Taos Friction “Man of the Year”

By: Bill Whaley
29 December, 2012

As 2012 passes into history, it might be time to take a look at our local community in terms of cultural realism. For, surely, northern New Mexico, and Taos in particular, contain some of the most interesting and bizarre political practices. News reports and a look out the window confirm the metaphorical meaning of the Mayan Calendar. Though many of us still live in the remembered past and some bet on that notion of the future or “hopeless hope,” the world we grew up in has ended—except for here in Taos, which hasn’t changed—though the local politicians are a bit more greedy and grandiose.

Politicians and CEOs in D.C. or on Wall St., despite a record of failure, leave office or jump over the fiscal cliff with golden parachutes, paid for by the 99%. Some of us, like lemmings, sail over the same cliff but with a transparent chute, diving down, down, down. Who knows when and if we’ll hit bottom. The 1% already got their break, the rest of us, the 47% and the 99% and the students with loans, are still waiting.

In Taos, KCEC CEO Luis Reyes, who earns about $200,000 a year, has successfully addressed “the future” of the community and effectively sustained and taken control of the local political establishment. By successfully lobbying the feds for a $60 million Broadband grant and loan package, he has become, in effect, the boss of bosses. (The founder and master puppeteer is in his dotage.) Pictured above, Mr. Reyes is Taos Friction “Man of the Year.”

Luis distributes the dough liberally in a make-work program for contractors and local workers for the sake of a make-believe vision of economic development. The federal handout is, appropriately, piggy-backed on the assets of Roosevelt’s new deal rural electrification project of the 30s. We would fathom a guess that Luis is making a much bigger contribution to Taos today than Roosevelt did during the era of the Hispanic New Deal in the 30s and 40s—although electrical service was arguably the more valuable and useful instrument.

(I have friends who believe the cure of economic ills lies in Broadband and the online use of imagination. But the jury is still out. Nobody has made a plausible argument that takes into consideration the political culture and its management, or offered examples of how Broadband will implement economic development in this rural backwater. The Internet itself offers much in the way of information and electric conversation but little in the way of critical thinking skills for the undereducated. You can hear a number of faith-based claims about Broadband, similar to what you hear at Mass or funerals. We are always reassured that the departed has gone to a better place but nobody has confirmed the claim with examples or eye-witness testimony.)

In Thursday’s Dec. 27 Taos News the cartoonist penciled in the organizing principle of Taos politics, only emulating the spirit of the fluorescent signs that pop up alongside the major highways, which target “corruption” as the community ethos. Whether in D.C. or Taos, the prevailing attitude is:. “If you’re for it, I’m against it.” Or, borrow the money, spend it, and when the future arrives, punt.

Taosenos began punting long ago—betting on future milagros. Look at all the gross receipts taxes passed by residents at the urging of the politicians that fund public buildings. Let the tourists and second homers pay, too, but both growth and tourism are in decline–even as local government and public school infrastructure have expanded beyond all reason, building for the 22nd Century.

The economy is slightly sleepy and we residents will be treading water for some time. But the politicians and, especially the Energizer Bunny, Luis, never sleep. If we could bottle up all that political energy and sell it, we’d have a self-sustaining renewable resource. Now, our Bunny has turned guard dog and is nipping at Tri-State’s heels.

For years he tried to bring the KCEC G&T provider in front of the PRC and give them a dose of “what for?” But Luis needed two cooperating electric coops. When other Coops saw Taos trustees coming, they made the sign of the cross. Then the nation’s economy dive-bombed and, thanks to Luis’s enduring efforts, the flies joined in to harass the elephant.

The PRC, though vituperative, is basically toothless but the commissioners can force those standing in the dock to spit forth documents. That’s how KCEC came to confess the multi-million dollar losses in travel, Propane, and Internet, and how we members got real time confirmation of the new Broadband bet. Apparently, Reyes and the Trustees (except for Martinez, Mylet, and Adang) were willing to bet–double or nothing—some $20 million on their own field of dreams. Build it and they will come. (Taos is filled with dreamers—see the historic art colony.)

Taking a cue from Washingtonians (or is it the reverse?), Taoseno politicos put up big numbers in the corruption racket last year, according to the Baronian cartoons in The Taos News, and will again in 2013. (Where are those audits from TMS?) Broadband gold is a way of life now. Currently, Luis can control the public servers and soon he will be able to spy on everyone’s email. The Baron and the Sign Man call a racketeer a racketeer but few speak up lest they lose their Coop handout.

Those who are to the political manner born have looked in Pogo’s mirror and seen the enemy. We, the average Joes, in Hobbes’s words, live lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Maybe not short enough.

The end has never justified the means morally—only financially. Folks will say it’s no worse here than anywhere. That’s true. And isn’t that the point? This generation of politicos appears to be more corrupt than the last one. Tell it to Luis.

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