Alibi V.13 No.2 • Jan 8-14, 2004 

Thin Line

Shhh ... don't talk about water. It seemed more like Mad magazine or National Lampoon, but at a closer look, it was indeed the Albuquerque Journal, running a frontpage headline on Tuesday, Dec. 30, that read “Rio Rancho Gaining Momentum.”

The caption next to a photo of Rio Rancho's mayor stated that the town's leadership hopes to make “Rio Rancho the Dallas to Albuquerque's Fort Worth.” This, despite first impression, was not a satire.

The story's premise—that Rio Rancho actually has a sensible, forward-looking plan to “boost economic development”—is supported by three examples. One, that the town is “expanding incentives to lure shopping malls” and also aims to be a city that offers wireless Internet service to everyone. Two, the annexation of Quail Ranch, a 6,500 acre patch of desert that will be transformed into a giant cookie-cutter neighborhood, just like practically everywhere else in Rio Rancho, will somehow make Rio Rancho better off in the future than it is today. And three, the city will entice developers to build infrastructure through that old stand-by—tax breaks.

The thought of Rio Rancho “gaining momentum” thanks to these examples is about as silly as The Commitments trying to bring soul to Dublin. By any reasonable measure—pollution, traffic, no town center, long commute times, overbuilt cheap housing, limited water resources—Rio Rancho's economic growth model is exactly what cities from Portland, Maine to Portland Ore., Denver, Austin, Nashville and Providence have been moving away from for years.

While this fact was ignored by Journal reporter Dan McKay, other obvious issues were glossed over. Does Rio Rancho even have enough water to support Quail Ranch?

The article quotes Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez rightfully asking this question. But why the hell didn't McKay attempt to answer it?

He could have at least posed the question to Rio Rancho's mayor, whom he quotes extensively. But, when it comes to in-depth reporting at the Journal, it seems that would be asking too much.

Aftershock. Pouring salt into the wound of journalistic incompetence, the editorial page followed the story the next day, Wednesday, Dec. 31, with an editorial entitled, “Competition for Jobs Really Heating Up.” Except, the headline had nothing to do with the article.

In fact, nowhere in the editorial is the word “jobs” even mentioned. Nor does the editorial mention what kind of jobs might (in some mayor's fantasy) actually exist in Rio Rancho in the future.

The writer, however, identifies Quail Ranch as the primary example of Rio Rancho's “bring it on” attitude toward economic development. Hello, Journal? Building single-family homes in Rio Rancho is nothing new and hardly anything we in Albuquerque should care about, economically speaking, as long as they don't take any of our water to do it.

Also, I'm no demographer, but the idea that Albuquerque is suddenly competing for jobs with Rio Rancho is asinine. Maybe that's why the Journal failed to elaborate beyond the bogus headline.

If the Journal editorial board woke up to today's reality, they would understand that long-term economic development in Albuquerque depends on growing a workforce to serve our nation's still-emerging, high-tech economy—not competing with Rio Rancho's out-dated and moronic economic and urban planning models.