Opinion: Yeargin announces bid for county commission

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Some of my friends and fellow Democrats have asked me to run for county commissioner for District 5 in the primary and, hopefully, the election. After due deliberation, I humbly accept. My commitment is to be an honest voice for the 99 percent.

Many constituents are wishing the incumbent commissioner, Candyce O'Donnell, would speak up to demand that the Forest Service designate more areas for firewood cutting. Small diameter trees from thinning projects do not meet local needs. The Forest Service should plan for new firebreaks that would clear trees from strips along roads west of communities in Peñasco and Valle Escondido. O'Donnell should support such projects, which would lessen the fire risk and increase the firewood available for heating homes in Taos County.

Residents are also tired of waiting for this commissioner to speak out for better Forest Service water management on the upper Rio Fernando. O'Donnell is apparently OK with the polluted surface water flowing through Taos Canyon and the Town of Taos, a problem that has been linked to livestock impacts by reports in The Taos News.

Town officials have also been silent. The town's environmental resolution, published as a two-page advertisement in the newspaper, contained only two lines referring to the Rio Fernando. The resolution failed to mention that the headwaters are impaired by hazardous levels of bacteria.

The town's elected leaders may figure they have nothing to gain by speaking out about grazing impacts. They realize that only the county government has the jurisdiction to pass a livestock control ordinance to protect and restore this battered river. If I am elected, the Rio Fernando will be protected.

Other local issues are looming. Because of Republican budget cuts, it is urgent to increase county revenues to meet the growing public needs. In Taos County and the rest of the country, it is way past time for large corporations and the wealthy to start paying their share of taxes. Instead, the Republicans in Washington are cutting taxes even further for international corporations and wealthy elites by slashing health care, taxing students, and adding one trillion to the national debt.

Home rule status for Taos will give voters here the power to raise the minimum wage--and to pass progressive taxes on giant corporations and the wealthy. I am working with experts in tax law to find ways to make property taxes fair and equal, as required by the state constitution.

Currently, high-volume commercial traffic at businesses like big-box stores and multi-story hotels is using a disproportionate share of resources such as water and infrastructure, and adding to air pollution. Those higher costs to the community should be offset by raising taxes on assets operated by large corporations like Walmart, Holiday Inn, and Taos Ski Valley. As commissioner, I will fight for higher taxes on large corporations and the wealthy in Taos County, including a local aviation fuel tax surcharge.

Hefty new sources of revenue from taxes on giant corporations and the rich could help pay for better education, more affordable housing, and infrastructure. But I think the first money from progressive local taxes should be used to supplement the new minimum wage with an additional $2 per hour in every worker's pay check, including town and county employees. Taos needs a living wage, not just a higher minimum wage.

A subsidized living wage would be a boon for businesses in Taos County. Studies show that employees' performance would increase and turnover would decrease. If the quiet desperation of Taos working people is alleviated by adequate wages, crime and opioid abuse will go down and quality of life will go up for rich and poor alike.

To keep dark money out of the coming elections, Taoseños should insist on full disclosure by all the candidates of their sources of campaign financing and income. I'll go first: I am 67 and my only income is from Social Security. On the bright side, my retirement leaves me with plenty of time to listen to the people in District 5 and Taos County. (I will return all local calls. My voicemail is 758-3327.) My campaign will be an open book on the web, with no anonymous donors and all expenditures itemized. I challenge the other candidates to do the same and to release their tax returns.

Yeargin has lived in the Taos area since 1976. He has worked in various trades including food service, construction, and drum-making. He is a member of Taos United. This is his first run for public office.

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