Politics and Business at Town and Coop

By: Bill Whaley
7 October, 2016

The Kit Carson Coop

The Interveners in the Kit Carson Electric Coop (KCEC) PRC rate case, guided by retired Judge Peggy Nelson, are filing findings and conclusions in their protest against an increase in electricity charges for residents. Back in March the PRC approved a motion from KCEC to narrow the hearings to “residential rates.”

Recently the PRC quickly approved an increase for “non-residential or commercial rates. They did it in a hurry due to a scheduled birthday party for one of the $90,000 commissioners.   Residential rates could go up toward the end of the year but they have been delayed and contested, thanks to the Interveners.

From what I hear small and large business owners, as well as the Town and County have recently experienced “sticker shock” as their new electricity bills arrived. The nine Interveners didn’t get any support from the so-called “business community” in Taos or the elected officials, who seem to believe in the Coop’s promises.

Indeed, most (not all) business people are easily intimidated by the perceived power of political entities in Taos and rarely show up to protest predatory practices when it comes to rate and tax increases promoted by the political culture. Frequently, as in the case of Kit Carson, political decisions are made about say “diversification” (Call Center, Command Center, Propane, Internet, Broadband) but without doing “feasibility studies” or taking into consideration the effects on the members at large.

KCEC appears to be raising rates to pay not only the rising costs of electricity in a dwindling market but also to fund the failed operations aka “diversification.” They continue to borrow and spend by putting up the members’ equity as collateral in support of the false promises related to “economic development” and “green energy.”

The pattern of fifteen years of failure, borne out by the information gained during discovery, contradicts the Coop claims about the future. Instead of living up to the promise of a “cooperative,” one “owned by those it serves,” the Coop serves the failed vision of the CEO and the rubber-stamp Trustees. The Coop spent $64 million on Broadband and has failed to complete the project. Now they are looking to borrow another $8 to $11 million.

The only antidote to KCEC requires that members become more energy efficient in terms of light bulbs, insulated buildings, and the acquisition of solar panels installed by individual homeowners.

As for Internet service: choose your poison or your promise.

Town of Taos

Although I haven’t attended Town Council meetings lately and the newspaper of record seems to avoid controversy when it comes to either KCEC or the proposed multi-story hotel in the Town of Taos, apparently the Town wants to do away with the height ordinance and has proposed a “hotel overlay zone” in order to do away with current “design” standards and regulations. Has the Town done a proper feasibility study or is this the result of “by guess” and “by golly” decisions like the Coop? Where’s the Master Plan?

Currently, the Town is catering to an outside developer, who bought two hotels in foreclosure (Hampton and Don Fernando Inn) and wants to build a new multistory Holiday Inn. Two previous Holiday Inn operations lost their franchises due to poor management. Now the Town has designated an outside developer as a favorite “businessman” and allegedly promises to act as fiscal agent for a grant of some $750,000 from the state for the guy’s renovation of the Don Fernando!

Some citizens suspect the developer means to “flip” the property once he gets everything up and running on the cheap. Whether the source of this outsider’s dough may be “offshore” (Panama Papers) or if he has experience-operating hotels has yet to come to be determined. Caveat Emptor.

Ethically, it doesn’t appear just and reasonable for the Town to support either “Smiths” at the expense of other grocery stores or a hotel developer at the expense of other motel and hotel operators. Perhaps the “stranger” has promised the local rubes a batch of bangles and beads just as Santa Claus promises gifts for good little boosters and Babbits who pray at the Christmas Tree on Taos Plaza.

Folks don’t come here just to listen to music and sleep. They come also year round because they like what they see and feel, both the “funky” and the “beautiful.” The mono-cultural corporate vision of America being promoted by the likes of the Town’s chief groupie, Rick Bellis or the amalgamated promises of Luis Reyes as “economic savior” contradicts the path of trial and error, the burps and belches, stops and starts for which the community is famous. Go slow, don’t go too far unless you’re a billionaire.

Course KCEC is getting the “Taos lesson” now as it slides down the slope toward insolvency. We hope the Town does not induce another hotel in order to drive others into insolvency.

Elected officials should defend the local culture against the “quick-change” con artists, whether native or visitor. The Coop Trustees, except for Virgil (in public), have thrown in the towel and let Luis run wild. But the Town of Taos Council could stand tall for long-term Taosenos and require that the developer conform to Taos. We need look no further than north of the cattle guard to see how Taos Pueblo has survived while adapting to modern life and retaining its cultural identity.

Bellis, typical of his kind, recently posted remarks on Facebook, saying I only engaged in the “negative” i.e. “protested against his ideas.” (I support concerts and paved streets, the historic culture and local business.)  Apparently the manager forgot that my friends and I stood on the corner of the Plaza for weeks waving signs to promote the election of Barrone, Hahn, and Cantu. Regardless Bellis is doing his best to stir up lots of interest in the next municipal election.

Luis uses a broader brush and typically blames “members,” Interveners,” “the government,” and “the market” or “Tri-State” for his woes. The Coop doesn’t have lightbulbs in the mens’ room at KCEC:  the Trustees can’t see the image in the mirror.

Anyway,  you must keep your enemies close but your friends and neighbors closer. There is no loyalty without betrayal in uncanny Taos.

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