Sunday, June 23, 2013

Can NM sustain its population with 1-3 inches of rain per year?

Guess what? This is no drought

By Jerry Ortiz y Pino | Santa Fe New Mexican: Sunday, June 23, 2013
When the Legislative Water and Natural Resources Committee met recently, it heard a report on New Mexico’s water situation so sobering that it left participants shaken. Scientists are suggesting that New Mexico’s lack of rain does not necessarily mean we are in a drought, a temporary moisture shortfall.

Instead, researchers say that over the past thousand years, this year is the norm, and the past 50 years are the aberration. In short, we might not see more rain for a long time. Since we have only been receiving 6 to 10 inches annually during this “abnormally wet” period, we must act immediately to deal with the implications of a prolonged period of 1 to 3 inches of rainfall per year.

All of our current water policy and planning is premised on 6 to 10 inches. We have compact obligations and agreements all based on those 6 to 10 inches. When they don’t arrive in a given year, we suffer cutbacks. When they don’t arrive for two or more years, we deplete reserves and face catastrophes like this year’s:

• Ranchers forced to reduce the size of herds by two-thirds.
Farmers promised 3 acre-feet of irrigation water will get 3 inches.
At a tiny pecan crop in the Mesilla Valley, orchardists pruning trees to the trunk to preserve them for the future.
Four state lakes closed to visitors, and water levels at Elephant Butte lower than when it was built a century ago.
The Carlsbad Irrigation District locked in litigation with farmers upstream since, because there is no river flow, pumping well water north of the district has drastically lowered the aquifer for all.

Texas is suing over a similar issue in the Mesilla Valley, where farmers have turned to wells to compensate for the lack of ditch water, negatively impacting El Paso agriculture. If we lose, that court case could cause New Mexico to pay damages of up to a billion dollars.

This is after two years of reduced rainfall. What if it were decades before the 6- to 10-inch levels fall again? How will we adjust to that reality? Owning “rights” to water is useless if there is no water to own. A couple more years of Colorado snowpack like the last two will make our San Juan-Chama purchased “rights” theoretical.

If we are to avoid the fate of the region’s earlier civilizations, which disappeared when rivers and springs went dry, our policies must change. We need realistic agriculture. Is New Mexico really a good place for cotton, pecans or dairies? Maybe, with 6 to 10 inches of rain a year, but how about an era of 1 to 3 inches?

Can technology bail us out? Is desalinization just a temporary fix? Do pipelines from the Mississippi make economic, environmental or social sense? Could water recycling and reuse change the situation enough to justify the investments they’d require? Can cloud seeding work? Can a New Mexico with 1 to 3 inches of annual rainfall for the foreseeable future sustain even its current population?

Water, our most precious resource, must stay at the top of the agenda for policymakers. Anyone serving as governor will face no bigger challenge than water. It alone could be the basis for choosing among the candidates.

Gov. Susana Martinez hasn’t led on water so far. Where will she take us? Do her challengers offer more than platitudes? If we are too unrealistic (or politically paralyzed) to act decisively, then nature won’t go away; we will just become its victims. The Anasazi left us an important lesson: Pray for rain, but then act as if it won’t arrive for a century.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino represents District 12 in the New Mexico Senate.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

“The Trees are Killing our Forests” Free Educational Event on May 17

Santa Fe, NM – May 14, 2013–  Santa Fe County and the Santa Fe-Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District would like to invite all who are interested to attend the free educational event “The Trees are Killing our Forests” on Friday, May 17, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds. The educational event will address forests, drought, wildfire risk, and the role that forest management plays in the lives of New Mexicans. The event is hosted by the Santa Fe-Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with Santa Fe County and Santa Fe County Cooperative Extension Service.

The event will be welcomed by Commissioner Kathy Holian and will include a discussion with celebrated urban forester, George Duda, regarding the state of our forests and forest management, a presentation from the Santa Fe County Fire Department on wildland/urban interface issues, a presentation on programs and plans to support forest management from the New Mexico State Forestry Division, and a presentation on cost-share programs of the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Commission to consider community solar plan

By Staci Matlock
The New Mexican | Posted: Monday, May 13, 2013 9:00 pm

The Santa Fe County Commission on Tuesday, May 14, will vote on a resolution asking state regulators and the state’s largest utility to support a new plan for helping residents tap into solar energy.

Under the proposal, those who can’t install their own rooftop photovoltaic systems could still buy electricity produced from the sun through a community system.

“It is a good option for people who rent, or don’t have a roof that can support [a PV system], or who perhaps can’t afford to install solar,” county renewable energy specialist Craig O’Hare said.

With community solar, a municipality or other entity builds a solar photovoltaic system in which residents can buy or lease a panel or two and pay for the electricity at a fixed rate, O’Hare said. People who buy into the system are called “subscribers.” They could reduce and potentially zero out their electric bills if the panels they purchase produce more than they use, a benefit called net metering.

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative has built a small community solar project in Taos. Boulder, Colo., also recently completed one.

The Santa Fe City Council has approved a community solar resolution similar to the one that County Commissioner Kathy Holian will present to her fellow board members today. “There is a lot of interest in our community in doing solar,” Holian said. “I’ve received 200 or 300 emails in support of this.”

Both Public Service Company of New Mexico and its state regulator, the Public Regulation Commission, will have to get behind community solar for such projects to move forward. PNM, an investor-owned utility, has to make sure such a project won’t hurt its bottom line or the pocketbooks of customers who don’t directly benefit from community solar, Holian said. The Public Regulation Commission has to ensure community solar is legally and financially viable.

The city and county have been discussing community solar options with PNM, trying to find a solution that makes everyone happy.

One issue will be how to keep tabs on the power used by community solar participants and produced by the solar panels to which they subscribe. “It would require some kind of what I call ‘virtual net metering,’ ” O’Hare said. “This is not about the electrons generated by solar going to the subscribers. Once you put electrons on the grid, they go everywhere. This would require virtual accounting of the electrons.”

Tracking the amount of power produced compared to the number used by a community solar subscriber will require some sophisticated accounting.

There’s no law that forces PNM or the Public Regulation Commission to accept community solar currently as part of the utility’s energy portfolio. State legislators killed a community solar bill introduced in the last lawmaking session.

Still, if Santa Fe city and county could work out a viable deal with PNM for community solar, “it could be a game changer,” Holian said.

In the meantime, Santa Fe County also is looking at ways to relaunch an effort to create a special assessment tax district that would allow homeowners to obtain loans for installing a renewable energy system without needing cash up front. Such programs nationwide have been stalled at the federal level over concerns about the impact renewable energy loans would have on federal housing mortgages.

Holian said other places are figuring out ways to restart the programs and the county is exploring options.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Aamodt water-rights settlement signed after half-century of dispute

  • Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian and Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera sign the historic Aamodt water-rights pact during a ceremony Thursday at the Santa Fe Indian School. Also shown, from left, are Tesuque Pueblo Gov. Mark Mitchell, Nambe Pueblo Gov. Phillip Perez, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, San Ildefonso Pueblo Gov. Terry Aguilar, Santa Fe Mayor David Coss and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

    Here are the remarks I made at the signing ceremony:

    It is an honor to be here representing the County of Santa Fe at this ceremony.

    This is especially meaningful for me. My husband and I lived in Jacona for 15 years. The first time we heard about Aamodt was at the closing of our house in 1985, when we heard that the Aamodt lawsuit was an exception on our title insurance. I remember talking with our new neighbors about Aamodt, and the consensus was that the case would never be settled in our lifetime. Fortunately, they -- and we -- were wrong.

    The Aamodt settlement is a real tribute to the collaboration and cooperation of many different people from many different groups and governments -- Federal, State, local, and tribal. It in fact is a perfect example -- or at least mostly perfect -- of what can be accomplished when we all work together.

    I would like to be able to thank everyone who made this happen, but I will try to make this mercifully brief. I would like to thank

            - our Congressional delegations, past and present -- especially Senator Bingaman
            - State Officials -- especially John D'Antonio, our former State Engineer
            - Tribal Governments
                - Former Governor Mirabal of Nambe Pueblo
                - Former Governor Charlie Dorame of Tesuque Pueblo
                - Governor George Rivera of Pojoaque Pueblo
            - Santa Fe City government, particularly Mayor Coss
            - Santa Fe County government -- especially former County Commissioner Harry Montoya
            - Judges Meecham and Martha Vasquez
            - Attorneys John Utton and Steve Ross

    While we recognize these people who have made this long-awaited agreement happen, it is important to recognize why they did it, namely, to ensure that our future generations have water they need to drink, to grow food, and to nurture the plants and animals we all depend on.

    Former Governor Dorame organized meetings this week for the Santa Fe County Commissioners with representatives of the Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque Pueblos. Their message was that things are changing. The weather is getting drier here, becoming different than it was 30 or 40 years ago. To continue living here, we need to have a secure source of water -- in fact, to diversify our sources of water so that we are not just dependent on groundwater. Getting water from the Rio Grande is vital: as the Spanish have said for over 400 years, "El agua es vida." And our Native American ancestors said the same thing for thousands of years before that, and in many different tongues.

    So we should all be very proud of what we have accomplished in our community. This Regional Water System is one of the greatest gifts that we could give to our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren.

    Thank you.

    -Kathy Holian
    Santa Fe County Commissioner, District 4

Holian: "It is sprawl. There is no way around it."

Developer: County’s delay of project violates legal settlement

By Phaedra Haywood
The New Mexican | Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 8:00 pm 

Eldorado-area developer Joe Miller says Santa Fe County’s failure to take action on a land-use proposal he submitted on March 12 violates a legal settlement he reached with the county last year.

Miller has tried for several decades to develop property he owns along the U.S. 285 corridor near Lamy. But his projects have been delayed for the better part of the last 20 years by various factors — including a decadelong moratorium on development in the area due to water issues and his ongoing legal battle with Santa Fe County over the the county’s affordable-housing rules.

Miller’s proposal to build Spirit Wind West — which would create 39 residential lots varying in size from 2.5 to 3.5 acres on a 133-acre tract — was presented to the County Commission for approval Tuesday. Staff and policymakers acknowledged the proposal meets county codes governing water, traffic, open space and other requirements. But after more than an hour of discussion — which included statements from four areas residents regarding concerns over water and density — the commission voted unanimously to postpone a decision on the project “indefinitely.”

Commissioner Daniel Mayfield, who made the motion for the delay, said it would give Miller “one last opportunity” to work with community residents to “see if there could be anymore differences that could be ironed out.”

But Miller says he’s already met with neighbors and satisfied many of their concerns — for example, he agreed to limit homes in the subdivision to one story and to make residents subject to the same restrictive covenants as those in his more upscale Spirit Wind Ranch subdivision across the road.

Miller said the commission’s decision to delay a decision on his project constitutes a violation of the settlement he reached with the county last year to resolve three lawsuits he had pending against the county.

“They agreed to act in good faith, and they didn’t do that,” Miller said. “My lawyers are going to write them a letter and reinstate the lawsuits.”

Miller said he also is considering litigation against Commissioner Kathy Holian personally — he feels she won’t approve his project just because she doesn’t like it.

Holian, who represents the commission district where the land is located, acknowledged during the public hearing on the issue that the proposal complied with all county requirements. But she still couldn’t vote to approve it, she said, because it it’s not in keeping with the Sustainable Growth Management plan, a sort of vision statement for how the county should handle future growth.

“It is sprawl. There is no way around it,” Holian said during the hearing. “That means it has expensive-to-maintain infrastructure. It’s expensive to travel to work, school and shopping, and there is very little opportunity for efficient use or reuse of water. It’s the kind of development we’ve had a lot of over the years, and it was a very common practice 10 or 20 years ago, but in my opinion, it’s not the kind of development that we need or want at this point in time. So I really cannot in good conscience vote for this.”

A county code that would enforce the ideas outlined in the growth-management plan Holian referenced is still being drafted. For now, Miller’s plan only has to meet current regulations.

Opponents who live across the road in Miller’s Spirit Wind Ranch development intimated that Miller’s decision to allow modular homes in the new project would bring down their property values.

Holian said Wednesday that it’s not logical for “moderate- to low-income people” to live so far from town.

“It’s not very efficient for them to be out there,” she said. “You would have to drive eight to 10 miles to the nearest store or school. It doesn’t really make sense for someone who doesn’t have a high income to live in an area where they are going to have to spend a small fortune on gasoline. It makes sense to have cluster housing closer to town. If you look at the people who live in Spirit Wind Ranch, they have high income and can afford to spend more on transportation.”

Holian said the fact that the proposed development meets requirements and has been recommended for approval by county staff members doesn’t mean she and other commissioners have to approve the project. Otherwise, she said, every land-use case would be approved administratively without a vote by elected officials.

“Individual commissioners can make their decision to cast what I guess is in essence a protest vote,” said Holian, who originally made a motion to deny the subdivision, which died without a second.

“If the entire commission had voted against it,” Holian said. “He could take it to court, too. And it’s possible that if he had met all his requirements, our vote would be overturned.”

For now, the project is still alive. And opponents have said Miller should reach out not just to the neighbors across the road from the proposed development, but also to residents of the nearby communities of Lamy and Galisteo, who might also be effected.

Miller said he’s willing to hold off on filing a lawsuit over the matter if the item is taken up on the county’s next land-use agenda. If not, he said, “We are going to be back in court on another suit. This thing is going to be pretty big if it doesn’t get stopped.”

If the county continues to delay the project, Miller said, he may decide to put the land to agricultural use — perhaps as a hog farm.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My View (Santa Fe New Mexican)

Common good of entire county should be the goal

As a Santa Fe County commissioner, I am committed to helping create a safe and healthy community whose economy is vibrant -- for everybody. All of us in Santa Fe County share a common fate; the ragged boundaries of our districts shift every 10 years with population. My district is District 4, but I care about the entire county; my title is county commissioner, not district commissioner. It's an important distinction.

Many needs in the rural areas of Santa Fe County have been mounting for years. In District 4 for example, the community of Cañoncito has suffered growing water-quality problems, and Glorieta is also starting to have water problems. The village of Glorieta is dependent on the water treatment plant at the Glorieta Baptist Center, and its future is in question. Many rural roads need significant upgrades. Vulnerability to fire danger is a perennial problem in the foothills of District 4. It's important to realize that each district has its own localized challenges, and the Board of County Commissioners should address them all in a thoughtful, prioritized way.

The county government and the commission have to address staffing levels and retention of quality. County staff have not had raises in more than three years, in a time of rising prices for food and energy. The sheriff's department is critically understaffed, since at any given moment, 10 on-duty deputies have to cover nearly 2,000 square miles.

How should county government deal with all these difficulties? Should the Board of County Commissioners spend as little money as possible in order to keep people's taxes low? Or should we use our power to bond for low-interest money to help communities with necessary infrastructure? (Note that this last year, thanks to prudent management, the county is no longer drawing down its reserves for operating expenses, despite the hard economic times, and taxes have not been raised.) Should the county keep only a minimum number of law-enforcement and firefighting personnel? Or should we budget for the personnel needed to work effectively with all areas of the county?

If we go to the extreme of lowering taxes to the bare minimum, we will create a county of haves and have-nots. The wealthier areas will be able to collect money to repair their roads and to build and maintain adequate infrastructure for water and wastewater treatment; they can also hire private security companies to patrol their areas and even privatize their fire protection. The less-than-well-endowed communities would then limp along with inadequate basic services. Is this the kind of community tourists will want to visit, or businesses will want to invest in?

The U.S. Constitution's Preamble declares that the federal government should "promote the general welfare" for the "people of the United States." That applies even more strongly to our local government. One of the most important requirements for promoting a good quality of life for the citizens of Santa Fe County is that the basic infrastructure people depend upon should function properly. Bad roads and poor water-delivery services may dissuade business owners from locating in our county. So taking care of basic needs in a timely, preventive fashion will lead to more healthy economic activity in the long run, which will mean more resources to make our community a better place.

We on the Board of County Commissioners must take a wider, more inclusive view of our county, rather than focusing solely on our own districts. Of course, we have to represent the constituents who elect us, but we also serve everyone who lives in Santa Fe County.

Kathy Holian is the Santa Fe County commissioner for District 4. She lives in Santa Fe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thanks, Santa Fe County residents for your vote of confidence!

3163        71.9%
1235        28.1%

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kathy Holian, Santa Fe County Commissioner, District 4




Santa Fe New Mexican endorsements for the 2012 primary election.

Santa Fe County Commission: District 4: 

"Incumbent Kathy Holian, whose scientific mind and work ethic make her a strong commissioner."






























I would like to urge all of you who have not voted to go to the polls on Tuesday, June 5th.

Your vote will really make a difference this time: The very nature of the County Commission is at stake. All the progress that has been made in the last few years needs to be pushed forward, not reversed. Please urge your friends to vote.

Here are the voting locations for the precincts in District 4 (due to school construction, some of the voting locations will be different than what you are used to, but only for this primary):

* Precincts 9, 36, 47: Acequia Madre Elementary School, 700 Acequia Madre
* Precincts 13, 68: Hondo Fire Station Number 2, 645 Old Las Vegas Hwy.
* Precincts 37, 54, 81: Capshaw Middle School, 351 W. Zia Road
* Precincts 41, 51: De Vargas Middle School, 1720 Llano St.
* Precincts 42, 43: Educational Services Center, 610 Alta Vista St.
* Precinct 44: Wood Gormley Elementary School, 141 E. Booth St.
* Precincts 45, 46: Unitarian Church, 107 W. Barcelona Road

* Precinct 48: Atalaya Elementary School, 721 Camino Cabra
* Precinct 52: E. J. Martinez Elementary School, 401 W. San Mateo Road
* Precinct 53: Pasa Tiempo Senior Center, 664 Alta Vista Street
* Precinct 55: Elks BPOE 460 Lodge, 1615 Old Pecos Trail
* Precinct 57: Glorieta Fire Station, 43 Fire Station Road, Glorieta
* Precinct 63: Ken and Patty Adam Senior Center, 16 Avenida Torreon, Eldorado

Thank you for voting!


 P.S. Scroll down the page to see maps of BCC Districts. (Pct. 48, Atalaya Elementary School somehow got left off the list of Dist. 4 Precincts; sorry!)

Donate online to my re-election campaign

Here's what they say about Kathy:

David Gold, community leader in the Sustainable Growth Management Plan's adoption by Santa Fe County:
 "The choice of County Commissioner impacts our daily life more than most other political offices. Since the Commission oversees development in the County, the amount of water, traffic, noise, pollution, trails and open space, in both the City and the County depends on the County Commission. They also control the rules to build in the county. Kathy Holian is the incumbent and has really proven her worth. She is a strong advocate for the Sustainable Land Development Code and is very tuned into environmental and land use issues. She is one of the brightest people I’ve ever known, and is also very approachable."

Philip F. and Rosita (Shorty) Trujillo, community leaders in Glorieta (he is a former Santa Fe County Treasurer):
"The residents of Glorieta Estates rest easy these days because their 40-year-old water system has been greatly improved, and amongst the team helping to upgrade the system was Commissioner Kathy Holian. We appreciate her and we are hopeful of four more years under her caring political career."

Lupita Martinez, head of Cañoncito's water association:
"Kathy Holian's experience as a Santa Fe County Commissioner has been invaluable to the Cañoncito at Apache Canyon Mutual Domestic Water Association! Her down-to-earth approach is refreshing and her commitment to the community is inspiring."

Former Santa Fe City Councilor, Rosemary Romero:
"Kathy Holian is that perfect match of intelligence, commitment, and collaborative nature that makes for a great politician and community activist. I worked on several efforts with her and deeply appreciated every interaction."

Evalyn Bemis, resident of Arroyo Hondo and community activist:
"As a 30+ year resident in District 4, I can truly say that Kathy Holian is the most outstanding county commissioner we have ever had. She takes time to understand the important issues involving Santa Fe County, seeks input from the people she represents, and gives detailed reports on the decisions that are made. We are very lucky to have her."

Jan-Willem Jansens, former director of Earth Works Institute,  community activist, and environmental advocate:
"Kathy is the best candidate for the position! She is thoughtful, strategic, fair, listens and thinks carefully, and all her questions and propositions have been carefully thought through. She honors and recognizes the positive accomplishments of people and institutions as models in our community. She clearly seeks the best possible balance between satisfying people’s needs while also strengthening the resilience of our community and our natural environment in the long term. And that kind of leadership is what we urgently need now and in the years to come!"

David Van Winkle, chair of the Northern New Mexico Sierra Club:
"Commissioner Holian has been a champion for the water, air, land and wildlife that make Santa Fe County special. She is also developing smart solutions to climate change to protect our children and grandchildren. Kathy is an active member of the Northern New Mexico Group, and we are proud to endorse her."

Bob Horwitz and Tony McCarty, Apache Ridge community activists:
"Kathy is one of those rare public officials who is truly approachable and completely eager to help others.  Her commitment to the people of Santa Fe County is unflinching and her willingness to engage in productive problem solving is limitless. We're delighted that she is our County Commissioner and we support her re-election without hesitation." 

Faren Dancer, green builder, expert in sustainability, and community activist:
"Santa Fe County Commissioner Kathy Holian has demonstrated the vision and leadership necessary to spearhead the Commission's efforts toward a sustainable future for our community."

Albert Lucero, President, AFSCME Local 1782:
"We are extremely proud to have Commissioner Holian fighting on our side. She has been unwavering in her support for the workers and our collective bargaining rights. She stood tall with our sisters and brothers at Christus St. Vincents Hospital when management decided to put profits before people. We are grateful to have such a strong advocate on the Santa Fe County Commission and we look forward to working hard to insure she is re-elected."    

(For more extended quotes and additional ones, see comments after this post.)

Here's Kathy's record and what you can expect from her when she's re-elected:

* Promoted good, long-lasting, well-paying jobs in Santa Fe County, by sponsoring a
“BuyLocal” campaign and supporting movie-production jobs at Santa Fe Studios; will continue to sponsor programs that help farmers and ranchers to grow food locally

* Made safety and security a top priority and will host more community meetings on fire prevention and neighborhood security

* Led the effort to pass the Sustainable Growth Management Plan and will make sure the Land Development Code reflects the vision of all the citizens who worked so hard on the Plan

* Will continue to work for a sustainable water policy that will guarantee future supplies in severe droughts, including sources besides groundwater

* Initiated the process for Cañoncito to get clean County water

* Strongly supported the County’s Open Space and Trails program and will work to include funding for maintenance of County land and trails

* Will continue to champion renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs for homes and businesses

* Engaged citizens in the ongoing projects of local democracy and wants all citizens of Santa Fe County to be involved in solving our communities' problems, so that we work together to identify and achieve our goals

Please help me to carry on my work of the past three years by donating generously to my re-election campaign.

Thanks to all of you,

Click on this link to donate online (Donations to me come through the secure website for progressive political causes, ActBlue, where the Democratic Party of Santa Fe County sponsors my webpage. Your donation will come to me, don't worry!)

Committee to Elect Kathy Holian for County Commissioner, District 4
Treasurer: Manny Trujillo (505) 984-9826


Primary Election Info


This year's Democratic Primary Election on June 5th is critical for the future of Santa Fe County and its Board of County Commissioners (BCC). You must be a registered Democrat in order to vote in the primary (if you are an Independent, you can re-register as a Democrat before May 8th, and then switch back after June 5th). Early voting begins on May 19th; absentee voting begins May 8th. (More info is available at the Clerk's office website, whose link is given at the bottom of this post.)

The five BCC districts are shown in the following maps, first the overall County, and then focusing in on the City of Santa Fe (yes, if you live in the city, you are also a County resident with your Commissioner's District shown on these maps). Just click on the maps to see them full-screen.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Endorsements for Kathy Holian's Re-election

WE SUPPORT KATHY HOLIAN for District 4 Santa Fe County Commissioner:

(To enlarge, click on the list.)

Won't you add your name to this distinguished list of citizens? (Just click on "comments" below.)


Santa Fe County Commission, District 4 Endorsement by Sierra Club

Sierra Club endorses Kathy Holian for Santa Fe County Commission

The Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter today announced its endorsement of Kathy Holian for Santa Fe County Commission District 4.

Among her many environmental accomplishments, Commissioner Holian played an important role in passing the county’s Sustainable Growth Management Plan, a blueprint for maintaining our rich resources for future generations. Holian is dedicated to ensuring that the commission creates a code that effectively implements the concepts in the plan, including open space and trails, green building, and agriculture.

“Commissioner Holian has been a champion for the water, air, land and wildlife that make Santa Fe County special. She is also developing smart solutions to climate change to protect our children and grandchildren,” said David Van Winkle, chair of the Northern New Mexico Group, which includes more than 1,800 members in Santa Fe County. “Kathy is an active member of the Northern New Mexico Group, and we are proud to endorse her.”

Serving on the Regional Planning Authority, Holian worked to make energy planning a major planning priority. As chair and vice chair of the RPA’s Energy Task Force, she has directed its analysis of ways to promote energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in the county.
Commissioner Holian sponsored a successful county resolution to ban inhumane trapping, and she serves on a panel seeking public comment for a report to be used at the state level to urge trapping legislation. She has also sponsored resolutions to set county policy on climate change, expanding the Pecos Wilderness Area, local governments’ purchase of locally grown food, open spaces and trails, and creating efficient permitting procedures for small-scale photovoltaic systems.
The Northern New Mexico Group develops an extensive questionnaire and interviews candidates before deciding on election endorsements. Commissioner Holian has proven her commitment to Santa Fe County’s air, water and public lands, and the Northern New Mexico Group will devote its energy to returning her to office to keep our county’s unique character and resources intact.

Contact: Susan Martin, Political Committee chair, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter (505) 670-3279,


Albuquerque Journal Endorses Holian for Re-election

By Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board on Sunday, May 20, 2012

 ♦ District 4 — Kathy Holian

The incumbent, Holian, has a solid record of supporting open government and the efforts of county residents to have some say-so about the direction of future growth in their area, as well as to work together to resolve controversial issues. Holian is well-educated (she’s a computational physicist) but in the four years she’s been on the commission, she’s also learned to be practical in her approach to government. It’s not so much about the big ideas like sustainability and renewable energy, which she campaigned on the first time around, Holian explains. Instead, she’s learned that “encouraging our community to work together for the betterment of everybody” is her biggest job. Holian says her goal for her second term is to follow up on projects that have begun during her first. The county will be well served if she returns to the commission for another four years.


Santa Fe New Mexican Endorses Kathy Holian

Monday, May 21, 2012

Santa Fe County Commission, District 4: Holian

Incumbent Kathy Holian is knowledgeable about water, renewable energy and conservation planning. She brings a scientist’s curiosity to her work on the commission, having spent more than 20 years as a computational physicist. She knows how to ask questions that lead to solutions, including helping the people of Cañoncito improve their water supply infrastructure. She wants to ensure the county’s new land-use code is completed. In a second term, Holian will be even better at serving the people of Santa Fe County. In District 4, The New Mexican endorses Kathy Holian.



Letters to the SF New Mexican Editor
May 29, 2012

I encourage my neighbors who live in Santa Fe County, District 4, to join me in voting to re-elect Kathy Holian to the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners. It is important to vote in the upcoming primary on June 5, (or earlier, in any of the early-voting locations) because this primary election will determine who our next commissioner is. Many of us who know Kathy know how hard she has worked for all our interests since she was first elected in 2008. She deserves another term.

Luis Mendoza

Santa Fe

As relatively new citizens of Santa Fe County, my partner, Nancy Stevens, and I have met Kathy Holian on several occasions. She has been willing to listen to issues involving our East Ranch community since redistricting placed us into her district, specifically regarding road issues. These issues have not been solved but not because Kathy hasn't gone the extra 20 miles. The issues are tough. She is committed to looking for alternative solutions. She is dedicated and always responsive to emails or phone calls. She deserves re-election!

Bertha J. Blanchard and Nancy K. Stevens

Santa Fe

Kathy Holian is the best candidate for County Commission, District 4. Honest, intelligent and a visionary, she is a tireless and sincere environmentalist. As a native Santa Fean troubled by our complex environmental issues, seeing Commissioner Holian's commitment to collaborative problem-solving over the past two years has given me hope. She is exactly what I want to see in a public servant -- committed and willing to engage respectfully in the difficult conversations that come with the job. I strongly believe that, if elected for a second term, she will be even more effective at serving the people of Santa Fe County.

Barbara Gay

Santa Fe
We are very fortunate that Kathy Holian has so capably represented us in District 4 of the Santa Fe County Commission. She brings integrity, dedication, compassion and intelligence to the service of the county. Please show her our appreciation and respect for a job well done by electing her to another four-year term. Way to go, Commissioner Holian, and thank you.

Evalyn Bemis

Santa Fe

June 1, 2012

Kathy Holian is the clear choice for the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners from District 4. She has been tireless in serving the best interests of all of us and our precious environment. She has done a great job of keeping in touch with us in regard to land use, water and energy conservation, and all significant issues coming before the BCC, and sending email reports on their meetings. She has been enthusiastically endorsed by our major newspapers. We need Holian to remain in office, and I urge voters to re-elect her.

Steven S. Spencer, M.D. 

Santa Fe 


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Find out about what goes on in County government

Emails from Commissioner Holian to constituents

If you would like to see pdf files of the emails I've sent out to Santa Fe County residents, covering details of the policy issues facing the Board of County Commissioners, just go to the Santa Fe County website, and enter the following (or click on this link-> here):

These are not really horribly long files for you to download, typically a couple of pages, and the latest ones are at the bottom of the right-hand column, labeled:

QUICK INFO / Follow Commissioner Kathy Holian's Blogspot» (this link to Blogspot goes right back here, so don't click on it!)

Read, enjoy, and/or send me your comments:
(phone 505-986-6200)

or, you can send comments to Tina Salazar, the Constituent Services Liaison for District 4:
(phone 505-986-6319)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Candidates for Santa Fe County Commission District 4 talk ethics and policy

Photo by: Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican
Santa Fe County has a history of corruption, nepotism and incompetence.

The two candidates vying to represent District 4 on the Santa Fe County Commission were asked to discuss the veracity of that statement and propose solutions during a forum sponsored by the Democratic Party on Monday evening.

Incumbent Commissioner Kathy Holian said she didn't agree with the statement and noted recent policy decisions -- such as the creation of a new code of ethics and ethics board -- enacted to prevent corruption. Holian said that in the past it might have been "commonplace" for county officials to hire friends for county jobs, but, she said, new hiring and procurement practices have been implemented to "tighten up" county policies in those areas. Holian praised county manager Katherine Miller and new Public Safety Director Pablo Sedillo and said, "We have a whole new level of professionalism in our county now."

Victor Baca questioned why the new policies hadn't been implemented sooner and said he heard the ethics policy was "so tight" that it made commissioners "afraid to say anything."

"If the county manger has complete say on everything, it seems the county commissioners don't have any oversight. Then we can't operate properly," he said.

Holian reminded Baca that the county commissioners hire the manager and the manager manages the county. "County government is as ethical as it has ever been," she said.

That type of back and forth exchange was typical during the head-to-head debate in which neither candidate passed up a chance to rebut the statements of the other.

Holian, the incumbent, is seeking a second term representing the district that includes much of Santa Fe's east side and extends west toward the San Miguel County line, and includes Cañoncito and parts of Glorieta.

The retired physicist emphasized her four years of experience on the county's development review committee and the satisfaction she has gotten from serving on the commission.

"Even though the work is hard and the hours are long, helping people has turned out to be the most rewarding thing I've ever done, and that is why I'm running for re-election," she said.

Holian also noted her commitment to citizen input and transparency, highlighting her email updates to commissioners and numerous public meetings she has organized.

She said her background as a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory also taught her to only believe what can be backed up by evidence. "I think I have a pretty good B.S. detectors," she said. "And I don't mean Bachelor of Science."

Baca, who worked for years at the state Taxation and Revenue Department and served as deputy assessor for Santa Fe County before retiring in 2010, emphasized his roots in the area and "proven record of honesty and integrity."

Baca was born in Texas but raised in Santa Fe. His father and grandfather are native Santa Feans.

He listed lowering property taxes, creating jobs, public safety and education as priorities. He also cited concerns about the commission's decisions to purchase a $7 million ranch near La Cienega without a plan for how to utilize it and to loan $6.5 million to private developers to build a film studio off N.M. 14.

Holian defended the funding of the studio project, saying the studio is "a really good thing," that "really works with the strength of the community." She said she planned to travel to California in June to "talk to producers and let them know the studio is open for business."

"What she says is nice," Baca said. "But I went out to the facility and no one is working there. I'd like to see a list of who is working there."

Holian countered by noting that the building of the studio had already created a number of construction jobs and that a television pilot had been filmed there recently.

The pair also answered questions about their support of green building initiatives contained in the land use code currently being created by county staff.

Baca said he is "in favor of most of it," but questioned why the code, which has been in process for several years, isn't done yet. "If I'm elected, I'll see if I can expedite it," Baca said. "Builders want to play with the rules, but right now they don't know what the rules are going to be."

Holian expressed strong support for the code, saying it gives builders many options for meeting target energy efficiency levels, and that the money homeowners would save on utility bills would "more than make up for" the cost of infrastructure.

The candidates did agree on one issue. Both supported the idea of a municipal energy grid.

Voters will have a chance to cast their votes for District 4 candidates in the June 5 primary.

Contact Phaedra Haywood @ or 986-3068.

For a video clip of the forum, click here:


Note that I have over 400 people on my email list for the News eLetter I send out reporting on meetings of the Board of County Commissioners. If you want to be on that list, send me an email:


P.S. And what I meant to say at the forum, obviously, was that County government is now more ethical than it has ever been before. (The pressure of a public forum can cause an occasional slip of the tongue. Sorry.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Holian Wants To Follow Through on Projects

By Kiera Hay    ABQ Journal North
Kathy Holian has represented District 4 on the Santa Fe County Commission for nearly four years, but says there’s still work to be done.    

She said she “went through a complex process” in deciding to run for re-election.    

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress toward improving things I want to see improved in Santa Fe County,” Holian said. “Of course, there are always things that are ongoing and I feel it’s important for me to stay in this position for another four years to make sure a lot of these things are followed through on.”    

That includes plans to provide water and infrastructure to the communities of Cañoncito and Glorieta. Holian also wants to continue work on a code to complement the county’s new sustainable growth management plan and ensure the county-backed Santa Fe Studios achieves success. Water security and energy initiatives are also, she hopes, on the horizon.     

Holian, facing challenger Victor Baca in the June 5 Democratic primary, said she’s worked hard to learn the ins and outs of Santa Fe County and puts in 60-hour workweeks. She disputes Baca’s contention that her tenure in local government is somehow insufficient. Baca retired after working more than 30 years for the state and local counties, most recently with the Santa Fe County Assessor’s Office.     

Holian, a computational physicist, worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before her own retirement a few years ago.    

Holian said she understands what’s happening in District 4 and how the county should continue to move forward.    

“I’ve had three-and-a-half years of actually being in this position, dealing with the issues going on right now,” she said. “He’s had experience in other places in doing other things but I’ve had the most relevant experience because I’ve actually been dealing with the things that the county is dealing with.”    

Holian cites the sustainable growth management plan as a top achievement during her time at the county.    

“I think we have one of the most advanced plans in the entire county and it was developed with the input of literally hundreds of people across the county as well as dozens of organizations and I feel it truly represents ... the people of Santa Fe County,” she said.     

Holian said she’s also worked to increase transparency and openness. She noted that she writes and distributes an email newsletter and host community meetings about issues she feels are important. Many of the gatherings have been standing-room only, Holian said.     

She said she’s good at bringing the right people together to solve problems.     

“I think that when I first came into office I was thinking about things more in terms of ‘Oh, we need more sustainability and we need to do more renewable energy,’ ” Holian said.    

“I had those kinds of ideas in my mind but as I’ve been in office I really, really realized the most powerful thing is community and to encourage our community to work together for the betterment of everybody who lives in Santa Fe County,” she said.    

Holian is married and has two stepsons
HOLIAN: Proud of sustainable growth plan 


Baca Touts Decades In N.M. Government
With three decades of New Mexico government experience under his belt, Victor Baca feels he’s the best choice for the Santa Fe County Commission’s District 4 seat.     

“Would you rather hire somebody with 30 years of experience or three years of experience? That is the question,” he said. “I have over 30 years of experience. I have the experience and knowledge to work through the systems to get things done.”    

Baca’s time in state and county government is extensive. At the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, Baca was a deputy director of the property tax division and bureau chief of delinquent property taxes.     

Before his retirement in 2010, he was deputy assessor for Santa Fe County for three years. Baca has also served as a deputy assessor for Los Alamos County.     

A graduate of Santa Fe High School, Baca’s résumé also includes stints as a licensed real estate appraiser and real estate broker.    

Baca’s opponent is incumbent District 4 Commissioner Kathy Holian. Holian, a computational physicist, worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory before joining the County Commission in January 2009. She also sat on the county’s Development Review Committee for several years.    

“I’ve got over 30 years of state and county experience and my opponent, the years she’s been commissioner, that’s all she’s got,” he said.     

Baca said that the benefits of his time in state and local government include numerous contacts and people he can “talk to ... about what it takes to get things done.”     

“Let’s get off of being complacent and let’s go forward,” he said.    

A native Santa Fean, Baca is married and has two children.     

Baca said he worries the county is “not going in the right direction financially.” He questioned the wisdom of the county’s purchase of the 470-acre Santa Fe Canyon Ranch — “We bought a ranch for $7 million, and nobody knows what to do with it,” he said — and what he perceives as a lack of activity at the countybacked Santa Fe Studios.     

Perhaps more importantly, for Baca, are traffic problems near the Rabbit Road/Santa Fe Community College area. Baca, citing congestion and safety issues, said he’d like to see an interchange connecting I-25 to Richards Avenue.    

“Local government has to work with the state to try and get that done because traffic is really bad here. Having an interchange would really help with the traffic situation. I’m trying to bring that to the attention of officials so we can create some kind of safety program,” he said.     

Baca said building an interchange will be his top priority if elected to office. He said he would also push for a study on uses for Santa Fe Canyon Ranch and get county and Santa Fe Studios officials to work harder to bring productions and jobs to the facility.     

Improving public safety and completing the county’s new land use code are also on Baca’s agenda.
BACA: “I have over 30 years of experience” 


Mr. Baca touts his 30 years of experience . . . as a bureaucrat. And then dismisses my years as County Commissioner. Wow . . . What can I say?

And then Mr. Baca thinks we have been "complacent" and need to "go forward." OK . . . fine. But "making progress" does not imply "complacency" -- at least not in my book.

While the County has been getting progressively closer to being pay-as-you-go over the last 3 years -- in spite of challenging economic times -- Mr. Baca thinks that the County is "not going in the right direction financially." I think the right direction is where the County is going.

All I can say to Mr. Baca is: Some pretty good things have been happening since you retired from the County.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Challenger takes on District 4 incumbent

When incumbent District 4 County Commissioner Kathy Holian won in 2008, she was a relative unknown who beat out two well-connected Santa Fe natives -- nurse and union organizer Elizabeth 'Dolly' Lujan and city fire inspector Mark Marquez. Holian got 41 percent of the vote. Lujan, her nearest challenger, got 31 percent.

This year, on candidate filing day at the end of March, former county deputy assessor Victor Baca filed as a challenger for the seat in the upcoming primary election, thrusting Holian back into campaign mode.

Holian says she wants to finish things she started in her first term. Baca said he was prompted to join the race by people in his neighborhood who are unhappy with the status quo in Santa Fe County government.

Kathleen Holian

Retired physicist Holian's first foray into local government was a six-year stint on Santa Fe County's Development Review Committee. When she first ran for elected office in 2008, she said she was running because she felt she could "make a difference" at the county.

Holian looked back at that wide-eyed candidate of three-plus years ago a little ruefully during a recent interview.

"When I first ran, I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I had all these highfalutin ideas about sustainability, but what I've realized is a lot more of the job is helping communities solve their problems."

One of the communities whose problems Holian has helped address is Cañoncito, the small settlement near the San Miguel County line, which for years has had problems with water quality and infrastructure.

Holian supported a push to bring clean water to the community via a well and infrastructure improvement project that's still in the works, and to add Cañoncito to the county's water utility.

She said in a written statement that her experience during a recent meeting on the project cemented her decision to run for a second term.

"The people of Cañoncito were ecstatic," she wrote. "At last, there was a way out of their nightmare. Everyone at the meeting was emotional, including me, at the thought that the county was finally going to make their lives substantially better. This is when it became crystal clear to me why I am running for re-election."

Holian also spearheaded efforts to start a renewable-energy rebate program that would have given long-term, low-interest loans to county property owners to help them pay for energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes. The proposal ran into legal hurdles at the federal level, but she hopes that that it might be revived in some form.

After joining the commission, Holian voted for lending $6.5 million to developers of a private film studio south of the city. She also voted to pay $7 million to buy a ranch near La Cienega from would-be real-estate developers who faced opposition from nearby residents, although the county had and still has no plans for what to do with the property, which includes a luxury home with a swimming pool. Both decisions have emerged as sore issues for some county residents.

She still supports the studio project and stops short of saying the ranch purchase was a mistake.

Holian says she'll be more prepared if elected to a second term. "Now I do have a better idea of how things happen at the county," she said. "What questions to ask, what I should stay on top of."

Going forward, Holian said, "job number one" is to get the county's new land use code completed. Promoting locally grown food and energy-efficient retrofits are also goals, she said.

Holian has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and the local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Victor Baca

Victor Baca has worked in government for most of the past 30 years. He was deputy director of the state Property Tax Division, a deputy assessor in Los Alamos and a deputy assessor at Santa Fe County before his retirement in 2010.

Baca says people in his neighborhood "have been kinda upset" by some of the things they have seen going on at Santa Fe County and he thinks he "could be the change agent," so he decided to run.

"I think the county is not going in the right direction financially," he said in a written statement.

He cited the county's purchase of the Santa Fe Canyon Ranch and the decision to underwrite the Santa Fe Studios project as two indicators that the County Commission hasn't been fiscally responsible at a time when "people are having a hard time buying groceries and gas."

"People tell me they are afraid we are going to get stuck with a white elephant," Baca said of the studio project.

Baca said that when he went door-to-door campaigning residents also expressed concern about the county's decision not to approve an application from the O Centro Espirita a Beneficente Unido Vegetal (a Christian-based religious organization that uses a hallucinogenic made from two Amazonian plants as its sacrament) to build a temple in the Arroyo Hondo area southeast of Santa Fe.

Some Arroyo Hondo area residents opposed the development, citing concerns that contaminants from the tea might get into the water table and about impaired drivers leaving the temple's late-night services.

UDV has since filed a lawsuit challenging the decision on religious-freedom grounds.

Baca said people he talked to worry that the case could end up costing the county millions of dollars in legal fees.

On other matters, Baca said his neighbors in the Rabbit Road area want something done about the increased traffic on that road, which some use to access to the Santa Fe Community College campus off Richards Avenue.

"We have kids that live on that road," said Baca, who is president of his neighborhood association. "The signs have helped a little, but the only fix is an interchange at Richards Road. I would like to see that done in my lifetime."

With regard to county borrowing to fund projects, Baca said he would like to see the county "not bond for awhile until the economy gets better. That would reduce property taxes."

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or

Victor P. Baca

Occupation: Retired.

Education: Santa Fe High School graduate; real-estate appraiser certificate from The University of New Mexico.

Experience: Former state Property Tax Division deputy director; former deputy assessor in Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties; real-estate broker and appraiser; Vietnam veteran; former member of the New Mexico National Guard.

Personal: Married; two adult children; four grandchildren; enjoys camping, fishing, hiking and working out at the gym.

Campaign information: email:

Recently read or favorite book: "I just began reading Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra."

• • •

Kathy Holian

Age: 59

Occupation: County commissioner.

Education: Bachelor of physics from University of California at Berkeley.

Experience: Worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for more than 20 years as a computational physicist.

Personal: Married to Brad Holian for 28 years; two stepsons; three grandchildren. Hobbies include gardening, reading, horseback riding, visiting the back country and working on restoration projects on land the couple owns on Glorieta Mesa.

Campaign information: website:; email

Recently read or favorite book: Currently reading two books: "When my husband and I went to the Grand Canyon for a brief break this spring, I picked up Death in the Grand Canyon by Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers. The second book I'm reading is Lost in Translation by Eva Hoffman."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Great "Their View" Column

Old ideas, modern technology could solve energy crisis

Taking a trip back to the future could help solve the energy crisis. In terms of buildings, transportation, and generating and distributing electricity, we understood the basics in 212 B.C., 1890 and 1935, respectively.

Globally, buildings account for nearly 40 percent of all energy use and the world's greenhouse gas emissions, a greater impact than all transportation systems combined. A recent government report concluded that yearly carbon emissions from U.S. buildings alone are "greater than the total CO2 emissions of any country in the world except China." We've been designing buildings that work against nature. We need to design buildings that work with it, transforming them from structures that consume energy into structures that produce it.

Understanding and using solar power dates back to 212 B.C. with Archimedes' ideas. As early as 10,000 years ago, Native Americans used passive solar design in buildings and settled near hot springs that they used for cooking and heating. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci described the concept of a solar concentrator that could generate heat and replace burning wood. Retrofitting the nation's 4.9 million older commercial buildings offers the most direct, immediate way to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Secondly, we need to build the new ones better. In 2030, according to a Brookings Institute report, about half of the buildings in the U.S. will have been built after 2000. Pioneers in green-building construction are designing high-performance buildings that harness sunlight and rainwater, automatically shut down appliances when they are not in use, and dim lights when the sun provides enough illumination.

In terms of transportation, Americans consume, on average, 1.5 gallons of gasoline per person per day -- four times that of the average European. Our national car fleet averages less than 23 mpg, which is about the same as Ford's Model-T in 1908 and half as efficient as cars in Japan and the EU. This was not always the case. In 1889, Thomas Edison engineered a car with a rechargeable battery. By 1896, American car dealers were selling mostly electric cars. At the turn of the century, the U.S. automotive industry was split among three technologies -- 40 percent electric powered, 40 percent steam powered and 20 percent gasoline powered. In 1908, Henry Ford's assembly line unwittingly expanded the market for oil. Detroit and the oil industry bought up and destroyed electric cars, closed cable car and bus companies and lobbied against train travel.

Today we are looking to return to the electric car (using renewable sources of electricity) and using plug-in hybrids to transition from a gasoline to an electric transportation infrastructure. Again, we are going back to the future!

When it comes to generating electricity, the utility industry grew by 12 percent per year for the first two decades of the 20th century. These were the bold beginnings of a "hub-and-spoke" centralized power generation system with long transmission lines. Yet in 1935, nearly half of the U.S. population lived on farms with no electricity. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Rural Electrification Administration to help rural communities build and operate their own electrical power systems. Within two years, the REA electrified more than 1.5 million homes.

In the U.S., we waste 5 to 10 percent of our generated electricity (at a cost of about $12 billion annually) because of transmission power losses. In addition, many U.S. power plants are more than 50 years old and have effectively reached the end of their life cycles. This presents a huge opportunity to introduce clean and commercially proven renewable-energy power sources to jump-start the sagging American economy. These power plants could be "decentralized" -- smaller and near demand centers. For example, the new Bank of America tower in New York City uses an on-site natural gas-powered 4.6-megawatt "microplant" that captures and recycles its waste heat. This combined-cycle system generates its own power three times more efficiently than getting it from the grid. Seems like common sense to combine old ideas with modern technology to address the energy crisis.

Suzi Borgo is a communications consultant who has worked for the U.S. Department of Energy. Peter Borgo is an engineer and has worked on energy projects worldwide for more than 30 years. They live in Santa Fe.