Loco Mitote

By: Bill Whaley
27 January, 2020

El Salto de Agua: Judge Caught But Will He Pay?

Town Attacks Airbnb or Short Terms Rentals (STRs)

The town recently instituted an “emergency moratorium” to stop permitting additional Short-Term Rentals (STRs) but only offered vague reasons for the delay. The Town worries that diligent applicants will overwhelm town offices, present problems of non-conforming use, and are afraid of poorly thought out regulations, while saying they want to allow public debate. (STRs provide income to homeowners and rooms to tourists.)

Fifty percent of STRs are not permitted and do not pay their fair share of taxes, according to the Town. Yet they say they have no employee to supervise Airbnbs, which remit about 10% of Lodger’s tax income. Meanwhile, like the concert reports, the Town provides no evidence backed up by facts and figures except for what Airbnb voluntarily reports to the Lodger’s Tax Committee. How does the Town know if they don’t know?

The Town claims the STRs affect historic neighborhoods negatively due to density, traffic, and/or vacant houses because cars are left in the way of snow removal? Both occupied and vacant STRs pose a problem? Say What?

Some STRs have replaced historic drug dens on La Loma or Martinez Lane. Meanwhile high density “permitted” Condos ruin historic neighborhoods along with Texas style “Big Houses” that bulge out and above traditional adobes.

When Bellis famously ridiculed the “Blue Hairs,” (aging tourists) and compared them unfavorably with Millennials, implying that concert goers and recreationists were the wave of the future, he also criticized a moribund motel industry that couldn’t support his tourism project. By example and marketing Bellis encouraged the craft beer makers, including however indirectly, the Airbnb growth to supplement the hotel-motels. Now the chief Planner-Manager wants “motels” or “hotels” and would subsidize their development with state funds, for example, at the Indian Hills Inn, which, rather badly needs a bulldozer.

The Town convinced the state to donate $500,000 dollars to the Don Fernando Hotel developer, which hotel has reportedly gone through nine managers since it was remodeled and re-opened months ago. Maybe the “Taos Experience” has undermined the same developer’s appetite for building his very own Holiday Express, which was permitted after a long wrangle a couple of years ago. Where are those pesky tourists?

The town fathers and motel leaders cut down trees willy-nilly, while smothering traditional lighting with Walmart ticky tack on the Plaza and elsewhere undermining the historic character of the community. Now they want to kill off one of the few thriving local ventures i.e. the STRs. Real estate agents regularly sell houses partially based on renting out the extra room as an Airbnb overnighter to help with the mortgage. Some of my oldest friends, Native Taosenos in the Town and the County, see the Airbnb revenue as a way to earn some extra dough off the tourist trade while working for themselves. Perhaps Bellis would rather see locals flee like their primos and vecinos during this the Social Engineering phase of re-development.

The latest push to accelerate tourism, subsidize airports, expand concert venues, and develop hotels with taxpayer funds should not short-circuit the wily entrepreneurs, who are providing services the Town has promised but can’t deliver i.e. decent rooms with kitchens and modern amenities. It’s rather Trumpian to provide the corporatists with tax revenue and short-circuit hard-working individuals and historic property owners with unruly regulations.

(Nor can you expect individual owners of historic or otherwise property to provide low-income housing in an expensive resort setting that you in the Town are intent on creating, especially in a limited, low-income, and remote market like Taos.)

Former Salto Boss Busted for “Practice of law without a license”

(Excerpts from Judge Emilio Chavez posted below.)

On June 14, 2018, the court (Judge Sarah Backus) issued a preliminary injunction against Defendant Erminio Martinez detailing his violations and willful practice of law without a license. The order assessed costs and attorney’ s fees against Defendant Martinez. See NMSA 1978 §36-2-27.

Despite the Judge Backus’s ruling, the retired magistrate Judge Erminio Martinez and former officer of El Salto de Agua, Inc. deftly hid behind a series of clever movidas, involving motions for re-hearing, imported an Albuquerque Attorney, before that a local legal legend, then benefitted when Judge Backus herself retired, and newbie Judge Chavez suggested “mediation.”

Now, however, according to 8th District Court Judge Emilio Chavez’s order, dated Jan. 14, 2020, Defendant Erminio Martinez, has been ordered to pay legal fees to El Salto de Agua for “ willful practice of law without a license.”

“On September 25, v 2018, the courted entered a Final Order on Bill of Costs for $6,204.23. Defendant Martinez was given thirty (30) days to submit his
satisfaction of judgment.

(Martinez sought to replace, as I understand it, Attorney Jack McCarthy during a void between resignation and replacement re: the ultimate declaration of judgment re: certification of El Salto shareholders.) 

“The order assessed costs and attorney’s fees against Defendant Martinez. See NMSA 1978 536-2-27 (“all persons violating the provisions of that chapter shall be deemed guilty of contempt of the court in which the violation occurred . . .”)

“The defendant did not contest the bill of costs, did not provide evidence of inability to pay, but willfully ignored the court’s order of September 25, 2019.

“Nevertheless, the court will withhold the additional sanction of $2,000.00, on the condition that the defendant make full payment and satisfaction of the September 25, 2018 judgment within thirty (30) days of the entry of this order.

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Martinez shall make full payment of $6,424.23 within thirty (30) days of the entry of this order. If the payment is made in full, the payment shall satisfy all monetary obligations of Defendant Martinez.

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that should Defendant Martinez fail to make full payment within thirty (30) days of this order, Defendant Martinez shall be assessed the previously ordered additional sanction of $2,000 with full payment of $8,424.23 within sixty (60) days.

“IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all writs, judgments, final orders, or stipulations previously filed herein shall remain in full force and unless otherwise ordered or modified.”

Still, the question remains: Will he or won’t he pay?