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.
Dozens of protesters shouted, “Shame!” as Bernalillo County commissioners voted against three appeals of a planned community on Albuquerque’s Westside. The votes to reject the appeals all came on 3-2 votes as protesters, including those from the Contra Santolina Working Group, chanted to show their displeasure on Thursday night. Commissioners Art De La Cruz, Lonnie Talbert and Wayne Johnson voted to reject the appeals while commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins voted for the appeals. The appeals heard at the meeting were filed by the South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Each appeal protested the Bernalillo County Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve the Santolina master plan for a variety of reasons, including a lack of transparency with how Santolina will use water resources, disagreements over Santolina’s job promises, a perceived inconsistency with the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ future transportation plans and more.
This week, New Mexico Political Report takes an in-depth look at commercial development plans west of the Rio Grande, which include the controversial Santolina master plan. Toward the end of the story, we mention the potential use of tax dollars to pay for development, specifically through what are called Tax Increment Development Districts (TIDDs) and Property Improvement Districts (PIDs). Santolina, a 13,700-acre planned community that plans to house nearly 93,000 people is seeking both TIDDs and PIDs to pay for its development. It’s an idea that Juan Reynosa, a field organizer for Southwest Organizing Project, is quoted as criticizing in today’s story: “They want to use taxpayer dollars to develop that land and sell it,” Reynosa said. This morning, the Albuquerque Journal takes a further look into how Santolina is planning to use these tax mechanisms, which reporter Dan McKay describes as “esoteric:”
Here’s how they work: • Whatever tax revenue the land is generating now is considered the “base” and isn’t part of the tax increment.