Exploiting Taosenos: SignBusters and Honoring Those We Serve
Lawlessness in Community
During the last mayoral election, Chicano Chamber VP Gene Sanchez, who supported his handpicked candidate, Fritz Hahn, for Town Council, advised the eventual winner that the Town should do a “forensic audit”. Sanchez claimed the reserves had disappeared from the town’s treasury and wanted to know who was responsible and why violations of the procurement code seemed so egregious. Once Hahn and Barrone, the Mayoral candidate, Sanchez also supported, got in to office, the Two Gringos hired a third as Manager, Rick Bellis.
Sanchez said he was particularly concerned by the scandal involving Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and the Town of Taos regarding the violations of the anti-donation clause, during the design and construction of the ill-fated Kit Carson Command Center. At the Sanchez office, file folders, including taped recordings of interviews with architects, back up claims that outline the alleged violations of the state procurement code and Anti-donation clause in the amount of $183,000.
Shortly after the election of Barrone, Hahn, and then teammate Judi Cantu, a whistle-blower and member of the Town’s Finance Department met with Hahn, Sanchez, and other members of the Chicano Chamber. The former manager (Oscar Rodriguez) fired the whistle blower during the interim. The whistle blower himself outlined evidence, alleging that Town Department heads and others violated the code.
A second whistle blower came forward with allegations and documentation citing “misdeeds” in the Public Works Department.
Insiders at the Town’s Police Department say the Chief, consistently overlooks alleged time fraud by employees, who allegedly do little or nothing to justify their paychecks. The crime rate subsequently has fallen: no citations, no crime.
Both Barrone and Hahn have said in private and/or in public that they are going to overlook the past as long as employees play it straight under the current administration, despite the sworn duty of public officials to uphold the “constitution” of both the federal and state governments, not to mention town ordinances re: wrong-doers.
Last week the public learned that the Mayor and Manager, apparently supported by Hahn, have omitted hiring a “Chief Building Official” or a “Code Enforcement Officer.” Bellis mumbled about the high cost and suggested a few “garage permits” didn’t justify a full time building official. He said the Town had shifted responsibility to the state’s Construction Industry’s Division for plan checking and enforcement. Bellis also explained that the Town should not enforce the sign code because business is so marginal that punishing merchants with code violations could drive them into penury.
For the last week or so a “4 foot by 8 foot banner” advertising the Sept. 24-26 Red River Folk Festival has been hanging from the façade of the moribund Plaza Theatre building on the Plaza. The promotion of the Red River Folk Festival coincides with Taos Fall Arts.
The town itself has posted about five (5) signs on the public bathroom, adjacent to the Alley Cantina, including an unsightly banner. Like the relatively new stop sign at the northeast corner of the central park in the Plaza, all of the above-mentioned signs are situated in the historic district. Unsightly sandwich boards, posted hither and yon, around the Plaza and up and down the Paseo greet tourists and locals who come to view Fall Arts, the changing colors of the trees, and the culture of the community?
Understanding and Advice
The “minority” members of the Town Council, the Three Chicanos, have duly requested that the Manager’s Contract be put on the agenda for months now but the Three Amigos, coincidentally the “Boosters of Gentrification” have refused. Few native Taosenos participate in the Farmer’s Market and the Mayor’s Garish Tree lights on the Plaza at Christmas obscure the farolitos on the historic Plaza buildings
The Community’s traditions are being drowned out by a rising tide of newcomers led by the Mayor himself.
Since I have little understanding of the community, according to the Mayor, I asked the ageless Geno Sanchez, a former councilor, about the passage of political power from the Chicanos to the Gringos. “It began in 1847,” he said. “Then came Manby and the Broken Wheelers.” He continued, “When you’ve lived here as long as I have you’ll understand.” He whispered to me but reversed the saying of Don Corleone: “Keep your enemies close but your friends closer in Taos.”
Upside Down Community Politics
At the El Prado Water and Sanitation District, the interim President of the Chicano Chamber, a community activist, has his hands full with Painter John, who applies “wite-out” to contracts and who will borrow money from anyone to cover up his misdeeds at the debt-ridden District. Currently, the District’s board and Painter are running scared and can’t be found.
At the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s office, a Deputy District Attorney violated the professional conduct code, about “90” times. As a reward he has been elevated to “judge” by the Governor. She gave him the black robes to cover up his sins against the blind lady and he got shipped to Raton.
At the Coop, the Traveling Trustees have increased the debt from about $36 million to $100 million during the last decade in order to buy publicity and purchase travel coupons. Now the Trustees are getting ready to hit the PRC for a rate increase to cover up pending insolvency. We hear Trustee Peter Adang, like Town Councilor Andrew Gonzales, thinks Luis, the CEO is really cool. The Trustees are counting on the new airport as an exit strategy.
At local gas stations, car owners pay gas gougers and in the public sector, the citizens serve Los Politicos. Whether the Patron is a CEO or a Mayor and Manager, a District Attorney or a Judge, or the trustees and/or board member of a utility company, Taosenos must pay for the privilege of serving those who are elected or appointed. In addition, at the Town of Taos citizens interested in the historic culture must put up with the “bad taste” of those who flout the “sign code.”
At the Historic County Courthouse the County is sponsoring a historic photo show focussed on “Querencia” and “acequias.” But the County, according to insiders, has plans to restore the building, which will include the necessity of high rents i.e. more “gentrification.” The Commissioners are set to follow in the wake of the Mayor’s lead and Luis’s leadership.
When you come to Taos today wear your dark glasses.