Town of Taos Election Issues

By: Bill Whaley
26 February, 2016

watch-our-tv-ads-MOD1Apparently Town of Taos Manager Rick Bellis has taken a page out of KCEC CEO wunderkind Luis Reyes’ notebook. (The current town council even has its own version of KCEC Trustee Peter Adang.) From the point of view of Town residents, Bellis is either a villain or a hero, a liar or a pragmatic manager. The current Town election, scheduled for March 1 will settle little in terms of simmering controversies except for more of the same. None of the candidates appear to be familiar with the deeper cultural issues that have surfaced in the last year. This writer supported the winners in the last municipal election, as he once did Peter Adang’s election to the board at the Coop. So much for democracy, local politics, and the rise of demagoguery: we have our own Trumpism.

Still I shall discuss briefly the issues. Incidentally, I, personally, am enthusiastic about the purpose of the Farmer’s Market and concerts in the central park. But I believe the Town Administration has poor practical skills and little experience when it comes to the implementation or else they wouldn’t close the Plaza unnecessarily.

No. 1. Plaza Closure

There is a move afoot to close the Plaza to vehicular traffic despite the mainstream American and local Taos auto culture. Currently, most Plaza merchants have built their business around traditional tourism, people who drive and then walk. During the last two years, each time the Mayor, Manager, and Council closed the Plaza, pedestrian visits into shops slowed to a trickle in an already decreasing retail environment. That’s a fact, unknown to those who don’t visit the Plaza on a daily basis.

No. 2. Plaza Events

Concerts, celebrations, and the Farmer’s Market have succeeded in reintroducing some locals to the Plaza and, I am told, to the Dunn House and Bent St. environs. Historically, when the Plaza was truly vital, crowds filled up the area despite a lack of parking. And the flow of traffic was never cut-off by police barriers, except during fiesta for two days. Period.

The current administration and their supporters “appear” to be anti-local culture.

No. 3. Public Planning

The Town, like the Coop, apparently believes that they must remain opaque until forced to become transparent. The Mayor follows but doesn’t lead. The redevelopment of the area south of McDonald’s for a new Smith’s Plaza might be a good idea or maybe not but how would residents know, given the lies and misrepresentations made by Town government, according to The Taos News? Why the secrecy? Not a single report has mentioned the proposed square footage for the Smith’s big box store. We’ve seen no drawings or designs for redevelopment project.

No. 4 Public Works and Procurement Code Violations

Whistle blower Antonio Martin, who recorded town employees, giving him instructions about the “Taos way” of procurement and quiet Bob Maestas, a retired engineer, have furnished Friction with voluminous reports i.e. “allegations of procurement code violations” regarding contracts for surveying, engineering, and road construction.

Though the number of violations has declined precipitously under Barrone, a few long-term projects have infected the current administration. Perhaps the best antidote and most obvious cure for violations can be seen in the cost-effective employment of a Kansas outfit to do the repaving in the historic district.

We understand that “politics as a way of life” has historically ruled over the state-mandated “stinkin procurement code.”  And “Violate the law or lose your job,” pure and simple, has been the custom at town hall during the last decade and a half. I have the documents and the testimony of Councilor Sanchez to testify to that policy.

No. 5. Evidence of Public Relations failure

Like the Coop, and due to divisive “top-down” fiats, the Town has antagonized part of the community and created an atmosphere of apathy and distrust. Objectively speaking, only three or four candidates have made an impact on voters, according to the “buzz,” a mere “whisper” at this point.

Candidate Meliton Struck has hit the usual chords but one wonders if “familia” and “vecinos” will be enough. Apparently Nathaniel Evans has a triad of support based in the Charter School culture, Bent St. and Dunn House area merchants, and among Farmers’ Market promoters.

Sleuth candidate and independent operative David Cortez has been running an old-fashioned door-knocking campaign, displaying a desire for the job, which traditional Taosenos respect. He doesn’t need no stinking Taos News.

One wonders how school teachers like Nathaniel Evans and Pasqualito Maestas (he who dared publish a tract on “corruption”) will find time to attend council meetings?

This Town that Time Forgot

imagesThe William Macy-like Manager, Rick Bellis slinks around town like some Rasputin. His hair grows longer as he alternates between “70s” Disco and Coen Bros style. In Fargo the manager was played by the nefarious car dealer (William Macy). Councilor Judi continues to pursue the elusive Valley Girl and the Town’s alleged payments made “for (what) services rendered” ? Fritz buries his nose in his list between sips of kool-ade. The Mayor honors Santa by expanding the community’s carbon footprint and promotes policies on behalf of the National Pork Council.

In a brilliant coup, the Manager hired outsiders in entertainment, planning, and marketing to manage the historically unwieldy local population, whose ethnic and cultural roots sink deep into the hysterical historical past. And “Millicent” Malanga on the Plaza is taking names and writing down numbers in her perpetual war against those who would close the Plaza and shut her business.

I dare say we ain’t seen nothing yet.

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