Among this year’s slate of candidates forelected Taos municipal seats are a blogger,a businessman, a bartender, a teacher and a social worker. Some are native Taoseños and Taoseñas. Some weren’t born here, but this is now the home they love and want to serve. Some are millennials; some are well into middle age. Three of the nine candidates are women.
They are a diverse group, vying for the positions of Taos mayor and two town councilors. Each office is a four-year term.
Election day is a mere three weeks away (March 6). That’s still plenty of time for voters to dig a little deeper into these candidates and find out what makes them tick and what they really stand for.
The stakes are big. Taos and the surrounding communities that abut the town are at a major crossroads. Drought, jobs, cost of living, a struggling hospital, a rising drug problem and a limited budget are all issues the candidates will have to wrestle with if elected. Meanwhile, houses keep cropping up across the valley and filling in on top of once fertile agriculture lands, creating a visible sprawl. The older residents – the ancianos who know some key secrets to survival through tough times – are passing away. The younger generation have a different set of needs and wants than their grandparents and parents. How will Taos keep it all in balance?
Drought is once again casting its dry shadow across the valley. The ski industry that drives a chunk of the local economy is suffering along with the businesses that depend on it. This dry winter drives home that Taos is too dependent economically on industries that live and die by the weather. Almost all of the candidates pay lip service to creating a diverse economy but are short on details for how they would make that happen. Others talk up agriculture, a traditional base for the Taos economy, but one also dependent on water unless there is a move to some creative growing methods.
The cost of living is reflected in high food and housing costs. Rentals are limited and the cost of buying a home is out of reach of many even if they earn more than minimum wage. The next mayor and council will be tasked with finding creative and cost effective ways to provide more affordable housing.
Taos has a drug treatment center. It sits empty. Over the last 40 years, drug and alcohol treatment services have ebbed and waned, never having the stability they need to address the problems over the long haul. One candidate has suggested the focus needs to shift, to educating a younger generation about the dangers of drugs and giving them alternatives.
All these challenges have to be met within a limited financial budget, one dependent on revenues from gross receipts taxes, property taxes and state funding.
Who is best prepared to tackle these challenges as councilors and mayors? Don’t just listen to what they say. Check out their background, voting record and education. Are they more than talk?
Find out a little more about the Taos candidates and those from Taos Ski Valley, Questa, Red River and Angel Fire inside this section. Check out other stories in our main paper today and over the next two weeks. Then make the time to vote on March 6 or during early voting, which began Wednesday (Feb. 14).