Taos: News from the Underbelly

21 May, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

A number of issues are boiling around the Town of Taos, creating divisiveness, during a time when Taosenos should be pulling together. Due to a lack of leadership and consensus building by the Mayor and the Council, the usual hostility has cropped up. Instead of realists, engaged in the nuts and bolts of governing, we have apparently elected a few “top-down idealists” (elitists?) at Town Hall, who wish to impose an incomplete or unannounced vision on the community. Go figure. 1. ...

Taos: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

19 May, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

El Mitote At a time when the gross receipts taxes related to tourism, whether in the retail or hospitality sectors, appear to be flat or declining in Taos, the Barrone Administration, Town Council, and Executive Staff have yet to recognize their own responsibility in creating the crisis and divisiveness in the community. Barrone and Bellis took 13 months to hire a coordinator for marketing and organizing advertising buys. Now we hear, a month later, she’s gone, due to poor vetting by the ...

Taylor’s Long Walk to Taos

17 May, 2015
By: Contributor

By Taylor Streit Since there’s a plan in the works to carve a trail 500 miles along the Rio Grande, I thought I would contribute my two cents. I’ve spent a good portion of my life along its banks: fishing and making a living, guiding fly fisherman but also bird-watching, hunting and soaking up the solitude. Since I figure it was all pretty well done to start with, I’m not much in favor of any sort of development out of doors. This proposed trail means to encourage “use.” I guess that is a good idea to most but seems contrary to me. Let’s imagine what a trail marching north to Colorado along the Rio might be like, starting from Mexico. Commencing at Juarez, you slide down a concrete embankment to get to the Rio (wear some bright yuppie backpacker gear so you ...

Paranoia: Smoke and Mirrors at the Town of Taos

14 May, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

“We came into office talking about openness and transparency but this smacks of an old-bro deal,” [Fritz Hahn] told Cantu (The Taos News online post) "The yard sale to honor Cesar Chavez and the Xicano Movement is unbelievably insulting and naive. Taos will become the laughing stock of Aztlan if that were to occur. How about one for Martin Luther King? How bout Jesus himself? Yes! Clean the Closet for Christ - Amen brorthers and sisters! And use public money to do it. Yes! Celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation with a 7 mile yard sale, Free yourself from your unwanted possessions! Yes Sir! Wait! A 9/11 mile yard sale. You honor a social movement and icons with parades, alters, celebrations, and charitable acts - not crass yard sales so people can get rid of crap in the yard, barn, garage and closet." —Helen ...

Public Works, Planning and Zoning, Taxes and Controversy

6 May, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

El Sombrero Negro: the Cowboy and Public Works One can never truly tell whether “incompetency” or “conspiracy” is at the heart of subverting the procurement code or due process in greater Taos. Over at the Public Works Department, French Espinosa’s shadow government, the contracts for cuates program frequently gets renewed, due to inaction, with lucrative results for engineers. For instance: in 2006 the Town entered into a contract with Souder Miller & Associates for $643,083.92 for engineering water improvements in the Weimar area during the Duran administration. The contract expired on 12.31.2007 and was renewed 1.29.2008 and the budget was revised. The Weimar Foothills water line distribution project was added. In May of 2010 the contract was amended and the budget revised. On July 1, 2014 the Town entered into another contract for $337,552.67, which contract includes a fee of “104,802.01" to ...

Merchants Speak, Council Listens, Public Works Info

30 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Due to my obligations as an instructor at UNM’s Bachelor and Graduate program I arrived late at Councilor Cantu’s meeting with Taos Plaza Merchants last night. As a practiced politician, Councilor Andrew Gonzales spoke eloquently, admitting that he might have been wrong to support the Farmer’s Market in the past and said he would introduce a motion at the next Council Meeting to offer alternatives that could resolve the controversy on the Plaza. Indeed, several creative suggestions were offered as alternatives to closing the Plaza: the return to Town Hall on Camino de la Placita; moving to Kit Carson Park; reconfiguring the set-up and spreading throughout the alleys to the Dunn House Parking Lot; and moving back to the original site at the Taos County Courthouse Complex. Moving back to the Courthouse has been the position of Daniel Carmona, I believe, ...

Taos Crackpots at Town Hall

28 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

The Plaza Merchants are being subjected not to “gentrification” but to “gringofication” i.e. "crackpot ideas." Gentrification refers to renovations and upscale development at, for instance, Taos Ski Valley. Skiing today is so expensive and therefore selective that one can see little practical alternative to Mr. Bacon’s vision. Those of us who live down in the valley benefit from the economic “trickle down” similarly to the way the acequia culture benefits from the trickles coming down from the watershed. Down here in Taos Valley, however, and, especially in the historic district of Taos, the newly elected Mayor, Councilor, and Manager are trying to transform the funky charm and long time Taos appeal with notions of “Gringofication.” The promotion of the Farmer’s Market, the capricious closure of the historic Plaza, the arbitrary use of taxpayer dough for concerts, turning a blind eye to corruption ...

Shakespearean Melodrama in Taos District Court

25 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

King Lear Transformed “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless [sister]” (Lear. I.iv.288-89). Allen v. Northrup The Sign Man, who defended the First Amendment, despite verbal attacks by talk-show thugs, assaults by the Tow Truck Gang, and who suffered the prejudices of cops and judges, judges who protected the perverse claims of witnesses who perjured themselves in municipal and district court, last year was liberated from ignominy and dubbed a “Taos Living Treasure” by the community, La Gente, the people who most admire Jeff Northrup. They admire him for both his political courage and also for his compassion toward man’s best friends, the animals: “It’s cold tonight, bring your pets inside.” And/or “Gas is cheaper at Smith’s.” Oh yes he has the courage of his convictions and the generosity and loyalty of a lion. He also trusted and loved ...

Taos Commissioners Protest TOW Transfer!

22 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

(Editor’s Note: Here’s to Rick Smith at Brodsky Bookshop, John Nichols, and all the folks who showed up Friday, April 17 for a book signing and reading of Gringo Lessons. Yours truly was much moved by the SRO crowd and sales of some forty books, some to strangers. Thank you very much. You can still buy the book at Brodsky or from me as well as from the Historic Museums and from SOMOS. Watch this space for announcements about readings and retail opportunities.) Kudos to J.R. Logan for his fine stories on water issues, TOW controversies, and the Abeyta-Taos Pueblo Water Settlement during the last two editions of The Taos News. Clip’em and keep’em for the historical record. I spoke with the reporter himself yesterday and he’s passionate about the subject. More importantly, yesterday, April 21, the Taos County Commissioners voted unanimously ...

John Nichols Reviews “Gringo Lessons”

1 April, 2015
By: Contributor

Review by John Nichols Taos, NM Gringo Lessons is Bill Whaley's rollicking (and scarifying) dance down the New Mexico yellow brick road with myriad assassins hiding behind every bush, every movie theater, every cantina, every bank, and every personal relationship eager to ambush the author, muckraker, and entrepreneur par excellence, who, over the last fifty years, has somehow remained determined to conquer Taos, New Mexico by declaring bankruptcy every couple of years while repeatedly doing exquisitely athletic leaps off of the Northern New Mexico economic and cultural high diving board into an empty swimming pool. You have to admire his chutzpah even as you wonder if he was dropped on his head as an infant or at least bucked off a large horse on his parents ' Nevada ranch when he was just knee-high to a slot machine. Whaley seems to have had ...

Taos Turmoil: Changing of the Guard

28 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

The mainstream news cycle frequently focuses on short-term reports and events, as do our elected fathers and mothers at the County and Town. Given the demands of governing and in view of this or that crisis, one can’t rightfully blame the blind for their condition. Right now the community is ill-served by past decisions that ignored and have undermined current attempts at managing emergencies i.e. water transfers, failure of Capital Outlay bills, the Broadband fiasco, and the dimming lights at the DA’s office. We live in a time here in Taos when the local communities and private voices, more and more, are speaking up and picking up the slack, due to the absence of a long-term vision from elected officials. The status quo who talks and offers quips but no analysis is scrambling to avoid drought and failed plans due to ...

Town Discusses Crucial Issues at Tuesday AM Workshop

21 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Tourism, Finance, and Road Repair Funding will be on the Town’s Tuesday morning, March 24 "workshop" agenda at 9 am. The city fathers and one mother have scheduled, after a whole year, a "whole hour of discussion" for this breakout meeting and exercise in transparency. The new director of tourism and marketing is scheduled to make a presentation. We’re not sure what is on the agenda for finance but wonder if the historic violations of the procurement code will be discussed? The community should be very interested in whether the Town plans to discuss filling the potholes or just in covering them up. Let us hope lots of people show up, including the members of the town council, who claim, like the rest of us, that they are the last to know what plans if any, Barrone, Hahn, and Bellis have for the community. It's ...

To Possess the Water and Historic Preservation?

18 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Who is Manby? According to friction sources, Santa Fe County and the BIA filed applications with the State Engineer to transfer the water rights in January from Top of the World properties in northern Taos County. The water rights were sold years ago unbeknownst to Santa Fe County. El Valle's Kay Matthews, the loyal Taosena, who publishes La Jicarita was about the only protestor. Now we’re told that the Taos County Clerk has no record of the transfer application. Santa Fe County appears to be in violation of the Taos County Public Welfare Ordinance. But the majority of Taos County Commissioners seem to care more about satisfying the movida makers and water marketers who are signatories of the Abeyta/Taos Pueblo Water Settlement than they do protecting water sources and watersheds in Taos. Once again Questa, Costilla, Amalia, Cerro, Sunshine Valley appear to ...

No Locals Need Apply, Part II

13 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Out of Nothing, Nothing Comes Though I am informed that only a small percentage of non-locals work at Town Hall, my source is suspect and biased by “social engineering.” Those who, as Taosenos say, “are not from here” currently fill all or most of the elite and more powerful positions at Town Hall. There appears to be little opportunity for upward mobility or experienced nortenos. Even the native Taosenos on the Town Council can’t seem to get the “information” they need, due to the manager’s and attorney’s “metaphysical claims and nonsense” about the code. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? In terms of life and death “potholes” might be considered trivial but there is a consensus among the community and even at The Taos News that the issue requires attention: what does the Town propose to do? If ...

Palemon Retires, Scandalous Photos, No Locals Need Apply

8 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Retirement Party In a moment wet with historical importance, parciantes voted to replace the legendary acequia commissioner and Taos Valley Acequia Association president, Palemon Martinez as ditch commissioner on the upper Acequia Madre del Rio Lucero. Martinez garnered only 16 votes to to Leo Valencia’s 42 votes in a resounding decision by parciantes, who had prepared a plaque honoring Palemon’s fifty years of service. The decision was firm but polite and seen as necessary in order to prepare for the implementation of the Abeyta agreement on March 31, 2017. According to attendees, many of Martinez’s previous supporters and family members voted with their feet and did not attend the annual meeting. Juan Garcia is commissioner on the lower part of the ditch and Fermin Torres, who sits as commissioner for the middle ditch, remains as treasurer of the commission despite the encroaching ...

Babbitry and Boosterism

5 March, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

When small towns build airports you can bet on hearing from your local booster, aka Mr. “Babbit,” named after the bestselling novel of same, written by Sinclair Lewis (1922), which literary work helped Lewis win the Nobel Prize in literature. The novel depicts the middle class American culture of conformity. Wherever you hear community leaders discuss the “need” for a fast food franchise, a chain store, or an airport, you will hear from this fellow Mr. Babbit and his clones. He will talk always discuss the “promise” of development and how investment today will solve the community’s problems in the future. He learned his trade from the church fathers, who reassure mourners that the dead will live eternally in a “better place,” i.e. the "future." When it comes to “business” and “regional economic development,” Mr. Babbit, a member of the local ...

Don’t Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls: Fighting Words

24 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

“I feel sorry for Taos County.” –Virgil Martinez Commissioners at Taos County, Tom B., Jim F., and Mark G., voted to deny a protest, recommended by the county’s Public Welfare Advisory Committee against allowing the El Prado Water and Sanitation District’s (EPWSD) John Painter to transfer controversial northern Taos County water rights from the Questa area’s Gallagher Ranch to the Taos Valley. Similarly Commissioners last year ignored a recommendation by the Committee to protest the transfer of water rights from a Questa ditch to El Salto’s Rio Lucero, a project promoted by mayordomo and Abeyta guru, one Palemon Martinez. The acquisition of water rights falls under the “financial” purview of the controversial Abeyta water settlement. Under this agreement water trickles uphill toward money. Both these water rights transfers originate from watersheds that are different from the watersheds that shelter the Abeyta—Taos Pueblo Water ...