A web site about the community of vendors at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

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Please visit our Vendors page with links to whatever contact information, art,  and other products each individual vendor has. 

June 2nd 2014

    On this post on the evening before the New Mexico Primary elections, I am going to do something I wouldn't ordinarily do and heartily endorse a candidate for public office. That candidate is magistrate judge Ernest Ortega. Since I already wrote a My Turn in the Taos News about it which provoked an interesting response from the opposing candidate, I am just going to link to that article:

Taos Should Keep Judge Ortega

    I could say a lot more about Mr. Fitzgerald and his defamation of both myself and the whole bridge vending community but since he has taken the lead in negativity, I will let him keep it. Much more important are the consequences of such defamation.  On May 23rd the BLM issued a scoping report for the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.  It is not very friendly towards the bridge vendors. The whole document is available online here. Since there are only a few pages that deal with vending at the bridge, here is an abridged version with just what is relevant to our community:


    While the BLM's response to the very negative public comment summery is not as bad as it could have been and they admit they don't, as of yet, have jurisdiction over us, it attempts to define us as a problem and omits one significant fact: The initial agreement was that the vendors participate with the BLM and NMDOT in resolving the safety issue and come up with a new vending site that was acceptable to all parties. Now, it seems, the BLM would like to exclude us from the process. They certainly aren't being transparent with us right now.

    Over the last three years, we have made numerous pragmatic and simple suggestions to both the state and federal government on how to alleviate the safety issue. Not one has been taken up. Does anyone really think the vendors want to work in dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, there seems to be a preference to believe the false and slanderous remarks of those like Robert Fitzgerald and investigate us for non existent "criminal conduct" rather than deal with the safety issue at the gorge in a real way by doing something as simple as moving a few cubic yards of earth around to make for a safer vending space.

March 18th 2014

BLM Moves Towards Individual Permits

    This post starts with a brief announcement of the next meeting of our vendors association.

    The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Vendors Association will have a meeting of its officers and directors this Tuesday March 25th starting at 8am in room 175 of the Taos County Administration Building on Albright St. in Taos.

     There will be more soon about the current bridge vendor situation and what has led to it over the last year. There is a lot I didn't report on when it happened for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that I, as spokesperson for the vendors association and the bridge vendors, am in a conflict of interest situation and have a hard time reporting objectively about a situation in which I am both a participant and a protagonist. After reflecting about it quite a lot, I've come to the conclusion that it is better to report more and be as honest and transparent as possible, especially given the lack of transparency I dealt with last fall on the part of the BLM and several vendors who disagreed with me about what the future of vending at the Taos Gorge Bridge should be.

    I will say that the BLM is moving from a collective permit for the association to permits for individual vendors. While a good thing in principal, it also has its problems. It does take away the conflict of interest situation that the collective permit put the vendors association in but it also gives more control to the BLM which, as the events of last fall demonstrated, doesn't always have the best interest of the current vendor community in mind. Such things as provisions for casual vending and no artificial restrictions on the number of vendors allowed on the vending site that were previously worked out in the structure that was agreed upon last year for the collective permit model have to be carried over into individual permits and how they are administered. Vending at the gorge bridge should remain a part of the community life of Taos and open to the community, not a gentrified market for a select few BLM permittees who will, more than likely, not be the same lively group of vendors who are there today.   

January 20th 2014

    The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Vendors Association will have a meeting of its officers and directors this Thursday January 23rd starting at 8am in room 175 of the Taos County Administration Building on Albright St. in Taos.

December 12th 2013

Rachel Vindicated, Charges Dismissed

     Rachel Dorner had her day in court yesterday and all charges against her were dismissed. This comes after a BLM ranger informed me last month that the BLM rangers would no longer be evicting vendors for minor infractions and that Rachel could come back whenever she wished. This good news comes almost exactly two years after the vendors were barricaded out of the former vending area on the east side of the bridge.

October 13th 2013

Bogus Accusation Says Rachel

    Here is what Rachel has to say about what transpired yesterday:

    "Just for the record I don't sell drugs. I sell Coffee Shakes. I never have, ever sold drugs on my bus. Everyone who knows me knows this. I make a honest living everyday of my life. I work hard for what i do have and i find this slander incredibly damaging to an otherwise respected reputation of a working woman and mother in this community. "

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Association Treasurer Kim Benedict was also subjected to a warrant less search yesterday on the grounds that she was putting a package in her car and that made the rangers suspicious.

    I am going to say more in the coming days but this has been a blatantly hostile act on the part of BLM law enforcement. The rangers told me that the policy was now that any vendor who had the most minor of infractions such as an expired registration would not only be cited for that infraction but no longer allowed to sell at the bridge. Not only does this policy violate our constitutional right to due process and the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments, it unfairly targets the poorer and less fortunate vendors who depend on vending at the gorge for their daily sustenance and are more likely to have minor infractions like an expired car registration.

No bus here anymore!!!

The 14th Amendment to the US constitution, section 1:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Definition of due process:
"Procedural due process is the guarantee of a fair legal process when the government seeks to burden a person's protected interests in life, liberty, or property, and substantive due process is the guarantee that the fundamental rights of citizens will not be encroached on by government."

October 12th 2013

The Ice Cream Bus shut down by BLM rangers!!!

    At around 12 noon today 3 USBLM rangers showed up responding to an anonymous complaint that drug dealing was occurring at the Ice Cream Bus. They first asked to enter and the owner, Rachel Dorner, refused, they then returned with a drug sniffing dog. The dog gave a positive signal and that, according to the ranger I spoke with, gave them the justification they needed to enter without a search warrant. As far as I know, they found no evidence of dealing and the owner was cited for an expired registration and told she would no longer be allowed to sell at the bridge. I arrived on the scene as it was transpiring and talked to the BLM rangers and stated my objections to this. An expired registration is not a justification to take away someones ability to earn a living. It is a bad precedent for the rest of us who earn our living at the bridge. This is nothing the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Vendors Association has been informed about or agreed to. We support our vendors basic right to earn a living in the way they have worked out for themselves and any attempt to deprive a vendor of their livelihood has to be done with all the due process that the US constitution guarantees them. This would mean a court conviction on the original complaint after a trial by jury. An unsubstantiated complaint and an expired registration are not sufficient grounds to deprive someone of their means of earning a living.

October 7, 2013

The Rumors Are False!!!

    For the last few weeks there have been rumors circulating in Taos that the areas where people are currently setting up to vend on the west side of the gorge bridge were going to be closed off to parking and vending. It has gotten to the point of creating panic and uncertainty among the vendors. They are completely false. I talked this afternoon to David Martinez of NMDOT and there are no plans to do any work at all until next spring. There are plans to close off the current vending areas to auto entry but that won't happen until the new vending and parking areas are developed according to Mr. Martinez and the proximity of parking to the new vending area will be taken into account and we, the vendors, will be able to review the plans and suggest changes before the work is done.

     After a period of burn out and withdrawal after the bruising election of last summer I have neglected to update this site and have been meditating on a new plan for it. I'm moving it to a new server soon but I will post a bit of a catch up  news on what's happening in the bridge vendor community. The first bit of news is the result of last summer's election of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Vendors Association:

Spokesperson: David Baca

Co-spokesperson: Janet Gibeau

Secretary: Erica Reeve

Treasurer: Kim Benedict

Board Position 1: Richard Jones

Board Position 2: Jennifer Peters

Board Position 3: Charles Forlines (Badger)

    I will post more over the next few days.


July 14th, 2013

    First an announcement: The final opportunity to vote in the vendors association election will be on Thursday July 18th. Jennifer Peters and Kim Benedict will be at the gorge between 9 and 12am to accept ballots and ballots will be available for those who haven't yet received them or have lost them. Votes will be counted at 12 noon in or around the rest area.

    I have received only two responses so far to my request for comment on the website. Both are from former vendors one of whom is a candidate in our current election who requested a disclaimer that this is not the official site of the vendors association. I feel that should be obvious but I will honor that request: This website is the sole creation of David Baca who is Spokesperson of the vendors association and the author of its articles of incorporation and draft bylaws. It represents his personal views of what is happening and is not the website, official or otherwise, of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Vendors Association. The second response was from a former vendor who reads it regularly to keep up with what is happening at the gorge. He requested that I continue to report on what is happening even if it is negative and go further into the gory details because he wants to be informed. I would still like more responses but from the two I've gotten, it looks like the readership at present is very small but consists of those who really care about the bridge vendors and former vendors. I will continue to inform them. I'm not ready to go into any gory details at present but I will say that the political crisis of the vendors association has yet to be resolved and that this election is one of the weirdest I've ever seen or been involved in. I wouldn't expect less of such a group of individualists but there has been way to much intrigue, manipulation and negativity and it is putting the association in a dysfunctional state. What I said in my new years post at the bottom of this page applies to what is happening now.

June 17th 2013

    I have received some criticism lately that this site has had too negative a tone. In reviewing the few posts I have made this year, yes it has been somewhat negative but also truthful and I am caught between the journalistic aspect of the site and the necessity of being honest about what is happening and the need to portray the vendors in a favorable manner. The first think I would like to clarify is that I don't intend to put the vendors in a negative light, just the politics that is happening in the vendors association. The gorge bridge vendors are very much rugged individualists and trying to organize such people into an association with structure has not been and never could be an easy process. Yes, the politics have been ugly and negative but not the vendors themselves. We are merely human like everybody else and any group of people is going to have problems and difficulties both as individuals and as a group. This website was started in response to the most negative thing of all: The barricading of our old vending area. This has put us in a very difficult and crowded situation on the the other side of the bridge and the positive thing is that we are still there but the negative thing is the lack of space on the north side of US 64 and the rough conditions on the south side.

    In the future, I plan on having this site be a showcase of what the vendors have to offer at the bridge with lots of photos but, after thinking about it a bit, I still want to continue the news section but not have it be the only part of the site. I do have some faithful readers that have told me they like reading what I have to say. I would like to hear from them and request feedback via email to DB@spiralfusion.org from whoever is reading the site about the direction it should take in the future. Thank you.

David Baca

June 13th 2013

    We have been having a bit of a political crisis in our vendors association and the previous candidate list is no longer valid. Here is the updated candidate list:

                      Spokesperson    David Baca(myself), incumbent.
                                                 Richard Jones Challenger
                       Co-spokesperson  Ariel Greely, incumbent
                                                      Janet Gibeau, challenger.

                      Treasurer         Kim Benedict, incumbent.

                      Secretary         Erica Reeve, unoposed.

                      Board position #1 Richard Jones, incumbent.
                                                     Joe Nunn, challenger.

                      Board position #2 Jennifer Peters, incumbent.

                      Board position # 3 Charles Forlines, generally known as Badger, unopposed.

    As my previous post indicates, these have not been the easiest of times for the vendors or the vendors association. There is an  intense "family feud" going on among the vendors right now. I will not give out any of the gory details but I will recommend Janet Gibeau as my preferred candidate for Co-spokesperson due to what has happened over the last few months and leave it at that.

    I have also heard that the New Mexico state government is going to get more directly involved in the situation at the bridge. It is pretty much unconfirmed rumor at this point but from what I know, a lot of our neighbors who drive past us daily on their way to work and home have gotten so concerned about the safety issue of vendors being so close to the highway that they have petitioned the Governor to do something about it. They didn't ask that we be shut down, just that the safety issue be addressed. From the sound of it, it could be that emergency money will be made available for the development of new parking and the new vending site. It also sounds like we will be required to collect sales tax in the future. My source for this is one of the petitioners. That is all I know so far.

David Baca
In my position as vendor Spokesperson.

May 17th 2013

    Yesterday's vendor meeting started out smoothly but degenerated into a disruptive circus due to the usual disruptive vendors who have made all our meetings a trial of endurance since last June. In spite of this four new members were voted into the vendors association and ballots for the vendors association officer and director positions were given out to the vendors who participated in the meeting and the majority of vendors who just were there to do business and stayed away from the circus. For those of you who are members of the vendors association or former vendors who are interested, the candidates for each position so far are:

                       Spokesperson David Baca(myself), incumbent.
                       Co-spokesperson, Juan Romero Jr

                       Treasurer, Kim Benedict, incumbent.

                      Secretary, Zion Archuleta, incumbent.

                      Board position #1 Richard Jones, incumbent.
                                                     Charles Forlines, generally known as Badger, challenger.

                      Board position #2 Janet Gibeau, incumbent.

                      Board position # 3, Jennifer Peters, incumbent.

    At the end of the meeting there was a motion to make Richard Jones a candidate for Spokesperson and another to make it OK that he run for both positions on the part of a handful of vendors. Since there are write in spaces on the ballots, he can do this if he wishes even without any formal approval, but I find it in bad taste, to say the least. Since I haven't had an out and out confirmation from Richard on this and it was done in a very heated moment packed with negative emotion, I will not put his name as running against me until he formally tells me so and I will still ask that he remove himself from his candidacy for his current position.

    In addition to the positions, there are ballot questions about approving the draft bylaws with two possible changes. The first is to increase the number of general board positions to 5 which will make for 7 in all with the secretary and treasurer. I put this on the ballot in spite of the opposition from the current board to the idea, due to a lot vendors feeling that there was inadequate representation of the vending community on the board. I feel that the current board and officers would have a hard time managing the vending site under a USBLM permit and it is time to get new and more people involved.

    The second  question is for approval of  a provision in both our bylaws and site rules for the expulsion of vendors from the new vending site for problem behavior such as drunken and disruptive behavior. It is something the USBLM would like in our rules. I have made it very clear in the proposition that expulsion would be for just a set amount of time and there would be no permanent ban of anyone nor would anyone lose their membership in the vendors association and that any expulsion can be appealed to a vote of the whole vendors association.

    The third is for approval, disapproval or modification of the draft site rules that I have revised and made more explicit at the request of USBLM law enforcement. These rules will be enforceable by USBLM rangers once the permit is signed. I deliberately made certain provisions very strict and explicit and made some rules very protective of local vendors who actually produce their own products who are the majority of the bridge vendors. USBLM is fairly happy with them but I don't expect the vendors to be, nor do I expect the vendors to adopt them without some changes. There is an opinion poll aspect to this ballot proposition and I wouldn't consider these rules legal unless an overwhelming majority of the vendors approve of them. What I expect is that there will be a modified draft put out for approval again next month when votes will be collected and counted. Here is a copy of the draft site rules:

Site Rules May 2013

    Politics aside, the main thing for the vendors right now is to get the new vending site developed. There can't be a USBLM permit that would work unless that happens. I'm really happy with having Juan Romero and Badger as candidates because the vendors association needs some practical and clear headed people working on this. I am getting lots of feedback from people in the community about how dangerous and precarious the situation is with the vendors setting up so close to the highway. Here are of couple of pictures of what it's like now. Very little has changed in the last year and a half since the old vending area was shut down. That has to rank as one of the stupidest and most short sighted exercises of political power in Taos County's history.

 I will be posting more on this website now that we are holding are first general election since the Vendors Association incorporated in January 2012.

           David Baca
           Vendor Spokesperson.

April 29th 2013

May Vendor Meeting Thursday May 16th at the Gorge Bridge in Front of the Rest Area.

       The vendors association will hold its first annual meeting at the Gorge Bridge on Thursday May 16th in the west end of the the new vending area. All the officers and directors positions of the association will be up for election and ballots will be given out at the May meeting, collected throughout the month and counted at a follow up meeting in June. Members of the association who are interested in running for any of the positions, please contact me by May 15th to get your name printed on the ballot. There will be blank spaces for write in candidates who decide to run after the 16th. There will be draft bylaws to be approved with some specific questions as well.

    And after not posting anything since New Years, the report on the current status of the vendors is not much changed since last year so far. There have been several meetings with USBLM and the current goal is to have us under a USBLM permit in May. We have had one meeting with USBLM, NMDOT and Taos County to discuss the design and work to be done on the new vending site. A lot of good ideas were presented and some progess is being made but so far no actual work has been done on the new vending site. There is no longer a 25 vendor limit in the draft permit stipulations and the design is being done to accommodate more vendors. Vending is still going on the way it was last year with most vendors setting up close to the highway. There has been progress made in coming to agreement with the USBLM on permit and design issues but there is still a lot to be done on the design side and bringing the design of the new vending area to reality.

New Years Day 2013

    It's been a year and almost a month since the old vending and parking areas on the east side of the gorge bridge were closed.  I've moved all the posts that document what happened over the last year to the News Archive section. This year we start off with the vendors still present on the west side of the bridge using the very small cutout by the bridge. The process of coming to an agreement with the USBLM is still dragging on. There has been no work done on the proposed vending site in front of the rest area as of yet. At the last meeting we had with the BLM, I presented the following document in which I state some things that need to be taken into consideration for a permit arrangement between the BLM and the vendors to be successful. I also present measurements of the both  the old and the new vending sites and demonstrate that there should be more than enough room for the same amount of vendors as before if the new site is done right.

Permit and Design Considerations for the New Vending Area.pdf

    In my last post of November 9th, I stated how I felt after almost a year into the process of forming an association and representing the collective interest of the vendors to the BLM. It has been a very trying year filled with some intense disagreement among vendors. The process of forming an association last year started off well but we hit major snags when we started arguing over how many vendors there could be and who could be a vendor under the USBLM permit. There is a huge problem of giving some of the vendors the power to decide who can and can't be in the association and vend at the gorge. There is a lot of conflict of interest in this and it is easy for someone in the position to make the decision of who's in and who's out to decide based on personal biases and prejudices. It can be the elimination of a competitor or just someone that someone else doesn't like. The solution to this is obvious: Sufficient space for the whole vending community and an open association that concerns itself with managing the vending site and not who vends in it. Vending at the gorge has been open to anyone in need and has provided a way of making a living to those who don't fit into the regular work world and it should continue to be open to those in need. I present again what a fellow vendor said about vending at the gorge:

"When I started selling at the bridge, I had just closed my business in town, cracked the head of my Isuzu, and was getting ready to file a bankruptcy for which I had to pay for with borrowed money. I hitchhiked to the bridge and set up on the ground. $20 would have been a LOT of money to me on those days. BUT it was the bridge that got me out of that situation, and I wish that it was there for others that are in similar situations like mine was."

This is the point of view I'm coming from when representing the collective interest of the vendors with the various government agencies we are dealing with.

    David Baca

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