http://alibi.com/feature/41342/article.html
Feature
‹‹ V.21 No.16 | April 19 - 25, 2012

Feature

Angela West

By Margaret Wright
Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

Foes : Air and water pollution, sprawl and pavement
Neighborhood : Mountain View

A longtime resident of the South Valley who helped start the Mountain View Neighborhood Association 30 years ago, President Angela West is well-versed in the ups and downs of the community she calls home. She says she’s also proud that her association protects the future while staying rooted in the past.

The area was first settled by predominantly Hispanic farmers who cultivated orchards, vineyards and livestock. West says that contemporary studies paint a complex picture of residents trying to balance traditional ways of life against growth and economic development.

“We have a lower- to middle-range economic profile, but we also have the highest density of property ownership in the county. Families have been there a long time,” she says. “We also have some of the highest rates of asthma ... as well as some of the highest rates of families with young children.”

“We were tired of looking at what we didn’t want and decided to look toward what we do want.”

All these factors contribute to a legacy of tension over the kind and concentration of nearby industry. West says for decades, residents have raised concerns about the municipal water treatment plant, heavy industry and truck traffic, and a lack of compliance oversight for water and air pollution standards.

While they continue to keep a close eye on both existing and proposed development in the area, West says the association’s approach has shifted in recent years.

“We were tired of looking at what we didn’t want and decided to look toward what we do want.”

That meant taking stock of the the area, then highlighting its strengths. The association began seeking funding and hitting up other community groups for help. The grant-funded nonprofit Place Matters helped document health issues in the area. Meanwhile, the Trust for Public Land is in the final stages of working with Bernalillo County to create a 570-acre Urban Wildlife Refuge on former dairy farmland.

West says she can imagine a stressed Downtown worker finding peace and quiet in the wilderness area within minutes of the office. Or a single parent taking the kids to explore and watch birds on the cheap. “We see these not only as important social values and certainly important to our neighborhood, but we also see it as economic stimulus.”

The neighborhood association teamed up with the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture and Planning. Graduate students are surveying residents and businesses to hatch a plan that could breathe new life into the southern stretch of Second Street.

West says all this work taught the neighborhood association that a plan to create nature- and heritage-based tourism could bring in money—and not just to the immediate area.

“We see our value to the larger Albuquerque metropolitan area to be our open space, heritage and culture,” says West. The plans, she says, are not “pies in the sky” but based on data.

On a personal level, West says the work of Mountain View's neighbors has helped her overcome a sense of hopelessness about politics. “The grassroots is where the true strength of the American democratic community lies.”