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For those who are comfortable with the current council manager form of government there is no need to read further. However, for those who can see a better future for Los Alamos lets work to improve things.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why a mayor would be good for Los Alamos.
First, there is accountability to the citizens of Los Alamos. One person elected by the people would be the contact to whom one could go to express their concerns, not seven different ones that would have to form a consensus before anything gets done.
The council diffuses responsibility and therefore accountability. The council always relegates responsibility to the county manager but he only answers to the council. A mayor could not hide behind a council or a manager. The Federalist form of government as exemplified by the U.S. model separates the executive and legislative functions and it is our historically best functioning form. The decisions of the electorate notwithstanding.
In a manager-council form of government, the manager is there to maintain the status quo and not to innovate. As long as the council is satisfied everything goes smoothly. The manager orchestrates the functions of the council. A mayor would have his own functionality and the council would be a legislative body where each would provide a check upon the other.
This is most important where the budgeting of money is concerned. A strong mayor can veto a budget and force a budget to be redone to conform to the vision approved by the citizens during the election process. By the way, when is a vision ever mentioned for any length of time in county council deliberations?
There may have been a mention of a vision, but how is it applied? A mayor cannot dither but there is ample time for dithering with seven heads of state. That is why a businessman would be a preferred candidate for mayor, as one speaker opined at the recent League of Women Voters forum.
The businessman must often have to make decisions based upon less than perfect data but the decision will be made. A mayor is a leader. He would carry the vision of what can be. He carries the banner for Los Alamos. When the county charter was proposed and adopted the prevalent philosophy was “keep Los Alamos small.”
That has not been the best motto for a modern community. At one time, there was a strong core of leaders — businessmen — who worked to benefit the community. There were three grocery stores in Los Alamos and two in White Rock, four dry goods stores including specialty men’s and women’s stores, a toy store, a sporting goods store, a Sears outlet, and a terrific general merchandise store in White Rock, plus many more.
A mayor can seek out good candidates to enhance consumer selection in our town. One does not send out the second team to do recruiting. Los Alamos has the opportunity to bring in other business to provide a diverse business community to offset the image of a company town that is extant.
As to fears of a bad mayor, we might also fear a bad council as much. Los Alamos citizens didn’t just fall off the turnip wagon and they are fully capable of choosing a good mayor. There is a lot of talent here.
We need a mayor and I am willing to work for one.
Vernon N. Kerr