A group of Sandoval County residents want their commissioners replaced.
Organized by John Veltri, a report was presented at the Sept. 27 county commission meeting that showed how 172 residents responded to a question about how they feel about the five current county commissioners and Deputy County Manager John Garcia, who has led meetings and introduced a ban regarding the feeding of wild horses in Placitas, which many residents have been vocal in opposition to.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Marijo Streetz, the secretary of the New Mexico Election Transparency Network, introduced the unofficial survey and explained to the commission why it was conducted.
“We the people come before you tonight with hopes of change; the change we seek is not tied to any legislation or issue. It’s more of a look-in-the-mirror type,” Streetz said. “The change we seek lies within each of your hearts and minds. We have exercised our freedom of speech in a variety of styles and formats over the past 18 months. However, this information presented to you tonight for your benefit, gathered by your constituents, we hope will leave a lasting impression on each one. Please remember we the people have your best interests in mind. We are here to work with you to represent and carry out the will of the citizens of Sandoval County. We feel it is paramount as servants on this commission that each of you know and understand the desires of the people you serve beyond those that attend these meetings month after month. Awareness is the first step to change. Tonight, we attempt to raise your awareness.”
Veltri, the founder and chairman of NMET Network, worked with volunteers to ask 172 Sandoval County residents which commissioners they would like to see replaced. Veltri said each of the 172 residents were asked, “Based on the past and current performance and your future expectations, please check which Sandoval County employee and commissioners would you like to see replaced.” The presentation was called “Sandoval County Opinion Poll/Report Card.”
The results saw 170 people in favor of District 1 Commissioner Katherine Bruch being replaced, 151 wanting District 2 Commissioner Jay Block to be replaced, 163 for District 4 and Commission Chair Dave Heil to be replaced, 159 for District 3 Commissioner Michael Meek and 141 for District 5 Commissioner Joshua Jones to be replaced. Deputy County Manager John Garcia was also on the survey, and 162 people wanted him replaced.
Veltri provided The Observer with a copy of the names and signatures of each person who participated and a list of which commissioners they said they want replaced.
County leaders had questions about the way the report card was conducted.
County Manager Wayne Johnson said it was not an official poll but rather the opinion of a group who dislike the commissioners.
“This wasn’t a poll by anybody’s definition of a poll. It was at best where you went around to all your friends and people that you know don’t like these folks and say, ‘Here, sign this telling me who you hate,'” Johnson said. “It is kind of what it is, but it’s nothing more than, at best, it’s a petition. It’s not a representative sample of Placitas. This is not a representative sample of Rio Rancho or Sandoval County or anywhere and they went and presented as if it was that type of survey. It wasn’t.”
“A poll with no premise is lacking in integrity,” Heil said.
Johnson said the results of the survey were presented during the public comments portion of the meeting, which is designed to let residents share their opinions or issues they may have with the county because the survey was just opinion.
“It’s nothing more at this point than their opinion, one way or the other,” Johnson said. “You could also call it selection bias. If I want to go out and find somebody that doesn’t like the commission, I can just go and find people that they take an adverse action against, or that they claim to be adverse actions. So that’s not a very it’s not a scientific poll. It doesn’t represent the views of a majority of the people in Sandoval County.
“If they want to claim that there’s a group of people that don’t like the commission, the actions they’ve taken recently, that would be an accurate statement. But we don’t govern by polls. We govern through representative democracy. And each one of those commissioners represents a district. They listen to their constituents, and they make decisions for their district but also for the county at large. The commission is elected, and that’s the proper determination of whether or not they should be sitting in that seat. You know, Commissioner Jones was appointed due to a vacancy, but he’ll have to go before the voters next year, and they’ll have the ultimate say. All of them, not just 172.”
“I very much appreciate, as always, the people’s voice, per their right under the Constitution,” Block said. “While I am unsure of the scientific method used for this poll, I will keep working as I have for the people to keep pushing Sandoval County forward. And we have done just that for the last seven years under Republican leadership.”
Bruch declined to comment, and Meek and Jones did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Jones is the only commissioner up for re-election in 2024. Block and Heil both “term out” and thus are in their final term on the commission.
“This is a moment of truth, or as Marijo said, raising your awareness. Over the past four weeks, Sandoval County citizens have conducted an opinion poll/report card that was conducted based on the past and current performance over the past 19 months as well as their expectations of you in their eyes, as your constituents who you serve,” Veltri said. “The question was simple, ‘Who would you like to see replaced?’ Not fired, not resign or recalled, but simply replaced. The opinion poll was conducted by volunteers throughout the community in multiple locations. The question I pose to each of you now, especially you Joshua, who has an opportunity to be re-elected, is what are you going to do with the factual data to improve the opinions of your constituents going forward? If you choose to do nothing, then we the people will have to take matters into our own hands and consider using the New Mexico recall process. The ball is in your court now.”