Isaac and Sharon Eastvold are long time community activists and the founders or Fair Heights Neighborhood Association which they help found on October 11, 1993. Both have been residents of City Council District 7 since its inception and residents of City Council District 5 which became District 7 because of redistricting. They have also been members of the Neighborhood Stormwater Drainage Management Team since May 31, 2021. Isaac and Sharon Eastvold were the founding members of the Friends of the Albuquerque Petroglyphs (FOTAP) which was instrumental in securing city council and community support for the establishment of the Petroglyph National Monument on June 27, 1990. Isaac and Sharon Eastvold submitted the following guest column for publication on www.PeteDinelli.com
EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this guest column by Isaac and Sharon Eastvold are those of the Eastvolds and do not necessarily reflect those of the www.petedinelli.com blog. The Eastvolds have not paid for and has not been paid any compensation to publish their guest column and they have given their consent to publish on www.PeteDinelli.com as a public service announcement especially to the residents and voters of District 7 to enlighten them on what is going on in District 7.
“Many people don’t know that the older neighborhoods in the northeast heights were built out without the storm drains people are used to seeing along curbs. Instead, the City directed stormwater flows to be carried by gravity on streets which eventually lead to very large stormwater main drains buried under arterials. Because of the toxic, chemical and biological contents, these stormwaters needed to be taken out of the human environment and treated elsewhere. Until recently, the City website referred to these stormwaters as “sewerage.” This essay will serve as an alarm to alert older neighborhoods of how their outdated stormwater needs may be manipulated to their detriment.
As a case in point, here is a sad template of how this manipulation can occur. Historically, the neighborhoods on both sides of San Pedro north of Lomas, the much larger Mark Twain neighborhood on the east and Fair Heights on the west (name later changed to Mile Hi) used Summer to convey their stormwater to main drains: the 4-foot diameter San Pedro drain, and the 8-foot diameter San Mateo drain.
Mark Twain’s stormwater, which originates at Louisiana, drains through their neighborhood streets to join with Summer and flows westward to its junction with San Pedro. Past City planning had mistakenly allowed the stormwater to flow across San Pedro, causing hydroplaning and the inevitable vehicle accidents. Then it entered Fair Heights on Summer, exacerbating existing stormwater flows in that neighborhood which had not been analyzed by the City.
In 2007, leaders in Fair Heights asked the City for help. Their hydrology specialists did careful calculations of the stormwater flows coming from Louisiana through Mark Twain to San Pedro. Then they used those calculations to engineer a stormwater drain which would splice Mark Twain’s stormwater where it belonged, into the San Pedro 4-foot main drain. This intercepted the large amount of stormwater coming from Louisiana and fixed the original Mark Twain neighborhood problem which dated back to the 1950s. The cost to the City for the project was only $44,000.00.
This was a perfect example of how these “older on-street drainage systems” can be fixed economically with good work using the same common sense approach that was used to fix Mark Twain. We think you will agree, after reading the sad chronicle of complications below, and ballooning of costs, that really the best solution at this time, would be the original approach.
ACTIONS BY DISTRICT 7 CITY COUNCILORS DIANE GIBSON AND HER SUCCESSOR TAMMY FIEBELCORN
SPOILER ALERT: now things begin to get really complicated.
Instead of using this common sense approach, City Councilors Gibson and Fiebelcorn, together with their policy analysts turned our problem over to the City on-call engineering firm Bohannan Houston, Inc. (BHI)
First, Council Special Projects Manager, Diane Dolan, added another contractor we had never heard of, GroundWorkStudio, in an initial $40,000 subcontract through BHI. Many of our residents are elderly or retired and are not used to following complicated issues on line. GroundWorkStudio has become the on-line publishing arm of BHI. BHI recently published some of their arguments for this project on the GroundWorkStudio website; six pages when printed. This was added to an already large volume on the “Green Stormwater Infrastructure” (GSI) project.
Factual evidence, and even petitions submitted by residents have been stubbornly ignored or summarily dismissed. It seems we can not get Councilor Fiebelcorn into a rational dialog. She does not return phone calls from leaders working on the stormwater issue.
Second, as another complication, Councilors Gibson, Fiebelcorn, and Ms. Dolan, decided to splice Mile Hi neighborhood into a $1.5 Million GO bond. This was left over from the City and AMAFCA’s (Albuquerque Metropolitan Flood Control Authority) failure to inflict a huge stormwater drainage pit into the beautiful Twin Parks, west of San Mateo. Volunteers in that area, particularly the McDuffy and Pueblo Alto neighborhoods, took three actions to counter the City and AMAFCA to save their park:
1) they formed the “Friends of Twin Parks,”
2) identified engineering expertise as well as,
3) legal council.
With all this organized opposition, the City pulled back their assault on Twin Parks, leaving $1.5 million unspent.
Third, Ms. Dolan insisted that stormwater from Mile Hi neighborhood was somehow contributing to Pueblo Alto neighborhood’s flooding, which it definitely is not. Mile Hi stormwater is collected from our on-street drainage system in 8 storm drains at Madeira and El Encanto, just east of San Mateo. From there it flows under the San Mateo noise wall and is spliced into the 8-foot diameter San Mateo main drain. Also, there is a raised median on San Mateo which prevents surface flows from crossing to Pueblo Alto.
On May 31, 2021, because of the City’s persistent failure to clean out the eight drain intake, our first “monsoon” rain of only one inch of rain, backed up against the San Mateo Noise/Art Wall and then surged underneath into the northbound lane of San Mateo causing one vehicle to hydroplane. To her credit, Policy Analyst for Councilor Gibson, Abby Styles, summoned the Streets and Stormdrain Division of the City Metropolitan Development Department MDD. They came out and unplugged the drains.
During the next two one-inch monsoon rains in July and September of 2021, also of one-inch, the Mile Hi on-street drainage system worked fine. Despite the obvious intervention of City Staff in fixing the May 31st problem, Ms. Dolan and GroundWorkStudio continue to make false statements alleging that the hydroplaning was due to an overflow of the 8-foot San Mateo Main Drain.
It should be noted that our series of thee one-inch rains in 2021 constituted a relatively mild monsoon season. Since that time, nothing comparable has occurred, mainly because we have entered a new phase of New Mexico climate called climate change. Central New Mexico, including all the Albuquerque metropolitan area, has been classified by meteorological science as having entered drought or severe drought conditions. Although it is very difficult to predict monsoons, as well as “non-soons,” it would be a safe bet to predict continuation of these trends. Obviously, this throws Councilor Fiebelkorn’s hugely expensive GSI project into serious question.
GREEN STORMWATER SCHEME
FIRST, it consists of a series of 9-foot wide pits, of varying lengths, on the sides of neighborhood streets, which many residents would call detention ponds, or mosquito breeding pits. Besides interfering with repairs to water, sewer and fiber optic lines, these pits may remain dry during this new weather paradigm.
SECOND, the GSI swales and bump outs consume a significant part of the standard 32-foot right-of-way for all neighborhood streets. When matched with required residential on-street parking, which also needs 9 feet, this only leaves, a usable street width of 14 feet. Imagine first responders, delivery trucks, home healthcare, Meals on Wheels or normal cars trying to pass in such a restricted right-of-way! This constriction of the right-of-way also endangers bicyclists, dog walkers, handicapped individuals and other pedestrians forced to use the streets for walking due to many driveway cuts on the sidewalks.
We must apologize for yet another layer of complication that, unfortunately, continues to be used by the City. AMAFCA had done a study of northeast heights stormwater flows from the southeast at Gibson and Moon, northwest across the Heights to San Mateo. They prognosticated that the drainage system would be over capacity making the main drains inadequate. These conclusions were challenged by engineering expertise within the Pueblo Alto neighborhood.
A report was submitted to the City’s MDD. They never responded. AMAFCA had never done actual measurements to test this northeast heights drainage system during monsoon events that might be similar to their projections. Also, for AMAFCA’s conclusions to be correct, a series of successive, overlapping monsoon storms would need to closely follow each other, like a parade of trained ponies, from the southeast to the northwest across the northeast Heights. This extremely rare event could only be predicted for a 1,000 or even a 5,000 year series of storm events. Computer modeling for such highly unusual cumulative storm events would be unreliable and therefore useless for planning.
Finally, long-term residents adjoining San Pedro and San Mateo have never, according to our knowledge, reported observing overflow of the main drains. Our Mile Hi on-street drainage system has been working for over 50 years and, like Mark Twain, needed some fixing.
MONEY SPONGE IS DISGUISED AS “SOLUTION”
The City has come up with a hugely expensive, two-part plan that unnecessarily creates more new impacts. Our Mile Hi neighborhood has been arbitrarily classified as a “pilot project” to test this GSI scheme.
PART ONE: another mind-blowing part of the proposed GSI pilot project for Mile Hi is a shortening, or complete elimination, of a quiet residential street, La Veta NE, between Summer and El Encanto. The original plan to destroy Twin Parks seems to have been reincarnated in this “pilot project.” Now, it would be to construct a very large detention pit excavated into La Veta NE. They euphemistically call this a “pocket park.” It seems this plan is replete with euphemisms to mask what’s really going on.
The addition of this detention pit on La Veta has been justified by the City because the AMAFCA study warns against adding any additional stormwater to the main drains. We have seen above how unsubstantiated that claim is.
PART TWO: The costs are ballooning. The first street in Mile Hi to be targeted for funding by the City’s on-call engineering firm, BHI, was Cardenas. They wanted $1.7 million from Federal, State and City sources, for a street that rarely, if ever, sees stormwater over the curb. It was glaringly obvious that our neighborhood, street by street, was intended to become a money sponge.
Special Project Manager, Diane Dolan, sent out grant applications to FEMA and the State Legislature for stormwater funds. FEMA denied the application especially since they were so involved with legitimate disaster relief in Northern NM for floods and fire. The State House Finance Committee denied a Capitol Outlay Request from Representative Christine Trujillo for $1.7 million, giving her instead, a token $100,000. Like FEMA, they also had far more important Statewide needs to address.
Rep. Trujillo has since retired. She told us she had received over 30 messages in support of her $1.7 Million Capital Outlay request, mostly from west of San Mateo. Among those were some that inclined toward personal smears. After submitting a public records request, we were denied copies of these messages. However, we have found this campaign turning toward personal attacks in other documents, including a defamatory statement in the public records of the City Council.
Around Halloween, we received a creepy visitor. An unfamiliar woman entered our front porch, and without knocking or ringing the doorbell, left an unsigned, unstamped letter in our mailbox. The letter presumably was to request a copy of our most recent informational flyer. In leaving our porch, the woman peered in through our living room window and stared briefly at us. The address on her letter was from the Pueblo Alto neighborhood area.
Our work has been on behalf of the Mile Hi area and has never presumed to speak for any other neighborhoods, including Pueblo Alto or McDuffy. Their stormwater needs are different, and in some parts, more severe than ours. Putting Mile Hi together with Pueblo Alto in the $1.5 Million GO bond and alleging that our stormwater contributed to their problems was a clever way of opening the door to creating a false impression that we might become in conflict with those neighborhoods. We are not.
We did 9 highly targeted public record requests (IPRAs) in order to find out what was really going on. These could have been answered in short responses within statutory time limits. Instead, we were deluged with over 10,000 pieces of information over a period of about three months, thereby violating the State Inspection of Public Records Act mandatory timelines . The requests tried to discover if the City had analyzed any alternatives for the few areas that needed fine tuning in the Mile Hi on-street drainage system. They had not done anything worthy of the name. BHI’s one standard alternative was permeable pavement which is notoriously expensive both in purchase and maintenance.
We also issued our first Action Alert, including some of the above information, and got it distributed to every resident and business within our boundaries.
Since that time, the Mile Hi Neighborhood board has kept their newsletters muted or completely silent on the stormwater issue. Not surprisingly, petitions we circulated to residents living on streets directly affected showed they did not know what was going on, had not been informed, and were alarmed. Everyone supported a full Environmental Analysis with viable alternatives, in an honest review similar to the Federal NEPA process.
Even with these petitions in hand from her own constituents, Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn did not change course. It seems as if she may have decided to make this one of her legacy projects. Failing to secure Federal or State monies, she has turned to other options. Plowing ahead, Councilor Fiebelkorn set up a special tour to the so called “pocket park” on La Veta. Those attending were mainly from Bernalillo County and City Parks and Recreation.
Another tedious round of record requests, at a minimum, would be necessary to uncover where Councilor Fiebelkorn and Special Project Manager Diane Dolan are planning to take all this. It is well beyond the time and patience of any neighbor.
EASY MONEY: CITY MUNICIPAL BONDS
Residents in Albuquerque are used to voting on municipal bonds. These are like motherhood and apple pie, and are almost always approved by a majority of voters. Very few voters ever have the patience and time to open the cupboard to see what is inside. Unlike earlier attempts to secure Federal and State funds, which were examined by Congressional and State Legislative committees, these funds simply take the Mayor’s approval together with the Council. City leaders like Ms. Fiebelkorn and Ms. Dolan know that this is a politically safe place to get money, whether justified or not.
This year’s bonds included an unusually large amount for Stormwater/Sewer: $14,310,000.00. Of that, we are informed $2 million will be available this year for Councilor Fiebelkorn to begin her GSI scheme. The on-call consultants BHI and GroundWorkStudio are already working with the Planning Department to prepare a design for the first 30% of the entire project. There will be a public meeting this fall to invite comments and discussion, although there has been no environmental analysis or consideration of viable alternatives. When announced, mark your calendars and please attend!
DINELLI COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
All voters and residents of District 7 need to pay special attention to how City Councilor Tammy Feibelkorn has treated Isaac and Sharon Eastvold. Having known the couple 38 years, I can say without reservation they truly understand the needs and concerns of District 7. They have done far more for our community than Fiebelkorn will ever hope to accomplish.
During the two years she has been an Albuquerque City Councilor, Tammy Fiebelkorn has exhibited a pattern of downright hostility towards constituents who oppose or who disagrees with her votes on policy and legislation. Although known for attending the District 7 Neighborhood Coalition meetings to give updates on what is happening in her district, she repeatedly takes issue with those who disagree with her at the meetings and who ask her to reconsider positions. She simply refuses to change her mind and then goes out of her way to offend. She has told the officers of the District 7 Neighborhood Coalition, which boasts membership of 10 neighborhood associations, that the coalition is not reflective of District 7 needs and concerns.
What is the most troubling is that City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn, in addition to what she is promoting for District 7’s storm drainage system as describe by the Easvold’s, she promotes her own personal agenda with little or no concern and many times no input for what her constituents really want.
There are 5 major examples of City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkcorn promoting her own personal agenda over the objections of many of her constituents and with little or no input from them:
- Progressive Democrat Fiebelkorn teamed up with Progressive District 6 City Councilor Pat Davis to sponsor a City Council Redistricting map that would have gutted both her own District 7 and Davis’s District 6. The redistricting map carved out a large portion of District 7 that was clearly more conservative in order to add the more progressive Nob Hill area in District 6 to Fiebelkorn’s District 7 in order to enhance her own re election chances. It was classic gerrymandering but the City Council rejected the redistricting.
- Fiebelcorn is a staunch supporter of Safe Outdoor Spaces which are city sponsored managed homeless encampments with 40 designated spaces for tents that allows for upwards of 50 people, require hand washing stations, toilets and showers, require a management plan, 6 foot fencing and social services offered. She voted for the changes to the city zoning laws that now allow Safe Outdoor Spaces in all 9 City Council Districts. Fiebelkorn sponsored legislation that failed that would have empowered the City Planning Department to unilaterally approve all Safe Outdoor Space Applications and totally eliminate the public’s right to challenge and appeal the applications and eliminated City Council intervention.
- Fiebelkorn supported and voted for major amendments to the city’s zoning laws that would have allowed the development of both “casitas” and “duplexes” in all existing residential developments and areas of town as permissive uses eliminating historic appeal rights of adjoining property owners in order to double or triple the city’s density. All the amendments to the city zoning laws Fiebelcorn voted for favored developers at the expense of homeowners and especially historical areas of the city.
- Fiebelkorn sponsored the “Residential Protection Ordinance” which was voted down by the city council. The ordinance was nothing more than an attempt at rent control which has been rejected by the New Mexico legislature and which Fiebelcorn unsuccessfully promoted.
- Fiebelkorn sponsored the “Residential Rental Permit Ordinance” which was voted down by the city council. The resolution was an attempt to limit and place caps on ownership of short term rentals and enact regulations of the “bed and breakfast” rental industry in the city.
It is more likely than not that Tammy Fiebelkcorn will be seeking a second term to the Albuquerque City Council in 2025. Informed sources are now saying that dissatisfaction with her has become so great by many of her District 7 constituents that they are actively seeking a candidate to run against her.
Let’s hope a strong candidate is found. Tammy Fiebelkcorn needs to become a one term city councilor.