Personal problems and other distractions have taken a toll in Mountain View.
Silva has had recent flare-ups of heart trouble and diabetes, which required surgery, and he has a daughter with cerebral palsy who needs his attention. Painter, now 60, has a host of medical problems requiring hospitalization and surgery.
Moore, who fired off the SWOP letter in 1990, is now a 63-year-old jail inmate, serving a six-month term for a drunken-driving accident that left a young Air Force recruit with brain injuries. His stepdaughter, Encinias, now 34, moved out of Mountain View and took time off to have a baby; she just returned to the SNEEJ office.
Even Dominguez needed to take a break from Mountain View; he earned an architecture degree and moved to a comfortable suburb three years ago. Now he's 26 and busy doing marketing for Chicano businesses. "We just get tired of fighting these companies," he says. Sometimes he fears it's a "waste of the community's time -- people have to meet three times a week for a year, neglecting families, then (the companies) get the permit anyway and we feel defeated. We're left to fend for ourselves, working against industry and the city and county (governments). That's what I saw in my nine years working on the issues in Mountain View. The city and county and industry are really good friends all the time and the only ones who care about the Mountain View community are the actual community members."
South Valley Partners for Environmental Justice -- which is backed by the county environmental health department, the University of New Mexico and the nonprofit Rio Grande Development Corp. -- is winding down; its federal grant ran out last August. Silva is doing "pro-bono work" to finish the project's reports, creating "a communications model" that shows how to use focus groups composed of activists, business owners, Spanish speakers and others to develop a strategy for working with agencies and experts.
Last October, at the latest annual meeting of the neighborhood association, not enough members showed up to have a normal board election, so the rules had to be suspended to allow an election anyway. "It was sad," Painter says. "It's an indication of how distraught and disenfranchised people feel over the sector plan being thrown out. It confirmed what people thought all along, their feelings of powerlessness -- they don't really count."
Grice, 50, who attended nearly every monthly meeting of the Air Quality Control Board for five years, is less assertive in running the neighborhood association than some would like. But she got a $20,000 EPA environmental justice grant in 2009 to help local residents learn how to be involved in permitting decisions. Some of the grant paid for another cleanup of illegal dumping, with people collecting enough discarded furniture, tires, mattresses, trash and yard waste to fill 10 rented Dumpsters. She finally got county approval to put up a marquee at the community center for spreading messages -- the culmination of a four-year battle. She got streetlights installed in one area of the neighborhood -- a 10-year battle. She also got state funding to install emergency lights and a crossing arm on an unmarked rail spur used by chlorine tanker rail cars -- a decades-long battle. "In Mountain View, we always have an issue," she says.
Infighting and racial tensions surface even among the Mountain View campaigners. Some are trying to start new environmental justice groups. Painter founded Mountain View Community Action about two years ago, as another project of the Rio Grande Development Corp., but it still has no members or staff; she has about 3,000 names on a mailing list, but no money to do a mass mailing. "Basically, it's just a shell waiting to be filled in," she says.
Silva, Dominguez and Encinias talk about starting Vecinos de Mountain View. Dominguez says he envisions Vecinos (neighbors) as a group that would "really represent the demographics of the area," with staff and an attorney "to stand up to industry." The Chicano activists believe Painter is still tainted by her "white privileged" background, as one puts it -- even though Painter's father was a mechanic and her mother was a hairdresser. Another says Grice is "in over her head."
One of the white activists responds that Silva is prejudiced against whites. He "is still fighting the old battles -- Chicano nationalism. He cares a lot about the environmental health issues, accepts that we have to work together, but he's living in the past." And Painter, who's also a board member of New Mexico Conservation Voters, laments, "I'm a leftist, a liberal Democrat, but the racial tone of everything (makes political work) so delicate, I just hate it. If I were to look back on (my) 30 years of doing this work, I would say at least 30 percent of that time has been (spent) fighting my own people who were supposed to be doing the same work."
"I think we lost the battle but the war is still going on," Dominguez says. "It might take another decade to see real progress. It won't come so much from passing laws to protect the community. Economics will help solve it" -- as Albuquerque keeps growing, he expects that Mountain View will attract nicer developments.
They still have dreams for their neighborhood. Affordable housing on some of the pollution-cleanup sites, for instance. And sidewalks. And a definitive study of the environmental health problems. And a strategy to recruit cleaner industries, such as manufacturers of solar-power equipment. Maybe the Vulcan cement company would donate the land across from the community center to become more public recreation facilities. Maybe they could raise several million dollars to buy 50 or 100 acres of an alfalfa field next to the river bosque; geese and cranes flock there, and it would make wonderful permanent open space.
The latest spill from a bulk terminal occurred in December: 35,000 gallons of aviation gas when a pipe froze. It was mostly contained by a clay-lined berm, but yet another study will determine whether it reached groundwater.
The land where they shut down the race track has been sold to a guy who's using it to recycle concrete slabs from an I-25 reconstruction. The slabs are piled several stories high; all the crushing and hauling creates more clouds of dust. And on the ag land that used to be a chicken-egg operation, another cement company wants to move into Mountain View.
This story was funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.