Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Anthony Should Consider Citizen's Advisory Group for Incorporation Issues

A group of citizens (who apparently have not identified themselves) has asked the county clerk for petitions to initiate proceedings to propose incorporation of Anthony, New Mexico. This is bound to be a controversial issue, given that some interests will push for incorporation because they stand to benefit financially, while others may oppose it for self-interested reasons. Many citizens may be unclear as to just what implications incorporation will have in their lives.

One way of reducing the confusion and sorting through issues would be for citizens of Anthony to follow the Albuquerque South Valley model and form a citizen's advisory group to meet regularly and with transparency to deal with the multiple issues surrounding incorporation. It might, for example, be useful to include local legislators and Commissioner Dolores Saldaña-Caviness in such a group, along with other blue-ribbon citizens of prominence in the South Mesilla Valley, such as housing specialists, business leaders, and so on--people who have earned the trust and respect of the community. What is important is that the incorporation process be seen as engaging a broad spectrum of interests, not just the self-interest of one or two actors, and that the challenges of incorporation be dealt with openly and transparently.

The South Valley model: In the South Valley of Albuquerque an advisory group has been meeting for two years to study the implications of incorporation. They even got residents of the area to vote on a name to be given to the proposed incorporated area, and they picked "The Valle de Atrisco," which would link them historically to the land grant given out by King Charles II of Spain in 1692 to Don Fernando Duran y Chavez, a soldier who had fought with colonists during the Pueblo Revolt.

The Atrisco Land Grant has had a troubled history in recent decades. Heirs created the Westland Development Company, which then sold 57,000 acres in 2006 without consulting the heirs, and in ways that appeared to reflect an unfair distribution of shares of the 7000 heirs. The sale to SunCal is still in some dispute. SunCal, a land development firm from California, spent a good deal of money this year lobbying unsuccessfully to receive TIDDs funds from the legislature.

While legal battles are likely to continue, Rep. Miguel Garcia has taken the lead in studying a proposal to incorporate part of the land grant. The area chosen would have up to 50,000 residents, making Valle de Atrisco the 5th largest city in New Mexico. The creation of the advisory group has created a transparent way of dealing with the issue of incorporation in a way that has avoided hopelessly politicizing it within the larger battles among land grant heirs and with respect to SunCal. Residents of Anthony should consider forming such a group.

No comments: