Rather than hold a public hearing to discuss and decide whether or not to opt-in to the Local Election Act, the town of Taos council voted to drop the item from the agenda at the beginning of the town council meeting on Tuesday (June 8).
If the council had chosen to opt-in to the act, an additional decision would have been made to shorten terms by 9 weeks or extend them by 22 months.
Town manager Rick Bellis suggested to the council that the item be taken off because he wasn’t sure of the legality of the term extension issue. “The conundrum is that if you can vote to extend your term and increase your compensation, therefore, does this create the appearance of conflict of interest?” questioned Bellis.
Bellis presented several alternatives to make the decision whether to shorten or lengthen terms limits a public one. He posited first that a special election could be held in August, in which ballots are mailed out to all registered town of Taos voters.
The second option would be that the council holds a special election to determine the term limit issue in November, along with other elections. The third option would be to ask voters how they feel about opting in to the Local Election Act at the normal town election in March of 2022.
“Ideally, we would do a special election, and if we have to do that, we have to do that in August,” said Bellis, noting that it would require a quick turnaround. “That would allow people who intend to run for office in the next election to already know the results of whether they'd be working with full council or not. If the voters turn this down and decide to leave it as March… nothing changes.”
All of the council (except for councilman Darien Fernandez, who was out with his newborn baby) voted in favor of removing the item from the agenda.
Nearly a dozen members of the public who signed on to voice their comments and concerns during the public hearing were allowed to speak during the citizen’s forum, and many spoke to the potential election changes.
Look for an extended version of this article in Thursday's paper.