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I have been on the Los Alamos County Council for just over 100 days. I have to admit that it sometimes seems like 100 years, and that each council meeting, 100 hours long.
I have learned much in this time about county operations and those challenges and opportunities facing us.
It is my duty to be responsive to your queries and comments and to follow-up with staff, but I have also learned that my main task on council is not to be the investigative reporter for the Los Alamos Monitor; my main obligation, my “real job,” is to think hard about and to help set long-term direction for the county.
The Monitor has capable reporters, but if I don’t think about where the future of Los Alamos lies and work toward it, then I am not doing what I was asked to do.
This is what I was quizzed on when I applied in July, what I have been thinking about most since then, and what I will be judged upon, by my community and by my own conscience, after my tenure is over.
Last night was one of those endless meetings, this time about the White Rock Visitor Center, where my “real job” was front-and-center.
Here was a project that has been argued to be a cornerstone of the future economic growth of White Rock, and yet, the cost was substantially higher than its initial estimate.
We heard the argument that a vibrant downtown in White Rock will have to rely on capturing traffic on N.M. 4, especially visitors to Bandelier and the Valles Caldera.
We were told about the new Bandelier bus shuttle and the possibility of siting its pick-up/drop-off at the Visitor Center.
We discussed our estimation process and lessons learned.
Personally, I thought the final cost was reflective of market conditions, and the project benefit worth this final cost.
The motion passed, but not without opposition, and not without spirited debate about project scope, cost and estimation methodology.
The meeting adjourned after 10 p.m., but I felt satisfied that I had spent my time doing my “real job.”
A decision that I will not have to make as a county councilor is whether we will have a leisure pool here, something that, like the Visitor Center will impact our future as a community.
This decision has been left to us individually. However, if the meeting Tuesday night had been about a leisure pool and not a White Rock Visitor Center, I would have voted “yea” enthusiastically.
More than capturing the attention of traffic on N.M. 4, the future of Los Alamos depends on capturing the residency of new, and especially young, families.
Without them, there is no new blood at LANL, there is decreasing attendance in our schools, there is no sufficient demand to support a healthy retail market, and there is no demand for entry-level housing to permit roll-over of more expensive homes.
We just don’t have nearly the amenities for young families available in larger communities.
I certainly remember cabin fever on those long winter nights while raising small children in Massachusets, and the relief provided by a local Chuck E, Cheese, with its climbing structures and trampolines, where my kids could wear themselves out and mercifully go to sleep without a peep.
We have no such a venue here.
I envision this leisure pool as a meeting place for young families, a role our community pools play in the summer. I see those water jets creating pleasant memories of a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
So is investing $30 per year to promote the future of Los Alamos worth it?
Well, I just checked with my conscience, and it votes yes!