Taos: Conflict, Transparency, and Close Reading
Recently, a friend wrote and suggested I apply more “nuance” to my broadsides, herein aimed at stirring up the citizenry and giving voice to the voiceless. My “developer” friends also accuse me of standing in the way of progress. Both criticisms are taken in good faith. But none of my critics apparently read my remarks closely.
For months, if not years, I have voiced support of the Farmer’s Market but criticized the management by the town for not also observing the rights of Plaza Merchants. Both parties could be accommodated with minor tweaks in terms of location, maintaining traffic lanes, etc. I have been on the Plaza watching the Town ineptly manage events and shut down the Plaza unnecessarily. The town bullies merchants by using their own top-down “police powers” to undermine the rights of the brick and mortar tenants.
The reduction in traditional tourist traffic for a few hours or even an hour’s worth of traffic here and there is crucial in an age of diminishing returns. I used to think (not feel) that a few hours wouldn’t matter if the Plaza were closed occasionally. But “ocular” evidence and direct testimony has convinced me to change my mind.
There is a kind of contempt on the part of other merchants and residents for the Plaza merchants and tourist trade, who say, “I never go there except for the Farmer’s Market.” Bellis and Barrone use “special events” to shut down traffic an hour early here or there for the Mayor’s photo ops and what appears to be their agenda: closing the Plaza to automobile traffic for good.
Though sworn to secrecy, I voiced support for the Mayor’s notion of “redevelopment” two years ago, assuming the Town would master plan the Smith’s project, and apply P&Z rules and regs to improving the area east of Highway 68. Councilor Fritz Hahn has apparently whispered to some that he would support redevelopment if a buffer in the controversial south end of the so-called Couse Pasture were applied to the site plan for the neighborhoods.
But the devil is in the details.
There is no site plan. The Town has not done their homework and nobody knows what to expect Similarly, the Town has created paranoia and divisiveness among other sectors of the community by “secret” doings, cannibalizing this group to benefit that group. The Taos News has made some of the “lies” in emails public. “Misdirection” is the name of this Machiavellian game: the ends justify the means.
Some of my critics are developers who have been burned by neighborhood activists. Like Luis Reyes they jumped first then got hit by “blowback.” The Coop also lost money due to poor public relations and performance. It’s better to ask for permission and secure support than beg for forgiveness when you build an unnecessary Command Center or poorly managed Broadband project or even a Call Center and Propane Company or Internet operation. But Luis would never take “no” for an answer in terms of the Command Center or Broadband. Where are the 5000 businesses he promised USDA/RUS? for Broadband? The County and Town as well as about 25 other agencies rejected participating in the ill-conceived Command Center.
Does Taos want more empty buildings due to new development?
A transparent approach costs nothing but the courage of your convictions. Stand up and tell the people what you want to do and tell the truth about the facts and the potential consequences. Kit Carson Electric Cooperative is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars “unnecessarily” on attorneys to prevent the public from learning how many millions of dollars have been lost on failed side-ventures and mismanagement. See the mostly empty buildings referred to above.
If the Coop were to stand up and deliver audits, profit and loss statements to the hearing examiner per the rights of members, according to the NM Supreme Court, the protestors and intervenors might very well settle for mediation at the PRC hearings. But the Coop will not confess and the intervenors will not forgive.
Barrone and Bellis would do much better if they manipulated the public less and listened to the neighbors or merchants more. The Town shouldn’t assume the citizens are the enemy. A Close reading of the situation suggests these issues are as idiosyncratic and complicated as the poly-cultural people who live in Taos.
Once again the County leads the way in planning and hearing matters. Rather than shut down the neighbors in the matter of a “warehouse” built in a neighborhood and allowed, allegedly, by chicanery at the planning department years ago, the County Planning Commission rejected the applicant’s plans for special use. The matter is going to the full County Commission on appeal. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.
Peace mis amigos and buenas suerte. Caveat: Do gooders beware!