City officials accuse P & Z chair Rick Dumiak of lying about trash at T or C’s Rotary Park

by Kathleen Sloan | January 15, 2021
3 min read
To prove the accuracy of his eyewitness reports of Rotary Park's ongoing trashing that he has been bringing to the attention of the city commission since November, Dumiak took this picture at the park the morning after this week's commission meeting.

Rick Dumiak, a Truth or Consequences resident who has taken it upon himself to pick up trash at Rotary Park along the Rio Grande every day, was essentially called a liar during the city commission meeting on Jan. 13.

During the time allotted for public comment, Dumiak, who is chairperson of the Truth or Consequences Planning and Zoning Commission, asked what the city was doing about the trash problem and possible after-hours use of the park. He first reported on these issues during public comment at the commission’s November meeting.

During the time allotted for “response to public comment,”—when city officials may, but often do not respond to concerns raised—City Manager Morris Madrid said of Dumiak’s most recent eyewitness report: “Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true.” Madrid then went on to insist that city park staff is keeping the park clean and there is no trash problem.

City Commissioner Randall Aragon backed up Madrid’s claim, stating he is head of the local Rotary Club chapter and had recently visited the park. “It is manicured,” Aragon said.

The morning after the commission meeting and again this morning, Dumiak took in situ pictures of the trash he saw at the park and posted them on the “Sierra County NM Square” Facebook page to prove his point.

“City Manager Morris Madrid accused me of lying and I couldn’t even respond, which is why I posted it on Facebook,” Dumiak told the Sun.

“I have been picking up the garbage, cans, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, clothing, needles, bottles and things you can’t imagine since June of 2020,” Dumiak posted on NM Square. “I do this every morning as I walk my dog.”

“During the week I fill half an eight-to-10-gallon trash bag,” Dumiak told the Sun. “The bag is full on Saturday and Sunday.”

Rotary Park has seen increased use since Ralph Edwards Park was closed down around April 2020 for renovation, a project that was initiated by Madrid without public or city commission approval. The park was initially scheduled to reopen October 2020. Madrid has previously explained the pandemic and the July 26, 2020, flood event have stalled the reopening.

Mayor Pro Tem Amanda Forrister asked Madrid for an update on the park project during this week’s city commission meeting.

Madrid said “we are measuring the roots” of the sod installed throughout most of the park, in order to ensure that it is well established before people are allowed to walk on it. He speculated that the grass might be sufficiently rooted within a month, meaning by around mid-February. If so, the construction fencing around the park will come down and it will be returned to public, he promised.

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

2 thoughts on “City officials accuse P & Z chair Rick Dumiak of lying about trash at T or C’s Rotary Park”

  1. I have been asked why I didn’t call out Commissioner Aragon for agreeing with City Manager Madrid. Due to the communication issues the city was having with the online meeting, we kept losing audio. I only heard the city manager’s comments, not Commissioner Aragon’s comments. Reading what Commissioner Aragon said shows me that he also is not aware of the facts, and he is buying in to City Manager Madrid’s lies. I also want to thank all of that have commented on Facebook about my posts.

  2. Isaac Eastvold, president, Chihuahuan Desert Conservancy

    An apology is owed to Mr. Dumiak. The city manager and Commissioner Aragon should have gone out to the park with him.

    My wife and I picked up trash at Rotary Park for many years. It is an ongoing problem. Mr. Dumiak should be commended for his dedication to cleaning it up as a responsible user.

    But Rotary Park continues to underperform its potential. In 2009, the Healing Waters Trail Plan was approved by the city commission. We would recommend the city manager and commissioners revisit the wetlands element set forth at the end of that adopted plan. This is long overdue. The plan has fairly good graphics showing wildlife viewing blinds with nice boardwalks to enjoy the many beautiful birds which use these wetlands. This would be a good place to start realizing the potential of this jewel of the city parks.

    Please place the wetlands element on the planning and zoning and city commission agendas with plenty of notice to the community.

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