The Taos News sent candidates a questionnaire for Decisions 2022, here are my full answers.
What is your date of birth?
August 2nd, 1978
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in the vacation town of Charlevoix Michigan, where my parents stayed snowed in with a baby for one winter before they fled to the southwest. I grew up here in Taos.
What is your highest level of education?
I am the father of two kids. My postgraduate work at the Glasgow School of Fine Art pales in comparison.
Have you ever been charged with a crime more serious than a traffic violation?
Not that I know about.
Why are you running for mayor of Taos?
Growing up I always thought I’d run for county commissioner, maybe get our road paved. When the town annexed the extraterritorial zone those dreams had to get updated.
How would you respond to someone who would say that running for a political position — for any other reason than having a genuine desire to be elected — is disrespectful to the political process and stands to create confusion for voters?
Get wrecked. I find your idea of “voter confusion” to be condescending at best. I believe the people of Taos are smarter than to be confused by a candidate who speaks honestly about his (or her) feelings. Make no mistake:
in the event of my winning the election I will do my best to serve the people of Taos. This country was founded on disrespect for the political process and I’m honored to be thought of in that company. Thank you.
Are you affiliated with any organizations (volunteer work, or serve on boards of clubs or nonprofits)? What significant achievements have you accomplished in those roles?
I don’t know that I want to be affiliated with any organization that would have me as a member. I was on the board of the Taos Media Collective with Peter Walker where we used internship opportunities at our media companies to teach local youth production skills and ramp them into the film industry. With Louis Moya’s vision those relationships became the basis for the FDMA program at UNM Taos and I’m very proud of what we are accomplishing there. In that capacity I’ve worked closely with True Kids 1 as a mentor the last couple of years. I mentored a couple of kids through Nonviolence Works on Councilman Hahn’s request, and before I had kids I served on the Taos Mountain Balloon Rally board for several years. I am always happy about that party, come ballooning with us!
What are the biggest challenges you believe you would face if elected to be mayor?
We all have ideas about what Taos is, and what Taos was. The challenge is to look forward. To envision what Taos will become, and communicate that vision to our community . The things that worked for our parents and grandparents can’t all work in the future, but we can learn from them. Not just their successes, but their failures. For instance: everyone likes the ideas of more walking/bike paths and the celebration of our Acequia culture. When you try and merge those ideas, say by granting a ten foot easement along the acequia for a multi-use path that grants easier access to the acequia and solves some of our pedestrian hopes, everyone thinks it’s a great idea, it’s a “no brainer”. But when that path puts strangers along your field, or in your front yard the tune changes pretty rapidly. It will take trust in our fellow humans to make that last step to bring a better tomorrow for our town, and that kind of trust you can’t buy. You have to earn it.
If elected, would you support keeping in place current town staff members, such as Town Manager Rick Bellis? Why or why not? Please explain.
I think town employees should be concerned about their positions based on how well they are performing in their roles, not worried by an incoming administration. I also believe that town dollars need to get spent in town, and that paying for someone to live outside of our economy is basically throwing money away in the long term.
The Town of Taos government has been criticized for what has been at least perceived as an overemphasis on development initiatives that serve tourists (such as the town’s significant spending on the Taos Regional Airport) as opposed to locals (such as the development of affordable housing amid rising home prices and rents). If elected, how would you balance the needs of these two broad groups when making decisions about how town money is spent and grant-seeking efforts are prioritized? How does Taos avoid the type of gentrification that has taken place in other small towns, like Aspen?
I don’t’ know about you, but I vacation in places that are awesome for their people to live in. Growing up here, Taos always gave off the vibe that it was awesome all the time for people interested in the arts and the out of doors and that’s who lived here. My bicycle was a passport to everywhere I wanted to be and the only things that seemed out of reach were night clubs and 24hour movie theatres. What it really taught me is that “the party is in your heart” by which I mean the party is where you make it. In college i watched a lot of people search for “the party” or “a good time” thinking they would find it in a nightclub or a bar. Growing up here taught me that the party is where you make it, and so I think I might take that a little step further. The town recently has been trying to make the party happen at specific events instead of making Taos awesome all the time. I think that focusing on making sure the people of the town and county of Taos love being here, all the time, will serve to draw tourists back again and again.
The issue of candidate residency has again emerged as a major concern among the electorate in Taos for this year’s election. Where is your permanent residence located and what proof can you provide to show that you live there full-time? Do you have any other residences, and if so, where are they located?
I think that if it truly is an issue to the voters of Taos, Genevieve will win by a landslide because she’s “the only one who lives in town” and that if it’s such a big deal then she should have Dan, Pascual, and myself arrested. If that’s what matters to the people of Taos, I’ll see you all down the road. I don’t think it does though. I don’t believe the people who voted for a Mariachi, twice, think it’s a big deal, though it is a “hot button” topic because of the way our town is laid out.
Do you believe that Taos County residents living outside the town, who, for example, have business interests within its limits, should be allowed an exception under new rules to vote or run in town elections? Why or why not?
No. If you live in the county you fall under the jurisdiction of the county. That’s cool. If you live in town you fall under the jurisdiction of the town. Also cool. I can understand that people who have business interests want to feel like their voices are heard and that their needs are being met by the town, and I can only urge that they get together with other like minded business people and make an association. Unions baby! You would be amazed the sway the Lodgers Association has when interacting with the town.
The town’s water system, particularly in the historic district, has long been dysfunctional, with several major water leaks occurring every year. If elected, how would you address these problems and improve the town’s water infrastructure?
I’m no expert in hydrology or public works. I’m pretty sure there are experts around, however, and I think that by paying attention to what the experts think you’ll get a good idea of what is needed. Once you know what is needed, you can budget for it and make it happen. I’m pretty sure there are hydrology and mining experts in the county somewhere, that there are robots designed for tunneling under the earth and laying pipe, and things of that nature. The real question is, again, about manpower and trust. Do these waterworks guys trust that we need them in their jobs going foreword? Do they feel like the rug is going to get pulled out from under them if everything is working perfectly? How can we engender the trust required to make good public works in all aspects of the town, because that’s what it’s going to take at the personnel level.
Federal, state and municipal governments have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. Chief among them has been the question of how to balance the need to keep economies running while protecting public health. Taos’ economy has suffered during the pandemic because of event cancellations, business restrictions and the like, while the area has still recorded 3,775 positive cases and 75 deaths due to COVID-19 as of Jan. 15. Do you believe the town struck the proper balance in its pandemic policies? How do you envision the town’s future in light of the continued spread of the virus? If elected, what policies would you adopt moving forward?
I think the town made the best decisions they could with the information they had, and hat’s off to those in the public works, health and safety departments. Regardless of how it has shaken out so far, it’s important to remember that we are all just people trying our best. At a national level I think the idea of “getting the economy back on track” is dumb and, if this pandemic is such a priority that we really cherish our most vulnerable population, we should socialize the heck out of society until it’s over, it’s a fun intellectual political exercise. At a local level it’s mostly horse manure. You can’t close all public events with one hand, and advertise to the world inviting everyone to come here with the other. It has been a monumental waste of both social and economic capital because the people who came here (because we asked them to) ran into our indifference, shame, and fear. I don’t think they will be back. We know now that we are going to live with Covid to the end of our days, and we probably are the first American generation that will live shorter life spans than our parents. That’s tough to swallow, but the sooner we do the sooner we can start to make decisions about what we want our kids lives to look like. The effect of the lockdown on our kids is only beginning to be documented and it looks like we’re going to owe them an apology at the very least.
Would you support a government vaccine mandate for COVID-19? Why or why not?
No. I think we should treat it the same way we treat other vaccines. That’s between you, your doctor, and the immigration office of whatever country you are trying to go visit. I am amazed at how fearful everyone is, and divided in their idealism about a product that has been on the market less than a year. It’s an amazing feat of scientific work, and we have literally no idea how it’s going to shake out. Id’ probably feel differently if the manufacturers of the vaccine were not so adamant about not being held liable for any accidents or byproducts of their hastily cobbled together research, but they are.
What do you view as the primary purpose of Kit Carson Park? Who, in your opinion, should be allowed to use it and control how it is used?
Kickball. I think the parks department should be in charge of keeping the facilities clean, and a schedule of what’s going on when. That schedule should be accessible by the citizenry who want to do things like have baseball games and concerts in the park. That summer youth camp we had in the 80’s was pretty baller as well, I wish I could sign my kids up for something like that.
Recreational marijuana will be a money-maker for Taos, as other areas in the state and as exemplified by other cities in other states that passed laws to fully legalize marijuana before New Mexico. But what problems do you envision with legalization? How will you work to address marijuana abuse, impairment and the negative developmental impacts marijuana has been shown to have on youth?
I’m going to clutch my pearls really hard and pretend that drug usage in our youth has something to do with their access to marijuana and nothing to do with the part where there is no leadership in showing kids how to become adults having a good time. Where is the underaged venue that kids can play shows at? What do our youth want to do? Where is the future we are promising them and what does it look like? The lack of economic stability for the Taos youth is a starting point in that conversation, and what I know about growing up here is that if we can get them to participate, they will tell us what they want and need. We just have to offer them the chance to make better lives for themselves.
With so many local events promoters, and those located elsewhere in the state, do you believe it is a wise use of resources for the town to be in the events business, promoting concerts and the like that are held in the area?
No. Though we should be happy to rent out our spaces to those who do.
The town’s offices have been closed during the pandemic. Meetings, even during lulls in the pandemic’s spread, have been held remotely, which some people believe has made it more difficult for the public to participate and remain informed. If elected, when would you re-open the town’s offices and when will meetings return to an in-person setting? If meetings were still held remotely, are there any adjustments you would make to the way meetings are held and allow access for the public?
It seems to be time to re-open the town offices, though there may need to be some procedural changes in order to minimize employee risk. It’s working at the schools and at the county courthouse, so we should be able to do it as well. Some of our people fall into the “high risk” category, and special consideration of their needs should be taken. I could see some people retiring early, or bringing up their replacements while working remotely in order to keep people safe while creating a new way of doing business with Taos.
The town, like many other organizations, has experienced a shortage of workers. How would you plan to address this problem?
By hiring qualified people, and apprenticing non-qualified people through a mentorship program.
The Town chose to shut down the Taos Recycling Center on Bertha Street in 2021, then reversed course on that decision and chose to reopen it this year. What strategies would you propose to both keep it open and make it financially sustainable and efficient at keeping recycled goods out of the Taos Landfill? Do you have any other proposals to provide a viable recycling solution for Taos?
Taos has an incredible opportunity to lead the way with recycling. To start, the town should be taking in recycling, sorting out the glass we can re-use and the plastic we can turn into 3d printing filament. We are so blessed to have a good partnership with WM, who is one of the leading companies in the world when it comes to recycling, and to have access to world class experts in recycled materials out at Mike Reynold’s earth ship community. I think the town can start the process, find partners who want to run businesses and turn our lack into an economic gain.
There has been some discussion about relocating the town’s visitor center on the south end of town along Paseo del Pueblo Sur to another area. Do you support relocating the center and where would you propose as the ideal location for it? Please explain.
I think it would be amazing to partner with the pueblo, buy cantu’s storefront there by Ojitos and Placitas across from La Cueva, and put up a combined welcome center with a parking garage that would service all downtown’s needs while visually controlling both the entrance to the historic district and the “feel” of Taos. Barring that gigantic project, I think staffing the booth on the plaza would be a great place to start.
How do you plan to work with the county and other municipalities to accomplish mutual goals, or address potential conflicts?
I think it starts with communication and a willingness to be at the table until an agreement can be made. I believe conflicts in Taos are traditionally solved with a round of fisticuffs and I’m happy to get punched in the face by any of those guys to ensure that the projects we need partnership on get sorted. I’m also happy to spring for beers if the other party isn’t interested in violence.
Are there any conflicts of interest you have (or would develop) if elected that you would like to disclose to the public at this time?
My film career might just take off and I might have to take some time out from all the important Mayoral duties to attend to things like going to the Oscars and having lunch with film investors. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that though.
Taos has a growing homeless population. What do you believe lies at the root of this problem and what would you do to address it?
The root of the homeless problem in America seems to be late stage capitalism, but nobody wants to talk about that. We are seeing an increase in homelessness here because the population of the earth has doubled during my lifetime and we are experiencing the fall out of the largest opioid epidemic the country has ever seen. I think the root of the problem is the economy, and I would address it by bringing more high paying jobs back into town.
Taos continues to also struggle with substance abuse problems. The town hasn’t had a detox center since 2015 and has no residential recovery options, which are viewed by experts as key to lasting sobriety. What would you do to address this and help locals gain access to treatment? Rio Grande Alcoholism Treatment Program has been trying to open a detox since 2019. How would you work with these partners to open a detox in 2022?
Again, there are experts and money for this project. We just need to take the lead and say “We have a detox center here in Taos and these are the people it is helping” and move on with our lives. I understand that none of us are comfortable with it being in our back yards, and no amount of pretending it’s not here will help us. Let’s take the lead and be proud of the people we are helping. They are us.
How do you view the town’s relationship with Taos Pueblo? How can the town effectively work with the Pueblo’s tribal council, particularly when addressing matters of public safety and substance abuse?
The town’s history with Spanish colonialism and American predestination is as complicated a social issue as we have in America today. Fortunately, we have a bunch of people on both sides of the border who grew up together, played sports together, and have really participated in understanding each other. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I believe that the people of Taos, both the town and the pueblo are good neighbors, and that we want the same things for our loved ones. The pueblo knows what they need to help their neighbors, and we know what we need to help ours. I think that by working together we can solve any problem that comes up. There is a history of systemic racism, sure, but it’s not so big that we can’t end it by accepting each other and working together as partners. It’s as simple as that. Dignity and respect aren’t all that hard to understand.
What are three traits or qualities you possess that you believe qualify you for this position?
I’m tall, I listen well, I’m willing to make decisions.
Do you value government transparency? How, specifically, would you ensure the public and the media remain informed on town activity in a timely and complete fashion?
Yes. I also value getting things done. By allowing public comment at town council meetings, documenting the ways in which decisions are reached, and creating a response to public outcry we can easily accommodate the rebuilding of trust in the elected government. You’re not going to like all the decisions I make, and that’s fine, but I think it’s just as important for the mayor and the council to hear your objections as it is for you to feel heard.
Describe at least one position you have held in the past on a political or social topic that you have changed.
I used to believe heavily in right and wrong almost as a black and white issue. As I have gotten older and recognized my own conditioning, I find that most things are shades of grey and the most important thing you can do is try to understand why someone feels differently than you do about a topic you disagree on.