Manager Madrid justifies city’s contemplated land swap with businessman Randy Ashbaugh as enabling development of racetrack and RV park

by Kathleen Sloan | December 4, 2020
4 min read
If the exchange is approved, Ashbaugh says he intends "someday" to use the acquired parcel to connect H. R. Ashbaugh Drive (near Walmart on the map) with Kopra Street (at map's bottom center). The parcel is zoned for single-family homes. Map courtesy of Google Maps

The Truth or Consequences City Commission will decide whether to swap nearly 20 acres of city land between the city golf course and I-25 for 17.25 acres owned by Randy Ashbaugh that are located catty-corner across the highway and south of the city land. Ashbaugh will pay $86,500 in the exchange, if it goes through.  

The city must have the property appraised, hold a public hearing and pass an ordinance to comply with state law. Appraisals have been done, and the public hearing will be on the agenda of the city commission’s Dec. 16 meeting.

None of the city commissioners responded to a request for an explanation of why the city is contemplating the exchange.

However, City Manager Morris Madrid offered the following justification in a Dec. 2 email to the Sun:  

“The City is considering the land exchange with Mr. Ashbaugh primarily for three reasons: 

1.       It provides the City an opportunity to expand and develop the area around the old race track into a similar recreational facility. 

2.       It also provides an economic development opportunity for the establishment of a possible RV park. 

3.       The exchange provides funding for sidewalk improvements on Marie Street. 

“At the present time, neither property serves any purpose.” 

During the Nov. 18 city commission meeting, Madrid asked commissioners to approve the publication of the land-sale ordinance and notice of the public hearing. Madrid told commissioners Ashbaugh’s 17.25 acres was near what had been a racetrack, but said nothing about the city’s developing a racetrack.  

An online search uncovered a discussion on the forum “” about the first “jeep derby” in the country, held in 1956 in what was then Hot Springs, New Mexico.  

Ashbaugh, in a Dec. 2 phone call, said he initiated the exchange because, “I want my property back.” He sold the 20 acres (comprised of three parcels) to the city about 20 years ago “so the city could build nine more holes for the golf course and a road, but that never happened.”  

Ashbaugh wants the land in order to extend H. R. Ashbaugh Drive from Walmart south to Kopra Street “someday. Not now, but in the future.” To ensure he has control over the road project, Ashbaugh has to buy the entire 20 acres, he said.  

“I’ve been working on it for four years,” Ashbaugh said, referring to the land exchange. 

Ashbaugh owned the land on which Walmart is built and still owns the surrounding acreage. He also owns several Fast Stop gas stations/convenience stores in the area and a construction company, among other businesses.  

Materials presenting the land exchange in the packet for the Nov. 18 city commission meeting made it appear the city initiated the sale of the three public parcels. A memo from City Zoning Administrator Traci Alvarez stated the parcels “were advertised in a non-legal ad February 2020.” Ashbaugh alone responded.  

During the Nov. 18 meeting, Madrid explained it would not be an outright sale but an exchange of land, with Ashbaugh paying $86,500, since his land appraised for that much less than the city’s land. 

The city properties were appraised by Eric Van Pelt of Van Pelt Appraisal Group of Las Cruces in June and August 2019.  

The city-owned 19.9 acres is divided into three parcels of 7.059 acres, 2.312 acres and 10.536 acres, appraised at $71,000, $18,500 and $133,000, respectively, or $222,500 altogether. They are zoned R-1, denoting a single-family home residential area.  

Van Pelt noted in his appraisal the 2.312-acre parcel is almost entirely in a flood zone.  

“It’s the ditch,” Ashbaugh said. “I’m paying about $20,000 for the ditch.”  

Kopra Street touches only tangentially on the 2.312 acre parcel, Van Pelt stated, and it is not paved. Road access to that parcel is limited. Much of it and the 7.059-acre lot is “transitional slopes” and “erodible soils.” Furthermore, I-25 runs overhead. 

The 10-acre parcel has a “city water main running north to south” across it; otherwise no utilities exist on the three properties.  

G. Vincent Barrett of Barrett Appraisal Services of Elephant Butte appraised Ashbaugh’s 17.25 acres in July 2019.  

Barrett describes the lot as an “L shaped site,” at the “southwest corner of Kopra Road [sic] and Gun Club Road, west of I-25, within city limits.” The area is zoned T-1 or “transitional.” 

The roads are “dirt tracts,” Barrett said, and there are no utilities on the property.  

City commission approval of the land exchange at its Dec. 16 meeting will constitute an endorsement of Madrid’s envisioned usage of the acquired Ashbaugh property for a racetrack and RV park. 

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.

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