It’s just one sentence – 19 words – but its disappearance from a proposed 100-year plan to manage the Albuquerque Metro area’s water supply has critics saying its omission could dramatically draw down the aquifer in future years. The critics also charge it’s part of a plan by water insiders and consultants to flip Bernalillo County’s water strategy without any real public input and that it will work to the benefit of the proposed Santolina master-planned community on Albuquerque’s far West Side. This piece originally appeared in ABQ Free Press. The change is to the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Water Resources Management Strategy, which was last updated in 2007. The current version of the strategy’s Policy B says, “The Authority shall limit the use of ground water except to meet peak demands or during times of drought.”
But that sentence is missing from the water authority’s proposed revised strategy, which could be approved by the utility’s board of directors later this summer.
A political action committee’s support of Steven Michael Quezada for Bernalillo County Commission is leading to questions because of the donors behind it—including from Quezada himself. Last month, the New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC paid for billboards that reference the actor and comedian’s most well-known credential—his supporting role as DEA Agent Steven Gomez in the cable TV drama “Breaking Bad.”
“Elect Breaking Bad’s good guy,” read the billboards, which also feature a picture of smiling Quezada and his name written in a font reminiscent of the opening credits of the popular TV series. The funders behind New Mexicans for New Mexico PAC, which is independent of Quezada’s campaign, are developers and lawyers with ties to Santolina, a controversial planned development of residences that the county commission approved zoning changes for last year. Santolina’s backers say the planned development could be home to as many as 90,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. But the issue has sparked outrage from critics who call it sprawl development and point to British-based multinational bank Barclays, which owns the land Santolina is set to be built on, as the corporate driver behind it.
When the Bernalillo County Commission considered and eventually approved the first stages of a controversial planned community last summer, commissioners took public subsidies for the development off the table. Nine months later, those subsidies are back on the table. Last week, Western Albuquerque Land Holdings (WALH), the company set up by London-based multinational bank Barclays and two other investors behind Santolina, submitted an application with Bernalillo County for 40 public improvement districts (PIDs) for the planned development. Santolina is a planned community that developers say would cover 22 square miles of land on Albuquerque’s West Side and house up to 90,000 people over the next 40 to 50 years. Critics call Santolina sprawl development while proponents argue it is tailored for the area’s projected population growth.