The Loyal Opposition Weighs Options
Farmer’s Market Taos: A Festival of Ordinance Violations
From the Desk of Pascual Maestas
Tuesday’s Town Council meeting was everything one would have expected in traditional Taos fashion: passionate arguments on both sides followed by hasty, emotional decision making on the part of the Council without thorough legal review or economic analysis. I will leave the economic analysis out in this opinion piece, the numbers simply aren’t in to crunch (although we received promises that they will be: we shall see). Instead, there are some legal gray areas that aren’t really that gray.
Town Attorney, Floyd Lopez, incorrectly called the Ordinance 5.08.070 preventing any fiesta, carnival, or festival from shutting down the streets around the plaza a resolution. He then claimed that the current administration was not bound by the resolutions passed during previous administrations. Although this is correct, the ordinance is an ordinance, not a resolution.
Therefore, every administration is bound by the ordinance. As the Town Attorney, I would expect Mr. Lopez to know the town code frontwards and backwards like the back of his hand. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Mr. Lopez quickly changed gears and said it was his opinion that the ordinance didn’t apply because the farmer’s market was not a fiesta, carnival, or festival. Leave it up to lawyers to interpret law in ways that they see fit. Semantics.
What makes a festival? Fun, food, music, vendors that pay fees for booths? Yes, the farmer’s market has all of those. If I start calling it the Farmer’s Market Festival, does that make it a festival? What a great way to attract tourists to the Farmer’s Market Festival by calling it a festival, no?
On the legal side, Chapter 5.08.010 regarding application fees for fiestas, carnivals, and festivals has a specific subsection stating “the provisions in this chapter shall not apply to any farmer’s markets…” There is no such subsection in Chapter 5.08.070. One could make the argument that if a subsection was included in one chapter to exclude the farmer’s market festival from those provisions, if it is not included in another chapter in the same title, then the provisions of that chapter would apply to a farmer’s market festival.
The rash decision making of the Council not only had no economic basis (again, not a single number was brought up during the meeting except my statistic that 1 in 3 children in Taos are going to bed hungry tonight), but may also be in violation of an ordinance. This is what happens when the Council “wings it” without a Master Plan or time for review and research. The more involved I become with local politics, I am finding out this is the rule rather than the exception.
From the Desk of Lynn Fitzgerald
I am a prior Taos Merchant, a prior staff member for the “old” Taos Project and a prior Main Street Director in Arizona and Colorado. I really was not going to talk today until I heard that a Facebook call went out to all Plaza Farmers Market location supporters.
Then I knew that the hall would be flooded like it was last year and that the Merchant voice would not be heard – since they are currently in their stores trying to make a living. I understand a list of 400 names were collected on Face Book supporting the Plaza location.
Please realize that a majority of those names do not have an economic interest in this issue like the Plaza Merchants do. Plus we understand that the U.S.D.A. requires a 3 year contract with a managing agency before they will give grants to a Farmers Market, so that is the reason the Farmers Market and the Town are pushing for this new 3 year lease.
If the Farmers Market is such a “blissful event” – let’s share it with the rest of the Town Merchants.
We can put it in Guadalupe Plaza, the John Dunn Parking Lot, the Loretta Parking Lot or even down Bent Street. Let them get a sense of what this event is like on their doorstep.
We have seen no compromise from the Town of Taos during this whole process.
We showed lay-out alternatives and nothing happens. Now we understand that more craftspeople are going to be allowed into the Market. This will directly affect the sales of the current Plaza Merchants and this is in direct opposition to the Amended Resolution # 1106 dated August 13, 2013, which does not allowCraft Fairs on the Plaza.
I know the Town of Taos is excited to have everything happen on the Taos Plaza. In this case, they found that in the late 1800”s farm vendors sold things there, but they had 4-5 vendor wagons not 75 vendors. And the traffic still flowed through the Plaza – the streets were not blocked off!
Please consider moving this event off the Plaza or at least may we suggest that the Farmers and the Town Officials make some compromises – open up more streets and parking spaces; limit the number of Farmers; do not allow more craftspeople to join this event unless you move the Taos Farmers Market away from competing with businesses on the Taos Plaza.