KCEC: Nitty-Gritty Coop News

By: Bill Whaley
9 December, 2016

Poetic Justification

In a “My Turn” piece (Taos News, Dec. 8-14) KCEC Trustee Chris Duran makes a number of claims that exemplify his alleged “lack of credibility,” which questions include the provenance of the agent-author of the piece itself. We can assume someone beside Duran wrote the “My Turn” given its flow and style, impersonal tone and objective analysis of subjective motives.

 

Certainly we congratulate Duran on hiring John Day, whose experience defending KCEC robbers, cops accused of homicide and crooks accused of murder for he’s the go-to guy for those in serious trouble with the law. As a suspect in what Taos Friction refers to as the KCEC “beat-down” case, Mr. Duran is certainly prudent.

The equally prudent trustee Virgil Martinez has hired the “poor man’s lawyer,” the renowned Alan Maestas, who fights for justice on behalf of local targets of los movidas de politicos.

According to J.R. Logan’s report in same issue of The Taos News: “TPD Lt. David Maggio told The Taos News the video [of the fight] was blurred “but you can see what’s going on…It basically shows them out in the hallway pushing and shoving each other,” Maggio said. “Then Mr. Duran pushes Mr. Martinez through a doorway. [Martinez] goes to the ground, then [Duran] continues the aggression.” Maggio said it appeared Duran was hitting Martinez while Martinez was on the ground.”

The 44-year old Duran rather poetically justifies his behavior based on the 62-year-old Martinez’s remarks, he says, which characterized his service record and family in unflattering terms. Custom in El Norte might justify Mr. Duran’s response, pounding on the board’s dais, rushing past three or four other trustees, pushing and scrapping with Martinez, then the knock-down blow and continued beating, while the senior citizen lay supine on the floor in the hallway.

“Did you kick him, too, Mr. Duran?”

In an email “Anglo Bob” Bresnahan writes in the third person style “Virgil Martinez was heard to say “I will kill him” as he rose from his chair. Chris Duran may have been the first to rise, but he left the Board Room after Virgil whose seat is next to the door.”

Now Bresnahan is being quoted in news reports about Virgil’s remarks as if he were an “ear” witness though “Anglo Bob” appears to be the recipient of a “translation,” since Virgil told me he spoke in Spanish, but said he didn’t exactly remember what he said. To the untutored ear, Virgil’s speech, whether in English or Spanish, is often indecipherable.

The Bresnahan email includes a mix of writing styles, suggesting a committee wrote the remarks just as Duran’s “My Turn” suggests a prose stylist of some experience penned the Trustee’s attempt at justification.

Duran’s Confession

More devastating to Duran, are his remarks in the opening sentence of the “My Turn” wherein he states that he has “advocated for stable rates” and a “financially sound coop.”

As the recent order of the PRC shows, which order adopted the “recommended decision” regarding KCEC’s request for rate increases show and residential customers will soon see in their electric bills, KCEC has destabilized electricity rates and raised them to record levels on top of Tri-State’s decades long rate increases during Mr. Duran’s tenure.

KCEC business customers have already been pummeled by rate increases even as KCEC customers have been subject to record fuel pass throughs, due to the unfathomable $37 million Guzman buy-out of Tri-State by a financier, not a “generator. “ Go figure.

While Duran has served as Trustee, KCEC has doubled and tripled its indebtedness. Duran has supported economic development schemes that have lost millions of dollars, according to KCEC’s CEO in answers to interrogatories per the hearing process. As well, he voted for the now $70 million Broadband disaster, a project that serves 2600 (?) customers, according to reports, costing about 23,333.00 per customer, which project has yet to be completed after five years.

If Mr. Duran’s analysis of “self-defense” is as accurate as his claims about contributions to the security of members and stability of the Coop, we can see why he cunningly hired John Day to defend him against the senior citizen, Virgil Martinez and the redoubtable Alan Maestas, who does speak Spanish and has an ear for Virgil’s idiosyncratic speech.

Here’s a tidbit. Trustee Martinez claimed that “financial issues” were being discussed in executive session when he and Duran were discussing each other’s background. News reports, based on remarks from the CEO and press releases say the trustees were discussing a “personnel issue.” One might infer that the “personnel issue” entailed “financial issues” and a “rate increase” and who was what responsible for what. Even the hearing examiner asked Reyes if he feared for his job considering the Coop had missed Tier, or the RUS minimum benchmarks 6 out of the last 8 years (years during which Duran served on the board).

Epilogue of the Above “Scrappers”

This writer shares neither the outrage of those offended by the “beat down” nor the alleged remarks by Mr. Martinez: “I’m gonna kill him.” Given the customs of El Norte, it was only a question of time before “Parking Lot” politics, a term made famous by Trustee Manuel Medina, entered the boardroom.

At one time or another almost all of the Trustees, including the two named, have “bad-mouthed” other trustees “on” and “off-the-record” to this longtime observer of the Coop.

KCEC Rate Increase

Interveners, including yours truly, fought a yearlong battle against the Coop’s rate increase on behalf of conservationists and low-income members of the Coop. The Coop tried to do away with the so-called “inverted block” which protected both conservationists and low-energy users and argued for reduced rates for high-energy users, whether commercial or residential.

 

The PRC and Hearing Examiner sided with Interveners here just as they did in requiring KCEC to provide PRC staff with financial information pertaining to “diversification.”

But that “little victory” will be swallowed up in terms of the Coop’s rather extraordinary rate increase granted by the PRC, and supported by PRC Commissioner, Valerie Espinosa, according to interveners. Espinosa voted for the higher Tier or RUS benchmark of 1.69, contrary to PRC staff recommendations.

 

The higher Tier gives the Coop, as I and Commissioner Pat Lyons understand it, the additional footing on which to borrow more money and go into more debt as the Coop (under Trustee Duran’s watch) slides down the slippery slope into insolvency.

The Coop got a rate increase of about $6.50 cents for the monthly meter charge, which totals will more than pay for the defunct Command Center, costing $118,000 a year “for nothing” (another project supported by Duran, as I understand it). The meter charge is a typically “regressive” rate increase, affecting low-income earners just as GRT affects low-income earners more than high-income folks.

And the Coop will get to charge more per kilowatt-hour. Members will open their bills in January and gasp at the sticker shock, as have commercial customers.

Diversions

I’m sorry to say while you were otherwise engaged, the Coop fox was in the hen house. Particularly, the Town, County, Taos Municipal Schools, El Prado Water and Sanitation, and the Holy Cross Hospital, as well as the town’s new four-story hotel, will all be hit hard by the Coop’s rates. Ironically the institutions named above have already hit Taosenos hard with tax increases.

 

There appears to be a concerted and growingly conscious effort to drive the low-income people out of Taos. The KCEC rate increases will roll over into every aspect of government, commercial, and residential life, making life in Taos more expensive for all.

The Interveners got no support from local government or the commercial class of KCEC membership. Business folks are often intimidated by los politicos. Los Politicos want support for their own “tax increases.”

 

KCEC spent, according to insiders, about “$500,000” on attorneys to fight interveners, who represented themselves pro se. Just as the major media focused on Trump during the election rather than the Bernie Sanders phenomena, so The Taos News focused on fisticuffs recently but  except for some early reporting by J.R., the editor and publisher shut down the news on KCEC, given their advertising during the hearing process.

As for my progressive friends who supported Sanders but ignored local issues, you are now going to pay the price but not only for electricity. There’s a correlation between the Trump election and his appointees as well as local politics. The Koch brothers have bought and paid for local politicians in a majority of states in order to control governorships, legislatures, redistricting, and, ultimately, Congress and now cabinet secretaries in the office of the President. The right wing began its crusade decades ago at the grass roots level by electing school board extremists.

In New Mexico the Koch bros got the governor but not the legislature.As Tip O’Neil famously said, repeating another pol’s remarks,” All politics is local.”

As for the pirates at the Coop, Jerome Lucero, the moral center of the grass-roots interveners, will keep an eye on the doings of the Trustees and Mr. Reyes: no matter the provocative attacks on his person and his devices. The Trustees may conspire to organize a “beat down” and/or shun Virgil but he’s got a hard head.

As for me, I learned so much during this last year that I now have an intellectual interest in the administrative doings of the PRC and the Coop in general. I’m ready for the next rate hearing, given my box of files and procedural understanding.

The Coop that exists in the minds of the Trustees and Management reminds me of the causes of global warming that exist in the minds of climate deniers. The people and the members know better but those in charge are committed to exploiting the citizenry for their own financial aggrandizement. For the Coop and the Trustees it’s all about “fake news.”

According to the evidence, and in my mind, KCEC is a cultural pariah.

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