Aug. 24 special election will be vote on EPCOR

With the publication of Daniel Bailet’s letter to the editor (“Partnership is the best solution for Edgewood,” June 12-18) in last week’s Independent the stage has been set for the special election in August to answer the question of whether or not the voters of Edgewood will approve a change in our form of government from that of a Mayor/Council to that of a Commission/Manager. Mr. Bailet works for EPCOR and has finally revealed himself and his company as being squarely on the side of Jerry Powers and Audrey Jaramillo who placed their own letters to the editor in the Independent the week before his letter.

Working together, these three people are going to try and present a case for changing Edgewood’s form of government and hope that somewhere in that process the Town’s interest in purchasing EPCOR will somehow be lost in the mix.

Jerry Powers will continue his role as chief antagonist of everything Edgewood. He and his cohorts at CORE and Eye on Edgewood will continue to complain about everything at the Town from the wastewater plant and financial audit to the direction our toilet paper hangs in the restrooms at Town Hall and everything in between. Their goal is to create doubt in the voters’ minds.

For her part, Audrey Jaramillo will continue questioning everything our Governing Body does. She knows little, and cares less about what transpired between the Town and EPCOR before she joined the town government in 2018. She ignores the fact that the Town tried to work with EPCOR back in 2016 to address problems of water quality that in turn caused problems for our wastewater plant. She has publicly stated that she has already made up her mind before all of the facts are known to the Governing Body thereby reinforcing a widely held impression that she lacks the fortitude necessary to govern wisely.

It was Daniel Bailet, back in 2016, who turned down the Town’s efforts to work with EPCOR to fix its hard water problem by telling us that while EPCOR had the resources and could design and build a system for softening their water, Edgewood was simply too small a market for such an investment by EPCOR. He told us the ROI (return on investment) was not available in this market so EPCOR was not willing to invest in improvements to the water system.

What does Mr. Bailet bring to this upcoming election? For starters he brings EPCOR’s deep wallet and dirty playbook from their last campaign to bully a small town and make them dance to EPCOR’s tune. After years of enduring constant rate hikes, the voters in Bullhead City, Arizona witnessed a month’s long bitter campaign before authorizing their local governing body to pursue the purchase of their local EPCOR affiliate.

Several newspaper accounts from Bullhead City show that EPCOR spent somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to try and influence voters there to vote against a takeover by the city. They spent money on advertising, polling research, mailers and something called crisis communications. EPCOR even tried using the Arizona Attorney General’s office to harass and intimidate members of the Bullhead City Governing Body. What if EPCOR had spent those hundreds of thousands of dollars improving Bullhead City’s water system? Sound familiar?

New Mexico law does not require a referendum before purchasing a utility. However, EPCOR, and CORE have found a way to force one. We here in Edgewood should expect an equally nasty effort from this group as they try to turn the special election into a referendum on the feasibility of purchasing EPCOR. I would urge anyone reading this to Google EPCOR in Bullhead City and read some of the accounts of the battle fought over there. In spite of EPCOR’s massive efforts, the referendum passed and Bullhead City’s governing body has voted to proceed with the purchase of their EPCOR affiliate.

Daniel Bailet and Tom Torres both attended meetings at Legacy Church where this change in style of governments was first unveiled. Because of their efforts, the taxpayers of Edgewood will now pay out many thousands of dollars to have the Santa Fe County Clerk oversee this election which will be conducted exclusively by mail.

I’ll leave you with some questions for Mr. Bailet and Ms. Jaramillo to answer regarding their contention that Edgewood and EPCOR should form a partnership.

First, if EPCOR is already the pinnacle of perfection when it comes to running a water company as Mr. Bailet states in his letter to the editor, “we’ve got the expertise, the facilities, the water rights, and the financial strength,” why doesn’t this reflect in the quality of the water that comes out of the faucet?

Second, why did EPCOR’s unmatched expertise not show itself during the years they managed the wastewater treatment plant for the Town?

Third, if the Town and EPCOR could, somehow, join forces to fix the problems associated with the water system why didn’t Daniel Bailet, Jerry Powers, and Audrey Jaramillo suggest such an arrangement years ago?

John Bassett, Mayor, Town of Edgewood

hellertoon

 

On Edgewood’s opt-in to the Local Election Act

I must address the half-truth that continues to circulate about the Edgewood Governing Body extending their terms without a vote of the people, as asserted by CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood). Here are the facts:

The Local Election Act was passed by the NM Legislature in 2018 and became effective July 1, 2018. There were 2 provisions to the Act that the Town’s Governing Body had to vote on:

  1. Whether to opt-in to the new election cycle or not
    1. An opt-in vote meant the Municipal election would be held every November of odd-numbered years (instead of March in even-numbered years as had been done in the past). The election would be run by the County combining all non-partisan elections, such as School Board, Soil & Water Conservation District, and other Special District elections, providing a cost savings to the Town, uniformity of procedure, convenience to voters, with a potential increase in voter turnout.
    2. An opt-out vote meant that the Municipal election would occur every March of even-numbered years, run by the Town at a cost to the Town. Typically with stand-alone elections, voter turnout is poor.
  2. Whether to extend or shorten terms.
    1. If extended, those with terms ending in 2020 would serve until December 31, 2021 and those with terms ending in 2022, would serve until December 31, 2023.
    2. If shortened, those with terms ending in 2020, would serve until December 31, 2019

And those with terms ending in 2022, would serve until December 31, 2021.

On November 14, 2018, at a regular Council Meeting, a presentation on the Local Election Act was made by Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar, Town Attorney Randy Autio, Clerk/Treasurer Juan Torres and Deputy Clerk Carla Salazar. At the November 14th meeting, a call for Public Hearing on the Local Election Act Ordinance was scheduled for December 19, 2018. The deadline for a municipality to submit an ordinance to the NM Secretary of State was January 30, 2019. Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar was present a 2nd time at the December 19 Council meeting to take questions. Public comments were heard and given consideration. A motion was made to opt-in to the Regular Local Election and extend terms. and 2s a cost savings to the for the following reasonsCouncilors Abrams, Holle and Jaramillo voted aye. Councilor Abraham left the meeting early and did not cast a vote. Mayor Bassett did not vote. There was no tie to break. The vote was 3-0 to approve.

I voted to opt-in to the new election cycle because of: 1) the cost savings to the Town and 2) the likelihood of increased voter turnout. My decision to extend terms was based on the fact that this would be a whole new election process for the County to undertake and anytime there is a new process, new software program, or even during the first year of a new car model, there are bugs to be worked out. I did not want Edgewood’s first experience with this new process to be fraught with mistakes and challenges. I thought it would be best if all the kinks in the process were worked out before Edgewood jumped into the new election cycle and process. In fact, my instincts were correct. Although the NM Legislature passed the Local Election Act in 2018, the following year (2019) the NM State Legislature passed HB407, entitled “Election Laws 50-year tune-up” (also referred to as the Clean-up Bill) to address issues that became apparent once the 2018 Local Election Act went into effect.

Most municipalities in NM also opted-in to the Regular Local Election (RLE). Of those voting to opt-in, about 60% voted to extend terms and 40% voted to shorten terms. The unanimous vote to approve was not for nefarious reasons.

As Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver stated in her letter dated May 21, 2020, to Mayor Bassett, “In January 2019, the Town properly opted-in to the RLE pursuant to 1-22-3.1(B), and chose to elect their municipal officers at the Regular Local Election, which is held in November of odd-numbered years. They also extended the terms of all current municipal officers in their resolution to opt-in. Under the Election Code, the Town of Edgewood is not permitted to elect its municipal officers at any other time except for November 2021, unless the Town rescinds the ordinance opting-in to the RLE, but only after the second RLE at which its municipal officers are elected. Id.

Linda Holle, Edgewood Town Councilor

 

Edgewood election will give recall power to voters

In last week’s letter to the editor (Powers and Jaramillo ‘a tag team act’, June 12-18), Mayor Bassett revealed his contempt for the democratic process. He complains that myself and others speak up at the council meetings and about the multitude of problems that go unresolved by his administration. When one of the elected councilors has a similar concern, and voices it, he dismissively proclaims it “…a tag team act,” as if a councilor and one of their constituents has no right to dare disagree with him. It is clear that the Mayor believes more in dictatorship than in democracy, where all citizens have the right to free speech and each elected representative has the duty to represent the citizens.

After resisting tooth-and-nail, a legally required Special Election for which the citizens petitioned, the Mayor was finally ordered by a judge to hold the election. Only then did he comply. Now, he is gloating about the legal loophole he found that will allow him to wiggle out of standing for election this November and pushes it off until November of 2021.

But I wouldn’t gloat just yet. What the Mayor is not telling you is that if you vote for the change in government by mail in ballot, on August 24, 2020, one of the powers the public will gain, is the power to recall the Mayor and restore a free and open democracy in Edgewood.

Jerry Powers

Member, Citizens for an Open Responsible Edgewood

 

Will NM local communities cash in on renewable energy?

These unprecedented times have given all of us room for reflection and, for me personally, have brought to light the deep cracks in the most solid of our foundations.

As our state reels from losing a large chunk of its primary source of income from oil and gas, I think back to what it means to have a reliable base of power. I understand why fossil fuels are considered the most reliable. After all, what can be more reliable than the very industry that revolutionized our way of life and allowed us to enjoy all the modern comforts and developing technologies we now take for granted? But as we have seen, even our most established industry has, unfortunately, also suffered devastating setbacks from COVID.

In this time, when we have ceased to travel and when our economy has declined, all of us have seen that relying heavily on one single industry has put unimaginable strain on our workers and our state’s bottom line. Our communities have taken monumental steps these last few years to move toward an economy and energy source that no longer relies on a vulnerable industry as a crutch. Transitioning to a mix of clean, renewable energy sources will not only protect our resources and health, but also protect against future unexpected downturns. This is the time to revitalize our economy and make it more resilient against these inevitable moments in our history marked by profound uncertainty. Let’s not undo the incredible progress we have made and continue moving towards clean, renewable energy.

Arcelia Isais, Albuquerque