly responsible for hiring and firing, or for enforcing town ordinances. Instead, many of the powers currently held by our Mayor-Council Government will be delegated to an employee—the Manager.
Even the City of Albuquerque has a Mayor-Council form of government. When a city reaches 10,000 people, then it has to have districts. Edgewood isn’t quite there yet, that is why all of our Councilors serve the Town at-large.
One of my biggest concerns about the Commission-Manager style of government is overturning ordinances you don’t like. A lot of time and consideration goes into writing an ordinance. Many are written by the Planning & Zoning Commission, often with legal review and input, and then approved by Council. There are public hearings both at the P&Z level, and then again at the Council meeting. Why should they just be thrown out because someone comes along who doesn’t like the ordinance? That person should have come to the hearings when the ordinance was being discussed.
A lot of false information has been put out to the public by the CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood) group, with their Facebook page, ‘Eyes on Edgewood.’ A blog, Truth about Edgewood, has been created to dispute some of their claims. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to dispute all of them, because they come up with a new falsehood faster than I can keep up with them. Supporting documentation has been provided. Visit my blog at truthaboutedgewood.blogspot.com.
Cheryl Huppertz, Edgewood
Edgewood and the special election slated Aug. 24
Mr. Powers’ letter to the editor in last week’s Independent (“Problems with Edgewood include latest audit, June 5-11) was painted with a very broad brush, full of generalities and short on details. That technique of writing might be one way to influence opinion and provoke outrage, but it does not stand up to scrutiny when actual facts are brought to light. Let me fill in some of those facts and details for you.
Regarding the Special Election: CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood) circulated a petition, “To Change the Form of Government for the Town of Edgewood to the Commission-Manager Form of Government.” Per NMSA 3-14-2, the petition must contain at least 15% of the votes cast for the Office of Mayor at the last regular municipal election, which in this case amounted to 77 legal signatures. The petition of 126 valid signatures was certified by Edgewood Clerk-Treasurer, Juan Torres on April 1, 2020.
Upon filing the certified petition with the County Clerk, the Town of Edgewood sought guidance from its legal counsel to outline actions required of the Governing Body as next steps in the process. In a letter dated April 6, the Town’s attorney advised that the Governing Body had a choice of when to have the Town’s qualified electors vote on the question. The options laid out by the attorney were to call for a Special Election or submit the question to the voters at the next regular local or general election (November 2020). This action had to be taken within 10 days of certification of the petition or no later than April 11.
Per that legal guidance, I cast my vote for the question to be put on the ballot in November 2020. My reasons were: 1) it would save the taxpayers the cost of a Special Election, estimated by Mr. Torres to be over $10,000, in addition, the State was already under a Public Health Emergency Order closing all non-essential businesses, there was no way to predict how this would affect the Town’s budget and we had not budgeted for a Special Election, and 2) the voter turnout would be expected to be greater during the presidential election in November rather than for a single question ballot in August 2020.
At a Special Council Meeting on April 9, 2020, the Governing Body voted 3-2 to approve a resolution to put the ballot question to the voters at the November 3, 2020 general election. During the month prior to this vote, the Town of Edgewood had reached out multiple times to Secretary of State (SOS), Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s office seeking information regarding interpretation of the election statutes as well as a detailed timeline of deadlines to meet specific requirements in the event a Special Election was called for in August. (August 24 being the last day the election could be held this year due to the June 2nd primary election and the November 3rd general election already on the calendar.)
There were questions about how the Special Election could be held in August (and if the change in government was approved) how the Town could be equitably divided into 5 districts, assemble a slate of candidates to run for seats on the Commission (ideally at least 2 from each of the 5 districts) and then hold the election in November 2020….and Oh, by the way, the names of the candidates would have to be submitted to the County Clerk’s Office by September 4th. Districting the Town would probably have to be contracted to an outside firm experienced in such matters—this would take time. In my opinion, there was no way all this could be accomplished in the short window of time between August 24 and September 4.
On May 1, 2020, Secretary Toulouse Oliver, emailed the Governing Body after having received “correspondence from representatives of concerned citizens about a misunderstanding of the procedures that must be followed when a local governing body changes its form of governance from a mayor-council form to a commission-manager model.” She urged the Governing Body to conduct a Special Election on the certified petition within the statutory timeframes, which meant no later than August 24, 2020.
On May 8, Councilor Sherry Abraham emailed Clerk-Treasurer Torres asking him to poll the Councilors to have a revised resolution added to the Council Meeting agenda to put the ballot question to the voters in August. I replied that I was not opposed to putting an item on the agenda in regard to holding a special election in August 2020; however, I would like more information first. I requested Mr. Torres reach out to the Secretary of State for specifics on the timeline for next steps, should the ballot question be approved by the voters in an August election. I needed to understand how the Town could possibly meet all the statutory deadlines to hold an election of Commissioners in November if the ballot question was only approved in August.
The Secretary of State’s executive team did finally arrange a meeting with Mayor Bassett on May 15. This resulted in the clarification I was seeking. Per the Secretary of State’s General Counsel, Ms. Tonya Herring, in a letter dated May 21 to Mayor Bassett, it was affirmed that the Town of Edgewood would hold a Special Election in July or August 2020 and that it would elect its municipal officers in November 2021. This now made sense to me. If the change in government was approved in August this year, there would be plenty of time to district the Town and seek candidates to run for Town Commission in November 2021.
In the meantime, before receiving that clarification from the SOS, on May 18, Sherry Abraham and Audrey Jaramillo petitioned the 1st Judicial District Court for a Writ of Mandamus against John Bassett, John Abrams and me in our official and personal capacities. The three of us were personally served on May 19. We were ordered to “immediately call for and schedule a special meeting of the Town Council” and “to adopt an election resolution calling for the holding of a special election on the question of organizing the municipality under the Commission/Manager form of government and that the election resolution shall provide that said election be conducted between August 11 and August 24, 2020.”
A Special Council Meeting was held on May 26 and Resolution 2020-09 was approved unanimously, 4-0, to hold the Special Election on August 24, 2020.
This was not a matter of “intense resistance” but rather a “perfect storm” of a rare combination of circumstances creating a bad situation. The Town being presented with an uncommon occurrence (petition to change government style), an unresponsive Secretary of State’s office, (due to government business operations interrupted by the Coronavirus Public Health Emergency), a ten day deadline in which to take action based on legal advice (that turned out to be inaccurate). Decision makers delayed action pending receipt of accurate data with which to make informed decisions, not to willfully break the law.
To sum up the point of my letter, there is a lot of misinformation out there from CORE and their allies. Voters need to be discerning about information that they hear and read about the Town of Edgewood, its staff, operations and elected officials, especially in preparation for the upcoming election on August 24. Stay tuned—more to come!
Edgewood Town Councilor
Thanking Sandoval County for Sheriff’s patrols in La Madera
In my previous correspondence to you on May 21, I stated that I had seen almost no Sandoval County presence in my neighborhood other than the La Madera Volunteer Fire Department vehicles in 10 years. Recently, however, there has been a new level of activity by the Sandoval County Sheriff. I have personally seen a Sheriff’s vehicle on Via Entrada, and I have heard from some of my neighbors that Sheriff’s vehicles are exhibiting a new presence in San Pedro Creek Estates and on La Madera Road. We have a fairly close-knit community, so when there were reports of a car coming down a neighbor’s drive at 3 a.m. and another report of a bright search light around the same time, it was unsettling. But a review of our SPCE camera recordings showed that in fact it was a Sandoval County Sheriff’s car. Others have made similar sightings.
After years of having Sandoval County basically ignoring us, it is a pleasant surprise to see some attention being paid to our orphan community on the east side of the Sandia Mountains. We know that Sandoval County is huge, and we are far removed from the rest of the county, so I wanted to say “THANK YOU!!!” for whatever attention and resources you bestow on our community. And please keep it up.
Both sides did the same flip-flop on protests and Covid
Funny cartoon, but it is a leftist biased one showing a flip-flop of the non-leftists support of the quarantine protesters and then denouncing the BLM protesters.
The leftists did the same flip flop but in the opposite direction! The leftists denounced the quarantine protesters and then praised the BLM protesters. Funny how neither side sees their own flip-flop.
Have a nice day!
Tickets for drive-in movies sold out quick
A big thank you to the community for your very enthusiastic response to the Pop-Up Edgewood Drive-In. Tickets for all four movies nights sold out incredibly quickly. We would have liked to do larger audiences, but the restrictions currently in place due to COVID-19 make that difficult. However, the smaller size makes it a boutique drive-in with the fun of carhop service.
This is a great example of community entities working together to do amazing things in this small town. Thank you to Town of Edgewood and Church Street Market for partnering with us, and to our audio/visual provider and food vendors who are helping to make this retro experience a reality. We hope to be able to do similar events in the future, possibly at other venues in the East Mountains and Estancia Valley region.
Linda Burke, Executive Director
Greater Edgewood Chamber of Commerce
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at email@example.com.