Everyone’s got a belly button

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You’ve heard the old saying that opinions are like belly buttons. Everybody has one. Not every opinion is educated, legal or even rational. Often our opinions are emotional, sentimental, personal or otherwise arbitrary. When our county council hears an opinion, they must be discerning and act in our best interest.  On Oct. 19 they failed to do this. Our council heard the opinion of petitioners led by Richard Hannemann. The petition asks for the new municipal building to be “fully rebuilt and restored at its original site and design.” That means on Ashley Pond, and in the form of the original 1967 building.
County Attorney Randy Autio advised our council that the petition is illegal. Mr. Autio believes that the petition raises an administrative issue. He cited county charter and state case law explaining that citizens can only petition legislative issues. Why? Because if citizens could petition administrative decisions, they would paralyze the council’s ability to effectively govern; and that’s exactly the situation we find ourselves in now.  
Our council ignored County Attorney Autio’s legal opinion. As a result, there will be a countywide mail-in vote in December. The cost of this election is estimated to be $35,000. The only choice we have at this time is to cast an educated vote to get the muni building project back on track. There are many facts that I can only assume the 1,500+ petitioners were not aware of when they signed their names. Here are just a few:
•The petitioner’s proposed rebuild of the 1967 building will result in a structure that holds less than half of the county’s current staff of approximately 150 employees.
•As long as we have no Municipal Building, the county will continue to rent modular office space for employees at a cost of approximately $450,000 per year.
•The fate of the old Municipal Building was decided in 2007. The new Municipal Building project is not based on a hasty, uninformed decision-making process. Project committee meetings have been open to the public and well-attended. There have been many public outreach sessions and much public comment sent via e-mail to our councilors. The process has been thorough and transparent. Visit the county Web site to review years of project meeting minutes and informational reports.
Responsible government is not about pleasing all of the people all of the time and at any cost. And yet the council’s vote in support of the illegal election was an attempt to do just that. Please vote responsibly in December to defeat this petition and correct the council’s error. And tell our council that you expect them to govern responsibly on our behalf. countycouncil@lacnm.us.

Kendra Henning
Los Alamos