Rearview: Union fights back, local takes a Grammy and kids with guns a 'danger'


-- 10 years ago --

'Taos' Robert Mirabal garners Grammy Award.'

Staff reportFeb. 14-20, 2008

Local farmer, flute maker and world-renowned musician Robert Mirabal took home a Grammy at the 50th installment of the illustrious award celebration.

Mirabal, who is from Taos Pueblo, was presented with the Native American Album of the Year for "Johnny Whitehorse Totemic Flute Chants." The album was produced by Silver Wave Records, based in Boulder, Colorado.

The album "captures a full-fledged Southwest tribal vibe in addition to Middle Eastern and North African musical influences," said his local media contact Drew Flack at the time. "Johnny Whitehorse is a character created by Mirabal, an alter ego on horseback roaming the desert Southwest."

Each of the 12 songs on the album honors a particular manifestation of the animal spirit, according to an Indian Country Today article published at the time.

The Grammy's Native American category was created at the turn of the millennium to honor "recording of a more traditional nature, but allowing contemporary recordings containing substantial traditional elements," according to The Taos News.

Mirabal's professional accolades are many. In addition to the 2008 Grammy, Mirabal was one of the contributors to the "Sacred Ground" ensemble recording that won the award in 2005. Mirabal was nominated for another Grammy in 2009 for the album, "Riders of the Healing Road."

"I've always been fascinated by the medicine men and women I've met on my travels," said Mirabal in a prepared statement about his 2009 nomination. "In ceremony, they have taught me the healing of one is the healing of all and encouraged me to collaborate with my music. Ultimately, music is my healer."

More recently, Mirabal performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The piece, "The Way of the Rain: Voices of Hope" by Sibylle Szaggars Redford, also featured Mirabal's daughters as well as former Vice President Al Gore, actor Robert Redford and New Mexico-based poet N. Scott Momaday.

-- 25 years ago --

'Ambulance union fights law repeal'

By Alisa DuncanFeb. 18, 1993

On the surface, the big news of the week from a quarter century ago seemed supremely wonky: the county government taking steps to repeal and replace an ordinance governing a fledgling union. But it was only one episode in an ongoing saga of labor negotiations that dragged on for more than a year.

The Taos County Emergency Services Workers Union formed in July 1992 after a 23-1 vote. The union had been negotiating with the county since September of that year.

In Feb. 1993, the county's "hired gun" for union talks, John Martinez, counseled the Taos County commissioners "to rescind the county's labor relations ordinance enacted in 1985 and adopt the State Collective Bargaining Law," which union reps argued was more restrictive than the local version.

The people who actually drove the ambulances weren't pleased. Paramedic Fred Shumate called the plan to repeal and replace "some bad advice."

"The potential effects of an action like his are horrendous," Shumate said. "The county would be creating and encouraging an anti-union environment for all of Taos County and northern New Mexico. This is a problem for the private sector unions as well."

"There is no reason the county would do this unless they were planning to have a more restrictive law," said union organizer Steven Carrillo.

Management at the county, however, said the statewide law makes more sense because it had been written and vetted "by some of the best minds in labor and management."

At that point, the county was still trying to get its footing in dealing with the newly formed union. A "negotiating team" of county employees had been disbanded in January in favor of bringing in Martinez, who represented several municipal governments in union contract wrangling.

The situation dragged on for quite some time. By September -- a full year after the union began negotiations -- both sides were using the word "stalemate" and casting blame across the trench.

And that's about as far as it went before everyone was thrown back to the drawing board.

The union dissolved in the spring of 1994 and came under the representation of the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees although those negotiations were slow to start, too.

-- 50 years ago --

'Kids Plus Rifles Equal Danger'

By Scott McCullochFeb. 15, 1968

Even before mass shootings in school classrooms, cafeterias and playgrounds were commonplace occurrences across the United States, gun safety occasionally spiked as a major concern for locals in rural Northern New Mexico.

According to Taos News reporter Scott McCulloch, kids with .22 calibre rifles were responsible for a string of incidents that included a shot-up storefront and the deaths of several pets.

"Every year this thing happens when youngsters come out and start using their Christmas presents -- firearms -- and this year there seems to be more of this type of trouble than in the past few years," said Taos County Probation Officer Mary Martinez.

She described the "recorded cases" of misuse of firearms as plaguing neighborhoods from Ranchos to Hondo.

In early January, two Ranchos kids were picked up after shooting and killing one dog and severely injuring another. In Arroyo Hondo, a juvenile shot a cat. Parents of the kids in both cases "settled" with the pet owners.

Apparently, there was some quiet remorse. "Some of the juveniles involved are pet owners and were rather mute when asked what their relation would be if their pets were shot," said Mrs. Martinez."

But humans, too, were almost targets of the gun-toting young people. A .22 bullet pierced the front window of Rael's Seven-Eleven Store. No one was hurt, owner Eloy Rael said, though the bullet "landed not more than three feet from where he stood at the stores cash register." Five other people were milling about the store at the time.

The Taos News did not mince words about the severity of the issue. Blazoned across the front page of the paper was the headline, "Kids plus rifles equal danger."

"The trouble with this whole affair is that in most cases the youngsters don't seem aware of the dangers involved and that's why it has to be up to their parents to make them aware," said Martinez. "The parents can be held responsible for damages -- but how do you make restitution when somebody gets killed?"

A half-century later, gun safety -- especially in schools -- is ever more important as mass shooters litter the country with victims. Schools routinely hold "active shooter drills" to prepare for the worst-case scenario as when a man killed two Aztec High School students last December.

It gets even closer to home, however. Questa High School went on lockdown one day in 2016 because two students threatened a mass shooting. And an incident two weeks ago involving a Taos High School wrestler shooting a pressurized "air soft gun," similar to a BB gun, set off renewed conversations about the easy availability of guns that people generally consider "toys."