Time has certainly flown differently over the past year and a half. During that time, we have learned more about ourselves and rediscovered what is truly important to us as individuals and as a society. In Taos, the pandemic exposed and exacerbated the issues that we have always had: the lack of affordable housing, poverty, substance abuse, and the need to diversify our economy.
Local government has failed to respond to (in many cases, even acknowledge) these local issues with any meaningful change from the pre-pandemic direction. For example, the 2021-22 budget passed by half of the Town Council (with a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Barrone) included $20 million for the airport and only $75,000 for affordable housing. Discussions between the Town and County regarding the detox facility are breaking down, and compromise can’t be found to reopen the recycling center. At the same time, worldwide economic disruptions threaten the recovery of the global economy, all while the tidal wave of climate change looms in the background.
Recent community surveys show broad support for action to address local needs. In fact, early results from the Taos Comprehensive Plan survey show community members believe that affordable housing and economic development should be the top two priorities (the airport came in dead last). Solid waste/recycling came in first for public works improvements. Businesses responding to the Taos County Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Economic Vitality Survey identified affordable housing as the most important space/event infrastructure for business success (the Taos Regional Airport ranked second to last, just ahead of Santa Fe Airport for transportation infrastructure). Despite a clear mandate from businesses and individuals alike, the Barrone administration and its indivisible bloc of council allies have remained unresponsive and steadfast in their prioritization of the airport to the tune of $20 million this year alone.
After eight years, it is clear that a reprioritization of local needs will require new leadership. Today, I am announcing my candidacy for mayor of the Town of Taos. As mayor, I will build on the work I have accomplished during my tenure on the council toward a local government that earns the trust of community members. I will usher in an unprecedented level of transparency, ensure effective communication to and from town hall, and create a culture that not only listens, but acts responsively to community concerns.
As mayor, I will take economic diversification seriously. As any wise investment strategist would warn against, we have put all of our eggs in one basket, subjecting Taos to the continual boom and bust of tourism. The future requires the development of the local food supply chain, investing in workforce training for trades and crafts, tackling the housing crisis, and taking care of our people so our labor force is valued, productive, and shares in the wealth they help create. I am the only candidate with the education, experience, and in-depth understanding of economics necessary to guide Taos to the diversification that has been desired for so long, and I will work actively with my town manager to move Taos forward.
I will also work collaboratively with Taos County, UNM-Taos, Taos Municipal Schools, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, and our nonprofit sector. It is time for the Town of Taos to form real partnerships with our cornerstone institutions. Together, we have a unique opportunity with the federal funds in the Build Back Better and Infrastructure bills to accomplish local goals. Your vote in this election will decide whether we change course and act in the best interests of Taoseñas and Taoseños or continue down the same path until we run out of runway.
I invite you to be a partner with me on this campaign and in office. Learn more about me and my ideas by visiting my website MaestasForMayor.com and join the movement.
Pascualito Maestas is a candidate for Mayor of the Town of Taos. Pascual graduated from the University of South Florida with undergraduate degrees in economics and international studies and earned a master’s degree in economics with a concentration in public utility policy and regulation from New Mexico State University with a 4.0 GPA. He is an honorably discharged Navy veteran, and currently serves on the Town of Taos Council as well as the Taos Municipal School Board.