Editorial: Election over, now the hard work

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Taos voters have spoken. Mayor Dan Barrone and Taos town councilor Fritz Hahn retain their seats. Pascualito Maestas will join them in his first term on the town council.

We think it is a solid mix: Two seasoned officials who understand the challenges and difficulties of accomplishing projects in this small but vibrant community and some new blood who we think will serve as the council's conscience.

Maestas steps into the role of transparency champion, the same role outgoing councilor Judi Cantu chose for herself. We think Cantu worked hard to raise awareness of problems with how the council, mayor and town manager were handling or hiding information from the public.

But we think there is a less divisive way to raise these issues and hold other public officials to account without alienating them and those in the public who disagree. We believe Maestas can figure out how to keep his colleagues on the council to the straight and narrow, effectively and diplomatically.

Town councilor Darrien Fernandez ran an admirable campaign to unseat Barrone. We look forward to seeing the projects and initiatives he will now work to accomplish - addressing some of the area's deep challenges, such as the lack of affordable housing, the need for a more diverse economy and the lack of a drug treatment facility. With a couple of successful endeavors under his belt, we have no doubt he can run again for mayor in four years and win.

We applaud the other council candidates as well. They campaigned hard and opened up conversations in the community about important topics. We especially loved seeing the number of younger candidates and political newcomers.

A thriving democracy needs new blood and new ideas. They also remained respectful of each other during the campaign and focused on the issues.

Town council candidate Andrew Gonzales, in a heartfelt Facebook post thanking his supporters Tuesday night, said it well. He congratulated his opponents "for being civil with each other and choosing to rise above the typical mud-slinging rhetoric in most elections. This truly is what democracy is and should be." We agree.

He then offered to serve in any way he can. We hope to see him run again.

So now, Mayor Barrone and Councilor Hahn: Voters have once again placed their confidence in you. But that doesn't mean you should ignore the pointed criticisms for how you've handled things in the last four years or concerns over town management. Some of the deepest criticisms came from people who supported you in the past. That should be a red flag.

Here are our recommendations for you as you begin your second terms:

• Meet with your biggest critics over a meal or coffee. Take the time to hear their recommendations for how you can avoid past mistakes.

• Communicate more with the public. Yes, there are the legal requirements. But there's no reason not to go above and beyond those requirements. Try a once-a-month post on the town website and a monthly My Turn from the Mayor in The Taos News, noting what projects are in the works and when they might come before the public for comment.

• Form a committee to brainstorm practical ideas for how to diversify the Taos economy while protecting its cultural heritage and the environment. It should be a broad set of people, including recent candidates, with experience in history, sustainable development, education, business, agriculture, art and social services.

And, Taos community, here's what you can do:

• Participate. If you can't attend town council meetings in person, listen in to the town's live webcast. Then email or call your town councilor and the mayor with your thoughts. A true democracy requires participation from a lot of people on a regular basis, not only when something upsets you.

• Come up with solid ideas for addressing Taos' problems. A community can't operate in a vacuum and expect town officials to know all the answers. And remember to think through how a great project or program can be funded over the long haul.

We look forward to the progress Taos can make now with the election over.

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