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Beware unsustainable expenses

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By Ellen Walton

Dear Editor,

Without the citizens who established our community’s businesses and service organizations and promoted the work done at the laboratory after World War II, Los Alamos would have either disappeared or remained only as an isolated military outpost. Neighboring counties did not want any part of postwar Los Alamos and neither the Atomic Energy Commission nor the state of New Mexico knew how to solve the “Los Alamos problem” of providing citizens’ rights.

Legislation ensued, which allowed Los Alamos to incorporate as a City/County and retain Home Rule. Eventually the AEC transferred its governmental functions to the new county and its citizens petitioned the state of New Mexico for a charter government. The authors of our charter sought a lasting form of civilian government and a permanent community and we must realize that goal.

Los Alamos County’s postwar net worth was less than $2 million because private land ownership had not been established, leaving little basis for levying taxes. Our net worth remained relatively small until Los Alamos National Security was contracted to run the lab. Last year our share of State Gross Receipt Tax income was over $42 million.

Our county draws attention because we have money at a time when other local governments struggle. Many are asking, “To what good is this money being spent?” The spectacular views from N.M. 502 at the old Main Gate are being devoured by the latest development projects and years have passed without a signed commitment to develop the Trinity Site. Employers are leaving town and empty retail and housing spaces abound.

Home Rule in Los Alamos should work for citizens. Our present government is constantly defending its large expenditures. Constant spending of our GRT income on large projects will not keep it “safe” from the state. It will, however, undermine our community’s reputation. As spending increases, county government expands. We cannot sustain the current growth in county government when we have not seen real population growth in more than 40 years.

We desire a sense of permanence and belonging and to take only what we need from this precious landscape. We will support wholeheartedly the leaders who will take us in this direction, but will oppose those whose motives are profit for the few. We are looking toward votes on large expenditures and greater representation in government at all levels.

Los Alamos