Preview: Truth or Consequences City Commission meeting, Dec. 11

by Kathleen Sloan | April 26, 2020
4 min read
The Truth or Consequences City Commission will decide whether to publish an ordinance generated by the people that bans smart meters for the next 10 years at the 9 a.m., Dec. 11 regular meeting at City Chambers, among other important matters. 

• A public hearing will be held on the City Commission’s ordinance that reduces the Planning and Zoning Commission from five to three members. 

The P&Z Commission resigned six years ago, primarily because they could not get information from the City to make fair and lawful decisions on land-use matters. The City never replaced the board members and it has been dead for six years. However, City Commissioner George Szigeti said the board died because the city hasn’t gotten three volunteers in the interim who want to serve.

(Read the full article here: Truth or Consequences City Commission revives dead P&Z, this time with three members, November 14, 2019)

The proposed ordinance states all three members must be present to convene a meeting. The City Commission was concerned two members would form a quorum, an inadequate number. 

• A public hearing will be held on a request for a plat amendment at 825 Van Patten, normally first heard by a city’s planning and zoning commission. The applicant is not named in the agenda packet. 

A plat survey by prior-City Commissioner Jeff Richter shows existing and proposed boundary changes. City Manager Morris Madrid is presenting the item, according to packet documents. It appears the boundary changes are considered “minor” corrections to the original plat. It appears 845 Van Patten will be affected by the boundary changes and possibly the City’s right of way. The blurry plat document appears to state 825 Van Patten is at the corner of McCrey Street, a street not appearing on City maps. 

Whether adjacent or nearby residents were contacted to apprise them of the boundary change is not included in the packet. 

• A resolution to accept a $373,000 loan and a $100,000 grant from the New Mexico Environment Department Construction Programs Bureau Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund is on the agenda. The 20-year loan agreement at $1.2-percent interest was presented in a prior meeting. (See the full story here: Follow-up: TorC will borrow nearly $400,000 to fix sewer vacuum system serving 300 customers)

• A resolution to change the term from two to four years for City-Commission Seat 5 on the March 3 election ballot is on the agenda. City Commissioner George Szigeti currently occupies seat 5. He was appointed by his fellow board members and prior-Mayor Steve Green to fill out Green’s term, who resigned a year ago. 

Cantin said Green’s term expired in 2022 and the prior resolution stated the seat had a remaining two-year term. Cantin now states Green’s term expires in 2020. Therefore three City Commission seats—each with four-year terms—will be on the election ballot. 

• A resolution to change the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan, adding “Spaceport Visitor Center Facilities,” is on the agenda. The 2021-2025 ICIP went to public hearing months ago, but the City now seeks to modify it by resolution. No futher information on the project is in the packet. 

• Up for discussion and possible action is an initiative ordinance that seeks to put a moratorium on the purchase and installation of smart meters within the City’s jurisdiction, which includes the Village of Williamsburg. 

The petition-ordinance seeks to stop the city from exercising a $1-million purchase of smart meters for its 4,300 electric customers.

(See the full article here: Follow-up: $1-million electric-utility smart meters purchase relied on vendor information)

State law required 20 percent of the voters in the last election or 154 voters needed to sign the petition to advance an initiative ordinance. 

Jack Noel submitted a petition to City Clerk Renee Cantin on Nov. 15 with 264 names, of which Cantin states 211 were valid electors. 

Since the petition has succeeded, the City Commission has 30 days to either pass the ordinance as it stands or to reject the ordinance, the latter requiring the question go to special election. 

If the City Commission decides to reject the ordinance or to advance one of its own, it must pass a resolution within 30 days setting a special election. If the City Commission writes its own ordinance, the people’s and the City Commission’s ordinances will appear on the ballot. 

Cantin states the special election could cost the city up to $12,000, although the last special election cost less than $10,000. 

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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