Opinion: A council divided, a community divided

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A divided council is representative of a divided community, and this division cannot come at a worse time.

To address the needs of Taoseños and prepare for the uncertainty of the future, we must work together to find the right path for the community and forge ahead. Unfortunately, the council and community division was on full display during the town council's special meeting March 19.

The vote to appoint a divisive town manager split the council, but not in a tie. Councilors Hahn and Evans voted "yes," I voted "no," and Councilor Fernandez abstained.

As The Taos News reported last week, New Mexico state statute declares that the mayor of a municipality can only vote in cases of a tie. I am disappointed with Mayor Barrone's decision to interpret an abstention as a vote of "no" to create a tie, and then subsequently to break the tie.

This creates a constitutional crisis of sorts in our local government. The elected head of the executive branch has become the de facto head of the legislative branch, shattering the system of checks and balances.

Furthermore, if allowed to continue, what is stopping the Mayor from interpreting an abstention as a "yes" in the future? Could a vote of "no" even be interpreted as a "yes"? Democracy may have been lost in Taos.

Previous mayors avoided this situation by reaching out to all members of the council to obtain unanimous votes in the affirmative. Half of the council is not sufficient; 50 percent is still an F, after all.

Mayor Barrone touted his leadership ability and desire to unite the community during the campaign but has demonstrated that campaign promises are easily broken. However, a chance still remains for redemption that doesn't involve dragging the community through a long and messy lawsuit.

Difficult decisions define leadership and legacy and before us is a chance for a true leader to emerge. I implore you, Mr. Mayor, find a solution that we can all agree on, and bring the council and community together, so we can find solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

Pascualito Maestas is a Taos Town Councilor.

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