Steve’s Blog

Railrunner Spur to Balloon Fiesta Park?

The City of Albuquerque has requested 7.5 million dollars in Capital Outlay funds for Balloon Fiesta Park Access Improvements – SFC SUB SB280, #7058. The City has proposed using the funds to construct a Rail Runner spur line extending to Balloon Fiesta Park and a “slip ramp” onto I-25 south bound off the west I-25 frontage road.

The City of Albuquerque has not provided the north valley community and neighborhood associations any information about the “new proposal” for an 8 to11 million dollar spur line. The cost guesstimates were from a “Rio Metro study dated 11-2018; that study is attached.

The City of Albuquerque did not provide communication and transparency to the residents and neighborhood associations of the area.

The neighbors concerns – pro or con have not been considered or discussed with the City. Certainly the proposed projects would have impacts on the area.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park Commission was provided only minimal information about the proposal. The Park Commission never considered a rail spur line as any type of priority.

Representatives from the City did meet with a couple of neighborhood leaders a few days before the Mayor announced the plans for a spur line at a press conference. The City representatives said the proposed 8 to 11 million dollar spur line and a 2.5 million dollar slip ramp onto I-25 would only be used for Balloon Fiesta and maybe Freedom Fourth – less that 2 weeks use for an approximate 14 million dollar cost.

It should be noted that there are many real priorities at the Balloon Fiesta Park that have not been addressed and most of these items were ignored by the past city administrations. There are hundreds of real priorities for the City Administration to consider that impact the health and safety of the City.

  • The Park is used year-round and there are priority items that need attention. Ten of thousands of youth use the park for soccer and other sports. Events of all types are held in the park for Albuquerque citizens. The majority of daily Park users drive to the Park and would not use the Rail Runner. Improvements should be made to address their needs. The Park has some utilities in a few limited areas but not all areas. These items include: potable water, sewer, restrooms, a safe vendor’s concourse, electrical and telecommunication utilities. These items should be addressed to make the Park safe and more user friendly.The Park has severe drainage issues that create real problems every year when there are heavy rains.
  • Areas of the Park need work to control erosion of hill sides that have been problematic since the Park was created in a mined out gravel pit.
  • An updated security facility is needed for the very large events.There are many more important items that would have real and positive impacts on the Park for the many who use the area at times other than during the 10-day Balloon Fiesta event and the one day Freedom Fourth event.
  • The 8 to 11 million dollar cost of the proposed spur line and proposed 2.5 million dollar slip ramp onto I-25 could pay for additional city buses and help improve the mass transit system for the metro area. This would have positive impacts for the entire city year round and would help traffic issues for the Park.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Inc. managers who attended a recent meeting of the North Edith Corridor Association said unequivocally that they did not want the rail spur and had not been consulted about it beforehand. In fact, they have separately commissioned the UNM College of Engineering to study Balloon Fiesta congestion and suggested that the best solution will most likely entail better use of high-capacity articulated buses operating from park-and-ride locations.

The park should be safe and user friendly for all who use the park on a regular basis. It doesn’t make any sense to target such an extraordinarily expensive item while ignoring real year-round priorities and needs.

The traffic issues for the Park should be addressed in a comprehensive manner – a spur line is not the answer. Last year the shuttle service from the north valley Rail Runner station was not used. A spokesperson for the Rail Runner said it was not financially feasible costing $20,000 – $40,000 for the services for the event.
“Rail Runner says that feedback and ridership didn’t justify the cost.”

Rail Runner is also facing a $60 million-dollar safety technology mandate from the Federal Government that the service is expected to pay for by the end of the year.

It should be noted the Legislative Finance Committee analysts said: “the state should avoid opening new stations and focus instead on efforts that would trim travel times and make the Rail Runner Express more competitive with commuting by car.” “They suggested, for example, that potential ridership doesn’t appear strong enough to warrant new stations at the Balloon Fiesta Park or the Albuquerque International Sunport. Ridership hasn’t increased even as four new stations have come online over the past nine years, they said.”

The information above was reported in a January 14, 2019 article in the Albuquerque Journal article by Dan McKay.

Everyone should recognize the positive economic impact the International Balloon Fiesta has on the area each year.

The City Albuquerque and the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Inc. should work together on plans to make the traffic flow better for the next Balloon Fiesta. Improvements should be made to the park and ride operations for the event and the City transit system.

As noted above there are many priorities for the more than 360 acre park that have been ignored for too many years. We urge the City and Legislature to work to make the park safe and usable for all who use the park on a regular basis other than during the limited Balloon Fiesta event. Tax dollars should be used for real priorities in the state to address real needs.

The proposed “Rail Runner spur line to the Balloon Fiesta Park and the “slip ramp onto I-25 south bound” have no community support by the area neighborhood associations. Residents of the adjacent community areas do not support the proposals.
We suggest that the Capital Outlay request should be vetoed by our Governor.


Think Before You Vote on Judicial Retention

This year the Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee recommended that four Metropolitan Court judges not be retained. The Albuquerque Journal has reported on this issue.Albuquerque Journal articles on the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission recommendations But I think you’ve only heard part of the story.

Several years ago I was on the board of directors for an anti DWI advocacy group (501c3). The group did evaluations of the judges – regarding their conviction rates on DWI and traffic items. The judges hated the evaluations and the anti DWI group for pointing out which judges followed the law and did their jobs. With DWI caused deaths at a peak, the conviction rates were an indicator of judicial effectiveness.

When we looked at the JPEC findings, we found them to be very subjective and often not valid.

The Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) states:

“JPEC evaluates judges based on legal ability, fairness, communication skills, preparation and temperament and control over proceedings.”

These items did not list results which can be hard to determine but are very important.

Defense attorneys, court personal and other are the folks who provide the input to the JPEC.

A judge who may be difficult with staff but who is a great judge will get terrible ratings from the court staff and so on.

A terrible or ineffective judge may get great ratings because he or she is fun and nice with staff and gives the defense attorneys whatever they want.

It should be noted that the courts also have their little groups or political cliques – which I believe can influence the JPEC ratings. Some of the judges are very political and this may go against the grain of fair judicial processes.

According the JPEC website members of the Commission are: “Individuals are nominated by the Governor, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tem, House Minority Leader, Senate Minority Leader and President of the State Bar. The first step would be to contact one of these individuals to let them know of your interest. The New Mexico Supreme Court makes the appointments to the Commission.”

We have all seen how well partisan processes works in New Mexico – real change is needed.

Before people jump to conclusions and say: “get rid of that so & so judge”, they should understand the issues are not simple but are often complex. I believe that some judges are terrible and need to be removed from the bench but others do try to do a good job but often their hands are tied by the judicial system rules and regulations.

The NM Supreme Court imposed a “10 Day Rule” that allowed many criminals to be set free or cases dismissed. The rule imposed by the Supreme Court was not clear and the Court did a poor job of communication with the lower courts. Law enforcement and prosecutors were not able to have some cases ready for the courts in time and judges dismissed too many. That rule changed in 2017 and things got a little better.

Court systems all over New Mexico are short staffed and underfunded. The giant backlog of cases in Bernalillo County was due to many reasons and that backlog allowed cases to be dismissed. The Bernco DA got extra funding and some problems are being addressed to a degree but too many other issues continue.

Not enough judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, clerks and courts continue the problems that single judges cannot control. Simple infrastructure for some courts and data systems are lacking in all parts of the state. A sad example: a few years ago the Legislature approved a new Santa Fe court complex and Governor Martinez vetoed funds for many items including things like chairs – hard to have a jury trial with no chairs – stupid actions creating negative impacts for the courts. Funding was finally restored for the needed court items but problems were created by partisan politics.

Bottom line – I recommend that you don’t trust the JPEC ratings which can be much too subjective.

Sadly, the ratings are too often the only information available about our elected judges. The news media and other groups make no attempts to rate the judges. As one of the judges points out a better system needs to be developed to evaluate the judges – this should be a NM Legislative priority along with ethics reform for all branches of government.







Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Planning

Copied below is information about an upcoming meeting for Bernco Parks and Recreation Planning.

If you are concerned about the future of north valley parks and open space in the area it would be wise to try to attend a meeting to be held:

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center


6:00-7:30pm – North Valley NCA Master Plan Update

  • Presentation of Parks, Recreation and Open Space Planning Process
  • Update presentation on development of conceptual plans for North Valley NCA in aftermath of workshop
  • Opportunity for input/feedback on concepts with special focus on  Raymond G CC, Mid-Valley Parks & OS Complex, and 2nd Street Corridor

Bernco agendas for two past Parks and Recreation Department planning meetings for the north valley are also copied below. ANVA sent out announcements about the meetings when the information was received just before the meetings were to be held. We understand that attendance was minimal with almost no community members attending. It appears the County was not eager for community participation. We are sending out the past notices so people can see some of the agenda items that were a complete surprise to most.

Apparently there have been other meetings and discussions with the Bernco Parks and Recreation Dept and the North Valley Coalition. Community groups in the far north valley not affiliated with the North Valley Coalition were not notified about those meetings.

We have received zero information about a “Mid-Valley Parks and Open Space Complex” and no information about the 2nd Street Corridor. Now we find out that part of the planning will cover issues ranging from recreation & education to public health and economic development to “New initiatives: Life Center, Rx Trail & Local Agriculture”.

It is obvious that there has been an ongoing planning process the County has kept out of the public light – at least to residents of the far north valley. For all we know these may be wonderful plans or they might be terrible plans that do not address our community needs.  After too many complaints about the lack of information, Bernco decided to hold the meeting scheduled for 12-4-2014 and they have sent out some information.

For the last ten years, ANVA has urged the Bernco Parks and Recreation Department to work on a master plan for the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center (RGSCC) – it never happened. Is there going to be real planning for the Center? The center is the only community center in the far north valley area and it serves the greater community. We believe Bernco has neglected and overlooked the center for too many years. When you compare City facilities to County facilities the difference is astounding. Check out:

The senior meal site is located at the center but senior services are only minimal and almost nonexistent when compared to Albuquerque’s Senior Affairs Department. Whether or not the RGSCC was intended to provide senor services – it does and it should provide decent services. The only saving grace is that many of the seniors use the Albuquerque facilities.

The only public swimming pool in the north valley was located at the center before Bernco ripped it out without notice to the community. The pool should be replaced with a community sized pool to serve the local community. The Center should meet the needs of the community. If seniors, adults or youth need to swim for health or recreational purposes they should be able to do so at the Community Center – they shouldn’t have to drive to other locations.

There are youth programs at the center but those could be improved. Education programs, literacy programs and multi-generational programs with the seniors could be explored to benefit all. Fitness activities and equipment could be improved at the center. Walking paths, fitness trails, health activities and many other things could be possible at the center.

Please give some thought about what would make the Community Center better for you and your family.

The Bernco website states: “The goal of the work sessions is to produce a draft master plan that will guide the future of Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation facilities and programs in the North Valley….  County planners are working on a long-term plan for renovation and expansion of parks and Open Space programs and facilities throughout the county, including Bachechi Open Space and Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center.”  

We understand Bernco is considering purchasing other properties away from the RGSCC. This was a fair idea when the North Valley Little League needed a home – they now have a different location. It is a better idea to expand the existing facility at very accessible location at 9800 Fourth NW to better serve the community in a holistic manner.

The poor planning methods that the Bernalillo County Administration and the Parks and Recreation Department are using are very alarming and will most probably waste tax dollars. A lack of adequate community notification, community involvement that is questionable and poor communication are not ingredients for good planning.  Comprehensive information has not been provided by Bernalillo County. If there is anything to do with the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center then a few questions come up:

  • Were the seniors asked for representation about services at the location due to the growing senior population in the area? (Note: We asked the Bernco planners to talk to the seniors and they agreed to do so before the Dec.4 meeting. Why did we have to ask?)
  • Were the parents of children who use the center invited to discuss and explore items that would benefit them?
  • Were organized recreational groups advised there was going to be a planning meeting to discuss the “renovation and expansion” of the center?

I don’t think any of the above items have happened – it should happen for any legitimate and good planning process. Does Bernco run the processes or do they let the paid consultants or County Administration set the parameters for the projects as they have done in the past?  This type of poor planning resulted in a north valley BMX facility that cost close to a half million that only a few use, the ripped out swimming pool at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center leaving the north valley area without a swimming pool and the nice but absurdly expensive Bachechi Open Space; the list can go on and on.

Our last experience with Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation Planning was a Bernco aquatic survey that had a predetermined outcome mandated by the scope of work in the contract for the $42 K planning consultants.  I checked the Bernco website and did not find the survey results in the P&R Aquatics section. Questions and concerns expressed by the Alameda community have not been addressed by Bernalillo County.

We have urged Bernco to take a step back to allow better community involvement so real planning can be done.

Steve Wentworth


Copied below is the announcement from Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation sent the day before the planning sessions. We understand that community involvement was minimal or zero at the meetings.


Sent: 11/19/2014 10:55:09 A.M. Mountain Standard Time

The Parks Recreation and Open Space Plan & Process

(Background for this week’s Workshop)

The Parks Recreation and Open Space Master Plan (PROS Plan) will be a Rank II County facility plan update to the POST Plan from 2003. It will provide a 15 year road map for facility capital development for the County for Parks, Recreation and Open Space facilities. The PROS Plan will consist of policies and County-wide analysis of growth trends and needs, as well as focused planning efforts for Neighborhood Community Areas in the County that have significant County facilities and/or unincorporated areas for which the County is primarily responsible for serving.

Starting in the fall of 2013, the County has been holding meetings and workshops conducting surveys in various Neighborhood Community Areas in order to develop a series of supporting plan documents by Area, which will be the basis for developing the Plan. The County will be holding meetings in February 2015 to present the draft plan with proposed policies and capital projects to get community feedback and input on the priority of capital projects. The final draft of the Plan including policies, capital improvement schedule and fiscal analysis will be developed in March and it will be posted to the web in April. The Plan is scheduled to be presented for approval and adoption by the Bernalillo County Commission in May 2015.

The November 20 and 21 workshop being held at the Los Griegos Health and Social Services Center will focus on the group of County facilities in the North Valley Neighborhood Community Area, incorporate input from surveys, the 4-H Site process and other earlier community meetings (Aquatics).The workshop will provide an opportunity for the community to participate with County planners and consultants in developing working conceptual plans and strategies for facilities in the North Valley. Members of the community can drop by any time during the two days.

Later, on the 4th of December there will be an update presentation of the working plans and process to-date at the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center, which will be another opportunity for the community to provide input. Shortly thereafter, a working draft of the master plan for the North Valley NCA will be posted to the web.

The following is the working agenda for the Workshop:

Thursday –  November 20 @ the Los Griegos Health & Social Services Center

9:00am – Introductions/PROS Plan presentation/Q&A

10:00am – 12:00pm – Discuss and further develop larger strategies in context of North Valley

  • From recreation & education to public health and economic development
  • New initiatives: Life Center, Rx Trail & Local Agriculture

1:00pm-5:00pm – Identification key sites, programs, facilities, possible linkages & priorities

  • Alternative 1: Recreational focus
  • Alternative 2: Public Health focus
  • Alternative 3: Agricultural/Heritage focus

5:00-6:00pm – Synthesis and wrap-up

Friday —  November 21 @ the Los Griegos Health & Social Services Center

9:00am-5:00pm – develop working strategies & conceptual layouts for key sites

  • 4H/Extension Site
  • Mid-valley cluster
  • Raymond G/Alameda
  • 2nd Street Trail Corridor

5:00pm-6:00pm – pin-up of working concepts

End of workshop.

Don’t miss the next important meeting set for:

Thursday—December 4 @ the Raymond G. Sanchez Community Center

 6:00-7:30pm – North Valley NCA Master Plan Update

  • Presentation of Parks, Recreation and Open Space Planning Process
  • Update presentation on development of conceptual plans for North Valley NCA in aftermath of workshop
  • Opportunity for input/feedback on concepts with special focus on  Raymond G CC, Mid-Valley Parks & OS Complex, and 2nd Street Corridor

For more information on the Workshop call:

John Barney

Parks & Open Space Planning Manager

Bernalillo County Planning & Development Services

111 Union Square

Albuquerque, NM 87102

Tel: 505-314-0404

Cell: 505-933-1113




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