Opinion: A once vibrant, diverse community heads downhill?

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After long debate and questions and biased dialogue, I felt compelled to write on various issues.

For one, we were once a vibrant, diverse community. We did not rely on tourism. We relied on each other.

Yes, there were tourists, but they came twice a year, summer and winter, and they didn’t come solely for the arts but for the ambience and the diversity of Native American and Hispanic cultures. That is missing today. We as native Taoseños are left out. There is no diversity in the art community.

We use historic downtown as a crutch to sell nontraditional art as a mainstay, and now when we go downtown, we are treated like second-class citizens. We are met with hostility and scrutiny. We feel unwelcome. Yet, you say, “Shop local.” Really?

May I remind you that we have been here since 1585, and we are treated like we don’t belong. You use “buy local” to sell not having big box stores. When we did have them—J. C. Penney, Yellow Front, TG&Y, Wacker’s and others—we also had numerous clothing stores, five grocery stores and independent convenience stores. And, they survived.

Why and how you may ask? Again, community, you are afraid of the big box stores because you yourselves are not diverse and inclusive in your products and are self-serving a certain clientele.

On Couse pasture, 99 percent of those on the petition did not have a clue it existed, yet the controversy for a zone change for Smith’s to relocate to it became a hot-button issue without compromise. Ms. Cantu used the term “Mormon-owned” to classify it.

Mayor Barrone, for your information, the store hasn’t been owned by Utah-based Smith’s since the 1990s when Kroger, based in (Cincinnati), bought them out. Yet you used (the Smith’s proposal) to cause controversy instead of using it to negotiate a location for a possible small business incubator or a possible vehicle to address the homeless problem. You used it as a distraction to cause controversy instead of creating dialogue to fix these problems.

Yes, there are affordable housing issues. We have a lot of people that skirt taxes to use guest homes as rental properties, Airbnb properties, and yet are not properly taxed. That tax could be used to address both homelessness and affordable housing. Yet the art row in downtown looks more like skid row, and there are people begging for money on our streets.

On the Rio Fernando, Mr. Yeargin, Amigos Bravos and the EPA, the solution is no illegal septic systems, whereas you say grazing is the problem. May I remind you that grazing has been a way of life, but we the cattle growers never relied on the river. Every canyon in Taos has a spring, yet past EPA regulations caused overgrown forests, which in turn caused those very springs to be underutilized.

Also may I remind you that Cañon de Fernandez has the privilege of having the oldest acequia and water rights in the state. It was established in 1779, according to state and Spanish archives.

Nevertheless, Valle Escondido continues to sell properties with lake frontage when, in fact, an1973 ruling in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lawsuit by Cañon that those surface ponds were to be removed. This is not to say that these problems are not fixable with proper inclusion and dialogue.

On to politics. Mr. Fernandez, how can you use the chairmanship (of the Taos County Democratic Party) to be self-serving? You hold meetings so far away from mainstay constituents, and you pick precinct chairmen at leisure without the people’s input, which gave rise to the so-called Caucasian Party (Taos United) with no mention of Native Americans or Hispanics in your rhetoric.

These newcomers come, pass wind and call themselves Taoseños. Do not use that term when you are unneighborly and rude, and you use block mentality to fence and wall yourselves in, instead of uniting together to become once again a vibrant, inclusive community.

Yes, we will have controversy, but nothing that can’t be fixed as a community. So, I say to Ms. Cantu and Mr. Fernandez, hasta la vista, baby!

I’m putting my support towards Mayor Barrone, Fritz Hahn and Andrew Gonzales. Amid controversy, we will rise.

Kenneth Martinez is a past Taos County Democratic Party precinct chairman.

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