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.