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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:
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
October 13th 2013
Bogus Accusation Says Rachel
Here is what Rachel has to say about what transpired
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. "
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
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
October 12th 2013
The Ice Cream Bus shut down by BLM
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Richard Jones Challenger
Co-spokesperson Ariel Greely,
Janet Gibeau, challenger.
Kim Benedict, incumbent.
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
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.
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
Board position #2 Janet Gibeau, incumbent.
Board position # 3, Jennifer Peters,
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
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:
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
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.
April 29th 2013
May Vendor Meeting Thursday May 16th at the Gorge Bridge in Front
of the Rest Area.
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.
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
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.
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