Knowns, Known Unknowns, Unknown Unknowns and Thuggery!

By: Bill Whaley
11 March, 2013

Part I: The Land Grab

At the county commission meeting Monday, March 11, 2013, Commissioner Tom Blankenhorn, the sinewy wizard, explained to town manager Oscar Rodriguez in some detail how a dedicated revenue stream, intercepted and administered by the state, would guarantee the county’s financial support for 50% of a federal match of $1.2 million as well as an additional $70,000 a year for overhead under the guidance of a regional airport authority. In other words that’s how bonds are done and other commitments honored. In turn the county asked the town to forego annexation.

But “O’Rod,” as town hangers-on affectionately call him, was having none of it. Basically, the “O’Rod” impugned electoral politics and despaired of future commissioners, due to what Don Rumsfeld might have called the “unknown unknowns.” Like the fabulous first letter of his first name, Mr. “O” talked in circles but under no circumstances, said he, would the town forego shoestring annexation of the airport—even though the project seemed way too expensive for a town of 6000. He was a walking contradiction, visiting the opposites in his circular journey in his tongue-tied explanations of unknown unknowns.

Despite the town’s economic straits, and despite having been offered more money than it asked for, the town turned the county down flat. Maybe some other time in another dimension as it were, said the “O’Rod.”

The “land grab,” as El Prado culture keeper, Arsenio Cordova, calls it, will be contested by the county’s crack legal team along with amicus briefs to be filed by the eagles representing the El Prado Water and Sanitation District. So the Town will fly ahead, annex, and let the neighbors watch their contrails. So much for kumbaya.

As Commissioner Gabe “The Good” Romero said, “Little before Jan. first, I took an oath to defend my constituents, I believe there is means to take these issues to court.” And the commission voted unanimously to explore litigation, depending on the town’s Tuesday night decision.

The town meets on Tuesday eve, 6:30 pm, at which time the mayor and council are expected to adopt an ordinance turning the airport inside out i.e. snaking out and around the runways and adjacent property and turning it into a Town of Taos item.

Furthermore the Town is expected to vote on Tuesday for moving the E911/Dispatch operation to the Kit Carson office building, the erstwhile command center, home to the Rabbit’s famed principle–“economies of scale”–and exemplary model of community collaboration on Gusdorf, across from the St. James Church.

Pray for us.

Part II: KCEC’s Maximo Movida

Assistant County Attorney Bob Malone analyzed the KCEC lease-purchase agreement offered to the town for relocating E911/Dispatch to the Coop’s new but vacant office building—just in case the county might ever be interested. Not likely.

To wit, Bob said, the Coop offered to charge about $13.50 a square foot for 2526 square feet of space. The figure appeared to be based on the Coop’s debt for the building, said Bob, though the total debt for the building was not mentioned in the document. “We don’t know the justification,” said he. Indeed, the figure is much higher than the market will support, given today’s empty town and office buildings.

And there were more known unknowns, according to the masterful Malone: tenant would pay a percentage (unknown) of ad valorem property taxes, pay for maintenance of unknown common areas, and pay a percentage of the unknown pro-rated utilities because the building lacks separate metering. (Perhaps installing separate meters, like changing light bulbs, is just too technical!)

Perhaps the grandest of the unknowns concerned the “option to purchase” part of the agreement. For, according to Bob, the “price mechanism is open ended” for a condominium type deal. The leasee can exercise the option, whether based on “debt” or “fair market value” but nobody knows at what price. (Buy a pig in a poke!) And there is no condo declaration attached to the lease-option, no by-laws, just lots of known unknowns.

As Bob said, the lease and option deal protect the landlord but offer the tenant little recourse in the event of the non-performing landlord.

Gabe “The Good,” said, “As members of the Coop we’re already paying for this building. Then we’d be asking constituents to pay twice?”

“That’s a reasonable view,” said Bob, aka Mr. Malone.

Nobody asked how many coop trustees it takes to change a light bulb.

Larry Peeper’s Good Deed

For some 18 months, according to county deputy manager Rick Bellis, a variety of technical staff have been meeting re: the JPA for E911/Dispatch discussions. Thanks to Commissioner Sanchez, Taos County, Questa, Taos Ski Valley, and Red River met ever so recently in Questa.

Red River currently operates its own Public Safety Access Point (PSAP). And, apparently, according to Bellis, the parties involved (which might also include Angel Fire and Eagle Nest) are duly concerned about operating a system in a financially frugal manner (unlike the town). So, thanks to Commissioner Larry “Peepers” Sanchez and Rick’s endurance, the county can kiss the town goodbye and join with other prudent officials for the sake of public safety–E911/Dispatch services.

It’s not a done deal but I suspect the good will expressed throughout this highly civilized meeting by the commission means public safety will be assured throughout the greater county, its villages, highways and byways, including the Enchanted Circle.

The Big Question for Townies

Considering that the town is following in the Coop’s footsteps—borrow and spend, double down on debt—how will the town pay for annexation plus renovations and higher operating expenses at the KCEC office building? The Coop raised electric rates so I imagine that the Town will raise taxes. If they vote to raise the GRT by only 1/8th they won’t have ask the voters for permission but can beg for forgiveness come election time.

Once the Town had between 3 and 6 12ths of their budget set aside in their rainy day reserve–or so it was when Bobby, Bobby, Bobby left the mayoralty. Now the town is scrambling to maintain a statutory 1/12th by the end of the fiscal year, according to the finance director at the last town meeting.

Meanwhile, P&Zers have quit, the long-range planner is leaving for another job, the second in command has been placed on administrative leave, and the code enforcer expects to be fired. When you’ve got Mayor Cordova and Fast Fred running the show, you don’t need no stinkin’ planners.

P.S. Charges against Famous Amos Cohn for “stealing” Jeff’s signs, along with Joshua Cohn, and Alfredo Maul, who were charged by the Taos PD with larceny, have been dismissed. Town attorney Brian James evidently found case law saying the police department couldn’t enforce said laws re: protest and political signs placed in the state highway rightaway. The Town used to charge the sign man with code violations—several times, claiming they had jurisdiction over the state highway. But now the law is on the other foot.

Meanwhile the cops may seek DA assistance due to the aggressive nature in which Mr. Cohn wielded his vehicle of mass destruction in a threatening–if ultimately indecisive—quest to rub out the sign man. I’m not sure but I think the Mayor and his cronies are going too far. Jeff caught the whole incident on videotape—though his reality film will never win any awards.

Still, when the town itself turns lawless, the lawless will prevail. Whether the town is picking the public purse or its citizens are pilfering signs from protesters, thuggery is in ascendance at town hall.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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