Taos Shell Games

By: Bill Whaley
9 August, 2013

Today, discussion or communication is complicated by the spinmeisters and the conformity of the media and the politicians to conventional thinking—the language of public relations, an industry on which the USA spends hundreds of millions dollars: call it propaganda. Politicians, including locally elected officials, like to get together and praise each other—despite disliking the guy on the left or right or the reverse. The people are not well served by public servants who dissemble in order to profit from their public duty. Few in public life or in the media take the time to read the files and reports that confirm the practice of the current political shell game. For instance, the file on Kit Carson Cooperative Command Center or the Abeyta/Taos Pueblo Water Settlement contradicts claims like “designed as a secure command center” or “favors custom and negotiation over litigation and adversarial conflict.”

In the record and the files you can find the facts that very often nail the political process in its corrupt and concrete practice—like the pictures of the Sign Man and his hunters. Since the law no longer provides an antidote and the courts are generally politicized, expensive, and tolerate official wrong doing, we need to focus on individuals and political aspirants, locally, more so today because the rules, regulations, and customs no longer apply.

Local activists opposed to the corruption promulgated by the turmoil surrounding Kit Carson’s Regional Command Center, a shell of  an office building, are seeking state intervention due to legal, financial, and construction miscues, though, ultimately,  political pressure must stop the folly, as seen by the brave stand of the county commissioners.

Fritz Hahn, a well-respected low-key “citizen” has declared his candidacy for town council. Fritz has earned his stripes by doing real community service, opposing Super Walmart and helping our most disadvantaged youth in Men Against Violence, etc. He’s part of the Ann and Doctor Hawley clan. Though a long shot, Fritz is steady as a turtle in the race against the hare. He’s a late-bloomer, former bookkeeper, who, returned to school and got an education in social work. He’s a worker like the potential mayoral candidate.

A number of local residents have urged Commission Chair Dan Barrone to relocate and contest the election for Mayor with the perceived lightweight, entertainer Darren Cordova, who has lost control of the Town. The Cordova administration, in addition to allowing brazen lawlessness on the streets, Amos V. Jeff, has decimated the planning department, spent the financial reserves, let streets, sidewalks, striping, and parking meters decay while aggressively pursuing private profits—salary, advertising and promotion contracts. Barrone is seen as quiet and steady. Barrone managed to work with commissioners and the public to get the new complex built and restored order to the commission body this year. To a fault, some might say, Barrone keeps the lines of communication open (with the Mayor and other pols). Dan says little but wears out his work gloves.

One guy sells hot air and liquor. One guy sells lumber and firewood. You tell me who meets the Taoseno in his or her  backyard with an honest measure.

On Aug. 13, the executive committee of Taos Valley Acequia Association (TVAA) will meet and, allegedly deliberate about short-circuiting their legal support for their membership, members of the Spring Ditch, a symbol and casualty of how the Town of Taos, also an Abeyta signatory, has used the agreement as an excuse to run rough-shod over parciantes in town and deplete their water sources.

The dirty little secret at TVAA, as activist Alfred Trujillo of Arroyo Hondo, pointed out years ago, is this: the TVAA brain trust, Palemon Martinez et al (RIP Geoff Bryce and Fred Waltz) have always represented Valdez residents—themselves—who are junior water rights holders at the expense of senior water rights holders down in Arroyo Hondo.

(Some of my best friends and longtime acquaintances live in both Valdez and Arroyo Hondo.)

The recent movida on Palemon Martinez’s part to seize water rights for sale in Questa and relocate them to the Arroyo Hondo in Valdez seems to confirm Alfred’s analysis. In addition, the Ortiz Brothers, land grant activists, claim the Abeyta/Taos Pueblo Water Settlement ignores historic Hispanic claims on the Hondo.

Don’t underestimate Los Ortizes, who are stubborn and willing to sacrifice themselves for an idea, an ideal, four hundred years of history, custom, ancient treaties, or, as featured in news reports,  break the law and move an acequia, while encroaching on a public road  (in Upper Hondo) and quien sabe?

Currently, parciantes and members of TVAA (55 Taos Valley acequias only) are receiving letters from the Office of the State Engineer, notifying them of the opportunity to sign on the dotted line of the Abeyta agreement. They might discover, if they read the 100 page document, that some mayordomo’s were asleep and signed off on what critics call a multi-million dollar shell game, providing little in the way of additional water or conservation but much in the way of rewards for attorneys, hydrology engineers, Taos Pueblo, and major players, like El Prado Water and Sanitation or Palemon and the TVAA.

While seniority or historic priority is the law of the land, TVAA promotes the idea of custom, an ideal more breached in the observance than in practice. Custom means, “share in the scarcity and share in the abundance.” Check out the Rio Fernando or Spring Ditch or Sanchez and Moreno Ditches in the Valverde Commons/Autumn Acres project and see how well custom is working out today. Ultimately, the river gods of the Rio Grande are sacrificed by the Abeyta/Taos Pueblo Water Agreement to pay for ground and surface water theft from its aquifers and resources in Mother Nature’s  flanks and slopes on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Mother Nature, regardless of the courts and the paltry politics of human beings, rules. We are only here for a short time. How does it work? Plunder a paper right from up north, drill a well, create water flow that shorts the Rio Grande. That’s what the Town of Taos has done to the Spring Ditch with Well No. 5 right behind McDonald’s in downtown Taos. 

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