Legacy vs. financial stability

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By Patricia Max

The headline on the front page of Wednesday’s Los Alamos Monitor, “Intern housing bleak on Hill” made me want to say, “You think?”
The destruction of housing on Central Avenue has seriously contributed to the lack of housing for Los Alamos National Laboratory summer students as well as those who work at low paying jobs and need affordable housing.  
Councilors Fran Berting and Jim Hall said in February  2008 that the county was purchasing the Central Avenue property with money from the Self-Sufficiency Fund to clean it up and put it into the hands of a private developer.  
Did they forget to tell the incoming council that this was their promise to the community? Or was it just a hollow statement so the community would not question the removal of the property from the tax base and the removal of necessary housing from the community to make room for a huge government building that will contribute nothing to economic development?
Self-sufficiency funds were given to Los Alamos in FY 1997 under the Atomic Energy Commission Community Act for the purpose of diversifying the economy and to free the county from its dependence upon DOE/LANL.  ≈
Beginning in the FY 2010 budget, the name of the fund was changed to Economic Development Fund.  
The construction on Central Avenue never will generate the $7.5 to $15 million of taxable revenue and real economic development that a mix of housing, offices and retail will generate at the same location.
It is “voodoo economics” to quote George Herbert Walker Bush, to think that moving CDD, (now housed at TRK on East Road, and the only county department currently not in easy walking distance of the downtown), closer to downtown will make any difference to our local economy.
The council must discuss the elephant in the room, the loss of GRT revenue from LANL, if the DOE can be convinced to return to having LANL run by an educational institution.  
Based upon a previous Los Alamos Monitor story, it appears that all the concerns many had about the effects of privatization have come true.
As there are more problems with the federal budget, the time could be short for a privately run LANL.
So, council, pull your heads out of the sand and face what could be a real financial problem.
County property insurance costs have risen because of the new and larger construction at Airport Basin, the Justice Center and the animal shelter. Health insurance costs continue to increase.  
Retirement contributions continue to increase. We could face a real GRT revenue drain in a few years.   
What discussions have you had on how to support basic services if New Mexico loses the GRT revenue from LANL?  
Is a legacy more important than the future financial stability of the county?

Patricia Max
Los Alamos