After attending both candidate forums, two candidates, who have a clear grasp of the problems Taos faces and the solutions Taos needs, stood out above the rest. It's clear that the time has come to turn our local government over to the visions and positive energies of Darien Fernandez, running for Mayor, and Pascualito Maestas, running for a council seat.
These two young men are wise beyond their years, smart and have a keen sense of democracy and compromise. Isn't that refreshing?
They understand that citizen participation is vital to a healthy government, completely contrary to the current administration, which thinks it has all of the answers and requires no input from those who elected them. Indeed, this administration has gone out of its way to either put in place measures to keep the citizens in the dark. For example, it has instituted a draconian protocol for obtaining official records and has removed opportunities for participation, such as closing the development review committee.
In spite of the many insults too often thrown at them by Rick Bellis, the town manager, and others on the council, the "same old gray-haired Anglos" have steadfastly protested projects planned in secret and presented to the citizenry long after they were "done deals." The "Gray Hairs" haven't done it alone.
Thousands of people have signed petitions objecting to projects that would ruin Taos only to see those signatures completely ignored and denigrated by this administration. Thank goodness Darien and Pascualito have heard us.
Both of them understand the need for transparency and for economic growth opportunities that respect the culture and heritage of Taos.
They know big boxstores and corporate takeover is not for Taos. Darien voted against breaching the traditional 40-foot height limit for a Holiday Inn Express. Pascualito vows to keep the height limit intact as well.
With persistence, Darien was able to convince the council to at least have an informational hearing before the vote on the hotel overlay zone, which allows for 48-foot hotels, instead of having the ordinance railroaded through with only one hearing. Pascualito also calls for multiple hearings before important projects are cast in stone.
As examples of ways to increase transparency, a big theme with Darien and Pascualito, council agendas will be published much earlier, be better defined, and streamlined; speaking time will be increased to five minutes; the day and time of council meetings will be reconsidered to provide citizens with more availability to their government; and the records request procedure will become more user-friendly and responsive to the people.
Some of the economic ideas Darien and Pascualito will be exploring, after hiring an economic development officer, include tapping into our agricultural potential; providing incentives for renewable energy; expanding tourism programs to include ecotourism to attract millennials; focusing on developing small businesses and satellite tech jobs, both of which have a smaller footprint and use less water than large manufacturing plants; and making Taos attractive to film industry projects. Visit Darien's and Pascualito's websites to continue reading about their ideas:
Three votes on Council are needed to get Darien's and Pascualito's initiatives enacted. To round out the ticket, a seasoned old pro, Judi Cantu, has voted against paving over the Couse pasture, the hotel overlay zone, a four-story Holiday Inn Express, closing the development review committee and one-way street pairs through town. She is the only woman running for council who has four years of on-the-job experience. She has worked hard to learn the inner workings of the government in spite of the disrespect she has suffered at the hands of Rick Bellis, Mayor Barrone, Councilors Fritz Hahn and Nathaniel Evans.
Yes, Darien Fernandez' and Pascualito Maestas' time has arrived.
Lawrence Baker is a weary Taos activist who urges you to make her job easier in the future by electing the above candidates.