Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Valley residents say 'No' to incorporation

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Jojola

Residents in an unincorporated area of Bernalillo County, South of Albuquerque, voted overwhelming to reject a proposal to incorporate their semi-rural neighborhood.

With all precincts counted, Bernalillo County’s website reports the final results were 6,372 votes , or 93.44 percent, against incorporating under the name Valle De Atrisco, and only 447 votes, or 6.56 percent, for the proposal.

Voter turnout, which was about 29 percent of the 23,000 eligible voters, surprised County Clerk Maggie Toulouse-Oliver.

“We were projecting a 6 percent turnout, which is what we normally get for school district elections,” Toulouse-Oliver said. "I think people we’re definitely interested in this election.”

The vote totals, which include early and absentee ballots, will be certified by the clerk on Friday.

Opponents of the measure had argued that government services, currently provided by Bernalillo County, would have been diminished and taxes would have increased.

Supporters, like state Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, and the South Valley Incorporation Advisory Group campaigned on a platform of “preserving the South Valley’s agrarian and historical Character through Self-Governance.”

Voters were apparently swayed by a University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research feasibility study which indicated that there would be a $3 to $8 million revenue shortfall to meet the new city’s costs.

Despite the study, an area advisory committee had worked on the incorporation plan for years.

They contended it is necessary to provide jobs and infrastructure, which is necessary for a growing population, while maintaining the semi-rural character of the South Valley.

Last September, New Mexico Independent’s Marjorie Childress reported South Valley residents believe that “both Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are paving over their best agricultural land.”

In November, incorporation supporters were upset when Bernalillo County’s Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 to hold the incorporation election as a walk-in election with absentee and early voting options. They argued a mail in ballot election would “likely have a 20 percent great voter turnout, and would have cost $100,000 less.

If the measure had been approved, Valle De Atrisco, with nearly 50,000 residents, would have become one of the state’s largest municipalities.

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