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Council candidates say no

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Four of the seven challengers will comprise a council majority

I recently posed the following two questions to all seven county council candidates and made them aware that I would be making their responses public.
•Do you plan to vote yes or no on the Hannemann mail-in initiative to build a replica of the old Municipal Building on Ashley Pond Park?
•What is your stand on this initiative?
Following is a synopsis of the candidate’s responses in the order that I received them:
Ron Selvage: “I plan to vote no when I receive my ballot. I think that since Richard (Hannemann) collected all of the signatures he needed, it should go to a vote. If we rebuild a replica of the old building, we will still need another municipal building to house the people displaced by the demolition of the Annex. I would have liked to see the Municipal Building stay where it was (with maybe a newer design), but with the new Judicial Complex where it is, I think the Municipal Building should now go somewhere else.”
Fran Berting: “I plan to vote no for the following reasons: The replica building  could not accommodate all the employees we need to  house together, .i.e., all but those who need to work in the shops at  Pajarito Cliffs. The old building did not house the IT department when they outgrew the very crowded basement, or 47 CDD and PUD employees from the Annex. And the Public Works Department was so crammed into its tiny cubicles it’s a wonder they could function.”
Deborah Gill: “I will vote no.”
Jim Hall: “I am in favor of putting major capital projects that are strategic in nature to citizens for approval. However, on this I will vote no for two reasons. First, by not asking for a declarative judgment from the District Court, the council lost an opportunity to clarify the interpretation of our Charter relative to petitions. I think it is probable that the question is not valid and it is irresponsible for Council to put a possibly (probably?) illegal question to the voters. There is nothing to be lost, except time, in putting this question to the courts. County employees are already housed—they can be housed where they are for some time to come. The second problem is more serious. For votes to be valid, citizens have a right to be fully informed about the cost and consequences of their decision. The council’s approval of this election and its timing makes informing citizens about the cost and consequences of their vote extraordinarily difficult. Citizens should have answers to questions such as the following. I don’t think the county can come up with credible answers in the time available.”
Betty Gunther:  “I plan to vote no…because the old building was inadequate for the county’s current needs. Hopefully, the new building will be equally as attractive as the old one and will be adequate for current and future county needs.”
Geoff Rogers: “I respect Richard for the effort he displayed on this issue. It shows what one person can do. I’ve discussed the initiative with him at some length and we just disagree on it. I do not support any more county buildings on the pond. As I’ve said, we are not the owners, but only the current stewards of Ashley Pond. I would like to see it remain an open park.”
Ken Johnson: “At this point in time, I would vote no…Early on in the process of selecting a site for the Municipal Building I probably would have voted differently. However, as Ashley Pond Park has developed, I view it as an asset to the community, Los Alamos’ own Central Park. The park is attractive and inviting as a place to go and visit for its own sake. As for the Municipal Building, I believe the community would be better served if it were located in the commercial area of town and not removed from it.”

Read more of their responses below.

Greg Kendall
losalamoscountyviews.blogspot.com


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Ron Selvage: I plan to vote no when I receive my ballot. I think that since Richard collected all of the signatures he needed it should go to a vote. If we rebuild a replica of the old building, we will still need another municipal building to house the people displaced by the demolition of the Annex.
I would have liked to see the Municipal building stay where it was (with maybe a newer design), but with the new judicial complex where it is, I think the municipal building should now go somewhere else.

Fran Berting: I plan to vote No for the following reasons:
1)The replica building could not accommodate all the employees we need to house together, .i.e., all but those who need to work in the shops at Pajarito Cliffs. The old building did not house the IT department when they outgrew the very crowded basement, or 47 CDD and PUD employees from the Annex. And the Public Works department was so crammed into its tiny cubicles it's a wonder they could function.
2)The reason for having one central location for all non-shop employees is for efficiency in coordinating the various departments. Proponents of the petition would like to think that cooperative work can just as well be done electronically, but much as we now use e-mail, etc., the ability to walk across the hall and discuss action and suggestions, make payments, and the like is much quicker and more likely to avoid misunderstandings. It is also easier for the public to know where to go. The inefficiency being experienced now with the staff scattered all over town is an extreme example of what we want to avoid in a modern building that will serve for many decades to come.
3)Building an exact replica building is actually not possible, because building it with all glass outside, but structurally safe, would require braces that would not only be visible (as shown in the proposals to reinforce the old building before we were told it had to go) but would take up a lot of the interior space, further reducing the useable space and the number of employees that could work there.
4)Building to look like an exact replica would be a lot more expensive than the petitioners realize. The $15 million was for a rectangular box, a typical ordinary plain office building.
5)With some of the employees in the building by the pond, we would have to build another building somewhere to house the remainder of the employees, thus scattering them again, and costing another $10 to $15 million or so.
6)Furthermore, the pond area is an ideal park for the community gathering place for concerts, picnics, sunset viewing. Putting another building there would spoil the expanse of green we now enjoy. It might also require more asphalt for parking. ( Since only a few of the total number of employees would be in the replica building, we probably wouldn't need a parking structure, as previously assumed.)
7)One of the major reasons for locating the Municipal Building downtown is to provide an additional core to town, as many towns do have their town hall in the center of town, with the effect of indicating "Here is the center of our town". It is supposed to help provide a "There, there". It will also help dispel some of the blight, when the surrounding corollary development takes place.
8)How many times can we task a workgroup, consisting of a cross-section of our citizens, to meet for hours, providing six months of opportunity for public input and discussion, a group with publicly displayed criteria to work from, a group with a clear methodology to use for a decision, a group that comes to a thoughtful recommendation to Council, only to toss it because another group was late in coming forward with their emotional attachment to an icon?
9)It is doubtful, considering my encounter with a petitioner, that many of those who signed actually had a chance to think about the ramifications of the proposal they were signing, given the barrage of arguments presented by the petitioners.
10)How many times can we reverse a decision reached by Council (our elected representatives), from a citizen committee recommendation, causing major delays in moving forward toward what the citizens want in terms of the amenities for quality of life, and costing thousands of dollars, and giving potential developers serious second thoughts about even trying to work in Los Alamos?
11)We may not all agree with the decision to put the new Municipal Building on the LA apartment site, but that decision has been made with proper deliberation as the best location, given all the circumstances, hence so be it.

Jim Hall: I am in favor of putting major capital projects that are strategic in nature to citizens for approval. However, on this I will vote “no” for two reasons.
First, by not asking for a declarative judgment from the District Court, the council lost an opportunity to clarify the interpretation of our Charter relative to petitions. I think it is probable that the question is not valid and it is irresponsible for council to put a possibly (probably?) illegal question to the voters. There is nothing to be lost, except time, in putting this question to the courts. County employees are already housed—they can be housed where they are for some time to come.
The second problem is more serious. For votes to be valid, citizens have a right to be fully informed about the cost and consequences of their decision. The council’s approval of this election and its timing makes informing citizens about the cost and consequences of their vote extraordinarily difficult. Citizens should have answers to questions such as the following. I don’t think the county can come up with credible answers in the time available:
•What kind of assumptions will be made about the building: size, interior layout, etc?
•Will these assumptions meet the requirements of the ordinance?
•What will such a building cost? Overall? Per square foot?
•How much additional space will be required to house County employees?
•How much will such additional space cost?
•What will be the impact on County operations?
Given the schedule, I think the best the county can do is come up with rough estimates of the above and publicize results as widely as possible. If (1) the numbers come out high as I expect they will, and if (2) the public doesn’t believe the numbers, and/or if (3) the public decides this is the time to “teach the county a lesson”, then the county is obligated to build a building from only the vaguest of specifications (but, IMHO, guaranteed high costs) that will not meet county needs.
Given the success of the petition and the legal concerns about the wording, my preferred alternative would have been to take the question to court for resolution. If the resolution was not legal, then meet with petitioner representatives, define a building that met their objectives as precisely as possible, get a first cut estimate of costs and consequences from an outside engineering firm, publicize them, then put the matter to a vote. I believe there are ways to put major capital projects to a vote of the citizens.
As I said at the start, I am in favor of putting major capital projects that are strategic in nature to citizens for approval. This is the worst way to do it.

Betty Gunther: Thanks for the information. I plan to vote no on the Hannemann mail-in initiative vote to build a replica of the old municipal building on Ashley Pond Park because the old building was inadequate for the county's current needs. Hopefully, the new building will be equally attractive as the old one and will be adequate for current and future county needs. Thanks for clarifying for me.

Geoff Rogers: I respect Richard for the effort he displayed on this issue. It shows what one person can do. I've discussed the initiative with him at some length and we just disagree on it.
I do not support any more county buildings on the Pond. As I've said, we are not the owners, but only the current stewards of Ashley Pond. I would like to see it remain an open park.
Ken Johnson: At this point in time, I would vote no to building a replica of the old municipal building on Ashley Pond Park. Early on in the process of selecting a site for the municipal building I probably would have voted differently. However, as Ashley Pond Park has developed I view it as an asset to the community, Los Alamos' own Central Park. The Park is attractive and inviting as a place to go and visit for its own sake. As for the municipal building, I believe the community would be better served if it were located in the commercial area of town and not removed from it.

Deborah Gill: There are many reasons I will vote no. Some of the reasons are:
•According to the county lawyer, the language in the petition could pose an illegal question to the voters.
•To ignore the work of the Municipal Building Cite Committee is inappropriate and challenges the effectiveness of future committees.
•The original building design was flawed – a new “replica design” would have to be developed to include current code adjustments at a cost.
•The size is too small to accommodate staff and additional space would need to be built to accommodate need.
•The building would crowd the Justice Center and negatively impact the Ashley Pond area.