Twenty-nine people turned out for our first Community Forum since February – and our first-ever virtual meeting! We thank all of you for coming and encourage you to bring a friend next time. The Taos United Steering Committee wants to put more effort into becoming an inclusive organization that represents all groups in our diverse community. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.
Comments on this and all Re-caps are also appreciated.
Terry Surguine was the evening’s moderator. He gave a few pointers for using Zoom effectively. He also noted that “we have all missed seeing each other’s smiling faces … so how about some smiles now?” Everyone smiled, refreshing his soul and getting us off to a great start! Terry provided a short overview of the past five months, which have been strange and seemingly gone haywire. Despite the huge mistake re-opening of public places before the Covid-19 pandemic was effectively tamed, he believed that more Americans are waking up to true nature of the President and his enablers, whose ideologies are dangerous to our fragile democracy. He gave a shout out to doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, postal workers and other essential workers, saying they deserve our thanks, our respect, and better pay. He noted our able leadership at the state level and said that Taos has weathered the Covid-19 storm pretty well. He also said that we are learning the real meaning of Black Lives Matter since the murder of George Floyd.
Newcomers to the forum introduced themselves:
- Fay Chasen Sidelman, who lives in Albuquerque but has joined the Taos letter-writing group to flip Arizona blue;
- Stanley, who attended for the first time in January and has been looking forward to the re-opening;
- Riede, who is a postcard writer and a first-time user of Zoom; and
- Gillian Joyce, chairperson in Taos County for the 2020 census.
In order of talking (no specific categorization this time!) –
1. Jean Stevens encouraged everyone to watch Democracy Now from Monday evening, with an amazing 2012 interview with John Lewis, DemNow podcast – John Lewis. She noted Lewis’s belief that love is always the answer and that war is barbarian. She noted that during this 75th anniversary period of the first use of the atomic bomb, we in Taos live just 45 miles from the invention site of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos, where production of plutonium pits is going gung-ho. She deplored the 55% of our national budget goes for the military and war. She urged participants to take a look at the website for World Beyond War (Canada) and possibly participate in their August 20-21 peace conference. Go to https://worldbeyondwar.org/events/. Jean said that a lot of social justice programs could be done with money currently going to fund our increasing bellicose war efforts.
- Stanley, a resident in Carson, recently started the Green Mesa Project, promoting sustainable building and self-sufficient living. They are just starting out and doing some tree planting and harvesting to help restore the mesa’s diversity. Phone or text him for more information: 808-228-7059.
3. Marjorie Luckey, TU Board member and chair of TU’s Elections Committee, reminded us that we have only 14 weeks left until the election. She believes the 2020 electionwhich is the most important in recent US history. “The future of our country, all our lives and livelihoods and life on this Planet all hang in the balance of this election,” she said. The Elections Committee has two major thrusts:
Keep NM blue, which the Taos County Democratic Party (TCDP) and NM Democratic Coordinated Campaign are taking the lead on; and
Flip the Senate, which TU is working on, with Swing Left, Vote Forward, Indivisible and Flippable. These are national organizations working in 12 battleground states, some of which have
severe gerrymandering. Vote Forward has a goal of sending 10 million letters to voters who may be unlikely to vote. Other actions including writing postcards, mass texting from your
computers, fundraising, phone banking, and multiplying your efforts by inviting friends and families to join you. There are currently >80 people in the group, and more are always welcome!
Contact Marjorie at http://firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-902-6091 to join the group, which meets regularly on Zoom. It is fun to work together on postcards or letters, each of us from the
safety of our own home. Go to Vote Forward and register for as many letters as you think you can generate each week: https://votefwd.org/
Please go to Join the Team to Flip the Senate/ Dump Trump: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/G5G6VBH to join Marji, Terry, Diane and 70-some other volunteers!
- George Brown, Treasurer of the TCDP, confirmed Marji’s statement that the county and state Democratic Party groups are focusing on giving Joe Biden a solid blue vote. He reminded everyone of an event with NM Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Thursday evening, July 23 (apologies for not getting this Re-cap out, but you should have received the link from the TCDP). He also explained that a group of people will begin to submit My Turn, letters to the editor and other opinion pieces, hopefully next week. It is being led by Bob Silver, with Linda Thompson, Martha Gillory. They want to generate 2 pieces a week. Please write to George at http://email@example.com
- Bud Branch joined us from a gathering of Moms Demand Action volunteers called Gun Sense University in Atlanta. Bud leads local chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots, non-partisan movement of Americans fighting for gun safety. Everyone – not only mothers! — is welcome to join Moms Demand Action. Over 40 candidates in NM are running for office this year and Moms Demand Action will support those who support gun sense. Another Moms Demand Action initiative is SMART: Secure all guns in your home and vehicles; Model responsible behavior around guns; Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; Recognize the role of guns in suicide; and Tell your peers to be SMART. Check out the national website: http://momsdemandaction.org/ and call or write Bud at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-825-9246.
- Suzie Schwartz, peace activist and leading a local group on nuclear issues, urged everyone to sign a proclamation, We Call for Sanity, Not Nuclear Production. You can find it on the Los Alamos Study Group’s website: http://lasg.org/letters/2020. She reminded us that our entire NM Congressional delegation, continues the proposed $6 BILLION for our two NM labs, with a paltry $6 million for social and education programs. She said we must demand a thorough examination of LANL’s war pit production. We also need Environmental Impact Statement standards review.
- Gillian Joyce, Coordinator for census in Taos County, was the featured speaker of the evening. She provided information about the 2020 census and began by showing a map of “hard-to-count areas” in the continental USA plus AK and HI. New Mexico is the hardest to count state! Much of the difficulties lie in our residents’ use of PO boxes, which have put us at a disadvantage over the years. For 2020, the situation is no better, with 4% reliance nationally but a whopping 79% in Taos County. With so many PO boxes, which are not linked to a physical address, it is hard to know where everyone lives. That means the Census Burueau has to hand the census packet to us personally. Unfortunately, that distribution began the very week of the Covid shutdown in March. So many residents did not receive them until 6+ weeks after rest of nation. She also said there has been major mixed messaging from the Federal government about how to participate in the Census (complicated recently by the Administration’s wish to not count millions of people already living in the US who are undocumented).Everyone in Taos County should have received a packet, but there is no staff capacity to get out there til “non-response” begins. As of July 20, only 28.7% of County residents had completed the census, compared to 52% in NM and 62.3% in the US overall).On August 11, “non-response follow up” process begins. Census workers will visit a home up to 6 times. After the 3rd time, they can ask neighbors for info pertaining to that house. Mixed messaging from Census Bureau, but have til Oct 31 to get everyone counted.
Gillian responded to questions:
- You can complete the census survey online even if you do not have a 12-digit code.
- If completed the online form and received the code, please do it again. It is easier for the Census Bureau to deal with duplicates than absentees.
- Race and ethnicity questions are not working well for our northern NM Hispanic community. The Census Bureau is completely insensitive to and unaware of the subtleties of self-identification, making it difficult for our local Hispanic and our Middle Eastern populations to respond. Not much to be done about that.
- She personally has not been promoting the use of the toll-free number as seems similar to credit card companies – you cannot tell immediately that you’ve called the census response hotline, and you’re guessing at which number to push to get a human to talk to. She has filed some complaints on how thr phone tree is functioning.
- One of best things we can all do is to commit to calling, texting, or emailing as many people as you can to explain importance of census
Contact Gillian at: email@example.com or (505) 470-4080 to help out!
- Danielle Freeman made a statement about scary messages that abound, that indicate children are going to be totally messed up if they miss some school. If you missed school for a week because of mumps, it didn’t impact you forever. To scare parents by making them believe their children will be permanently damaged if they don’t go to school is wrong. She urged everyone to not be afraid of schools remaining closed. It could be a golden opportunity to learn many things at home from their parents – cooking, running dishwasher, washing machine, gardening. She also noted that the kids do not forget over the summer vacation what they have learned the previous year. The slow start in the fall is due more to the teacher learning a new set of students, their skill levels and various needs.
- Bob Bresnahan, TU Board Chair, Trustee for Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and Co-founder of Renewable Taos, said that KCEC has brought up 5MWs of solar arrays this year. Each MW provides electricity for around 500 residences. A couple new projects will go live next summer and will provide 21MWs of electricity. There is a permitting hearing Monday, July 27, sponsored by the County Planning Dept. If you want to see 11,500 residences powered by clean solar energy, you should let the County know that you support the project. It will be out by the airport and will be relatively unseen. It will have 30 MWH of Battery Storage from Tesla, enough to help shave peak loads on winter evenings. Each MW of solar represents a $2 million infrastructure investment and will really help our struggling local economy. Once these arrays are built, KCEC hopes to bring cheap clean wind energy to the service area. The goal is 80% clean energy on the grid by 2025.
He noted that if Biden is elected, with his Green New Deal, there will be lot of money for resilience projects, Electric Vehicles (EVs) and other initiatives to clean up our environment. Renewable Taos wants to prod the town, KCEC, and others to buy electric fleets (like the town, county and Holy Cross Hospital); thin out the forests; and undertake other sustainability actions.
- Del Endres spoke for Taos Immigrant Allies. She said TIA has been making mini grants to families to cover rent and utilities and gift cards to buy food (so far, they have donated over $20,000). The big concern now is how many people may be evicted, once the government’s ban on evictions ends. TIA is also installing, refurbishing and maintaining Little Free Pantries – six of them have been weatherproofed and painted bright turquoise. More stewards are needed. Take a look at the TU website for a list of available food boxes. Send a check or write for more information to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gillian Joyce put on a separate hat to talk about the Alianza Agri-Cultura de Taos — https://www.alianzaagricultura.org/. This wonderful organization envisions a future “in which Taos County is home to a resilient local food, farming and ranching community; where food and agriculture play a holistic role in the vitality of our land and water, culture, community and economy.” They are partnering with LandLink NM, an online mapping service linking food producers to mentors. Much of our agricultural land going fallow as owners age, and with many younger, willing people unable to purchase land, the Alianza is working to connect owners with potential producers. They have MOU templates and can help identify free legal advice. They are also looking at agricultural landvaluation issue. The new coordinator is Corilia Ortega. Call (575) 425-0897 for more information.
Finally, a pitch was made for contributions to Taos United. The link is TU donations to make a contribution through PayPal or credit card. Our funds enabled us to have a nice website and pay for other things like postage to help get our 10,000 letters to battleground states!
Don’t miss next month’s Community Forum, on August 18.
Come make your own 3-minute statement on your favorite issue
and support your neighbors around town on theirs.