Letters to the editor (03/13/14)

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Celebrating our city
Editor:
The Belen Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Commission has just finished celebrating the 21st year of its candlelight vigil.
It is truly a collaborative labor of love of our city. This vigil could not have succeeded without the help and support of the Belen Police Department, Belen Fire Department, Belen Public Library, Belen Risk Management, Belen Parks and Recreation, Belen Streets Department, Valencia County RSVP and the administration and staff at city hall.
Thank you to our Belen-area school children, who participate in our essay and poster contests annually, and who exemplify what our commission stands for. Each year, we have organizations and individuals who gladly participate in the vigil.
Special thanks to Steve Tomita, Ragon Espinoza, Emily Ashford,  Chris Clark,  Edouijen Gutierrez and Shannon Wilson, Wayne Gallegos, Rudy Espinoza, the Belen High School Student Council and Staters Club, Renee Antoinette’s School of Dance and Keith Sanchez, who made this year’s vigil a very special event.
A hearty thank you goes out to the Valencia County News Bulletin, who always gives us such great news coverage and support.
This year, it was our privilege to recognize two former members for their service to the commission: Serena Douglas, who wrote guest columns and was a past chair of the commission, stepped down after 21 years of service. Mary Anderson, who was our liaison to the Belen Schools, stepped down after 17 years of service.
It is amazing how each year our community comes together with profound dedication to committing themselves to the life and ideals of Dr. King.
The present commission members,  Mayor Rudy Jaramillo, Loretta and Paul Baca, Leandra Chavez, Mildred Garley, Sharon Hall, Richard Melzer, PhD, Schuyler Michael, Margaret Mikelson, Joe Saiz, Sabrina and Richard Sweeny and Terese Ulivarri wish to thank our citizens for their participation in our vigil and invite anyone who is interested in joining the commission.
To contact any one of our members or Leandra Chavez, call city hall.

Terese “Tinky” Ulivarri
Chairwoman MLK Commission

Appreciating school board
Editor:
I applaud our Los Lunas Board of Education for considering the creation of a new policy concerning graduation requirements.  The board realizes what other districts in the state have also found to be true.
Recent articles in the Carlsbad Current Argus and in the Farmington Daily Times explain that several school districts such as Hobbs, Santa Fe, Artesia and Carlsbad realize there is a problem and are utilizing a concession by the PED, which allows districts to exercise its power of local control to protect its students.
The superintendent of Artesia describes the new requirements as “moving targets.”  The superintendent of Santa Fe said, “it will no longer be an ever-changing game for the kids every step of the way.”
The superintendant of Hobbs said memos on state requirements had gone out sporadically throughout the year and the effect was that students found themselves on the cusp of not meeting the newly authorized state standards.
Our own Los Lunas Schools Assistant Superintendant Ron Williams stated, “I don’t believe kids should be held hostage because of the way something was brought in. We think we haven’t been given enough lead time to effectively plan and have students have their graduation in check by the speed this as all been put in place.
“We do not have a good feel for how these tests were designed and we want more latitude to see if our kids are making the cut or not.”
A recent article by APS School Board Member Kathi Korte, highlighted the way testing is being overused and is in fact taking away money and time that could be used more efficiently in the classroom.
Standards are of course necessary, but the rush to implement them without thinking things through is hurting our children. Thank you board members for standing up for our students.

Annette Franklin
Bosque Farms
Coyotes are part of nature
Editor:
I am a father, husband and sheep rancher from a rural Belen farm. We have been here continuously, part of the Belen Land Grant of 1740.
“Coyotes Are People Too!” … a cry I heard from a group of animal rights advocates. Putting this topic in proper perspective requires, as Albert Einstein would say, looking at the bigger “space-time” picture. Humankind has created an unnatural imbalance in Valencia County’s natural wildlife habitat.
For as long as I can remember, we have had to contend with feral dogs and cats which kill and terrorize our barnyard fowl and livestock. What’s more, they attack children and adults.
I have been a jogger most mornings since 1976 and have been attacked more times than I can remember. I have to carry a heavy piece of rebar for protection from feral dogs. The Belen school district will not allow children younger than a certain age to stand at school bus stops alone out of concern for their safety.
Since the great 2008 U.S. recession, there has been a dramatic increase in the population of feral pets and coyotes. Government cannot keep up with the feral dog problem let alone the increase in coyote attacks.
The increase in feral dogs and cats left to their own survival devices by rural and residential families who move away or just don’t properly confine their animals at home has led to an increase in the coyote population because coyotes have found a new food source in the smaller pets.
Coyotes have adapted, multiplied and become bolder, resulting in more livestock casualties, and God forbid the loss of a small child. The coyotes have learned our school and work schedules and show up in earnest before dawn while we are not paying attention and after we have driven off leaving our homes and farms vulnerable.
This imbalance in nature has a cascading effect on other wildlife habitats. More coyotes returning to dens in the wild results in less game for other predators. Anyone age 30 or older can remember when reports of bears and even mountain lion sightings in town were rare. Now they are common place.
Folks my age can remember that huge bosque fires 50 years ago were unheard of as there were sheep, goats and deer to consume and clean the tree leaves that fuel such destruction. These fires are now an annual event.
I am here to solicit the support of reasonable people for the ethical treatment of all animals. Nature is trying to re-establish a natural balance to the human caused imbalance of coyotes feeding on the multiplication in feral pets, and now some people want to further exacerbate the imbalance and promote more danger to our children and livestock by hobbling coyote hunters.
Where will this folly stop? My family and I live with the coyotes, skunks, feral dogs and cats on a daily basis. I lose a fourth to a third of my New Mexico Dahl sheep (an almost extinct heritage breed) to coyotes and feral dogs every year.
I lose baby chickens and ducks to starving feral cats. Why are feral dogs, cats and domestic livestock not deserving of ethical treatment and advocated for by the same people who advocate for the ethical treatment of coyotes?

Donald Chavez y Gilbert
Belen