Taos Municipal Elections: The Conversation Begins
Here in Taos, the private sector is secondary to the influence of government. The town, county, and schools, buttressed by state and federal transfer payments, along with major quasi-public private entities like the Kit Carson Coop and the health care sector, especially Holy Cross Hospital, are the major players and employers. In effect the political class rules over the economy. That fact may frighten some but at least we know who the politicians are and where they live.
Given the prejudices and unchanging nature of the County, the increasing failure of the TMS to address the issues, and the Coop’s continuing support of pirate capitalism, we citizens are left with Town government as our only hope. The Town offers a possibility, at least of conversation about the issues.
The current Town administration has done two very good things: Pumped more money into marketing and constructed the Eco Park for soccer. Unfortunately, the council has undermined fiscal prudence by supporting the Coop’s Command Center due to Cronyism. By doing so, the Town has short-changed expansion of the Eco Park, an excellent investment with all the earmarks of success.
Taos kids, both boys and girls, are extremely competitive in soccer—just as they are in ice hockey. The participants represent the best of this cross-cultural community. Just as hockey tournaments have attracted out-of-towners to weekend tournaments and filled hotels, so soccer tournaments, both for kids and professionals, could create a similar boost for the economy. By investing in soccer—as opposed to bailing out a non-performing command center—the town rewards the kids who live here and attracts outside dollars to the hospitality sector.
The Town could use the economic downturn as an opportunity to implement all those ideas that have been tossed around at planning seminars to create a more liveable and attractive community. Just as the newcomers must recognize the cultural proclivities of the native Taoseno’s political muscle and intermittent civil wars, so the politicians need to recognize the historic significance of the natural beauty and the cultural contributions of the art community. We need a more cosmopolitan vision of community than the rather narrow “contracts for cronies” program that informs so much of political activity.
As more and more artists open their studios to retail operations, we need to look at the possibilities. This trend should be encouraged and marketed. It bodes well for adapting to the future as the gallery business declines.
Now the community is being drawn a second time into a boring controversy surrounding the “Big Box” and the “Dollar Store” location. The politicians need to persuade developers to fit their projects into the current codes, while locating them in appropriate commercial areas. Walmart can build a second box of 80,000 square feet today, according to the code. Like many big box stores, Walmart has experimented with different sizes for its shopping emporiums all across the country and in urban areas.
Years ago, Charlie B. Brooks (RIP), a realtor, said we had to allow Kentucky Fried Chicken to put up its bucket and allow McDonald’s to erect its arches if we wanted to be a proper town. But like any realtor (or demagogue), Charlie’s arguments were provincial, parochial, and self-serving. Let the corporate franchisers and Big Box developers do it the “Taos Way”–not the way of the “demagogue.”
There is nothing magical about Valverde Commons, a “Big Box” or a “Dollar Store.” Put the Dollar Store in an appropriate area north of Town near the Blinking Light. Talk to property owners Ernesto Montoya or Steve Rael about a location. Or locate it near the El Prado Liquor Store. The Overland Sheepskin Company has already ruined part of the meadows in El Prado. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Taosenos have made the local Walmart more profitable by limiting its footprint and subsequently, its operating costs. Bigger stores have more employee problems, more shoplifting, and more utility costs. Big Box supporters generally look at a short-term boost during the construction or commission phase without considering long-term effects–like the negative effect on acequias at Autumn Acres/Valverde Commons.
The same kind of short term thinking has tarnished the image of the Coop and is a threat to its long-term financial stability. The Trustees have lost millions of dollars of the members’ and taxpayers’ money in connection with Propane, Internet, and the Command Center. Now they are going to spend $60 million on Broadband in the KCEC service area. This is excess run amuck. Who will pay back the $20 million loan? The Coop (like the County Complex) appears to be risking it all for the sake of investing in the 22nd or 23rd Century.
Let’s keep the Town fiscally solvent and try to make it more attractive–while investing in our fundamental base. Tear down defunct buildings. Clean up the streets. Reject the Command Center. No more subdivisions in pristine meadows. Invest in tourism and art, sports and recreation, the adults and kids, who live here.
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