Taos Merchant Pleads For Council’s Attention

23 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

Due to the increasing number of “Plaza Closures,” combined with decreasing numbers in retail trade, Plaza merchants say they are growing more desperate. The perceived threat from the Town of Taos, whether in the form of the Saturday Farmers Market, extended closure due to special events or poorly administered and scheduled traffic controls, will be the subject of a Taos Plaza Merchants meeting with Councilor Judi Cantu, on Wed. April 29 at 6 pm at El Taoseno Room at the ...

Potholes, Abeyta Vendidos, Taos Lessons Learned

16 April, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

The Carrot and the Stick After one year and one month, the Mayor of Potholes, one Dan Barrone, has doffed his cap, donned his work gloves, and offered to assist Le Francais (Francisco “French” Espinosa), the Town’s own Director of Public Works. According to Le Francais’s allusions to the “mayor’s letter,” it sounds like the Mayor wants to duck the epithet “potholes” and substitute “resurfacing” as a proper nickname. We’re glad El Patron finally kicked some ass at town hall. According to ...

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 ...

Blankenhorn’s Defense of El Prado Water and Sanitation’s Transfer

23 February, 2015
By: Contributor

From the Desk of Tom Blankenhorn Taos County Regular Commission Meeting February 17, 2015 El Prado Water and Sanitation District Proposed Water Rights Transfer In 2012, a prior Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the transfer of water rights from the Gallagher and Top of the World ranches, located north of Questa, to the El Prado Water and Sanitation District. After several hours of public testimony and nearly an hour in Executive Session, the current Commission voted 3-2 to withdraw the protest. I was one of the three Commissioners who voted to withdraw the protest, and I did so for the following reasons. The El Prado Water and Sanitation District purchased the water rights in question because the State Engineer determined that the District needs water rights from the Rio Grande basin in order to satisfy the District’s water usage. The Gallagher and ...

Commissioners Vote 3-2 to drop protest against El Prado Transfer

18 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future were in the Taos County Commission chambers. The elected ones voted three to two to drop the protest against El Prado Water and Sanitation District’s (EPWSD) requested transfer of 250 acre feet of water from the Gallagher Ranch in northern Taos County, up there in the area of Sunshine. Former Questa mayor Esther Garcia spoke against permitting the transfer, noting the need for water and water rights by Questenos and their vecinos up north in Cerro, Costilla, Amalia, etc. But the current mayor of Questa, also a commissioner, Mark Gallegos, voted with the Taos boys, Blankenhorn and Fambro to drop the protest against a third good old boy, the District’s John Painter. Commission chair Blankenhorn spoke persuasively as if the defendant’s attorney, offering him leading questions and soft ...

Windex and Whiteout on Saturday Night

14 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

(Scandals always break on Saturday night when nobody's reading or listening.) Francisco “French” Espinoza, public works director for the town of Taos, doesn’t mince words when describing some of his department’s biggest headaches: He says Gusdorf Road is “screwed up bad,” Camino del Medio is “littered with potholes,” and the condition of the Plaza in the heart of downtown is “horrible. --J.R. Logan, The Taos News Last year Taos Friction complimented the new team at Town Hall for their attention to the “clean” streets and flower boxes around the Plaza. While Mayor Barrone and Manager Bellis focused their attention on the Farmer’s Market, and listened to the happy sound of the Kongos or lit up the Plaza like a Hallmark card at Christmas, they missed the ghost haunting the roads. Despite claims about “revitalization,” as the last honest man at Town Hall, ...

It’s a Plane, It’s a Train, It’s Superman…

9 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

  From Kit Carson to Arthur Manby to Rick Bellis! The White Buffalo Invokes His “Linkedin” CV It is rare for a community to find a virtual saint, the proverbial man on the white horse, a man with a spit and polish bio, who, truth be known, has already saved the community (town and county) numerous times, sitting up there on the dais. Read the CV and weep, Taosenos. The “CV” below suggests its writer is a richly imaginative man. The documentation signifies a man determined, not unlike his twin, William Macy (separated at birth) the car salesman from Fargo. All this or any man needs is a bag of asphalt and concrete mix for Dan, a new sign on the park for Fritz, and a wood chipper for Judi. By golly, after saving the Town from the plague of potholes, the Biblical locusts and ...

Culture Vultures and The Ostrich Syndrome

8 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

PUBLIC ART AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION: In New Mexico and Taos, Yesterday and Today Culture Vultures At Saturday’s informative day-long discussion of public art and historic preservation, hosted at the Historic Taos County Courthouse by Taos County, the County’s Art and Artifacts Review Committee, and the Taos Council of the Arts, it became apparent that the community of Taos, regardless of political inertia, is poised to enter a new phase of activity in response to its own historical-cultural roots. Perhaps the most inspirational example of hard work in pursuit of the New Deal contribution came from Kathryn Flynn, Executive Director of the “National New Deal Preservation Association” of New Mexico. She reiterated the buzzwords that keep her organization’s attention riveted on its goals: “preservation, conservation, and restoration.” Flynn’s book, Public Art and Architecture in New Mexico, 1933-1943, a guide to the New Deal Legacy, is ...

Clawback Time: Crimes Against Children

6 February, 2015
By: Bill Whaley

In a story about the need for $2.5 million by J.R. Logan in The Taos News this week, the reporter mentions the amount needed for problems at the Youth and Family Center with walls, roof, failing stucco and plaster, as well as mold. But he doesn’t tell you why the ice rink (1999) and swimming pool (2004) were designed and built in such a shoddy manner. As I understand it, the architect Gorge de la Torre (RIP) designed both buildings but did not bid on the contract. Rather he was hired by avoiding the “Request for Proposal" (RFP) requirments re: the procurement code and the payments for the fee were segmented or reduced below the professional limits of $50,000, strictly a no-no, The swimming pool itself, initally a $2.5 million dollar project, more or less, ballooned to more than $3.5 million ...