Opinion: Yeargin has right qualities to be county commissioner

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How do we choose the best county commissioner? An important question in light of today's political environment. How do we choose the best, right individual to represent and work toward shared community values and issues of importance locally?

Transparency, honesty, vision, availability, commitment and ability to get the job done is what I look for. These qualities describe my friend Jerry Yeargin, running for Taos County Commissioner for District 5.

Jerry is a multitalented and fearless man who has single-handedly brought important issues affecting the Rio Fernando to light over the past 15 years. The "Water is Life!" movement brought attention and awareness to the connection of water quality, environment and our own health. Through Jerry Yeargin's commitment, dedication and hard work, organizations, such as Amigos Bravos and the state Environment Department have gotten involved.

This matters to me, and, I hope, to you as well, especially in consideration of the current drought conditions. If the headwaters of the Rio Fernando are protected from livestock grazing, flows will increase, native fish populations can regenerate and water quality can improve.

Personally, I find much peace by the Rio Fernando, one of the treasures easily accessible to many Taoseños. People fish this river and swim and play in it through summer. Many hikers and families use this river. Its quality reflects the quality of our lives.

Jerry Yeargin is not against grazing. He thinks grazing should continue in Taos Canyon, but not on the stream banks.

If sensible changes are made, the Rio Fernando can revive although this river is currently classified as "impaired." Sustainable management of dry land livestock grazing and responsible cattle movement or rotation in these vulnerable, fragile riparian areas of the upper Rio Fernando watershed are necessary to improve the quality and health of this upper Rio Grande tributary.

Research into the effects of cattle grazing on stream water quality has been well documented. Researchers estimate that 80 percent of the damage incurred by streams and riparian systems in these arid environments is from grazing livestock (USDI, 1994). Damage resulting from livestock grazing includes changes in watershed hydrology, stream channel morphology, soil compaction and erosion, riparian vegetation destruction and water quality impairments.

I have known Jerry Yeargin since the early 1980s. As a masonry contractor, he helped my partner and I build a very challenging foundation for my home in Taos Canyon.

His attention to detail, knowledge and can-do attitude set him apart from others in his field. I have known him to be an authentic and totally honest person and a loyal friend.

He is one of the last few "mountain men," who lives at 9,000 feet in Taos Canyon, on his property, which is in District 5. Willing to give up that lifestyle which he loves, he plans to relocate to Peñasco to be available to do the work of a County Commissioner representing real issues of the people in District 5 in Taos County.

Jerry is a working-class guy, a progressive and a populist who understands the challenges of ordinary people. He will stand up to the Forest Service, corporations and the wealthy to speak for and do right by families in Taos and Peñasco. That includes clean water, better firewood access in our National Forest, and higher taxes on commercial operations, such as big-box stores and chain hotels.

Jerry Yeargin is not afraid to fight for a living wage and better schools. He is a wild card who will shake up the status quo. Jerry is a deep thinker who cares about important local issues and good government. He will work well with other county commissioners for safer schools, better roads and more affordable housing.

I will vote for anyone who is not afraid to take a stand and fight for the 99 percent. I know Jerry as a person who values equality and who truly will represent all the people of District 5.

Jerry Yeargin brings a fresh attitude and is prepared to work diligently for real issues. I am looking forward to positive change, Jerry Yeargin is committed to create that change and will not shy away from controversy. That is why I support Jerry Yeargin for county commissioner. I hope you will too!

Patricia Morrison is a retired teacher and artist who lives in District 5.

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